Ultimate Netlinking Guide: Best Internal Linking Strategy for SEO
Last update: 28 October 2021 at 06:36 pm
Netlinking, or internal linking, is essential for optimal site performance and search engine optimisation (SEO). It’s what drives visitors to navigate from one part of your website to another. It also affects your search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
That’s why having a netlinking strategy with quality internal linking and backlinks is crucial.
Sure, you can add links to your content without much thought behind it and still perform well. However, without a strategic approach, you’re likely wasting a golden opportunity to boost SEO and overall site performance.
Many bloggers, businesses, and content creators maximise internal linking with the help of technical SEO agencies. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it on your own, though. Keep reading if you want to learn how to establish a netlinking strategy that gets results and:
- Streamline the hierarchy of your website
- Improve link value
- Enhance natural SEO performance
- Drive more quality traffic to your website and blog
What Are Internal Links?
Whether you’re an expert in SEO strategy or a novice, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on the basics.
An internal link is a hyperlink that connects one page on your website to a different page. Search engines and website visitors alike use links to explore and find content on your site. Here are three primary purposes of internal linking:
- Helps internet users navigate your website
- Defines your website structure
- Distributes ranking power and page authority
There are various types of internal links. Besides links on your homepage or menu, you can also add internal links within the content. These are called “contextual links” or “inbound links” and they direct users to related content they may find interesting. Search engines like Google crawl websites by following external and internal links to:
- Discover new content on your website
- Understand the relationship between pieces of content
- Find out which internal pages and posts are topically related
- Determine the value of such content and rank it in the search results
An important page will likely receive more internal links, signaling to search engines that it’s more valuable than other pages on your website. That’s why a strategic netlinking approach is crucial. When executed properly, it can boost SEO performance.
What is Link Value?
Link value, also known as “link juice” or “link equity” is an SEO term. It refers to the value that a page (or site) passes to another page via a hyperlink. Google and other search engines distribute link value among all the links on a particular website.
For example, a website’s home page usually houses the most backlinks. As such, it will have the highest link value. Search engines then share this link value between all the links found on that page.
In turn, the link value that passed to another page is divided between the links on that page, and so on and so forth.
As such, linking your newest pieces of content or blog posts to your homepage will get them more link value than linking to a category page alone. Plus, Google finds new posts faster this way.
Essentially, links pass their link value on. More internal links to a post equal more value for that page and better chances of ranking. Therefore, an optimum netlinking structure enhances the overall SEO value of a website.
Where Do Backlinks Fit In?
A backlink, also known as a “one-way link”, “inbound link” or “incoming link”, is a hyperlink on one website that refers to content on another website, by linking back to it.
As such, major search engines like Google consider these hyperlinks as a vote of authority or trust.
Search engines crawl pages on the internet to extract content and add it to their indices. During this process, they determine whether a page meets certain standards of quality to rank well according to the relevant keywords.
They also look at how many links point to the page from external websites and whether these websites are of quality or not.
The general rule of thumb is that a page with more “votes” or backlinks from high-quality websites tends to have better organic SERPs rankings.
Essentially, a backlink tells search engines that the linked content is useful, credible, and valuable.
What Are High-Quality Backlinks?
Quality outweighs quantity.
Not all links are created equally, though. In fact, too many weak or risky backlinks are to be avoided if you wish to conduct an effective netlinking strategy as they could cause a huge loss of organic traffic and set your SERP ranking back quite severely.
The high-quality variety often shares a few common traits, listed below:
They Come From Authoritative Websites
A single backlink from a trusted and reputable website such as National Geographic is worth more than 500 links from a random, low-ranking blog site.
All websites have a Domain Authority (DA) score which you can obtain by using an online domain checker.
Essentially, the higher the score, the more authority a site has. Google takes this into consideration because it trusts that authoritative sites only link to quality content.
As such, high-DA websites can pass authority onto your site via a backlink. These kinds of links are difficult to earn but they’re worth every second.
They’re “dofollow” Links
The majority of hyperlinks you’ll come across are “dofollow” links. However, there are also “nofollow” links.
While useful, they don’t count towards SEO and SERPs and aren’t of much value, anyway. These “nofollow” links usually come from paid advertisements, press releases, and blog comments.
They’re Relevant to the Site and the Linked Page
If a site uses “best mattresses” and links to a restaurant, then it could harm that site’s SERPs.
Remember, Google and other search engines rank websites that provide relevant and informative content higher than ones that don’t. The same goes for backlinks.
They Include a Targeted Keyword in the Anchor Text
Anchor text is the visible part of a hyperlink. It tells the reader where the link goes.
In recent years, it’s become standard practice to include a targeted keyword in the anchor text. Many independent studies, including one conducted by Ahrefs, have shown that it correlates with higher search engine rankings.
