How to Use Internal Linking to Boost SEO and Conversions on Your Website

By Rhonda Bradley / 23 October 2018

Find out how to boost your content’s SERP results and website conversions with internal linking structures that are simple and easy to execute.

External linking and inbound links get a lot of attention from marketers, but there’s another type of content linking that can improve your search engine results and website conversions – internal links.

Internal links are equally as important to your content’s success as external links and backlinks.

The right type of internal linking structure, combined with proper anchor text, can give a huge boost to your website’s search engine rankings and onsite conversion rates.

In this article, we’ll show you 3 different internal linking structures that you can use to boost your SEO and conversion rates. You’ll learn:

  • How to create a basic linking structure that improves your content’s SEO

  • How to create a simple linking structure to rank for specific keywords

  • How to create a topic cluster linking structure to improve your website’s SEO

What Are Internal Links and How Can They Help My Website?

Internal links are links from one page of your website to another page on your website. These come in different formats, including:

  1. Top navigation menu

  2. Footer navigation menu

  3. Sidebar navigation menu

  4. Links within your articles and posts

  5. Images (not recommended)

Anchor text is the phrase within your articles that contains a link.

For example, in the sentence below, the linked text below (in blue) is the anchor text. When you click or tap it, it takes you to a different web page.  

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Internal linking structures are a method of interlinking your website content in a way that:

  • Helps readers discover content they’re interested in

  • Assists search engine crawlers in understanding the architecture of your website

1.  How to Create a Basic Linking Structure That Improves Your Content’s SEO

According to Hubspot Marketing, internal linking should always be a part of your strategy because it can help your search engine results page (SERP) rankings, especially for difficult keyword phrases.

This basic linking structure is designed to boost the search engine rankings of your most important website pages.

How to Plan a Basic Internal Link Structure

To plan your basic internal link structure, select a handful of your most important website pages to act as primary link destinations.

HubSpot recommends using conversion-optimized landing pages as primary link destinations. Alternatively, you can choose one of your most popular articles instead of a landing page, as long as you’ll be publishing content that expands on the article’s information.

These important pages become your primary linking destinations, now and in the future.

By consistently linking to these pages, you show Google that they are important. HubSpot says it’s like “voting for yourself and letting search engines know about your vote.”

How to Optimize Basic Internal Links

Be sure to include at least one link to your primary destination page(s) every time you publish content that’s related to that topic.

When you create a link from one piece of content to the other, you should optimize the anchor text with these 3 steps:

  1. The anchor text should include keywords that describe the content you’re linking to.

  2. The phrase surrounding your anchor text should be relevant and make sense.

  3. The page you’re linking out to should expand upon your anchor text.

For example, here’s how you might link to an existing article from a new one.

Primary destination article: How to Use IGTV to Increase Instagram Engagement

New article: 10 Tips for Creating Vertical Videos

Example from new article: “When producing vertical videos, remember to take advantage of Instagram features like question stickers and geotagging to increase your engagement on Instagram.”

Notice that the sentence above meets all 3 of the criteria for internal linking. It includes keywords and relevant surrounding text, then links out to a primary destination piece that offers an in-depth explanation of the anchor text.

In the example below, HubSpot shows how not to structure an anchor link.

 

Hubspot Example of How Not to an Anchor Link
Source: HubSpot

Always be sure that your anchor text offers a brief description of the destination that you’re linking to.

2. How to Create a Keyword-Oriented Linking Structure

Marketer Neil Patel is a fan of simple linking structures that focus on specific keywords.

This structure places emphasis on giving your most important keyword phrase a boost in the search engines while also increasing your website conversions.

How to Plan a Keyword-Oriented Internal Link Structure

To plan a simple internal link structure that supports specific keywords, start by choosing the keyword phrase and page you’d like to rank for.

For example, if you’re selling a product like floral spring jackets, then you might choose the keyword phrase floral spring jackets combined with a floral spring jackets product listing page.

This also works for specific product pages or even content-only pages.

For example, using the keyword phrase above you could benefit by internally linking to an article titled “10 Best Floral Spring Jackets.”

If you do choose a content-only article as your primary linking destination, be sure it contains a call-to-action and link to a product or landing page, so you can profit from the results.

How to Optimize Keyword-Oriented Internal Links

Optimize your internal links by linking to your primary destination page in as many articles as possible.

  • Avoid appearing “spammy” by including internal links containing relevant anchor text only. Also, do not re-use the same anchor text over and over.

You can use your exact keyword phrase sometimes, but also mix it up with anchor text that’s worded differently.

For example:

“Everyone loves spring, and one of the greatest ways to celebrate is by finding a spring-themed jacket that looks and feels fabulous!”  

