If you’ve read much about SEO, you know that backlinks from other sites pointing to your site are one of the biggest contributors to ranking your site organically in the search engines.
The topic of proactively going after backlinks for your website is somewhat controversial, and many would consider it downright risky after Google’s Penguin algorithm. There’s been no shortage of horror stories about sites that have been buried beyond page 10 in Google for spammy backlinks. If you value organic traffic to your site, play by big G’s rules.
Set aside the external backlink strategy for a moment, and instead put the focus on your own website if you want to build quality links that will help rank pages in Google. Yes, that’s right, your internal linking strategy can have a significant impact on your website’s ability to rank well.
An internal link on your website is any link that points to another page on your own site, such as this link here that is to my home page.
The impact that a well-thought-out internal linking strategy can have depends on numerous variables, such as the total number of pages, the quality of the content, and site architecture among other factors.
Benefits of Internal Link Building
- Reduction in time-consuming external link building efforts
- Can be safer from a Google algorithm penalty perspective (but you can still get penalized on internal links for doing spammy stuff)
- Better site usability by your target audience
- Improved customer engagement
- Superior organic positioning
Content Drives Internal Link Building
Of course, if you don’t have many pages to your site then there’s not a lot of internal linking you’re going to be doing between pages. So the first step in building an effective internal link strategy is producing quality content regularly.
While internal links alone are just one variable, the very nature of this as a tactic requires you to produce content regularly, or at least to build out the depth of content per topic which all comes back indirectly to content marketing and SEO.
Build Content Around Related Themes And Link Together
One of the important foundational theories of effective SEO has to do with how you architect your site. Specifically, I’m referring to building silos of related content on your site – similar to how a book is organized into chapters.
For example, if you’re a dentist and one of your specialties is in dental implants then build out numerous pages related to dental implants that are all topically related to each other and link them together (a related post about dental SEO).
The above example is how you might think about building a silo of content for a dentist that offers dental implant services. First, create a main general dental implant page, followed by several pages that are about a specific sub-topic of dental implants. Below the top-level category page is a page about the average cost of dental implants, another about All-On-Four dental implants, and another on loose denture solutions, etc. This content was all linked together in a silo or theme of related content. The red arrows show how the content is linked together.
By linking the pages together, we are passing the page equity between related pages at each level and up to the top of the silo. Linking makes it easier for your customers to find and read related topics, and if it’s easier for your customers to find and read related content then search engines will place a higher value on those linked pages too.
In competitive industries, this strategy is highly effective. You can keep building out your silo of content in two directions – width and height.
Here’s a related SEO case study that used a well-thought-out content strategy, YouTube video embeds, and an internal linking strategy to rank for hundreds of highly competitive terms on the first page of Google.
How much of an authority could your site have if all you had was one page about a subject matter?
Without content, you have no authority and no influence, not only with the search engines but people too.
What about just putting all this content on one page?
No, too many topics on one page becomes confusing and a mess. If all this content appeared on one page, it would be much more difficult to rank it for all the various terms that each of these topics covers. Identify 2 possible keywords and focus each page on those two keywords.
Internal Link Building Case Study
We implemented such a strategy for a dental SEO client of ours and below highlights the results.
- More than 15,000 impressions in Google in the last 30 days for Dental Implant related queries
- 587 different, unique keyword terms about dental implants in Google that generated an impression or clicks to the website. This would never have been possible had there only been one simple page about dental implants
- 128 of the 587 dental implant related terms are on the first page of Google
- Almost 10 clicks per day just from Google for dental implant related queries
The financial implications of producing this type of content and linking it together in a website architecture such as this are very significant.
One dental implant client can potentially be worth $20,000 or more in revenue at the upper end! This is content marketing plus SEO that delivers financial results 24 hours a day, 7 days per week 365 days of the year.
If Your Site Already Has A Lot of Content
If your website already has a lot of content and it’s not well linked together in an organized way such as discussed above, you can still create silos through your linking strategy.
Second Case Study of Internal Linking
As another example, we have a client that provides ERP software comparisons from various providers. To view a comparison of software providers you choose from one of the three dropdowns:
- Type of Manufacturing
- Type of Platform
Within each of those dropdowns are a dozen or more choices, so the crosses available are exponential.
As a result of all these options, the site has more than 3,200 pages indexed in Google. That’s a large site!
With large sites sometimes just focusing on the internal linking and on-page SEO tactics is enough to continue to propel the site upwards in Google.
For this particular site, we mostly have just focused on internal link building for the last two years to create silos of related content just as we did in the dental site example but on a far larger scale. We did a few additional on-page tactics such as writing effective title tags and meta descriptions and added a paragraph of intro copy text at the top of the page, but that’s it.
Consistently linking related silos of content over the course of 3 years has helped propel the site’s growth in Google organic traffic by more than 950%!
In February of 2012, the site had 1,370 sessions, and in February of 2015 the site received 14,839 sessions from Google organic visitors – that’s huge organic SEO growth! No external link building or anything else has been done away from the site other than internal link building and simple on-page SEO.
This growth is significant considering the client also spends $40,000 per month on Google Adwords, so the increase in organic traffic growth helps to reduce the dependence on paid search greatly.
Important SEO Lessons, Takeaways
Clean up your own website. Often there are significant opportunities for making incremental changes to your own site for internal link building and creating silos of related content.
There’s generally so much focus on search engine optimization tactics that are away from the site itself that people forget about the opportunities for improvement that can happen just by focusing on their own website.