SEO ·

Internal Linking by Angela Skane and Jonas Sickler of Terakeet

Bernard Huang

Webinar recorded on

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Jonas Sickler and Angela Skane of Terakeet joined the Clearscope webinar to discuss internal linking.

Jonas kicked it off by comparing internal links to the wires in a house. Backlinks supply the home with power and internal links distribute it.

Throughout the talk, Angela and Jonas share how internal linking is good for the reader and for SEO.

Check out the best practices section for actionable tips to implement on your website.

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Watch the full webinar

Download Angela and Jonas' slides from the webinar. And check out the resources Jonas and Angela shared below:

Read the transcript

Travis:

Today, we're joined by Jonas and Angela of Terakeet to discuss internal linking. Before we get started, just go ahead and drop your questions in the Zoom chat and Q&A box. Also, this webinar will be recorded and we'll send it out tomorrow. We can go ahead and get started. Everybody, please welcome Jonas and Angela. Jonas is an SEO manager at Terakeet, where he writes about earning positive consumer attention through SEO and content strategy. His advice has appeared in publications, including Forbes, Content Marketing Institute, and Search Engine Watch.

Travis:

Angela is a content manager at Terakeet focusing on onsite SEO for customers. She has produced over 100 earned media campaigns that have earned links from Men's Health, Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool, ConsumerAffairs, and more. If you're not familiar with Terakeet, Terakeet is an enterprise search engine technology company that leverages best-in-class propriety software and 200-plus years of expertise to drive business outcomes for global brands. As you drop in your questions, we'll hold those to periodic sections that Angela and Jonas will take questions, but Jonas and Angela I'll give, the floor is yours.

Jonas:

I just wanted to also just kind of elaborate that Terakeet works with Fortune 500, and Fortune 1000 brands. We focus on developing content strategies kind of fueled by SEO, so full-funnel strategies that deal with everything from the very tip of the spear and really broad awareness campaigns down to the final decision stage and also including reputation, so the brand and executive reputation. That's kind of the gist of what Terakeet does. I think you've covered my bio and Angela's bio pretty well, so why don't we just jump right into this thing.

Jonas:

At the high level, I want to kind of just touch on what an internal link is definitional because I think sometimes, there becomes a little bit of confusion when we talk about subdomains and actual root domains because you've got some sites that contain multiple subdomains and this question as to whether those would be internal links. I guess I would just kind of define that as the internal link is essentially a link between any part of a domain that you have control over. In this case, if you have WordPress, where many, many, many subdomains are controlled by different people, those internal links on those subdomains would not be an internal link because they're essentially different sites controlled by different people, whereas if you have a domain with a blog.domain.com and maybe a solutions.domain.com, those would be considered internal links because you have control over the entire website and all of the subdomains yourself.

Jonas:

I like to think of internal links as wires and backlinks essentially supply the power to your website, internal links distribute that power throughout your website. If you think about your site as a house, basically, and you've got all these rooms in the house, those are like all the pages on your website and the backlinks, then when you connect the link to a page on your site, suddenly that page gets power, but none of the other pages yet do, so then adding internal links throughout the entire website will sort of distributing all that backlink authority throughout your entire website. Then, you've got power everywhere.

Angela:

We've talked a little bit about how the power can be spread through our website with these internal links, but it's really important to understand the full scope of why internal links matter on our site because they not only provide a technical SEO value, but they also provide a lot of value to our users.

Angela:

When a user lands on your site, they want to learn more about your products and services and who you are as a brand. They're going to use your internal links on your site to help them navigate, discover, take action, and build trust with your brand. They're going to do this in a few different ways. The first one is navigation. They're going to be able to move through your site and find the different sections that they want to look for as they're moving maybe from your homepage to your blog or your products.

Angela:

These links are also going to allow users to research a little bit more into a specific topic. If they're reading a blog post and you introduce a new concept to them, they might be able to use your internal linking strategy to learn more about the topic because you've provided them with some additional research.

Angela:

They're also going to be able to discover new content or products that they might have not otherwise been looking for. I mean, think about how many times you've been shopping and you're looking at one product and there's a list of related products underneath, and you click on one of those new products and you're adding it to your cart and you didn't even know you were looking for it.

