internal linking

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Internal Linking & Its Importance in SEO with Sarah Danks

The latest #ContentWritingChat was all about SEO as we talked about the importance of internal linking. In this chat, some amazing tips were shared regarding this tactic and how you can use it in building your own website’s online presence. If you’re ready to learn more about it, keep reading for the recap!

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Internal Linking & Its Importance in SEO with Sarah Danks

Our guest host this week was Sarah Danks from ThinkSEM. She’s their Digital Strategist and is no stranger to a great Twitter chat. In fact, if you’re a regular participant you’ve likely noticed Sarah in our chat before, as she typically joins us every week. It was great having a regular participant step into the guest hosting role and she shared some fantastic advice with all of us.

Q1: Why are internal links important?

To kick off the chat, we asked everyone to share why they felt internal linking was an important part of SEO. Here’s what a few of our participants said:

As Sarah pointed out, the web is all about connections. Internal linking allows you to to connect pieces of relevant content to one another. You’re able to show the relationship between pages on your own website, which is a great way to keep them on your site longer.

Julia’s response is really a helpful way to think of internal linking. It helps to move traffic from room to room onsite. This basically means it keeps people from moving from page to page once they’ve first landed on your site. It’s key if you want to keep someone digging into the depths of your archives.

Jeff knows that building up those internal links is a good way to increase your authority with your audience. And who wouldn’t want that?!

Kristen also mentioned it’s a way to show you’re a credible and reliable source and builds your authority.

By providing internal links, it also makes it easier for your readers to find more relevant content. As Jeremy pointed out, people will go elsewhere to find what they’re looking for if you don’t give it to them. So, if you have more content you know they’d enjoy, link to it!

Elizabeth feels internal linking helps guide your audience through your site and leads them to other valuable, actionable content. Keep that in mind when adding links to content so you can be sure you’re sending them somewhere worthwhile.

Q2: How do internal links affect overall site structure?

Now that you know the importance of internal linking, you should also know how it’s going to affect the overall structure of your website. Here are a few responses we received in Tuesday’s chat:

As Sarah pointed out, a well-linked site is easy to navigate. This is great for visitors to your site because you want everything to be accessible. There’s nothing worse than a site that makes it difficult to find what you’re looking for.

Also, if you’re lacking when it comes to links, it makes it harder for readers to find related content. It can also make it more difficult to get them to convert.

Jason said internal linking offers flow and stability. Instead of forcing your reader to figure out what to do next or where to go, you can direct them to additional content. Don’t leave it up to them, otherwise there’s a greater chance they’ll leave your site.

This is another important thing to consider! Linking helps create a hierarchy of your content. Through those links, a reader can flow from broad content to more specific content that’s still relevant.

Jenn knows internal linking is going to help customers easily find the relevant information they’re looking for while on your site. Make sure you’re taking advantage of that by directing them to the next page you think they’d be interested in.

Think of it like a roadmap, as Sarah said. Lead your readers where you want them to go next.

Julia, our CEO, has even written a guide on internal links that will help you out. Be sure to read it!

Q3: Who do you please first: search engines or users?

We all know that it’s important to optimize our content for search engines, but is that really where we need to direct our attention first? Or should we primarily be focusing on our users? Check out these responses from the chat:

Sarah said it’s all about catering to your users first and the search engines second. When you focus on them, you’re playing by Google’s rules and delivering valuable content. That’s important!

Make your users happy and you make the search engines happy as well!

The search engine algorithm changes from time to time. One way you can’t go wrong is to focus on your user first and foremost. This ensures you’re creating the content they’ll love.

Debi knows it’s all about the user experience when it comes down to it.

Julia is all about focusing on the real human who is going to be engaging with her content.

People before bots!

Ashley brought up a great point about how users need to be able to find your content in order to read it. Her advice is to optimize for SEO, but create for your user.

As Andrew pointed out, it’s just like the old chicken versus the egg debate. He said it’s important to optimize your content for competitiveness, but user engagement is essential as well.

Q4: Does the anchor text of links matter?

