Internal linking is great for SEO. It's also great for your users. It's also great for YOU. Let's just say it's great. Want to know the best part? You don't even need to look at fancy diagrams to understand it.
I'm not going to present you any in this article, partly because I'm too lazy to make one, but really because I want to show you just how simple this concept is.
The Internet is built on links. I'm not talking about sending millions of backlinks to a site. I'm talking about linking useful pages together. Ever popped over to Wikipedia to look something up, only to click on a dozen other links on each page and be there for five hours? I do that all the time.
Wikipedia has an AMAZING internal link structure. It's not just for SEO either. You want to click on those links, because you want to know more.
Internal Links For SEO
Let's talk about the SEO purposes first. Why does linking your posts and pages together help with your site's indexing and ranking? For a few reasons:
1. Better Crawling.
When a search engine spider comes to crawl your site and index your content, it follows the links you've put on your page. A site with good structure will allow those spiders to crawl over it its pages and posts, and get an excellent idea of what the site as a whole is about, how it's structured, and what kind of content it has going on.
With good internal linking, your core pages can get lots of attention from search engines, giving them more opportunities to be ranked.
N.B Don't just link to your core pages from every single post or page where it doesn't even make sense.
2. Better Quality Sites Use Internal Links.
Ever since Google Panda in 2010, Google has looked at a site's overall structure to determine quality and rank. It KNOWS that good sites have good internal linking. There's no guarantee that internal linking will give you great ranks, but NOT having internal linking is like putting a hand-brake on your site's rank. Visit this article to learn more about linking and rank.
3. It Reduces Bounce-Rate And Increases Time On Site.
A ‘bounce' is when somebody visits a page on your site then leaves without going elsewhere. Generally, sites with high bounce-rate are considered poor sites by Google, and your rankings will suffer. If you can get people to click and visit other parts of your site though, that's a massive win.
As you guessed, ‘time on site' works the same way. The longer you can get visitors to stay, the better your SEO score will be.
4. You Can Control Anchor Text.
Yes the dreaded Anchor Text! It's nowhere near as important as it once was, but it does still hold some small sway. Now it would be foolish to point every link to another post by using exact match anchors, but being in full-control of your anchor text is great. It can help fight off things like negative SEO, and just help your anchor text profile look more organic and useful.
It's only a minor benefit, which is why it's number 4 in this list. I've thought this through don't you know.
Internal Linking For User-Friendliness
User-friendly is a funny term that gets thrown all over the place. I basically mean it will benefit people who visit your site. Not robots or the mystical Google fairy (It's real actually, I saw it once).
Here are some reasons why internal linking benefits users:
1. You Don't Need To Keep Explaining Everything.
If you mention a certain term or concept, you can just link to your article on it. Users who are already familiar with it don't need to bother visiting if they don't want to, and everyone gets what they want.
2. It Helps Them Discover More Of Your Site.
The sites I read again and again are ones that have great internal linking. I can gobble up all their info and jump around for extra explanations where necessary. If a site just has one page for me to read and then expects me to click on the menu to learn more, I'm not likely to do so.
3. You Can Lead Them To Their Destination.
Sometimes people don't know that they need your product or service, sometimes they need time to build up trust in you. Having a path for them to follow through your site is a great way of introducing this to them.
Other Benefits Of Good Linking Structure
SEO and User Friendliness are great, but what about other benefits? Here are just a few.
1. Centralized Offers.
Whether you are promoting your own product, someone else's, or some kind of service, having one central page with the offer on it and then linking to it from other posts makes life a lot easier. You can just write articles how you need to and have a link or even banner ad to the main offer.
This also increases the SEO of that central offer, and avoids your site having affiliate links all over the place.
2. They Don't Need To Visit The Homepage.
Many people put great effort into their homepages. They have featured articles, banners and adverts, and a well thought-out menu. The problem is, most people won't find your site via the homepage, they'll find it via another article you've published.
Good internal linking means you'll be able to send them off in the right direction without reading the homepage and site intro.
Practicing Good Internal Linking
So what exactly makes good linking practices? Here are a few rules of thumb.
1. Try to link to two-three useful pages per post. This is great for SEO and obviously useful for your users. You can link to more if it's necessary, but don't overwhelm them.
2. Don't worry about anchor text, mix it up a little, and throw in a few keyword-based ones if you can.
3. Link naturally. Don't just show the raw URL. See how I've done it on this post.
4. If a page is important to you, DEFINITELY link to it from other pages. The more the better, but don't overdo it.
5. Link to some core pages from your sidebar and/or homepage as well. This will help PageRank really flow through your site.
Want to know more about links and rank? Check out this guide.