Angela:

That leads us to our next item here is that internal links help users take action. By placing your link strategically throughout your content and your website, you're able to prompt users to take action when it makes sense for them. Think about it in your content, you're able to provide additional research content or higher-up-in-the-funnel content for your users to explore, and move them through the funnel. Then, at the right moment, prompt them to take action with an interlink.

Angela:

It also helps users understand what they're clicking on. If you're structuring your internal links throughout your site properly, your users won't be surprised as to what they're clicking on as they navigate through your site. Finally, it helps build trust. You're able to show your users that your depth of knowledge on a topic covers everything that they're looking to understand and that they can trust your insight and therefore your products and any other services that you might be offering because you know what you're talking about.

Jonas:

In addition to helping users, internal links are an incredible tool for SEO. They bring a lot of efficiencies and help search engines discover, understand, and prioritize your content. For prioritization, pages that have the most internal links are generally seen as being more important for your website, for your users, so Google uses the number of internal links to understand how frequently they might need to crawl your website and maybe even if there's a number of pages that are similar, how to rank one over the other.

Jonas:

They're an incredible discovery tool as well. Sometimes when you publish a new piece of content, a new blog post, a new page, if you don't link to that, it'll be an orphan page and Google will never know about it. Internal links help with search engines' ability to find your content more effectively, quicker, more efficiently.

Jonas:

They also enable search engines to draw more context about the page that you're linking to. A link in a piece of content that's surrounded by copy has a lot of context that passes through both the anchor text and the surrounding sentence and the surrounding paragraph and the surrounding section, all passes through to the new page so that Google can kind of understand a little bit more about what that page is, what the intent of it is.

Jonas:

Helps search engines understand relationships and structure as well. If you have a lot of different pages in a topic cluster, let's say, and you've got one pillar page, and you have many subpages, subtopics called cluster pages, that helps Google understand the structure of all of that content, what is the broader page and what are the subtopics within it, or similarly, with category pages and product pages, which one is the higher-level encompassing page and which ones are related to it and how are they related.

Jonas:

Then, they also help amplify expertise on your website by showing search engines all of the related pieces of content that you have. How deep do you go on any particular subject and this is really important, obviously, if you're familiar with expertise, authority, and trust or EAT, which is the next piece of the puzzle, which this is all about taking it like if we remember back to the house illustration, taking the authority and the trust that you've earned from backlinks and funneling it through to the related pieces of content, so even if you have pieces of content that don't have direct links themselves, they can inherit some of that value from others.

Angela:

Now that we've kind of talked about the different uses of internal links and how they help both users and our technical SEO efforts, we've got to take a look at the different types of internal links that we can leverage on our site to like fully leverage the value that they provide. Each of these different link types are going to meet different user needs. It's important to understand the needs of your users and your technical SEO efforts to make sure that you are leveraging internal links to the proper extent and getting the most value from them.

Angela:

The first example we have are editorial links. These cover context, relationships, and distribute that backlink authority that we just talked about and saw with the house example. These examples not only help our users, but they also have a technical SEO benefit helping Google or search engines to understand the relationship of different pages within our sites as well as the context that we're providing. These are ultimately telling users what the page is about.

Angela:

Then we have our navigation links. These are the internal links that our homepage, blog, product, and different things like that, and they're going to provide the main themes of what your site is about and ultimately answer what your website is about as a whole.

Angela:

Then we have breadcrumbs. These are another form of navigation links and these are going to help users understand where in the site that they are and how they got there. There's also sidebars and CTAs. These types of internal links can be additional navigation points, but they can also be opportunities for building relationships with your users as well as converting people on your site. This is an opportunity for you to show your users more.

Angela:

Then, finally, there's footers. These are also types of navigational links, but they're going to explain who the company's about. Think about when you're looking at a website, if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, these are links that are often about us, our mission statement, editorial guidelines, contact us, et cetera. It's really helping answer who the company is. We'll pause there. If there are any questions, we can take those.

Travis:

We do have a couple questions and you may cover them down in the future, but I'll let you handle that. The first question from anonymous, is there a recommended maximum, minimum amount of internal links you should put on each page?

Jonas:

We do briefly cover it, but not in depth to the point where I think it would make sense to address it. Now, there isn't neither from Google, I think there's a lot of people that have tried to craft algorithms that say if a page has certain number of authority and they try to use a lot of complicated formulas, ultimately, if a page has a lot of authority to pass along and not just the number of backlinks to pass along, but think about the referring domains, are they high value, are they high authority domains that are linking. Look at things like page authority and URL authority.