When it comes to actually creating a link, does the text you add the hyperlink to matter in the end? If you’ve been wondering about this, we have an answer for you. Check out these responses:

Sarah knows anchor text should be descriptive, but you also need to avoid anything spammy. That’s not cool! There’s no need to link an incredibly long sentence either. You can link just the key point so people know what they’re clicking for.

Anchor text certainly matters. Readers don’t want to see a link that says, “Click here,” or anything else of the sort if it doesn’t state where they’re going. They want details so they know what they’re clicking on.

With relevant anchor text, you make your link more valuable to both readers and Google. That’s key to any internal linking strategy.

Elizabeth’s advice is to use descriptive anchor text to let users and the search engines know where it leads.

Ray knows it’s not just important for SEO, but also for accessibility. Everything needs to be user-friendly for your reader.

And of course, make sure you avoid any kind of click bait.

In the end, if you wouldn’t click on a link, your readers probably won’t either.

Q5: Are there any links you should include on every page?

We asked everyone to chime in with their thoughts on including certain links on every page. Here’s what some of them had to say:

As Sarah said, every website has a purpose. Make the purpose of your site know through the use of a CTA (call to action) that leads people to your end goal. And of course, having a good navigation on your website is important in helping people find what they want.

Liliana also agrees having a link to your CTA is always important.

For Jenn, she likes to include links to a contact page. This makes it easy for a reader to get in touch with you and encourages them to do so.

Navigation links are a crucial element of every successful website.

Don’t forget to add a link to your homepage on every page of your site. This gives people an easy way to get back there after they’ve clicked off.

Q6: Is there such a thing as too many or too few links in page copy?

When it comes to your internal linking strategy, is it possible to have too many or too few links? Here’s some advice to consider:

As Sarah said, both are absolutely possible. You don’t want to overdo it by providing too many links, which can look spammy. However, there are downsides to too few links as well.

Tony’s advice is to only link to content when it’s relevant to do so.

To second that, don’t have links just to have links. Make sure they’re adding value to your user in some way.

Shannon knows too many links can be a turn-off for your readers, so it’s best you find a balance.

The key is to make sure you don’t overwhelm them, but that you also don’t leave them hanging. If you have more they’d be interested in, link to it.

Q7: What’s the easiest way to incorporate new internal links to your website?

Now that you know all about internal linking, it’s time to start using this strategy yourself. How do you begin? Check out this advice from the chat:

If you add a new blog post, make sure you link to it. You can link newer posts to older ones and older ones to newer ones. It really is that simple to get started!

Julia suggests doing the same. Whenever you create new content, take the time to add links to relevant content from your archives.

Ray’s advice is to review the major pages and pots on your website first. Then, start determining what can be linked to other pages appropriately.

Shannon suggests listing content in the biographies for employees and contributors.

Q8: Give some examples of internal linking done incorrectly.

What are some examples of internal linking gone wrong? Here’s what you need to avoid:

Don’t use the same link too many times, avoid using non-descriptive text such as “here” for anchor text, and don’t get spammy with CTAs.

Not using valuable anchor text, linking to the same page multiple times, and overdoing it on the links are all things to avoid.

Jeremy said to avoid using too many links, otherwise it can look like the footnotes of a law review article. Your readers probably don’t want that!

No one wants to come across a dead link, so make sure all links work before hitting publish.

And remember, don’t like just for the sake of linking. It should add value and serve a purpose.

Ready to join the fun for yourself? #ContentWritingChat takes place every Tuesday at 10 AM Central Time over on Twitter! Just follow @ExpWriters and @writingchat for all the latest.


combat writer on seo

A Military Combat Writer Takes a Look at SEO

Dan, one of our full time writers, is the guest author of this blog. With degrees in communication and history, Dan has been a professional writer in the U.S. military as a combat correspondent for over eight years, and was a journalist for the Stars and Stripes European edition. His experience has included penning press releases from a cot in the deserts of Iraq, and writing breaking news from his Ford Focus in a Bavarian snowstorm. We asked him to write about how Google looks at SEO and linking strategy.

