Guide to Google ranking factors – Part 8: internal links

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Last week we published the seventh instalment of our complete guide to Google ranking factors.

It concentrated on site-level signals, such as HTTPS, speed, mobile friendliness and structured mark-up.

This week, we’re looking at internal links (before we tackle the much more unwieldy subjects of outbound links and backlinks).

Internal linking

What’s an internal link? Well if you click on that link, you’ve just discovered one for yourself.

The practice of internal linking has many advantages, that can help your site improve its metrics and the user experience.

1) Internal links can help navigate people around your site in a more targeted fashion.

2) Internal links can keep people on your site, particularly if the links are relevant to that particular webpage.

3) They provides your audience with further reading options, and if they continue to click around your site without leaving, this can help reduce your bounce rate (the percentage of people who left a given page on your website without viewing any other pages.)

4) Internal links help Google crawl and index your site. The Googlebots that are sent out to fetch new information on your site will have a better idea of how useful and trustworthy your content is, the more they crawl your internal links.

5) Search engines will see that some of your webpages have more internal links pointing towards them than others, and will therefore judge them as more important.

6) The higher the authority of a page on your website, the more valuable its internal link becomes.

7) According to Starcom’s Jason McGovern, internal linking is one of the few methods we can use to tell Google (and visitors) that a particular page of content is important.

From a strategic perspective, it helps webmasters bridge the ‘authority gap’ between their most linkworthy content and their most profitable content.

For instance you can use a link from an evergreen post with lots of search visibility and traffic to promote something relevant your business needs to raise awareness of.

8) Broken links send a bad trust signal to Google, as it makes your site look incompetent or irrelevant at best, poorly maintained or abandoned at worst.

Anchor text

9) By using clear anchor text (the clickable highlighted words in any give link) it helps improve your ranking for certain keywords. If we want this article to rank for the term ’internal link guide’ then we can begin linking to it from other posts using variations of similar anchor text.

This tells Google that this post is relevant to people searching for ‘internal link guides’.

10) Some SEOs recommend varying the anchor text pointing a particular page as Google may see multiple identical uses as ‘suspicious’.

Hub pages

11) You may find that linking to a single hub page will help your site avoid cannibalising itself for search positions.

A hub page is a page themed around a certain topic or keyword. It could be a tag page or perhaps a category, like our SEO page.

This page is constantly updated with fresh content, and is therefore always considered ‘fresh’ and valuable by Google.

To use a good example from Graham Charlton: news articles are generally brief and will come and go in the search rankings. However, linking them to a hub page helps signal to Google that this is the page that should rank for a particular keyword or term.

For more chapters in our Google ranking factors series, check out:

Part 10: backlinks
Part 9: outbound links
Part 7: site-level signals
Part 6: trust signals, authority and expertise.
Part 5: duplicate content and syndication.
Part 4: content freshness.
Part 3: quality content.
Part 2: keyword relevancy, frequency and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).
Part 1: on-page signals such as title tags, H1 tags and meta descriptions.

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