Jonas:

If a page has a lot to pass on, then make sure that you're linking out maybe a little bit more on those pages to pass the authority along, but there isn't a ratio that says, "If you have X number of words or X number of links, then do X number of internal links." Just be mindful of keeping a balance between high authority pages need to have more value to pass on, but also don't go overboard so that things start to look spammy because you have too many links and also be thinking about the user experience with that, because having too many links just doesn't look good. Keep all that in mind. I don't know. Angela, do you have anything additional?

Angela:

No, I think it makes sense, especially in terms of thinking about the user and their experience and making sure that you're not overwhelming them and providing them with the most valuable information that fits their needs.

Travis:

Awesome. Emma has a question. Can you give some examples of breadcrumbs?

Angela:

I can. Kind of at a high level, if you think about if you're shopping, so you might go to women's, then you might go to shoes, then you might go to high heels, and then you're looking at all of the different shoe options that a brand might offer. At the top of the page, you will see kind of those words that got you there. Women's clothing, shoes, high heels, sometimes they're separated by the, I was calling the little alligator mouths, that's what I learned about in math class in elementary school, but that kind of just shows you the trail you took to get to the content that you're on.

Travis:

Fantastic. Then, we'll do one more and then we can hold the rest until the next section. [Degryse 00:13:51] asks are editorial links the only type of link with high SEO value?

Jonas:

I would say that they all provide different types of value. In terms of crawlability, any internal link is valuable, but I think that editorial links are the highest value because they pass along, not only the authority signals, but also a ton of contextual relevant signals. You're able to structure. Google now as we know from recent announcements that they are looking at subtopics and they're looking at the context in which links appear and the words that proceed and follow a link, what section it's in, so I think the editorial links are some of the most valuable ones because they pass along not just authority, but also a ton of relevance in context signals, but you should use a variety of different types of links because they all kind of serve different purposes. Editorial links, for example, don't pass along hierarchical information. They're not going to say, "Here's the structure of your website if it's an editorial link," it's more about the relevance and the context of the pages and how they relate to each other.

Travis:

I agree with that. We have several more questions, but we'll continue as we're going. We'll ask these the next time.

Jonas:

Sounds good. All right. Well, let's get into some anchor text talk, because I think this is one of the hardest myths to dispel. There's a lot of information out there about what anchor text to use, when not to use it, how much to use. I think some of it comes from the fact that anchor text relates to both internal links and backlinks, and there are separate rules for each of those. Some are best practices across the board, but then obviously, and when it comes to exact match, there's a different set of rules. I kind of get through a little bit of this here.

Jonas:

This is a very wordy slide, but I think it's important to kind of just show the breadth of types of anchor texts that are out there. Let's imagine for the sake of argument that we have a page that targets the keyword SEO strategy in this example. And so, here are the types of anchor texts that might relate to that. I think everyone would know at this point that the exact match anchor is the keyword you're targeting so you would link to the page with an SEO strategy. Then, a broad match is the same match keyword, but with a word at either the beginning of the end, adding additional terms to the beginning of the end of it, but the exact match is still there and in the same order.

Jonas:

Then, we get a partial match, which is where one of the words, if you have a multiple word phrase that has two or three words in it, where you've got one word, in this case, SEO, and the other word is changed, so plan. Related anchor text would be a synonym for your keyword where none of the actual terms that you're targeting are in the anchor text, but it's a synonym for it, search engine optimization plan in this case.

Jonas:

The branded anchor is when the keyword itself is the brand name. In this case, maybe a sentence would be like Clearscope is the best tool to optimize content. The word Clearscope would be the anchor text in that sentence. I don't think Bernard would argue with that exactly. Then, we've got generic anchor text. This is sort of like, learn more, click here. They're sort of action-oriented CTAs. I don't recommend using these instead of like if you have body copy, or editorial copy, I don't recommend using these types of links in the copy as it is because they don't pass any relevant signals or context. I think they're great if you have CTA popups or inline sort of big bold CTAs to get someone to take any action, or if you want to use one, maybe you could do like, we wrote about SEO strategy here or something, with SEO strategy here being the anchor text if you want to work it in but try to avoid using the generic ones because you're going to be linking to a lot of different pages with that.

