Many budding SEOs, good SEOs and even expert SEOs from time to time get consumed in the keyword and forget that internal linking is a crucial element of SEO effectiveness. It tells a lot more to search engines as well as visitors than one might think.
Lets pretend for a moment that site visitors and search engine crawlers are tourists to your site. It is great that we have signs (keywords) spread about to help let people and spiders understand what they are traversing into. But beyond the signs, wouldnt it be helpful to provide them with a roadmap so they also visit other important locations on the site? You betcha!
Why is internal linking important for search engines?
The more you link to a certain page on your site the more you are instructing to a search engine as to the hierarchy of content on your site. Google looks specifically at this and you can look in Google Webmaster Tools to assess what they see as your most internally linked content. You may find that some pages you dont consider as special are linking more internally than very important site pages. Make sure you take the steps to create an internal link count list that places emphasis on your most important pages. Internal links also serve as a keyword validation for the pages of your site. Using keyword-rich anchor text/navigational link text help create keyword credibility that the linking page is related to the anchoring keyword text. Finally, the third most important search engine bot related element of internal linking is that it is the interconnecting web of pages on your site and search engine spiders love webs too. Utilizing secondary navigation such as breadcrumb and footer navigation help to provide search engines with additional pathways to jump around from page to page on your site. Linking between related pages in site copy also helps show search engines that you are an authority for a certain topic and you have created a quick web to help them efficiently reach out to this supporting content.
Why is internal linking so important for site visitors?
As much as we SEOs want to believe that sites were created for search engines, at the end of the day, they dont buy the products or services that you are offering. You have to be considerate of what you want your visitor to do on the site. This is where we perform the fore mentioned internal linking steps but for different reasons. Create a main navigation with your visitor goals in mind. With this in mind, dont lead off your navigation from the left with About Us. Do you want to sell them a product or service or let them now you provide outstanding customer service and have been at the same location for 20 years? We want them to complete a goal and if they want to know more about you they will look to this additional info. Create additional internal linking elements such as breadcrumb navigation. This lets someone know how they go to a certain internal page. Maybe their entrance into the site was to this deep page and they want to simply back up one level to the category page. Provide footer navigation. If your web page is longer than one fold, and I know it is, this provides a user the ability to click on to additional important site pages. Without placing important footer links you are asking each page viewer to scroll back up to the main navigation or move back up to the top of the pages and hit the back-button. Additionally, as indicated above, it is imperative to add links within the body copy. This helps sell the visitor on your commitment to provide them with supporting information. Oh, and click here doesnt cut it. You need to give your visitor something a little more enticing and descriptive on these links to help persuade the click-through.
We could probably find additional reasons for minding internal linking in our SEO strategy for the benefit of both bots and users. However, these elements mentioned above are a sound validation on why you need to be spending more time on your internal linking structure instead of spending your time obsessing over if your H1 heading has the same keyword phrase that is in your title element.