In an ever-changing digital landscape, and new content being published constantly, it is important to create high-quality branded mentions in order to reach poll positions in search engine results.
Today, algorithms can find and categorise content to identify positive links which can be used to improve SEO. Search engine algorithms use links contained within web page’s content to better understand the navigation, architecture and relevancy of web pages. This means...
While well-authored content, optimised with relevant keywords, is critical, content must also be available for search engines to crawl and display in the search results. And of course, for users to navigate with ease. Link building is foundational for both of these aspects.
Generally, link building conversations and efforts are geared towards building external links, but that comes with its challenges. Utilising any black hat link building wouldn’t just impact SEO rankings or the professionals that created those links but can lead to financial and legal penalties impacting the overall organisation.
Why consider internal link building?
What most forget is that robust link building can be achieved by harnessing the organisation’s owned content. In reality, large companies have too many URLs that are not discoverable due to inadequate links between web pages and a poor information architecture.
Think of internal links as a big, roadway system for websites, comprising of multiple streets and highways, which search engines use to crawl and discover information about the website. SEO professionals can supply information about this system, in the form of a sitemap, which allows crawlers to better understand pages and therefore direct relevant traffic towards it.
Links not only help attract new users but also assist in keeping them engaged on the website for longer. When the user is already engaged with the upper funnel pages, link building can progressively harness users into clicking into deeper pages, keeping them on your site and increasing their session time.
The marketers' survey undertaken by SEJ says that link building is their most effective SEO strategy. This is because it is easier to leverage an already acquired user than to attract new ones. When a user has already entered the domain, irrespective of the source of traffic, internal links provide easy click-throughs to progress the user journey to the next stage.
Why internal links are critical for businesses
It is a known fact that organic search is the largest contributor to traffic. Therefore, performance on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) is an incredibly important metric as the rise in ranking results, in turn, will result in an increased click-through rate from organic search. And what’s a great way that companies can improve their product page’s average search rankings? Through improved internal linking!
There are other collateral gains as well. The internal referral traffic sees an uptake in terms of the second-page click-through rate, decreasing a site’s bounce rate. Marketers can effectively leverage internal links from various sections of the domain and point them towards product pages to, in some cases, see hundreds of percentage increases from in-domain referral traffic. This mesh-like structure, created by the internal links, also improves the site-search results.
It is necessary to establish link building goals that impact the revenue generation for the business and is aligned with the overall organisational goals. You don’t want the user to aimlessly click-through to the next page. The user journey should be well thought out and links should be used to guide the user towards the desired conversation.
The only word of caution here is - don't expect overnight success, but the gains in the coming months from strong link building would be well worthwhile.
Biggest challenges of internal links for businesses
Often, important pages contain an excessive number of outbound links leading away from the page. To increase the likelihood of users and search engines alike finding the most important pages, the number of internal links pointing towards them should be increased.
Web pages should be linked to deeper pages of the website, which may lengthen and enhance a user’s experience. However, there is a missed opportunity to link back to the original web page and to cross-link between the deeper pages, to develop a more thorough web-like structure that would better inform crawlers about the architecture and information contents of the site. The structure shown effectively sends search engine crawlers and users alike to a dead end as they navigate through the site.
What should it look like?
Enterprise-level internal linking is not a cumbersome process, it is a form of art and requires a great deal of resourcefulness. Remember that there is no cookie-cutter approach to link building as each project will entail its own relevancy and keyword requirements.
In an ideal situation, page 1 and page 2 will link to each other. But don’t merely link for the sake of link building. Any link building pattern that appears unnatural will trigger the search engines to assign a penalty, so avoid common link building mistakes at all costs.
Search engines use internal links to understand the structure of a site and the relationship between web pages. So, link to content that is relevant to the source content. Some web pages represent a natural progression in the user journey. For such journeys, give the user a way back to earlier pages via the navigation, breadcrumbs or contextual links. Remember strategic internal linking is an SEO power technique.
Where do backlink opportunities exist in large businesses?
When kick-starting a link building project, it is critical to evaluate the type of asset that can be used for advantage. Depending upon the type of website being used, these assets may vary from textual to images to videos.
One of the easiest ways to get backlinks is via blogs. Depending on the length of the blog and relevancy, utilise the same blog to achieve two relevant links. Use the non-branded terms to link to upper-funnel pages and use the branded terms to link to product pages.
Other owned properties
A number of businesses have separate sections for assets such as case studies, demos, product specifications, documentation, and community. Attempts should be made to reach out to teams owning these pages to obtain links pointing to the preferred page.
Another very powerful opportunity is to crosslink with complementary products, that are used in conjunction with the product (e.g. linking to the appropriate phone charger, earphones or phone case on an iPhone product page). Internal crosslinking, based on this strong connection, can lead to mutual enhancements.
How to find link opportunities/auditing existing links
Identify the champion URL and focused keywords:
- Don’t forget to leverage the internal site search
Undertake an internal search for the focused keywords using the site search feature. This exercise will find mentions of similar keyword variations within the site.
- Use Google itself
Conduct “site:domainname keyword” query in Google search. This would list all the URLs that Google has indexed for the domain that could match the query phrase.
- Use link-building tools
As the Martech industry grows several link building tools can make life easier. These tools allow to crawl and research a large number of URLs quickly and help organize them. For example, use Screaming Frog. It allows to add many URLs, set the crawl to follow redirects and containing the desired keywords.
Irrespective of the method that is utilised to identify the link building opportunity, consider the following few basic precautions:
- Gather all the URLs currently ranking for desired keywords. Remain focused on the relevant keywords. This will cancel all the noise and find the right backlink opportunity. Check the URLs for relevancy, keyword search volume, and search engine position, before selecting for link building.
- Filter the opportunities, by traffic or link that URL receives. Analyse the data and consider the URLs that are already receiving traffic and have higher user engagement.
- Don’t overlook the anchor text utilised to describe the link. One of the most important things that search engines consider in ranking a page is the actual text used to link the URLs. Anchor text describes the main theme of the content that will be found on the next URL if the link is clicked, so it should be highly relevant and as specific as possible.
- Consider the placement. It’s all about the location. Google’s latest algorithm changes with BERT states that a factor considered towards their ranking order is related to natural language processing to consider the keywords in the context of other content written around it.
To summarise, if you're not showcasing your content, then you're essentially limiting the user journey of an already acquired user. Internal link building leads to an increase in views per visit, product’s lead generation and overall win revenue. Link relevant content to help drive traffic to the right pages on the site. The more relevant and natural progression to the user journey, the better the results will be.