A well crafted internal link structure significantly improves your chances of your content being seen at the right place and at the right time. Your internal links structure is also known as your “Link Graph” and there are three core elements: Your Navigational or menu link structure, your breadcrumb link structure and – by far the most important in today’s search algorithms – the internal link structures in the body of the text. That is to say, the way in which your main content connects to other content on your websites can have a profound effect on both Google and users alike. In this “How to” guide, we’ll bypass the navigational links and breadcrumb links and dive straight into internal “body text” links.

Why Internal Links are important to Google

Even before Google migrated its ideas towards Semantic search, links acted as important signposts for search algorithms. You can really understand the importance of links for Google’s Pagerank algorithm here. There are a few points of note about PageRank which are worth noting, though, First, PageRank was calculated at the page level, not the domain level. this means that internal links play a big part in determining the strength of the page in terms of Pagerank. Second, PageRank in its purest form has no context. That is to say, that a link should only really have an effect on a search algorithm if it adds to the context of the article or page on which it exists. Google did talk about “Topical PageRank” although were not explicit at the time about the way they implemented it. One paper on Topical PageRank from Cambridge University shows how this works.

For search, the presence of links in a document collection adds valuable information over that contained in the text of the documents alone.

Jardine & Teufel

There are also important reasons why internal links are relevant in the world of semantic search. By linking text closely to content about the entity, you are making life much easier for a reader to understand the meaning of an article and – just as importantly – you are helping Google and other search engines derive the meaning of your content. For example, if you talk about “Queen” on a page, are you talking about a band, a monarch or a lifestyle choice? By linking to an article of content which has schema around this context, machines can readily identify the nature of the relationship between the two pieces of content.

In “15 advantages of using Internal Link Building for SEO“, Fred Laurent makes the argument for internal links compelling.

Once your site relies on content, internal links are as essential to your visibility as external links, to:

* Increase the number of long-tail keywords
* Better respond to users’ queries
* And ultimately, increase your visibility and your organic traffic

Fred Laurent

Building and Viewing your Internal Link Graph

Viewing your Internal links structure can be achieved with a number of tools, but building and automating an internal link Structure is best done using inlinks.net, which is free for the first 20 pages of your site.

3 Tools for viewing internal links

1: Screaming Frog

Every SEO’s goto tool. Screaming frog lets you crawl any website. In doing so it tracks all the internal links that it finds and allows you to sort. The graphic above shows you how to see all the “inLinks” (Internal links into a given page) in one place. (The next tab also shows the outbound links from the same page.) Unfortunately, this does not separate out the body text links.

2: inLinks Link Tab

Using inLinks to view your internal link graph is a double-edged sword. On the plus side:

  1. Navigational links are ignored
  2. You can see the anchor text length distribution
  3. You can remove unwanted links with a single click
  4. Links are visually grouped into their target pages

On the downside, inLinks is a complete SAAS tool and only reports on the links that it generates. The links are also in Javascript, but this is not the problem for Google that Javascript used to be. Recently, Google’s Martin Splitt confirmed that they are crawling and rendering 90% of Javascript within 5 seconds of their initial page crawl.

3: Majestic’s Link Context

Recently, my previous company, Majestic, came out with a brand new way to visualize links on a page.

This new visualization shows how links are balanced on a web page, with internal links in blue and external links in orange. Each page is segmented into 40 sections, allowing you to see where on the page the links are and also the kind of company each link keeps.

The benefit is that you can see the overall look of the page and can reasonably determine which links are in the body and which are in the navigation. On the downside, Majestic does not render Javascript links at the moment and this visualization really looks at the links out of a page, rather than the links into the page.

The Ultimate Tool for building Internal Links

Here, inLinks tries to stand head and shoulders ahead of the field. Whilst there have been WordPress and non-Wordpress based tools in the past that have tried to automate internal linking, they were primarily designed around keywords, rather than topics. This led to unnatural anchor text signals, which Google has been known t object to. By ONLY linking on anchor text, the links are not intent-based. inLinks is different because it first builds a knowledge graph of the content on each page of your site that you submit to the system and from there can build links based on topics, rather than keywords alone. Let’s take an example.

