Citations and internal links are nothing new in the world of content or search engine optimization (SEO), but they are certainly starting to draw a lot more love and attention from SEO gurus and content marketers across the Net. Back at the beginning of the year, we published our top 10 SEO predictions for 2014, and prediction No.5 was all about link building. It’s interesting to see how link building has quickly evolved from a super important need for external links to a want for internal ones.
Link building is a well-researched strategy with industry experts like Moz and KISSmetrics backing it fervently. But with so much controversy resting on whether or not linking was dead at the outset of the year (it wasn’t), there wasn’t much talk about the specific kinds of link building that should be leveraged.
So, here we are speeding toward the final quarter of the year, and we’re already seeing noteworthy attention shifting to both citations and internal link building (using high quality, natural resources) as the next big thing in SEO content.
The Scoop on Citations
In the world of SEO, two types of citations are leveraged to boost optimization in an effort to promote more favorable search engine rankings. You have citations and co-citations.
Now, we all know what citations are, or at least we hope we all do! We see citations everywhere in content. They’re used when we borrow direct quotes, images, media, etc. Citations are all about giving credit where credit is due. Not only do they make the difference between proper credit versus plagiarism, but they are also send out signals of credibility and even authority. Here’s a good example of a standard online citation:
According to KISSmetrics, a “co-citation is when one website or band is mentioned (not linked) by two different sources.” Therefore, unlike the more classic citation we just displayed, we would mention KISSmetrics, avoid a direct quote, and not provide a link. Both types of citations serve as probable SEO boosts, and here’s why:
- Backlinks Send Signals: When we cite a source and provide a link back that source, it can work in our favor. Think of it as a give and take relationship. You give a link back with a citation, the source takes it. In like manner, the source gives a link back to your content as able. This sort of backlinking sends a signal to Google, telling the search algorithms that your content must be worth taking not of since other websites are linking back to you.
- Citations Build Credibility: The main reason we incorporate citations in our content is to build credibility. I could tell you all day long that you need to eat more vegetables because it’s healthy, but chances are you won’t take me too seriously. Now, if I give you hard evidence proving that eating more vegetables is crucial to staying healthy and you can check up on my research by visiting and checking my sources, you’ll suddenly take what I say a lot more seriously. This is how credibility is built. Opinions are great, but everyone has at least one. People want credibility and authority, two qualities citations rapidly build.
- Citations Build Authority: What is an authority? When it comes to content, every industry on the planet is populated with experts who are considered authorities on the subject matter they specialize in. In the online arena, our businesses and brands have the unique opportunity to establish themselves as experts, authorities within our given industries. One means used to strive toward this establishment is citations. Cites are not merely a means of avoiding illegal copying or plagiarism. They are a means of proving our dedication to fact over opinion, truth over fiction.
Citations have been around since our high school days. Most of us didn’t get a true taste of them until college, and the manner in which we cite online is often far less formal than academic standards. However, there are still some forms of online content that benefit from a return to the more formal format of academic citations. Yet again, such formality can serve to increase credibility and build authority.
Regardless, this basic ingredient to quality writing is quickly gaining attention as a new trend in SEO. Citations are a means of drawing some favorable attention from the search engine gods, attention that can ultimately increase your ranking. If you aren’t actively leveraging citations in your content, it’s time to start.
Internal Linking Is In
Regardless of your current SEO expertise, it’s beneficial to brush up on the basics of internal linking before we briefly identify how it will impact SEO. According to Neil Patel in his KISSmetrics article about internal linking, this type of link building has three main purposes:
- First, it aids in website navigation.
- Second, it defines both the architecture and hierarchy of the website.
- Third, it distributes two important qualities throughout the site: Page authority and ranking power.
Internal links were a Moz search ranking factor for local search, and now they appear to be gaining value. Internal links have all sorts of benefits, but they are starting to house SEO value.
According to Search Engine People, Google’s iron fist has tightened around link building techniques, and, as a result, on-site optimization (internal linking) has taken off.
Unlike the incorporation of external links, internal links are almost always natural, thus making them more positive to favorable SEO versus external linking. You can still link to websites outside of your own, but there’s a great deal to take into consideration nowadays. If your link profile becomes over-optimized with non-brand keywords and anchor-text pointing readers to deep landing pages, chances are Google isn’t going to be happy.
On the other hand, internal links are a strong means of building a sturdy link profile without much risk of over or improper optimization. Here’s how internal links can boost your SEO strategy:
- Create a Juicy Menu: The navigation menu of your website is the perfect location to house a number of juicy text links. These links appear on every last page of your website, which means they can carry a large amount of SEO value. How exactly does it work? One of the most common anchor text links found in almost every site menu is “Blog.” If every page within your website links to your blog homepage, a strong signal will be sent out to Google that when a user searches for your brand name with the keyword “blog,” the search result page should serve up your blog homepage as the top result.
- Link like Things: Your business likely provides products or services. You should endeavor to link products to products and services to services. The idea is for all of your products or services to link together with relevant anchor text. When your anchor text contains the right keywords, these naturally occurring internal links can carry a great deal of SEO value.
- Leverage Sidebar Links: Most often displayed as contextual links, sidebar links lead both users and search engines inside your website. All of your anchor text should be keyword rich and super relevant to both your website and the pages they represent.
- Don’t Forget Footers: Footer links or navigation is one of the most overlooked powerhouses for internal SEO. Not only are they perfect for mobile viewers who make it to the bottom of page and want to navigate elsewhere without scrolling all the way back up, but they also provide users and search engines with a footprint of your website known as a sitemap. You can separate your links into categories for added value.
2014 has marked an exciting year in search engine optimization. Looking back at all of the algorithm updates and changes in trending SEO tactics, a single theme stands out above all else. The top websites on the SERPs are natural. They aren’t stuffed with keywords, loaded with low quality content in favor of SEO boosters, or packed full of hundreds upon hundreds of links to websites around the Internet.
The top websites on the SERPs are primarily sites that invest in high quality content and focus on creating a website that caters to their audience. The basic, common sense approach is reaping the best results. Therefore, if we invest our time into building an organized and well-structured website populated with high quality content, we will be investing in better search engine ranking both now and in the future.
Citations and Internal Linking In A Nutshell
What’s the big deal about citations and internal linking? Both of these SEO tactics are designed to build page and site authority. The authority of our content and our website will greatly affect how it ranks as Google continues to push for high quality, relevant, and informative websites to top the SERPs. These SEO tactics are quickly becoming crucial players to implement, and implement well, versus overlook. Are you leveraging citations and internal links in the best way possible?