By Ninja Dan
In a post-Penguin world, webmasters may want to focus more on the quality rather than quantity of external links, but they still remain a trump card in SEO and thus remain a top priority for any site in the foreseeable future.
An often undervalued SEO factor, however, is a site’s internal linking structure. The poet John Donne once wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself…” and the same holds true for pages on your site.
Here are the top 5 reasons you should improve your internal linking today.
Improve Your Site Indexing
The first step for ranking in the SERPs is to get your pages indexed. Internal links promote better indexing by allowing search engines to find all the pages on your site without relying so much on external links to find them.
External links are certainly helpful in getting search engines to index your site, but their main role is to bring link equity into your site. Let your internal links on your site handle most of the responsibility of getting your site fully and properly indexed.
Distribute Link Equity
It’s sometimes helpful to think of websites as towns or cities (depending on their size) and external links as a natural resource like water. Some pages on your site will naturally attract more links than other pages and act as link reservoirs while others will remain dry as a desert.
When pages with lots of link equity don’t internally link to other pages on the site, it creates bottlenecks. So what do you do with pools of link juice? Do as the Romans did – use aqueducts.
Think of internal links as pipes that help distribute link equity from pages with lots of link equity to pages with less. They distribute your available link juice to pages on your site that may be more valuable – main landing pages or ones with better conversion rates.
Grow Your Keyword Space
There are a myriad of content strategies to increase the number of keywords that you rank for, but internal linking can often achieve the same goal. By using keyword variations in the anchor text, internal links from a page with enough link juice can help other pages on your site suddenly rank for new phrases.
This strategy works especially well for medium to long tail phrases. For sites that reside in highly competitive keyword spaces, long tail strategies often prove to have the highest ROI in the long term.
Widen the Conversion Funnel
Despite all your efforts to optimize your site, you will occasionally notice that less than ideal pages rank higher for certain keywords than your main landing pages. An effective internal linking strategy, however, can leverage those pages and create new entrances into your conversion funnels.
Got a blog post that suddenly receives more traffic than usual? By adding internal links to your main landing pages that use effective anchor text phrases, you can widen your conversion funnel and point more visitors from low value pages with high traffic to the truly valuable pages on your site.
Assist Your Users/Customers
Two of the biggest factors that the original Panda Updates were designed to impact were site-wide usability and pogo-sticking. As mentioned before, sometimes despite your best efforts, a less than ideal page will rank higher for a keyword than an ideal page.
When users land on a less than ideal page, however, the options in front of them suddenly become more crucial. If there are no other navigational choices, users may pogo-stick back to the SERPs, sending search engines a low quality signal.
A page with effective internal links, however, provides users with the navigational choices they need to remain on the site. This increases the average time spent on site, reduces bounce rate, and helps combat pogo-sticking – all of which send higher quality signals to search engines and improve the overall user experience.
While external links continue to remain the gold standard in SEO, internal links are often undervalued and neglected by webmasters and SEOs. An effective internal linking strategy can help distribute link equity, widen conversion funnels and improve a site’s usability.