However, be careful not to “over-optimise” your links. Google Penguin penalises and filters out websites that use exact match anchor text as it’s considered a “black-hat” strategy.
They Appear on a Number of Referring Domains
A website linking to your page the second, third, fourth, time doesn’t have as much impact on your search engine ranking as the first time.
In other words, it’s better to get 50 links from 50 different websites than it is to get 500 links from the same website.
10 Ways to Maximise Your Netlinking Strategy
The good news about all this is that, as a site owner, you control your netlinking process.
With the right internal and external links, partnered with quality backlinks and a strategic approach, you can guide Google’s eyes and your visitors to the most important pages on your website.
Here are ten ways to help you accomplish that.
1. Pursue Engagement
As mentioned, adding internal links helps users find other relevant blog posts or pages that they’ll likely find interesting.
In turn, this improves your engagement metrics. If you’re including links for the sake of SEO alone, are you really adding value to your website page?
Google also measures what people are clicking on and allocates more value to those links. Therefore, engagement should be at the top of your priority list and placement plays a major role in this aspect.
If you’re habitually putting links at the very bottom of your blog posts, then chances are that people aren’t clicking on them. There’s no hard and fast rule. However, it’s generally best netlinking practice to place your internal links towards the top half of your page.
You’ll know your internal links are actually working when you analyse your engagement metrics, so be sure to do this regularly too.
2. Create Lots of Linkable Content
Naturally, you can’t have a netlinking strategy without content, so you’ll need a strategy for both.
There are countless intricate formulas on the internet but these aren’t necessarily required for netlinking. As long as your content has the following qualities, you’ll have lots of internal linking opportunities:
While netlinking should occur naturally, you can still create content that helps this happen. There are loads of online tools from Ahrefs, Moz, and others websites that can come in handy here.
Find one that extracts keywords (keywords are good link anchors). Next, follow these steps to help you come up with content ideas that’ll provide internal linking opportunities.
- Choose a keyword
- Extract relevant phrases and keywords
- Select the ones with a high search volume
- Product high-quality content with long-tail keywords
- Link to related pages or posts
3. Strive For Topical Relevance
A link that’s less topically relevant passes reduced value, thus affecting SEO and SERPs. When you publish a new page, make sure that you only interlink it to the most relevant pages. This tactic helps get the correct pages ranked.
Besides engagement metrics, you can use an online tool to find out which pages on your website rank the highest for a given keyword. That way, you’ll be able to interlink your new blog post to the best page on your website.
4. Avoid Over-Optimisation
Google can usually detect over-optimisation and keyword stuffing, especially on a new website that’s trying to manipulate rankings.
If you want to avoid SERP penalties, your content and your internal links need to be natural and unique.
Some SEOs use a combination of exact match anchor text and partial match anchor text. However, your best bet is to use natural words and language. Google values authentic content and links more than forced keywords and unnatural anchor texts.
5. Always Add Context
A piece of relevant text alone isn’t the best way to add an internal link. However, by adding context around the text, you’re letting Google know it’s relevant. You’ll also draw your readers’ attention to it as well.
An internal link added this way is also more likely to pass better value than a random link in the middle of unrelated text.
6. Never Use the Same Anchor Text
It can be challenging to find an original phrase when you’re linking to so much related content. Still, as mentioned, every link should have a unique anchor text, otherwise, Google will mistake one page as the other and vice versa.
This could wreak havoc on your SEO performance. Always use descriptive, contextual, and natural anchor texts for the best results.
7. Stick to “dofollow” Links
Some SEOs and website owners purposely give internal links “nofollow” attributes to boost the ranking of a certain page. These “nofollow” links were created to identify between natural links and paid-for links when it comes to rankings.
As such, Google doesn’t rank “nofollow” linked pages. While ideal for advertising, forum comments, and blog signatures, they’re not a long-term solution to include in your netlinking strategy.
Stick to “dofollow” links and allow link value to flow between your website pages naturally.
8. Don’t Overdo It
As with anything SEO-related, it’s crucial not to overdo it. Google has said that it’s best to keep internal links to a “reasonable number”. For a 1,500 post, this could be anything between three and five links. Of course, the best way to determine the right amount of links per post is to think about the user.
9. Get Rid of Low-Value Links
Earlier in this article, we discussed link value. Internal links with minimal engagement and relevance aren’t bound to pass a lot of value. In fact, they’re likely diluting the link value of your other pages.
If no one’s clicking on a link, it’s probably not very helpful anyway, so why keep it? Rid your website of useless or low-value links to optimise link value.
10. Avoid Automation
While you can find a plethora of online tools that help with crucial aspects of SEO, automated internal linking isn’t one of them. These types of programs often don’t understand the humanistic and nuanced approach we need to take for the best rankings.
