Out of all the false information and anodynes that emerge from the SEO community, one piece of advice rings true – internal linking is crucial for good SEO. I’ve gone on record saying that, for the most part, John Mueller doesn’t have any real insight into Google’s SEO practices. But that doesn’t mean that everything he says is misleading. He’s right that internal linking is important. And I know this because I use it extensively on my site and have seen direct results from internal linking.
In this article, I’ll explain how to get the maximum out of internal linking, and what works for me.
Interlink a Cluster of Topics
The first strategy that works, is to focus on a cluster of related topics, and interlink all of them. Now, this comes with a warning. I’ve seen sites create a bunch of pages all talking about almost the same thing, to create the illusion of a cluster of pages. This will get you penalized for low-quality content. Instead, you need each page to stand on its own, be fully detailed, well-researched, and worthy of being linked to. There’s no substitute for high-quality content.
So for example, when I write about NameHero on my site WP-Tweaks.com, I create one page for the main review, one page explaining the ins and outs of the backups, and several pages dealing with how NameHero compares to other web hosts. These pages all deserve their own articles, but at the same time, they’re linked to the main topic cluster of “NameHero”. And because of that, there will be plenty of opportunities to interlink the pages.
Your entire site then becomes a collection of topic clusters, all interlinked with one another.
Use Related Posts to Your Advantage
I’d written earlier about how you should manually curate your related posts section, and it gives you the perfect opportunity to implement the strategy in the previous section. Sometimes, a page can be part of another topic cluster. For example, my page on NameHero backups, while belonging to the “NameHero” cluster, also belongs to the “Backup” cluster, which has its own set of interlinked pages. The related posts widget allows you to create links between topic clusters.
Your website, therefore, gets a kind of “spiderweb” like quality, where users can navigate freely between and inside topic clusters.
Don’t Bother about “Link Sculpting”
I’ve seen some websites fiddle around with the notion of “Link Sculpting”. This involves using nofollow internal links to reduce the “juice” that flows to a particular page. The idea is that each page has a certain amount of total link value and that each extra “follow” link out dilutes the link juice that flows to the other pages. So in the early days of SEO, based on some papers that Google released, website owners used to try and “sculpt” their link juice to certain pages.
There’s no evidence that any of this works in today’s world. It might have worked at one time, but don’t worry about it now. You have bigger things to focus your attention on.
Navigational and Sidebar Links are Mostly Ignored
I’ve learned that Google more or less ignores links from the navigation or sidebar. If you think your page is important enough to be in the navigation bar, then, by all means, place it there. But I have no evidence that these links work. I’ve tried placing various links in the navigation areas over the years, and never once have I seen any improvement in my page rankings. There are some statements by Google that seem to indicate that navigation links aren’t as important as in-content links, but I don’t know how reliable those are.
My tentative observation is that they don’t matter much.
Revisit Old Pages to Relink New Content
As part of your regular SEO content hygiene, you should be regularly visiting old pages, updating outdated information, adding new stuff, and deleting what no longer belongs. Use this opportunity to link to new content and topic clusters that you have created since then.
Each webpage you build is an asset. And you must constantly increase the value of those assets by improving them. Doing so will bring you large returns. And increasing the quality of internal linking on your site is especially valuable!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!