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Week Four: The Power of Internal Linking

Last week we showed you how to optimise your google places listing and why its so valuable for local businesses. In part four of this six week SEO Mini Course we're going to unlock the full power of Internal Linking.

Here's what we're going to cover:

✓ Why internal links influence search rankings 
✓ How internal links improve navigation, usability and boost rankings
How to improve your internal linking structure

The Truth About Internal Linking 

While it is true that inbound links from other websites play an important role in SEO, they're not the only links to consider.

Many people pay little to no attention to the links on their own site. These are the simplest ones to obtain as you have complete control over them. Utilising Internal Linking on your site can mean the difference between a first page and a second page ranking on Google and in terms of traffic.

Three Instant Benefits of Internal Linking

  1. Ensures your website is found by the search engines and all pages are indexed
  2. Increases the rankings of a page for a keyword phrase
  3. Increases the PageRank of an internal page. 

Getting Your Website Crawled by Google 

Internally linking all your pages is a useful way to users will ensure Google indexes (aka crawls) all the pages on your website. Google prefers larger websites with a vast library of useful, high quality content.  It's akin to visiting a public library.  You're more likely to refer to and read a comprehensive book on a subject you're interested in rather than a one page sales brochure.  It's the same with Google.  

The formula for success here is:  More Content + Useful Content + Internally Linked = High Quality and Relevant Website = Top Ranking.

Use and Submit a Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools

To start the internal linking process, ask your Web Designer to create and submit a sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.  A sitemap lists all the pages on your site, giving Google a roadmap in which it can find all the nooks and crannies of your website. This can then be crawled by the search engines or accessed by your visitors.

If you don't have a large site that is constantly being updated a sitemap isn't necessary and well structured navigation is often all you need. Apart from getting spidered its also more user friendly for your visitors.

Increase the Rankings of a Page to a Keyword Phrase

To improve the rankings of a particular word or phrase, you need to include it in anchor text (aka link text) of the internal links. For a quick recap on anchor links you can refer back to the Week Three article on - Optimising Google Places (See how we created an anchor link right there!)

Incorporating these links throughout your site is easy. You can link from internal page content back to the homepage, or to internal pages through links in your footer, navigation and sidebar.

Increasing The PageRank Of Internal Pages 

PageRank (PR) is a ranking out of 10 Google assigns a webpage based on how important it thinks it is. The homepage will usually have the highest PR on a site as it is most often linked too. In order to increase the PR of internal pages you simply need to link to them from the homepage. Don't go crazy with this and link to all your pages as this will lessen the strength of the link and also can look artificial, especially if you have a large site.

It is best to keep it to no more that a few links.  Less is more.  Simply figure out what pages you want to target and for what keywords then simply add a text link to these pages from your homepage. If your homepage has a PageRank of 6 then chances are the pages you link to will also receive a good PageRank.

Remember to use this sparingly and link to your most competitive pages to give them more linking power.

How To Improve Your Internal Linking Structure 

The three main methods to improving your internal linking structure are:

  • Text navigation links
  • Footer links
  • Inline text links

Text Navigation Links

Most websites include navigation along the top of the site or in the sites sidebars. Since this is one of the first things a search engine bot will read when it comes to your site its important to properly optimize it.

If you are using text navigation links try to incorporate your keywords into these links. That doesn't mean "stuff your keywords into every link," but only do so if its appropriate. Not only does keyword stuffing look horrible it may get your site penalised for spam.

Here's a good example of how we have used a text navigation link on our website:

This links through to an internal page about our "SEO Workshop" which is the keyword phrase we are targeting for this particular page.

Footers 

Footers are targets for spam and should not be overused or abused. Due to this, Google and other search engines are reducing the importance of footer links. This doesn't mean however its a lost cause, you should still receive some benefit from footer links. The key is to keep your footers clean and only link to your most important pages using appropriate anchor text. As we said before too many links from the homepage to other pages will only reduce their SEO value.

Here's an example of how we have incorporated anchor text links from the footer to internal pages for our clients Play Atlantic.

NB: You should also include a link to your sitemap within the footer.

Inline Text Links 

Inline text links are links that are placed within your pages content.

Here's an example of how we incorporate inline text links into our own website. Rather than having a link that says "click here" we have setup a text link with the anchor text "Search Engine Marketing" that links to the targeted page for that keyword phrase.

Although Internal linking alone probably won't boost you straight up to the number one spot, its important to take avantage of every proven SEO technique avaliable to help get you site ranking highly and for the long term.

Internal linking can be the difference between being found on the second page of Google or the first. There's simply too much at stake for you not to implement these simple linking strategies onto your site.

In the next part of the Search Engine Optimisation Mini Course, we're going to delve into another On-Page SEO strategy, Content, and how best to utilise it.  Keep an eye out for it in your inbox.

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See you at the top!

The Team at A+

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