What is internal linking? What impact can getting it right have on your traffic? How do you get it right? What techniques should you use? Which tools can help? Does link anchor text work?
SEO expert, Andy Drinkwater from iQSEO, came to talk at an Optimisey event to explain all that and more.
Cambridge-based marketing agency, Breadcrumb Media, filmed it so you can watch it back, download the slides or read the full transcript, below. You get this all for free (thanks Breadcrumb!).
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The Power of Internal Links and Hub Pages
Download the slides: Internal linking and hub pages (6MB PowerPoint)
[Full disclosure: some of the links below, that reference specific SEO tools, are affiliate links]
Right okay so this is me: Andy Drinkwater I’m an SEO consultant based up in Chester and I have been in the market now for 18 years, which feels like an absolute lifetime.
I specialise in a few different areas: technical SEO – which is loosely what tonight’s going to be based about; online reputation management – so if you’ve ever done anything naughty Google‘s found out about it and your results are there I help bury them; and SEO auditing – which Andrew will talk about a little bit later on as well I think.
And so we’ll have a look at other things I do as well: so I am one of the co-founders of SEO Chester which is a similar sort of thing a meetup that we have once a month up in Chester with Mike Field, Craig Campbell who’s sat at the back.
And if anybody was following the Twitter conversation last night tonight is with with all the numbers here Craig is is the person that is responsible for that and everybody’s here because Craig is coming down to meet them again so we’re so we’re so fine so thank you thank you for coming down and humbling us as well with your presence as well!
Okay so what else I do as well I help out on Moz with their Q&A forum so anybody’s got any problems issues on SEO then I’ll always try and sort of chip in if I can do there as well and I’m also sort of be doing a little bit more in terms of webinars with SEMrush recently as well.
Anybody that knows me knows that I live on Twitter I’m always on there pretty much 24/7. Alternatively if anybody ever needs to get hold of me you can do so through the through my websites as well.
Tell Google what your most important pages are
Now tonight what I want to talk about is something that’s has been a bit of like an ongoing joke between myself and Andrew as well about internal linking and it’s something I do an awful lot of tweeting about and I love to share results from from clients that see what they’re actually going to get from this.
[tweetshare tweet=”So internal linking it’s – at a very basic level – is telling Google which are your most important pages. – @iqseo speaking at #Optimisey” username=”Optimisey”]
And from these most important pages trying to make sure that people understand the this is like the actual structure of the sites as well.
So it’s the structure is for Google, the structure is for ease of use, if you don’t have all of these then you may be sort of destined to failure a little bit.
So these are all live results that I have had over the last sort of six months and as you can see they’re sort of – this one was this one forty thousand results through internal linking we got five positions to number one for us with forty thousand searches each month.
This is another example of a client: thirty three thousand searches a month, where I’ve added the internal links.
Now then this particular one you have, one of the things you’ve got to think about with internal linking is you don’t want to just try and pull this out of nowhere it’s got to be something that makes sense as well.
So with this particular one there had to be some additional content added to the hub page in question and then did a final ‘fetch as Google’ and then we saw a lovely traffic spike at the end of it which is which is sort of continued to stay where it is.
And another one just before Christmas which I was very very pleased with and another one thirty three thousand search results a month – incidentally if anybody’s wondering where I get these numbers from this is a tool called Accuranker which some may may or may not know about – as well again internal links doing amazing things for me.
And a final one there this one I did the same sort of thing internal links again doing what they should be doing but there was also a few problems with the site as well.
This one’s actually continued to grow a little bit as well past past that where we’re at at the moment. So there were a few problems from a technical point of view with the with the sites as well.
The importance of site structure
Now then the first thing is preparing your site. It makes it difficult for everybody, including Google as well, if you’ve got a site that is not well structured.
And this is using a tool called SiteBulb – some may or may not be aware of it – SiteBulb is a tool that you will literally run on your your computer, Mac, PC whichever it is and it will actually show you the structure of your site which is a really big help when you’re looking at these sorts of things.
Now this is a pretty much a good example of a site that’s well structured. I can see no real problems with this.
You’ve got your homepage right in the center, you’ve got your your primary pages around the outside and then you’ve got your supplementary content which so which sort of sits outside of there as well.
This one on the other hand there’s an absolute nightmare to try and pick a way through as well.
And this is this is a client that’s ongoing at the moment.
So if you look here you can sort of see the homepage that’s nestled down there in like the bottom half and from there you have pages interlinked you’ve got content interlinked and the furthest reaches up towards the top right there are actually 19 clicks away from the homepage.
So this was actually a result of them trying to be a little bit smart with Google and say right okay well I’m going to create lots of pages, lots of content all about the same subjects but we’ll change the title a little bit we’ll re-word the content a little bit.
And what they’ve ended up with is a page that should have no, a site this should have no more than about 200 pages and the net result of this is including all the blogs and the archives and everything else it’s there there’s things about 32,000 there at the moment.
So I’ve got a task for them at the moment which is to basically pull down all the duplicate content and make some sense of it and then we can we can go back in as well.
What is a good site structure?