Jonas:

Then, naked is just the URL itself pasted right in line someplace. Sometimes you usually see these where folks are citing sources for content more often than anything else. Then, alt text is finally, if you have an image and the image links to a page, the alt text that you supply for that image is going to be the anchor text. Google would use that as the anchor text.

Angela:

Kind of find my mute button there. All right. We've covered what the value is of these interlinks, but what use would it be if we didn't help you guys figure out how to apply these best practices across your site, and kind of explain some of the ways that you can leverage internal links the best way on your websites. The first thing to remember with all of this is that this is a framework to help you. It is not going to lead to penalties if you don't follow this framework. These are just some of the best practices that you can keep in mind as you're building your internal link strategies and this will help set you up for success, so you're truly harnessing the full value of internal linking. One way that you can do that is with the I CARE framework.

Angela:

We'll start with intent, which is the I in I CARE. You want to make sure that you're giving readers exactly what they expect. Honestly, as a content producer, I know that sometimes the element of surprise is great for storytelling, but when it comes to interlinking, that's not the case. You want your users to expect what they're clicking on. Looking at this example, strong customer relationships lead to better brand loyalty. In this example, we're linking to a guide on how to build customer relationships. This makes sense for the users. They want to understand, okay, well, what is a strong customer relationship? Now, they're going to click on this and they're going to dive in a little bit further.

Angela:

Not so great example of this is strong customer relationships lead to better brand loyalty, the same sentence, but instead, we're linking out to our CRM software solution page where a user is going to land on this page and be encouraged to buy a product that they're not ready to purchase yet. They're a little confused as to why they're on this product page because they still need to go back and figure out how to build customer relationships.

Angela:

Intent kind of ties right into this next one, the C of I CARE and that's context. You want to make sure that you're thinking of context as the words surrounding the interlink that you're placing. This is where you want to make sure that you're not matching keywords, you're matching context. Just because you're mentioning a keyword that is an anchor page for a text on your site, does not mean that that is the place that you should be linking to it or that you should even be linking to it in the article that you're writing. It all depends on the context. For example, put your audience at the center of your SEO strategy. The context around this link suggests that what I'm about to click on is going to give me a guide on how to put people at the center of my SEO strategy or more details on developing my strategy. This is a great example.

Angela:

In the wrong or not-so-great example, we are talking about a specific brand. We're saying Byrdie's SEO strategy is built around topic clusters. The SEO strategy link here doesn't make sense. The context around it does not lead me to believe that I'm about to click into a how-to guide. It maybe suggests that I might look at something closer that is specific to Byrdie. Maybe in this instance, you would not link to SEO strategy and maybe there's something you could link to on your site around topic clusters instead because here's where you can learn a little bit more about what those are and the context surrounding that link leads you to believe that.

Jonas:

Back to the anchor text discussion. Anchor text tells a really rich story about what the page is about, what you're linking to, the intent behind the page, whether it's informational or definitional or something that somebody wants to purchase. Using the right anchor text is critical and I would recommend you pull your anchor text from the keywords you want a page to rank for. If you've done your keyword research and you've got a list of 50 terms that you think this page should rank for because the top ranking website ranks in, let's say, 50 of these keywords that rank in the top three for that page. You know it's possible. You know you can get there. I would pull your list of anchor texts from those keywords, both for internal links and for backlinks in this case.

Jonas:

As one example, you have a sentence, if you publish health content, you need to know what EAT is. In this case, what is EAT is the target keyword. The article is about what EAT is. It explains how Google's expertise, authority, and trust are critical for SEO and explains how it works a little bit. In the second example, the not as good example, we have the same sentence, but we've shifted the anchor text to publish health content. In that case, the page isn't about publishing health content, so it doesn't make as much sense. I think sometimes this happens because folks get a little bit timid about using keywords in anchor text. Because of the fear of getting a penalty, they start to think, well, I better mix it up. I've used a lot of keywords anchor to this page. I really shouldn't do that, so I'm just going to shift it to something that doesn't make as much sense.

