Why Is Internal Linking Important?

Written by Nick Stamoulis

Link BuildingThe search engines don’t rank websites as a whole in the SERPs – they rank individual pages. For most websites, the homepage is going to get most of the traffic and inbound links, but that doesn’t mean that deeper internal pages can’t also be useful from an SEO standpoint. However, in order for those internal pages to effectively compete in the search results they need their own (albeit smaller) link portfolio and search engine trust.

That’s where internal linking comes into play – but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. You don’t need to have every link on every page of your site. Here are some strategies that will help you understand why internal linking is important, and also the right way to go about doing it:

What Internal Links Are

When one site links to another, it passes along “link juice,” or a little bit of that first site’s trust factor. The more external pages linking to a page on your website, the more valuable it becomes in the eyes of the search engines (that’s why a strong link building strategy is so important). But internal pages of a website can also pass some of their link juice along to another internal page. For instance, when you put a link on your homepage to a product page, your homepage is lending some of its search engine trust factor to that product page. This helps build the authority of some of the deeper pages on your site that might not receive as many external links.

Website Usability Matters

usability word cloud

Internal linking is also important from a user perspective. Since the search engines will index and rank each page of your site, you have to treat each page as a potential landing page for your visitors. You never want to leave your traffic trapped on a random page of your site! Internal linking helps move traffic through your site, driving them down a pre-determined path of conversion. It minimizes confusion for the visitor, because they know what the next logical step to navigate through your site is. Internal linking also makes for happier user because they don’t have to always navigate back to your homepage to travel to another section of your site. That’s why a top-level navigation and footer are so useful for creating a great user experience—it allows your visitors to click to any page on your site, no matter where they are.

Don’t Need to Link to Every Page

One of the most important things to understand about your internal linking structure is that every link doesn’t need to be found on every page of the website. Basically, you want to direct people to the most important links on each page. If every link is on every page, this negatively impacts the usability of your website. Usability is first in line, the search engines are second. By focusing on usability, you show Google which of the links are the most important, which can help boost your company’s website performance over the long term.

Think About Your Linking Structure

There are several parts of the website where you really need to think about your internal links:

  • Navigation. You’ll need to make decisions about both the top level and side level navigation bars. How can your users best retrieve the information that they need? The link structure itself isn’t as important as meeting their needs.
  • Breadcrumb Navigation. This is another strategy you can employ for directing users to various pages on your website. It is considered a secondary navigation strategy because it shouldn’t take the place of your main website organizational structure. Overall, it helps with internal linking because it makes it easier for the search engines to craw the website. It also helps increase the overall usability of the website.
  • Footer. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the footer! It’s a very important part of your website’s usability, and it’s also important for the search engines. You don’t need to mirror the main navigation bars. However, the most important links on your website should make an appearance here. In other words, you’ll want to focus on all the key areas of your website.

user experienceInternal linking on your company blog is also important for both SEO and the user experience. You want to link related posts together to help further educate a reader and show off your industry knowledge. Linking between posts will also help keep a reader engaged for longer, since they can just jump from one post to another to find more information about a certain topic. Having a good internal linking system between your company blog and website will also help drive more targeted traffic over to your website and increase your chance of conversion.

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