Okay so what would a good site structure layout look like?
This would be the ideal for everybody you’ve got your homepage, your tier one which could be your your primary category pages, then tier two which might even be at this level might be a product pages but for most people if it’s an e-commerce site that sort of thing you might find tier three is where your product pages are actually at.
And the reason you do this is twofold you do this so you make it easy for yourself and then you’re going to make it easier for Google.
If you’ve got a site that’s halfway decent everybody’s going to be able to find their way around this no matter what – but from an internal linking point of view you’re going to be wanting to link from maybe your tier 3 back to your tier 1 web pages themselves, this is going to make it a little bit easier to say to Google: ‘these are the important pages that I’ve actually got to show you’.
What are Hub Pages?
Okay and then hub pages.
This is one of the the big primary areas you’re going to be looking at with any internal linking structure is hub pages. And your hub page is your primary keyword page.
Now then that is going to make it difficult for some sites that aren’t structured particularly well at the moment or it might even be that you say right okay well I need to make some changes now at this point.
I decided that we need to actually create a structure whereby we have pages that actually mean something to those that are searching.
So it might be that we have here a hub page right on lawn mowers.
What’s not a hub page – and please don’t call me out on this if this is wrong had no idea if Massey Ferguson do these – Massey Ferguson HB 2281 ride on lawn mowers. That’s going to be a product page not a hub page.
Again Morphy Richards silver quick boil kettle. Your hub page is going to be quick boil kettles.
So it’s a case of looking at your sites looking at the product and looking at the service – and say right okay well this is what we do, these are the primary keywords, so there has to be a level of keyword research that’s actually gone into this.
And for the keyword research there are again a number of tools that’s that you can use.
You can use SEMrush you can use Google there are specific tools that’re out there you can actually do to use to find this as well.
But it’s all going to be about creating your hub pages at this point.
What’s not a hub page?
Now then if you get this mixed, mistaken and if you start creating product pages instead of hub pages then what you’re going to end up with is lots and lots of products that people don’t really search for.
You want the big keyword terms you, want the terms “ride-on lawn mowers” you don’t want the term as a “Massey Ferguson rear-engine drive lawn mowers” though with the grass cutters that’s not what anybody wants at the end the day.
That’s no, that’s not where you’re so like your numbers are at. Okay so once you’ve identified your hub pages it helps at this stage to actually pop into Google – now then I’ll use Google as an example here because this is free.
Anybody can do this with with the website and you can use the site operator – site colon – if you use that and I’ve sort of picked on Mow Direct because that was a perfect example for this because they actually have sort of done this right as well.
So if you use site colon mowdirect.co.uk and then put your primary keyword in there that you actually want to find.
What that will show you is that’s their hub page that’s the main page that they actually want to be ranking in Google. That is the next most prominent page for that particular phrase.
So what you’re going to be wanting to do now is you’re going to say right OK I want to actually create internal links from these internal pages but strong internal pages back to the primary hub. So that is what they have actually done here as well.
But hub page you can’t get away with just having an internal link on a hub page – it’s sorry on a primary page – it’s got to be something that has an internal link like that but surrounding content as well.
If you just add lots and lots of keyword internal links to primary pages throughout the site chances are Google‘s not going to take a blind bit to notice.
Because it’s one of the things we know from Google is they’re all about making sure that your content makes sense.
[tweetshare tweet=”If your content makes sense to people it makes sense to Google. If it makes sense to Google then you’re going to get some benefits from doing so as well. – @iqseo speaking at #Optimisey” username=”Optimisey”]
Where should you add internal links?
So you would add an internal link at this point from a particular page a product page.
It could be something along those sorts of lines and it actually is from an e-commerce point of view it could be one of the actual products that you can actually try to sell at the moment. Okay but and if we look back again we’re onto your supporting content.
They’ve got a really good page at this point they’ve got a page that explains about the the best lawn mowers.
They’ve got a page that sort of talks to people about the product itself and then they’ve got this ride-on tractor mowers which is sat there in the content as well and they always say – and I’ve had good results with this myself – with an internal link try and get it within the site there above the fold – with any of any of the content you’ve actually got up there.
[tweetshare tweet=”If you bury it down the page, if you bury it down the sides Google’s going to look at it and think ‘well you’ve buried that it’s probably not something that we should really know about’. – @iqseo speaking at #Optimisey” username=”Optimisey”]
Which keywords should you use in internal links?
Okay and here we move on to how do you decide which keywords that you should actually use?
And this has always been something that’s has sort of drawn discussion in various sorts of fields.
Internal linking for me this is what I find that the moment works but I will probably myself reevaluate this in six months because, as we know, Google‘s always updating. A thousand, fifteen hundred updates a month [year] – something’s going to change at some point. We’re going to see something.
So your primary is going to be this, this is your primary keyword you’re looking for: the the big money term which is “ride-on lawn mower” or “ride-on lawn mowers”. That is going to have the lion’s share of the searches for this particular phrase.
If you want to then use another internal link you do sort of twenty percent of these to have something like “ride-on tractor lawn mower” because again this is another search term that people are using for this particular, this particular product.