Ok, let’s start with a little disclaimer. I am fairly new to the SEO world. I have been writing professionally for a decade now, but somehow missed out on how to increase search engine rankings while I was following U.S. soldiers around in Iraq.

I always assumed you write something interesting people read it, and it moves up on the SERP. But now I am finding there is far more to it than I initially thought.

After leaving the military I realized I was missing a lot of skills that were necessary to be an effective multimedia journalist or copywriter in today’s Web-driven market. So after two college degrees, a certification course in SEO copywriting, and a lot of time spent on YouTube watching Google’s experts talk about this stuff, and daily practical use of creating original content at Express Writers, I am starting to get the hang of it.

From reading some of the SEO and copywriting experts’ articles on the subject, I noticed how links were very helpful when gathering research on a topic. So, I decided to use links more often when I was writing. I began to research links and found out it is hard to know a natural link from what Google considers an unnatural link.

Now, I feel like I have to cross my fingers when including a link with a post online? Man, I hope Google does not flag this one. You never really know do you?

Sometimes you can write a quality post, with a unique angle, with links connecting to what you view as beneficial content for your reader and it can be flagged as an unnatural link. There are two possible problems here. One, Google thinks your post or the link you are using is, in fact, low quality. Two, there is a discrepancy in what you think a natural link is and what Google’s algorithm thinks a natural link is.

Google’s algorithm is not perfect. You can deliver an excellent post with solid “natural” links, and somehow you could still get flagged, or the site linking to you also could get tagged. The problem is Google does not precisely define natural links, leaving SEO gurus a bit agitated.

“Natural links to your site develop as part of the dynamic nature of the web when other sites find your content valuable and think it would be helpful for their visitors,” according to Google.

Natural links are the only links valuable to your search results. But this is often simply not the case. You can write posts specifically for the benefit of your targeted audience and still get flagged by Google because your link is somehow still being labeled unnatural.

“Unnatural links to your site are placed there specifically to make your site look more popular to search engines,” explains Google.

To make sure of this I consulted SEO experts with far more experience than myself. In her recent blog on Search Engine Land, Julie Joyce points out that not all user-generated links are useful links, even if they appeared to pass all the natural link rules. It seems that even if you are producing natural content, it could still get pinged either manually or by the Big G machine.

Google lists examples of these types of links as link schemes and doorway pages.

Ok, I understand Google’s algorithm is based on links, and quality search results drive their business. Hence, the reason they try everything in their power to make sure link schemes or doorway pages are not impacting rankings. But there is a fine line between link schemes, doorway pages, and keyword phrases. Right?

What if I am car rental service in Tampa, Florida? Of course, I am going to mention Tampa as a key phrase, but what if Google’s algorithm figures my website is a doorway page.

“Multiple pages on your site with similar content designed to rank for specific queries like city or state names.”

As the basis of the Google algorithm ranking system, links will be around for a long time. Simply because there is no better alternative at the moment, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team. The better the links are connecting to your site the higher you rank in search results. The problem is spam and the use of manipulative links and Google’s algorithm’s inability to accurately decipher between natural and unnatural links.

How To Create Successful Links in Your SEO Content

On their Webmaster Guidelines Google gives this explains guidance: “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community.”

Useful content equals more links to other sites because readers’ find value in what you write.

So what is the best way to make your content go viral without upsetting Google?

If you follow Google’s error message guidance for “thin content with little to no added value”, there are several easy to follow characteristics of what is considered user-centric content. In other words, content that will get you better rankings. You need to ask yourself the following things:

  • Does this content add value to my readers? Will it benefit my reader?
  • Is this content original?
  • Is this content unique or does it have a unique angle?

Things such as thin affiliations or syndication will cause a page or Website to be flagged and sometimes removed from Google’s search results. So, it seems pretty straightforward. Put in a lot of research and work into your articles, build experience in your field and then write stuff that will engage your readers and benefit them, and your SERP ranking will increase.

There are still ways that you could be doing this and still be getting flagged, as mentioned in Joyce’s blog post above, but those must be dealt with in stride. Focus on producing high-quality content that will benefit your readers, and the rest should come together naturally.

Photo credit: Yobro10 / iStock