Written by Rubén Martínez
Table of contents
Internal vs. external links
For the most part, we tend to dedicate a lot more time to our strategy of external links –backlinks–, while pushing the optimisation of internal links to the background. Undoubtedly, backlinks are important for improving the website’s popularity. However, we shouldn’t think that because of that, these are the only links we should examine and optimise.
The optimisation of the information architecture focusses on boosting the most relevant pages of a website, and the creation of a navigation net that will make for the best user experience. This is done through internal links, which we use to connect related nodes (pages), situating each on a different level of the navigation, based on their importance.
For example, when we place a main menu inside the header of our website, we are making the pages we include in it stand out over the rest of the pages. Why? Because we are creating links to these pages from everywhere on our site, making them sitewide. Thus, the amount of links pointing towards a specific page from others will indicate a higher relevance of the target page.
A content cluster is a series of pages, which are interconnected through links, the content of which tackles related topics. They are used to boost the use of different keywords regarding a specific subject. A user who browses a cluster will be able to obtain information about different things concerning one main topic by simply navigating through the various links.A content cluster is a series of pages interconnected through links 🔗 and their content tackles related subjects.Click To Tweet
Let’s imagine we are going to travel abroad. In this scenario, we are going to be interested in several things, such as:
- What’s the weather like in that country.
- Which cities can be visited.
- What is its currency.
- What language they speak there.
- What is their cuisine like.
- Where are the most important monuments.
- How to go from the airport to the city.
Undoubtedly, it is the opportunity to create different pages that will satisfy each of the user’s questions on their own, and interlink them.
We’ll tackle a different subject on each of these pages, and we will extensively respond to the user’s question and other related questions they have. By mentioning adjacent topics to the main one, we will have cause to create links to complementary pages, which could also be interesting to them. This way, we will be delivering a narrative continuity and inviting the user to continue exploring information about their future trip.
As an example, let’s say we are going to travel to Georgia, and we haven’t yet decided on a date. It’s likely we will start by reading up on the place’s climate, which will help us find out when it is best to travel there. If, while we are reading, we find a link to another page, which tells us when and where the local festivals are celebrated, not only we will most likely continue reading, but we’ll also pin this website as a reference for future consultations.
Internal links should be created following some basic rules, such as the optimisation of the anchor text, to match it as much as possible to the terms used on their target pages. I.e. if we place a link to a page with a recipe on how to make caramelised onion, ideally the anchor text should be something along the lines of “how to make caramelised onion”, and not “this page” or “click here”.✅ Architecture optimisation focusses on boosting the most relevant pages of the website and the creation of a navigation net that will make for the best user experience.Click To Tweet
The optimisation of our website’s internal links is good not only in terms of narrative continuity, it is also vital for indexing. So much so, that an unlinked page would never be crawled by Google’s crawlers, and would be left unindexed.
If we want to index a new page on our website, it will have more chance of getting indexed sooner if it’s linked in the highest levels of the navigation, starting from the home page. This means that if we place a link to the new page inside the above-the-fold section of the home page, it will get indexed faster than if it’s placed at the bottom of a text, on an internal page, the content of which is static.
The number of links a page receives is an indicator of its authority within the website. When we insert a link inside the logo of our website to the main page, we are saying that this page is the most important one, which is why it should be linked from the header, so that it’s accessible from any part of the website. Our post about information architecture and SEO for e-commerce will tell you more on how to optimise the structure of the website.
A hierarchic architecture has several navigation levels stemming from the home page, based on the importance of each page.
For example, if we have an e-commerce site, it’s common to find the home page at the top level, the categories at the second level, and products at the third. This doesn’t mean product pages are less important, but that we are using links to create a sequential navigation that will help the user to find in as little time as possible the product they need, therefore, they will also need less time to convert.
Follow vs nofollow
Internal links, for the most part, will be of “dofollow” type, with the exception of those which will lead to pages that should not be indexed, such as the shopping basket or any pages that are considered to be private areas. A dofollow link leading to a non-indexable page could result in this page getting indexed, even if it’s blocked in the HTML or robots.txt file. In previous posts on our blog we talked about how to use nofollow and dofollow correctly.
Broken links are links leading to pages, which no longer exist. These links do not directly damage the rankings of a URL containing them, but they can be the source of bad user experience, which we want to prevent inasmuch as possible. For that reason, it’s recommendable to avoid keeping broken links on any indexed page. You can either remove them altogether, or program 301 redirects in specific cases, where it makes sense to do so. For example, product pages for products which have been discontinued, but there is a similar item that we can redirect the user to. Such links can be easily detected using any crawling tool, namely Screaming Frog or Ryte.
After reading this articles, do you think your website’s internal link strategy is optimised? Make sure to let us know about your experience in the comments!