But again it’s “ride-on lawnmower” that you want. So you have a part match for the phrase itself: “ride-on lawnmower”, “ride-on tractor lawnmower”.
If you go for a hundred percent exact keyword match Google‘s going to look at that and they’re going to see exactly what you’re doing and they’re going to mark you down for it.
I would then use a ten percent for the remaining two: “ride-on rear engine lawmowever” again it’s another phrase that people use to actually find these particular products. You want to let people know that this is something that’s that’s of interest.
It’s something that’s related to it as well…
[interruption – question from audience] “Are you happy to take questions now or shall we wait to the end?”
Yeah, I’m happy to of course.
[audience member – off-camera] “When you say a hundred percent what does that mean…”
Of course, yeah – so 100% would be using nothing but the phrase “ride-on lawn mower” so if you use “ride-on lawn mower” for every single page that’s being used as a power page to power your hub pages that’s not going to work for you that that’ll work out quite, quite against you.
[Audience member] “So you need to vary it?”
You need to vary it so that there is still some there’s still some some main content in there as well so so Google understands that the big the big note term that you’re after is “ride-on lawn mowers” so try and sort of vary it, yes absolutely.
Absolutely yeah yeah okay so you’ve got your “ride-on lawn mower” and you’ve got your “tractor ride-on tractor lawn mowers”, “ride-on rear-engine lawn mower” and again like say so you’ve got that’s that’s sort of moving into the terms of you site, your long tail search terms – because people will search for that.
People aren’t necessarily going to search for “best ride-on lawn mower of 2018” they might do but the search terms for this are actually quite low in comparison to “ride-on lawn mower” so for these it’s about your supporting content.
It’s about making sure that you have something in there that explains what you’re trying to do. Explains to Google this it’s still about ride-on lawn mowers, but it’s another element of ride on lawn mowers.
And again those are as I just explained I said this is this is done to keep everything as natural as possible.
It’s the same as if you look at external link building you vary things, you keep things varied to make sure that the people understand, so that Google understands and to keep it keep it out of a penalty.
Which tools to use to help with internal linking
So tools that you can use now then – obviously the first one that’s I showed you as well was using Google.
So Google is obviously free for everybody who wants to, to make use of that. I’m just using the the search operators but there are others as well which are very, very beneficial and I would find this job very difficult if I wasn’t using SiteBulb.
Not an expensive tool – I think about 25 pounds a month something like that – and it will give you, apart from the fact that you can do a like an audit on your website it will give you this visualization of your sites as well which is the primary reason that I actually have SiteBulb apart from the fact that say it’s good for audits as well.
Ahrefs are moving very, very quickly through the markets at the moment everybody is saying right, they go we need to have an ahrefs account.
Ahrefs is predominantly for link building and to to find your backlinks.
Moz used to be up there, Moz is now falling by the wayside a little bit people aren’t trusting the metrics as much so ahrefs is where people are going but they have a tool in there they have one particular tool within the ahrefs which allows you to find your most popular and your strongest pages based on links.
So if you’re looking to find a little bit more, a little bit more of an example of which are your popular pages login to ahrefs which isn’t the cheapest one around unfortunately – it’s about £100 a month but if you want to sort of see which of your site which your pages are ranking well then that’s a good one to go for.
SEMRush, everybody knows of SEMRush I think, everybody knows of SEMrush and whilst you wouldn’t use it particularly to find internal pages within the site itself or to get an idea of which your strongest pages it’s is very, very good for keyword research.
Again there are other tools out there which you can actually use this for but SEMrush is probably my my sort of first point of call.
OnCrawl – and I have to give OnCrawl a mention because I’m one of their ambassadors, so I said I’d probably get told off if I didn’t say that!
What OnCrawl have actually sort of done some really good work recently as well. And what they actually have now an internal link report which has only really sort of come on board within the last two months, there or there abouts.
And their internal link report gives you two things: you have a visualization which is not as quite as good as the visualization you get with SiteBulb but it will give you an idea and it will show you how your site is linked.
It sort of it starts from a like a circle and shows you how everything is sort of inter-linked from within there as well. But ultimately the internal link report will show you which pages are linked from where.
And then finally good old Search Console. And Search Console has one particular area which is your most linked to pages as well.
So if you want to know what your site looks like if you want to know how people – sorry how the sites actually interlinked at the moment then what people tend to do is actually log-in to Search Console, look at the report itself and then say right okay well I can see that there’s too many pages interlinked to a particular product page a particular category page so you may want to make some changes around that.
Because if you have internal links everything going to a category page that you don’t really want to have the products ranking well for then you might want to make some changes on that as well.
Okay so internal linking to summarise that: is all about making sure that everybody is is happy.
That’s Google, that’s visitors, crawlers, whoever it is understands what it is that you’re trying to actually get across to Google.
[tweetshare tweet=”There’s no point in having pages upon pages upon pages that actually make no sense to anybody – because at the end of the day it’s all about the rankings that’s what we’re going for. – @iqseo speaking at #Optimisey” username=”Optimisey”]
So so yes that’s that’s me done there Andrew… [applause]