Jonas:

This is why we often see generic anchor, like click here and naked URLs, because people are trying to sort of dilute the keywords that they're linking to pages with, but not a concern as we'll get to a little bit later as well, but that would bring us down to the next relevance, which is kind of similar to what we were talking about before in terms of context, but in this case, I'm talking about adding links where they're most relevant in the content itself. I know there's a lot of information out there that's old, that still says add links higher... The first link on the page is the most valuable. It's not true, so add them higher up on the page because the first mention or whatever, and just ignore that because that's not where Google is these days. Google's thinking about user experience and about context and relevance.

Jonas:

And so, in this case, the right way to add this would be is if you have a whole subsection, let's say, an H2 or an H3 that's all about one particular topic and you mentioned that keyword multiple times, you were mentioning related entities to that keyword in that topic, that's where you want to add the link. It'll provide the most value. Whereas in the wrong example, as Angela said earlier, this isn't about you're going to get a penalty or this isn't a terrible example. It's just, which is the best way to do this. If you mention something multiple times, just adding it randomly even if it's contextually relevant, even if everything makes sense, but there's a better place for it added in the best place possible. It's where users expect to find it and it's got more signals of relevance packed into it for search engines as well.

Jonas:

In this case, I'm going to break the rules that we just mentioned a little bit. Sometimes, you're going to have pages that have a lot of authority that have just inherited a ton of backlinks, whether you built them or not, they just have a lot of juice to pass along and maybe there isn't a lot of content on the page. Maybe it's an infographic-heavy page. If you can add some content to it in order to link out, do so always, make the page better.

Jonas:

In any case, if you mention a word once on the page and it has a ton of link juice to pass along, then I would say as long as it's relevant and it doesn't feel odd or out of place, I would add the link even if you've only mentioned the word once if there's a lot of authority to pass on. This is just sort of an extra step to think about. The other rules are all about the context and the relevance, and this rule is about, hey, this page has a lot of juice to pass along, so don't waste it.

Travis:

Awesome.

Jonas:

If you've got any other questions you want to-

Travis:

We do. We have several. Starting with anonymous, what are your insights on in-text brand CTAs at the end of a blog like supplementary to sidebar and footer buttons.

Jonas:

In-text brand CTAs, I don't know if I fully understand the question. I mean, branded specifically with anchor text, like in the case of Clearscope saying something like check out Clearscope or do we mean something else?

Travis:

I can ask for a clarification, but that's my interpretation is like sign up for trial X brand.

Jonas:

I mean, I think anytime you can add CTAs, I think that's a good thing. If it's a sidebar link, I think it's generally seen as more supplementary content, so it passes slightly less in terms of context. I honestly don't think that sidebar and sort of the more commercial-oriented types of links pass much in the way of authority. I think it's more about in that case navigation and discovery more so than anything else because they have commercial value. I don't think Google's going to pass as much authority on, but if you do have sidebar links that are sort of more, hey, here's all the other pages we have about this topic, then I think that's a bit different. That'll pass a little bit more, hey, here's a bucket of relevance that you need to pay attention to.

Travis:

Awesome. We have a question from May. Do you have any guidance about using the same internal or external links multiple times in an article?

Jonas:

We do touch on that a little bit later. I don't think we quite cover in that way though, right, Angela? It's-

Angela:

No, it's more about the anchor text, but I think it's like, if you have a chance and it makes sense to link to the same article twice, should you do it within your context?

Jonas:

I think in this case, it's one of those, if you have a lot of links on the page already and it looks like it just adds one more, then why do it? But if you don't, and there's an opportunity to do so, then, yeah. I know that there is speculation out there that says, "Well, Google will only count the first anchor text if you link to the same page twice." I don't know if that's true and I wouldn't get hung up on it.

Jonas:

I think if it makes sense to the user, it's not going to do... I think if you've already got a link in place, it's going to help your search engine optimization already. The second one might be more for users depending upon where it is. If you use a different anchor text, I mean, I don't see why you would want to do it with the same anchor text in that case. If you had an opportunity to use a slightly different anchor text and it was a good user experience, I would do so. I certainly wouldn't say don't unless it looks like you've got too many links already.

Travis:

Awesome. A new question from Bernard, do you believe in the idea of crawl depth? That's how many links a page is away from the homepage and do you want to make most of your pages on your website as close to crawling depth one to two?