They can make it difficult to implement a netlinking strategy or they end up spamming your website with anchor texts.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Sustainable Netlinking
Now that you know more about netlinking, it’s time to look at a few fundamental principles and tactics. Keep these in mind if you want to incorporate sustainable practices to get those prized backlinks that will in turn help you gain visibility.
There are hundreds of ways to build links but generally speaking, they can be grouped into three categories. White-hat strategies include tactics that fall within Google’s or other search engine’s webmaster guidelines. As such, they’re typically low-risk but can take time to accomplish.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, black-hat practices explicitly violate search engine guidelines while grey-hat tactics fall somewhere in between. Both categories offer “quick-wins” but have varying degrees of risk to consider.
DO Incorporate Trusted White-Hat Strategies
If you’re reading this, it likely means you’re working hard to build your business online and don’t want to do anything to risk that. As with any marketing campaign, you need to weigh up the pitfalls and benefits of the strategies you want to implement.
White-hat tactics are recommended as they pose the least amount of risk. It’s unlikely that a website employing above-board practices will get penalised by Google.
Moreover, white-hat strategies are about adding genuine value to your niche, your customers, and to the internet. It takes more time to build lucrative backlinks the right way. Still, it’s much more sustainable in the long run. Some examples of white-hat strategies include:
- Producing insightful, unique, and informative content
- Engaging with other industry experts and enthusiasts in your niche
- Genuinely promoting your website to relevant people
Not only will you garner real brand authority, but you’ll also be able to drive the right kind of referral traffic to your site.
DON’T Take Risks With Shady Practices
Black-hat and grey-hat strategies are designed to get websites ranking higher than they deserve to. They typically find and exploit loopholes in search engine algorithms.
As such, they may seem like quick and easy “wins” but more often than not, they’re short-lived. Search engines are always improving their algorithms to identify shady practices.
You could lose your SERPs and website traffic overnight. It can happen at any time and if you’re using these kinds of tactics, you’ll have to worry about that constantly.
Black-hat and even grey-hat strategies won’t bring you long-term success, so it’s best to steer clear. Some examples include:
- Private blog network (PBN) link building that “simulates” backlinks from high-DA sites
- Cloaking links by being dishonest about what it shows users and search engines
- Exploiting a security flaw by injecting your hidden links into a website
Guest posting is one of the most popular ways to build backlinks. However, with everyone and their uncle doing it,
Google noticed a decline in quality content and actively started devaluing links built this way. While still helpful, guest post blogging shouldn’t be your only link building technique.
DO Create Valuable Content
Many reputable sites such as Moz still accept guest posts. However, if you want to earn links, you’ll need to produce excellent, valuable content. Remember, your anchor text should also be natural. A navigational phrase or brand keyword may be good options.
DON’T Stuff Keywords
Besides the fact that high-ranking sites probably won’t accept keyword-stuffed submissions, search engines can also penalise you. And if a site does accept a low-quality post, it likely has a low Domain Authority. Ultimately, you won’t be doing yourself any favours.
Forum and Blog Comments
Similar to the previous example, many people have exploited the comment sections of blogs and forums, spamming them with links for their backlink profiles. This also resulted in Google changing the rules and devaluing such links.
DO Contribute Contextual Value
You can still drop a link in the comments during a valid online discussion. However, you’ll need to make sure it’s contextually relevant. It’s also wise to steer clear of commercialised keywords for your anchor texts.
DON’T Overdo It
It’s perfectly fine to contribute to a forum or blog with insights and a useful link. The problem comes in when you overdo it by dropping loads of generic comments all signed with your name and website linked. You could be penalised by Google.
This is yet another technique that was exploited, resulting in these links losing value. That said, you can still benefit by adding your backlink to an industry-relevant directory. The best kinds of directories provide valuable information and resources to people interested in your particular niche.
DO Keep It Relevant
Only build links to your website in relevant, reputable, and trustworthy directories. If you do this right, it could help your ranking and drive more targeted traffic to your website.
DON’T Add Your Backlink to Any Directory
Remember, Google doesn’t look favourably upon non-related links, so avoid backlinking to random websites. Moreover, some web directories don’t provide any real value to users. You don’t want your website link appearing in one of these.
In the early days, many SEOs adopted this technique because it was easy. However, the landscape has significantly changed since then, and Google wants websites to rank on merit and not because of deep pockets. Today, buying links directly violates Google’s webmaster guidelines.
That said, there is a small, yet vital distinction between buying links and purchasing advertising links. The former will get you penalised and the latter is a fantastic way to promote your business and build brand awareness.
