While there are hundreds of thousands of posts on maximizing external links for your blog, like a red headed step child no one pays much attention to internal links. Internal links can be very powerful in helping you distribute the link equity that those external links bring, and they can decrease your bounce rate and increase your page views per visitor by sending your visitors to other pages. In this post we’ll take a look at some tools that help you link internally more effectively.
To be clear in this post we’re talking about links within the body or post area of your pages, and we’re talking about linking to pages within your website. Secondly before you put this strategy into action you’re going to have to make some decisions about site architecture. If you’re using your robots.txt file or “noindex” meta tags to block category, tag and date archives from the search engines from picking up duplicate content you may have to revist your thinking, as you don’t want to feed the spiders links to pages they can’t index.
To get an idea of what really good internal linking looks like take a look at this post on lifehacker, it’s filled with mostly internal links, since it’s a pretty helpful bit of linkbait information chances are it will secure a lot of external links, and pass the equity on to the other pages. There are two ways you can do this effectively, automatically and manually, and we’ll look at both.
Chances are you’ve come across blogs where lots of words are always linked to internal pages such as the words [new mexico] on this post from Gadling. If you are running on the wordpress platform you can do this really easily with the cross linker plugin. Basically you set up words and tell it to automatically link to a preset page everytime it finds the word(s) in a post. This makes it really easy for a publisher as it’s a hands off operation once you set up the link. However from a user perspective, it can be problematic at times. Let’s assume you have a travel blog and want to set up the word [Washington] to automatically link to a page you have about Washington state, no brainer right? Except if you write about Valley Forge where George Washington was camped, or you write about the Washington Monument, or about an article in the Washington Post. In each of those cases the word [Washinton] would have been automatically linked, but it would be awkward for the user as the link doesn’t match the context. You can override the autolinking, but it’s cumbersome, time consuming, and defeats the purpose. So if you use this solution use it sparingly and at a very high level.
A more manual aproach comes from the Insights WordPress plugin. This plugin allows you to search your blog (or other external sources as well) from within the edit post page (see screen shot below)
Type in any term and it searches your blog for posts. If you highlight the words from the post, copy and paste and then hit the chain/pencil icon it takes care of the linking for you … automagically. While this approach takes more time, it avoids the awkward out of context links that I showed you in the first example. If you’re careful with which words you interlink, always use keywords, and avoid “this post” types of anchor text, you’ll help yourself focus your internal anchor text.
Lastly when you implement this tactic resist the temptation to link too many words, whether you do it automatically or manually. If you do it too much you end up looking a lot like a bad wikipedia entry, with too many links, that no one knows where to click to go next.
PS: yes I’m aware I used “this post” when linking to other people, but told you to avoid it, but of course internal and external links serve different purposes now don’t they …