On-site SEO best practices – Internal Links

So much SEO talk is focused on promoting your website to the outside world through press releases and articles and generally gaining a lot of links. However since Penguin and Panda there have been some major changes in how Google ranks pages and it appears now that getting your on-site stuff is just as important as off-site, if not more.So in this post, I’ll take a look at internal links and why you should be considering them every time you post a blog or write some content for your site.

First off, a bit of history. You’ve probably heard of Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web (not the Internet, that’s different and for the subject of another post), well he proposed a method of being able to share information easily while he was at CERN. This method allowed staff to share documents easily while also having the required functionality so that links can be embedded within the document, so if you were reading a particular document on super-hard quantum mechanics, there may be a link to another page that explains it better.

This then became the basis of web sites the world over. Look at any site and you’ll see links to other pages and sites all over it and it’s just how it’s meant to be used. So do you use it on your site? Well before you mentioned it, I’m as guilty as anyone for not doing it more, but you will notice certain parts of the site have these links, usually coloured slightly differently and they do come in very handy. For example, I might want to talk to you about having the best anchor text on your links and you’re wondering what that’s all about. Well just click on ‘anchor text‘ and you’ll find out.

Get the idea?

How does this help my SEO?

We have to think how Google thinks and they’re very clear on the sort of documents they like and they state that they should be easy for people to read, informative and they should ‘add’ to the web. So let’s imagine you create a page that discusses in some detail the best type of four wheel drive car to buy based on where you live. You could just create a whole page full of text and it would be lovely, but would it have enough information on it for a prospective 4×4 buyer? There’s a lot of information out there so why not add links to relevant sites, manufacturers, dealers etc.

This allows you to send your reader to a more informative page maybe. However, we then get the objections:

  • Isn’t  this leaking page rank?
  • Why send the customers elsewhere?
  • Don’t I need permission to link to another site?

Leaking page rank

Don’t worry about it. In the old days this was a big thing that required a lot of thought, these days it really doesn’t. There used to be a practice called ‘Page rank sculpting’ where site owners would try to ‘bend’ the links to direct Page rank to the pages they wanted to get higher in Google, but this really doesn’t work any more.

If a link is important or useful, do it.

Why send customers elsewhere

I’m not suggesting you send customers to another site where they could buy your products cheaper, but you could send them to a site that explains the history of the product or gives more information about how they work. Being open and honest means you are adding value and if your customer can see this, you are more likely to get a sale. Moreover, you’re adding value and Google loves that.

Do I need permission to link to another site?

Not really. There’s an interesting story going on in Ireland at the moment (http://readwrite.com/2013/01/16/irish-newspapers-try-to-charge-for-links) where the newspapers are attempting to charge people just for linking to their pages, but most in the industry are simply laughing at them.

Don’t worry about it, just link to good content. You’re probably doing them a favour and the worst that can happen is they contact you to ask you to remove the link. It’s never happened to me.

Summary

So there you go, link building is a good idea because it helps your users and Google loves it when you help people so do it and watch your rankings increase as a result.

Comments

  1. says

    Well you’d think I’d have better things to do at 2.30am, like sleep for example. But how can I sleep when there is really interesting stuff like this on the web. A touch of sarcasm I hear you chuckle… No not at all Andy, I’m really interested in your comments regarding off site links. I suppose I’m a little stuck in the old way of thinking, holding onto that valuable Google juice. I suppose by linking to other related stuff, that makes the web more interesting and hence Google will see your site as an interesting destination.

    Great point… I wonder if this will get past your spam filter lol.

  2. says

    Andy,

    Thanks for more insight into the SEO world, your guide was extremely useful and is aleady helping traffic volumes increase to my site.

    One thing does puzzle me though, does google weight content differently e.g a wordpress page vs blogpost vs video?

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