Or “Freshen up your wardrobe with a jacket that’s bursting with spring flowers.”

  • Include internal links from your new content to the floral spring jackets destination page.

  • Modify your previously published content by adding internal links that point toward your floral spring jackets page. According to Patel, modifying old content helps you gain rankings faster.

By adding internal links pointing to the spring floral jackets page, you get a huge boost in your search engine results.

According to Patel, this method takes him about 5-6 months to begin seeing results, which is an average amount of time for any SEO strategy to begin working.

3. How to Create a Topic Cluster Linking Structure to Improve Your Website’s SEO and User Experience

Topic clusters are a popular linking structure that can help improve your SERP rankings, drive organic traffic to your site, keep readers onsite longer, and establish authority on specific topics.

The topic cluster link structure began picking up popularity as a successful SEO technique in 2017. By 2018, it gained respect industry-wide and has been referred to as “The future of SEO” by Storyblock Media, “The most effective content strategy for SEO” by Brightedge Innovations, and “The future of content strategy” by HubSpot Marketing.

Topic clusters are groups of articles that support a core page, called a “pillar” with a predesigned linking structure and specific pillar page format.

A topic cluster structure is different from a basic linking structure because all the interlinked articles in a topic cluster support one main topic.

For example, perhaps you’ve written a pillar piece called “The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Candies.”

Another article on your website called “The Top 10 Swiss Chocolate Candies,” would make a fitting cluster piece because it’s related to the main topic, chocolate candies.

However, another article called “My trip through Switzerland” that mentions the chocolates in Sweden would not be an appropriate topic cluster link because the topic is not related to chocolate candies.

How to Plan a Topic Cluster Link Structure

Begin producing a topic cluster structure by planning a core piece of content (pillar page) that broadly covers a topic.

Then, create supporting subtopic articles (“cluster” pieces) that support the core pillar piece.

There are 2 different types of pillar pages to choose from:

1. Resource pillar page: A resource pillar page contains both internal and external links. Its goal is to be the most helpful page on a specific topic that exists, even if it means sending people offsite.

2. 10X content pillar page: The 10X pillar page is also a helpful resource page, but is made up of your own internal links.

Why is it called 10X content? Now a common marketing term, the term “10X” was originally coined by SEO expert Rand Fishkin who said he expects his company’s content to be 10 times better than anything he can find in the current search results.   

Regardless of which pillar-page option you choose, the format will be similar. You’ll structure the pillar article into a guide-style format.

For example, HubSpot’s pillar page header makes it clear that the article is an important resource by including a header graphic and leading with the title “Ultimate Guide.”

Hubspot's Ultimate Guide: Example of Pillar Page
Source: HubSpot

The top of the pillar article should contain a table of contents that’s anchor-linked to the matching sections of the article. That way, the reader can jump directly to the information she’s looking for.

Your table of contents can be plain-text anchor links or you can make it stand out with graphics.

Example of Pillar Page
Source: HubSpot

Other helpful things you can include in your pillar page are:

  • A “Back to Top” link at the end of every section, so the reader can jump back up to the table of contents.

  • A downloadable PDF version of the guide offered in exchange for the user’s email address. An internal study by HubSpot found that 90% of visitors prefer to read lengthy content in PDF format. Readers were willing to exchange their email address for a PDF version of a guide -- even when the entire text was visible on the page.

How to Link Topic Clusters

Once you’ve chosen a pillar page, here’s how to link up the cluster pieces in order to send your “link juice” in the right direction.

  • Link all cluster subtopic pages to the pillar page. All subtopic articles should contain an internal link to the pillar page.

  • Link the pillar page to subtopic articles. Include links from your pillar page to cluster pages when it provides value and makes sense.
     

One of the reasons topic clusters work so well is that they show Google your pillar page is important. By sending all support in one direction, you let Google know what your core page is, and give your pillar a better chance at ranking high in the SERPs.

According to HubSpot Marketing, consistently funneling all your traffic to the core page on a particular topic helps you to strive for both the Google featured snippet and the #1 ranking on the topic.

 

Topic Cluster Example
Source: HubSpot

Topic clusters are a highly-effective internal linking structure. They do require more planning, but they also work overtime to help your site gain visibility in the search engines and establish your authority on a particular topic.

Give Your Content a Boost with Internal Linking Structures

Linking to other pages on your site is always a good thing because it helps your readers discover more valuable information.

However, when you execute a strategic internal linking structure, your content can get a huge lift in the search engine results pages. Well-planned, good linking structures can also increase your conversion rates and help your brand increase sales.

 

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