I love the power of internal linking.
For visitors to your site, internal links can lead to additional helpful information and increase the time they spend on your website. This looks great to Google and can also increase your display ad revenue.
For search engines, a solid internal link structure helps them to find and index posts, pass on link juice, and hopefully boost your content in the rankings. Internal link anchor texts also provide extra information on the content of the linked post.
The best part is that you’re totally in control of your internal links. You don’t need to ask anyone else to add them or change them, it’s all in your power.
With all this in mind, it’s best to make the most of internal linking and get it right.
Here are seven things NOT to do with your internal links!
Internal links on your website should be dofollow links.
While it’s not a huge deal if you accidentally set some internal links as nofollow, it’s best practice for them to be dofollow.
Nofollow links tell search engines that, although you link to a post, it’s no indication of its importance. Google’s guidelines say to only use a nofollow link when “you’d rather Google not associate your site with, or crawl the linked page from, your site.”
Following that advice, it doesn’t make sense that you’d make your own internal links nofollow.
In saying that, however, there is the odd occasion when you might want to make internal links nofollow:
When internal links are dofollow links, it allows search engines to pass freely through your site. Regularly using nofollow internal links will do more harm than good.
Avoid linking to multiple different pages or posts with the same anchor text. This can be hard to avoid in some niches and on large sites, but it’s important.
I could, for example, link to many posts on Niche Pursuits with the anchor text ‘affiliate marketing.’ However, if I’m linking to many different pages using this same anchor, it becomes a confusing signal for search engines.
Which post is really about affiliate marketing? Or, at least, which URL do I want to rank for that term?
For me, it’s best to have a single post that I link to consistently with the keyword ‘affiliate marketing’ (and variations), rather than linking to multiple URLs with that exact anchor. I link to similar posts with unique alternative anchors that won’t conflict.
Even if you do make this “mistake,” search engines will usually be able to work things out. But it’s better to keep things clean and easy for them!
Ideally, it’s best not to place internal (or external) links on header tags within content.
The headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.) in posts are essential for SEO in their own right. They help search engines know what the content focuses on. Linking out from H1-H3 headers detracts from that.
Headers in your content should contain keywords you want that post to rank for, not another post that you’re linking out to. Also, because it’s a more unusual practice, internal links on headers can be difficult for readers to spot.
I often see websites linking internally or externally on headers in round-up posts. However, it would be best to do this from a keyword-rich text below the heading.
There are other header tags on your site where it is right to have internal links:
Watch this video of Rand Fiskin at Moz explaining how links in headers, footers, content, and navigation affect SEO.
Nobody wants broken links throughout their site, and it’s a good idea to fix them every once in a while. However, you don’t want to be spending a ton of time doing it.
Link Whisper makes it really easy to see when you’ve got 404 errors or broken links (among other things). Once a week (or monthly), open up the reports to see if any errors require your attention.
The main way an internal link becomes broken is when you change the URL structure or delete a post — we’ll cover that next.
See how else Link Whisper can help make building internal links faster and easier here.
When you change the URL of a post or delete a post, make sure you add a redirect.
If you change the URL of a post or page, you will want to redirect the old URL to the new URL. This shows Google where the new post is and ensures that any links pointing to the old URL are diverted appropriately.
In the case of internal links pointing to a post that has been moved or deleted, it’s best to go and change those links to the new URL.
There is a free plugin called Redirection that will automatically add a redirect if you change the URL. However, it can’t change or delete internal links that were pointing to the post.
If you’ve deleted a post, make the redirect to a similar post or to your homepage. You will then need to go and remove any internal links that were pointing to the deleted post.
For example, a while back, I merged several posts on keyword research into one BIG post on keyword research. Before the merger, the posts all interlinked with one another, so I had to tidy that all up afterward.
The anchor text on your internal links can be too long or too short.
As I mentioned at the beginning, internal links are great because you can control the anchor. You generally don’t waste the opportunity by linking on words like:
Or other short, non-descriptive anchors like that.
At least add a couple of keyword-rich words to help show search engines what that post is about. This also gives the link more weight.
The other problem with short link anchors is that they can be hard for your readers to see depending on the color of your links. They don’t stand out as much.
At the opposite extreme, don’t link out from a massive sentence or anything like that.
The general rule for anchor text length for both internal and external links is 6 – 8 words max, but 2 – 4 should suffice in most cases.
There’s no need to write an awkward sentence in order to squeeze in the “perfect” exact match keyword you are looking for.
Write the sentence so that it reads naturally, and either leave out the internal link or work with what you’ve got.
A good rule of thumb when writing is to always think of your readers and search engines second. Usually, there’s a way to phrase things that accomplishes both goals!
Internal links can help websites thrive.
They pass authority from one page to another, give your site structure, and encourage your visitors to stay longer. It’s a big part of niche website building that you want to get right.
If you’d like to try a WordPress plugin explicitly designed to help you build and manage internal links more effectively, you can check out Link Whisper right here.
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