Jonas:

Yes. That's how I'd answer that. Yes, I believe in it and it's always a good thing to have to reduce the number of hops it takes to find content. Whether you're using the navigation or internal linking or sidebar, related content is a great way to do that, but I think, generally speaking, the best practice is around three. You don't want to have it deeper than three links as crawl depth goes.

Travis:

Awesome. Then, Peter got a question regarding an e-commerce blog. What is the best internal link strategy among category, subcategory, products, and blog pages?

Jonas:

Well, I think breadcrumbs as the example that Angela used earlier was perfect for e-commerce. That's an excellent strategy because it conveys the hierarchy of where each page fits into the structure of your site. I think that using some sort of, without getting too technical, faceted navigation where you're able to click down through menus in a very useful way. I know bigger sites are now getting in like Target, for example, they're implementing systems where you click the navigation and it opens a dropdown and then you click the next sub nav and it opens another nav. It's not a hovered dropdown, which gets messy if you're trying to do too much stuff.

Jonas:

There are also mega nav situations, but I think that having a balance of findability, getting people to your category pages, and try not to get too deep on categories and subcategories in main navigations. Try to figure out a way to get the users depending upon how many products you're talking about to category level, maybe subcategory level pages, and then let people drill down from there and then use your blog content to link back to those category pages as much as possible because you're probably going to be getting more backlinks to blog posts, which would then funnel the value to the main category pages that you want to rank for broader, higher-level commercial terms if that makes sense.

Travis:

Fantastic. Then, Alice has a longer question. We have multiple domains on different platforms such as the main website and different fundraising event subsets. We own both of them, but they're different domains. We try to make sure that the different domains at least talk to each other through linking to each other. Would you suggest approaching this type of internal linking any differently?

Jonas:

Do you want to tackle anything on that, Angela?

Angela:

I think if you're owning it, are they subdomains of each other, or are they completely separate domains owned by the same person? Because if the domains and the roots are completely different, then they're going to be treated as external links to each other. If you're linking to them, it's great, but that's kind of like building external links and not necessarily passing that internal link value that you're looking to get with internal linking.

Jonas:

In that case, it depends on how, and also how the brands are tied together. For example, at Terakeet, we have the reputation management division of the company. We have a separate website called reputationmanagement.com, but it says a Terakeet company and it denotes that Terakeet owns that website on the footer and in that main nav area. In that case, we're saying that we own and control both of these brands, so you have the relationship established. Whereas in other cases, sometimes you might have ownership of another domain, but there isn't a clear brand to tie in. And so, that would be very much, I would consider that much more of an external link and that means you would want to pay attention to things like exact match anchor, and any time you have two separate domains, it is not a great idea to let Google try to figure out if you own both websites because of exact match anchor issues. But if you're only linking between the two sites, it's less problematic than if you're building an exact match anchor for every backlink across your entire, as a scalable strategy.

Jonas:

I would just be a little bit more careful if they're separate domains and Google may or may not be able to figure that out, but otherwise, I mean, all the best practices would apply in terms of mixing up the anchor, what pages you want to rank for what content and build them whenever they make sense for users and from search engines. But again, the difference is that Google's not going to look at those as internal links to understand hierarchy. It's more about the context of the link, so you'd consider those just like a backlink.

Travis:

Awesome. We'll do two more and then we'll hold the rest until the end. From anonymous, we have a pillar page that's about 3,000 words and about 9 to 10 different blog posts on the same topic. Should we include links to all the individual blog posts on the pillar page?

Angela:

I mean, if contextually, it makes sense, that's a great way to build out your topic clusters. If you have that pillar page, you're able to navigate users where they need to go through to cover that topic a little bit more in-depth. If you think about some of the purposes that we talked about earlier in the presentation about the uses that interlinks provide our users, they're able to research a little bit more and discover additional content, and you can do that within the pillar page and link to them.

Jonas:

Think about the different types of links. You don't have to do them all in-body links either. I know there's several times where we've had, sometimes you just have too many pages about a subtopic and it just, you can't jam all those links in. One way to get around it is to say, "Well, link out from the appropriate subheadings to the most important pages," and then add a module that says, "Here's some related content," and you can kind of either it's like, whether it's a carousel or whether it's just a little dropdown or something where you can have some CTAs to those related articles in addition to the ones that you've given in-body links.