Example internal link graph

Above shows the internal links on this site that have been generated by inlinks to the content around earning a Wikipedia page. At the time of writing, the system had identified 8 occasions where the content on the blog had discussed Wikipedia. As we had determined that the Earning a Wikipedia listing page is the best resource that we have at this point on Wikipedia itself, these topic mentions have linked to this target page. What is encouraging is that the system has not simply linked the anchor text “Wikipedia” each time, but has instead taken more semantically appropriate phrases for the anchor text each time.

Creating internal links manually

Of course – it is not necessary to use a tool like Inlinks to create internal links. You can easily create internal links within your content tp other pages on your site. However, you will not achieve scale and will not be able to easily recalculate and redistribute these internal links when content s updated. This will mean that you are likely to miss many internal link opportunities that may be open to you. That said, here is a simple step process to creating internal links within WordPress.

How to create Internal Links in WordPress

Step 1: Find pages on the site that discuss a particular topic

The best way to do this is to type in a keyword into Google followed by “site:yourdomain.com”. So, to find the pages on this site that might be appropriate for internal links for the TERM “Internal links” I would type this into google.

Step 2: Select your target page for your search term

Usually, the top result will be the page that you would want to have as your target page for the search term you have chosen because ths is the one that Google already believes to be the most relevant. If you are writing new content, then, of course, you may choose the new page instead.

Step 3: Identify where other pages should link to the target page

You should insert the link somewhere around where the term is highlighted by Google in the search results. You do this by…

Step 4: Opening the page in edit mode in WordPress

Step 5: Dragging your cursor over the text you want to link

Step 6: Click on the hyperlink icon to insert the link

Internal Links FAQs

What is the theory behind Internal Links?

Links have always been important to Google’s algorithms, initially because of its PageRank maths. This later developed to include the “reasonable surfer” algorithms, which meant that some links out of a page were more important than others. It is presumed that link in the body of an article, and nearer the start of the content are the most valuable links in Google’s maths. In more recent times, Google has played down the importance of links for PageRank, although this has not always washed with the SEO community. Google still accepts that they still use PageRank.

Moreover, good internal linking is a great marketing in its own right. This strategy helps users understand the content they are reading on a page, by providing solid, supporting links to the underlying concepts discussed. This in turn also helps machines like Google connect the concepts into tight graphs that allow search engines to derive meaning and intent.

How Significant a Ranking Factor is Internal Linking?

Internal linking is as much about topical proximity as it is about ranking. Even so, the significance of any single internal link will depend on the authority of the source page itself. Because most internal pages on a site have much lower authority than those of (say) the home page, individual links may not always provide much significance, but provide context.

What’s different about Internal linking vs External Linking?

An internal link is a link from one page to another page on the same domain or site. An external link is on a page which links to an entirely separate domain. Is there any material difference to a search engine? One philosophy says no… as Search Engines calculate most of their signals at the URL level. Indeed… now that the Knowledge Graph is so developed, it can be argued that the search engines analyze at an even granular level… splitting a page into segments or chunks. Other SEOs, however, maintain that the domain itself might infer authority. This author is yet to be convinced of this latter approach since most research pages do not formerly discuss sites, but pages. Even so, it is clear that the website owner will have far more control over internal links into any given page than links from other domains. It might, therefore, be more valuable (all things being equal) to have links into a page from outside your site than links coming in from inside your site. Certainly, the PageRank maths would suggest that without any links coming in from the wider web, the internal links would not carry much weight, as ultimately only links from outside the web owner’s immediate locus of control can add to the overall authority passed through internal links.

Should I link to external sites?

If it makes sense to do so, then absolutely. It makes sense to do so when your user will be able to better understand the argument you are making in your story. in this instance, you actually WANT the user to click on the link, understand the underlying context, then return to your article. Moreover, inLinks has been looking at the patterns of pages returned for most queries and we rarely find results with pages that are NOT linking out to external websites.

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