DO It For Advertising
If you’re going to buy advertising links, it’s crucial that they don’t pass PageRank. Essentially, this means they won’t be included in your page’s search engine ranking. There are a few ways you can do this, such as:
- Changing them to “nofollow” links
- Using a redirected page blocked in robots.txt
DON’T Do It Just for the Sake of Links
Buying links can still be dangerous. If you do it just for links, you run the risk of incurring penalties for your website. Advertising backlinks can be risky, too. It’s often not worth risking your organic traffic and current ranking for a short-term benefit.
As its name suggests, this technique plays on people’s egos. The idea is that if you author a piece of content about a few notable individuals in your niche, they may be inclined to share the article with a link to your page.
Done right, it can be an effective link-building strategy. However, this kind of targeted content is usually only relevant to a handful of high-profile websites or people.
DO Keep it Simple
A top ten or a similar listicle type of article is ideal for this strategy. Remember, you don’t want to end up with overly complicated content that one of your featured persons might not read.
DON’T Skimp on the Research
You’ll want to add as much detail about a person as possible. Try to include images where you can catch their eye and improve your chances of receiving a backlink. Additionally, make sure you have the contact details you need for outreach when the time comes.
Broken Link Building
This is another crowd favourite among SEO specialists, bloggers, and everyone in between. Broken link building works. It’s scalable, content-focused, and ideal for busy marketers.
Essentially, all you need to do is find broken links, create better replacement content and reach out to the webmasters. More often than not, they’ll be happy to update the broken link with yours.
DO Find High-Quality Broken Links
To make the best out of this exercise, it’s essential to target high-ranking domains. It won’t be worth all the effort for a low-quality backlink that you don’t really want.
DON’T Be Too Pushy
When it’s time for outreach, remember to be polite. It can be frustrating when a webmaster declines your request after you’ve done all the work. Still, it happens sometimes. Fortunately, you can try to find similar broken links to replace.
4 Sustainable Netlinking Practices
Sustainability is about more than one particular strategy or a set of tactics. It’s about approaching link-building opportunities with your long-term goals in mind. To that end, here are four sustainable practices to incorporate into your link building techniques.
Make Sure Your Content is Evergreen
Specific days of the year or special events in your niche present a plethora of content ideas. However, when a piece of content doesn’t bring in the links you had hoped for and is no longer relevant after a certain time, it can feel like a waste.
Fortunately, you can sidestep this disaster quite easily. You won’t have to miss out on the opportunity to present time-sensitive and relevant content, either. Instead of focussing on the specific date, gear your content towards the topic in question.
That way, you can promote that piece of content on the day and long afterward. You’ll stand a better chance of gaining the links you wanted without the expiry date. The following year, you can even update your content instead of starting from scratch.
Build Up Your Link-Worthy Content
Treat link building as an ongoing endeavor and not a campaign that comes around every so often. Instead of creating content once-off here and there, build a bank of linkable content. By doing this, outreach will become a lot easier and even more efficient.
The process for outreach typically consists of researching ideas, producing the content, and then reaching out. Afterward, it usually reverts to step one and you start all over again. In an interview Moz did with Paddy Moogan, the SEO expert said you should be repeating the process for the same piece of content.
The result? You’ll have numerous pieces of content that are earning you backlinks consistently. This is because you’re not focusing on one piece, then the next, and the next each time. You’re optimising the chances of earning backlinks from one article, infographic, video, or other content types before moving on.
Find the Content-Format That Works For You
Do you know which content format produces the best results for you? You can work it out with four simple metrics:
- Easy vs. Hard
- Win vs. Fail
Consider the type of format used when you experienced successful link building. Was the content easy to produce or more difficult? What formats did you use when there was a fail in terms of traffic or coverage?
By cross-referencing the types of formats you’ve used with whether it was easy, hard, a win, or fail, you’ll be able to deduce the optimal format that works for you. For example, data visualisations may be difficult to produce but they consistently bring in backlinks. On the contrary, long-form may be challenging too but tend to earn you fewer backlinks.
By identifying what content formats work best for you, you’ll be able to earn links with more success.
Use Datasets to Your Advantage
Industry-relevant datasets can provide loads of fresh content ideas. But what about a different angle? Perhaps there’s a piece of content you can pitch to other regions? Are there local areas that might find it useful and informative?
What about an untapped demographic? Is it possible to dissect the data in another way that gives you a unique reference point? Can you approach it from another angle and, therefore, tackle outreach for the content differently?
Additionally, some datasets are updated annually. If you produce a piece of content now, next year you’ll be able to plug the new data in and relaunch it. You can do this every year and continue to earn links, too.
Netlinking is vital to your website’s overall SEO performance and ranking. It aids in streamlining your website structure and navigation. Plus, it tells Google which pages are valuable and relevant. With the above tips, you can start maximising your internal linking right away.
Start implementing white-hat strategies that are designed for long-term success and be sure to incorporate the above sustainable practices and principles, and you’re bound to earn those prized high-quality backlinks.