Internal links are one of the most underutilized aspects of SEO which are in your control and easy to implement. But first we need a definition in case you haven’t heard the term before.
What is an Internal Link?
An internal link is a link off of specific keywords (or anchor text) from one page on your website to another. Google and other search engines use them as a way to tell what the topic of the page you are linking to is and they also pass authority and help the page they link to too rank better. Internal links are found in body copy, headers and menus, tags, breadcrumbs, footers, headers and anywhere else you link to a page on your own website from a page on your own website.
Because they can pass authority, they can help you to move up a couple of positions if used correctly, assuming you have pages with search engine trust. However, because they’re keyword rich (this is different than keyword rich backlinks) they can also cause damage if you link the same or closely related phrases to multiple pages. They also reduce in the amount of authority they can pass depending on how many internal links you have on the specific page.
Using Internal Links for Better Rankings
If you have pages that have numerous high quality and topically relevant backlinks like an infographic that got picked up by the media, a resource you created that has citations or a guide that solves a problem, this page should have authority. Other times it is your homepage since many people will link there as they reference you. These are your high value pages and where you want to begin evaluating your internal linking structure.
If your page has a guide to utilizing a blue widget to its full potential or an infographic about blue widgets, and you sell blue widgets, look for a natural mention of blue widgets and where linking to the page you would buy it on will benefit the reader, then link to that page off of the phrase “blue widgets”. The authority from the guide will pass through the internal link, and unlike a backlink which you need to be cautious of if it is keyword rich, internal links are supposed to be keyword rich as they also guide a user to find more specific information or where to take an action on a specific topic.
But be careful!!! If you stuff the keywords in or link to them when it will not benefit the end user, this could lead to a devaluation or over-optimization penalty. If you’re mentioning chocolate as a decorative element on a cake and it is about bulk chocolate and molds, but you link to a box of mixed chocolates because that is the product you sell, you have not provided a better user experience and under a manual review by a Googler, this probably will not work in your favor.
You can also do this with your homepage. You can link down off of a few keyword rich terms or phrases to your main categories. From those categories you can link horizontally through the content or down to a subcategory. You can also link upwards from products to categories and categories to the home page. It is part of your site’s architecture and can play a solid role in SEO. But there’s one more thing to keep in mind so you don’t do more damage then you do good.