Webmasters and website owners who are even vaguely familiar with search engine optimization may have heard something about the importance of internal linking, but the actual benefits and techniques are often confusing or unknown altogether. This confusion can easily be avoided when one applies the same basic theory used for inbound linking from external sites. The following facts, used in combination, create a clear strategy for optimized internal linking that can prove very valuable for internal pages:
1) A link counts as a favorable vote for the destination page.
Just as links from external sources can increase your pages’ rankings, linking internally passes value along to other pages within your site. Obviously links coming from outside sources weigh more heavily than links pointing to other pages on the same domain name. A vote from someone else is a better indicator of popularity than a vote for yourself, but this does not mean that linking among your own pages isn’t a powerful tool.
2) Each page’s maximum voting power (sway) is distributed among all of the outbound links the page contains.
Each link from your home page to an internal page passes a portion of the total voting power to the destination page, and the maximum possible sway is divided between the links from the home page. If there are three links pointing towards internal pages, each receives roughly 1/3 of the amount of sway that the home page can pass. If there are 100 links, each destination receives roughly 1/100 of the maximum sway possible. Clearly, the fewer links a page contains, the more valuable each link is.
3) Pages with higher value pass more value through links (they have a higher total sway).
A more trusted, more highly ranked page linking to one of your pages is more valuable than a new, lower ranking site linking to your website, and this same concept applies within the pages of a single site. Home pages tend to have higher rank than internal pages in search engines, and therefore have more sway than internal pages. A link from a product page that is 3, 4, or 5 links removed from the home page will usually pass significantly lower rank to any destination pages than a link directly from the home page. For better results in search engine rankings and a more effective internal linking strategy, your Web page hierarchy should allow the user to reach most internal pages following as few links from the home page as possible.
4) Keyword phrase anchor text assures search engines of the topic of the destination page, increasing the trust search engines assign to that page.
Using one of the destination page’s keyword phrases as anchor text is further clarification and reassurance to search engines of the topic of each page. Keyword optimized anchor text can increase a page’s ranking for relevant keyword phrases far more than generic link text, such as “click here” or other commonly used phrases.
Keeping the preceding four rules in mind, it becomes pretty clear that internal linking can be a powerful way to increase the rank of your internal pages, simply by sharing the trust your higher ranked pages already receive with other pages on your website.