Angela:

Brands sometimes will say this article is part of a guide and it will list out kind of the rest of the articles that you might want to explore about that guide to continue to cover the topic.

Travis:

Awesome. Then, Sam has a question. How do you explain the benefit of targeted anchor text to clients and when passing authority earned onto high-value pages through internal links, would you target the same keyword anchor multiple times or vary anchor texts for each internal link?

Jonas:

Thanks for the question, Sam. I think that generally speaking, you're not going to get a penalty for using the same match keyword every time across your website, but there's a lot of value in varying the anchor text because you're providing a lot of different contexts. If you want to rank for a whole set of keywords using those synonyms and the related anchor text tells Google a richer story about what that content is about and includes additional words like what, or how, or define, or best, whatever it might be. That just kind of adds a little bit more information. If the page is about creating an SEO strategy, then using words like creating and build and develop in the anchor text along with the keyword, really reinforces what it is. Similarly, if it's about a definitional page, then saying the definition of this is, or this is defined as, or what is it, or those types of things will add a little bit more context about what you're linking to.

Travis:

Fantastic. I'll go ahead and hand it back over to you.

Jonas:

All right. We're going to jump into a few more best practices. Some of these we may have already touched on at this point, but I think there are some additional angles. First of all, exact match penalty. We've hit this a few times over and I think it's critical to understand that there's a difference between internal links and backlinks. For internal links, you will not get an exact match anchor text penalty. The reason is that there are different sets of rules here. This is one that everyone still gets hung up on because when it comes to anchor text, an exact match kind of suggests that you had a hand in creating that link because it is an exact match. When you own the website, that makes sense.

Jonas:

When it comes to backlinks, it sends up a little flag that says, "There may have been money here that transacted. Something might have happened. This person probably requested this link." If it happens over and over again at scale and unnaturally, that's when you get a penalty, because it suggests that you've had a hand in building a lot of links in manipulating the anchor text, but that's a different story when you own the website. You're supposed to have that control.

Jonas:

I think a lot of the confusion comes from Google's statement, I think this is about what they say about anchor text for internal links. Don't use excessively long keyword-filled anchor text just for search engines. I think that gets misinterpreted as, oh, you can't use keywords or overuse keywords or you'll get a penalty. But what they clarify as saying is to use short descriptive text that explains what the page is about. That is the keyword, anchor text, that's a broad match, it's an exact match. I mean, you can't use exact match keywords and use short descriptive keywords. Those two things are at odds with each other.

Jonas:

An example, I think of what they're trying to say when they say don't use keyword-filled anchor is create a detailed search engine optimization strategy plan. That doesn't make sense. It's a bad user experience. It's filled with keywords and it doesn't read properly, whereas creating a detailed SEO strategy, sure, that makes sense. I mean, you can use that on internal links. I think that's the differentiator that often we like to read too much into what John Mueller and others tend to say, and we get afraid, but just remember that there's a big difference between the reason is that you have control over one and you shouldn't have control over the other.

Angela:

This is tied back to anchor text and I think we started to hint at this conversation through the Q&A, but you want to make sure that you're using different anchors for different pages. You do not want to use the same anchor text to describe two different articles. Again, you're not going to get a penalty if you do this, but this is a good best practice to follow and this is not only true within maybe the same article or same page, but this is true throughout your entire domain.

Angela:

What that means is that your interlinking strategy is an ongoing effort that you should be revisiting on a very regular basis because as you produce more content, you might produce more targeted content where the anchor text that you might have been using previously to describe one page now actually makes more sense to the page that you've added to your site, so you should be going back through your webpage or website and updating those internal links to be either to the new page that you've produced and that's the anchor text that you want it to align to, or removing the links from that anchor text that is no longer relevant for the page that you are linking out to.

Jonas:

That's probably the most important point I think that we've made so far because it's the biggest mistake that I see everyone always making is linking to different pages using sort of it's keyword-focused, but it's generically keyword-focused. It's just like I mentioned the word content marketing, so I'm going to link to a whole... Every page that I have about content marketing is going to get that anchor.

Jonas:

What you're saying to Google is every one of these pages deserves to rank for this term, which obviously is not your intent. You want the page to rank for a different set of keywords. It's more specific. Be specific about that. If the keyword exists in the content, in this case, benefits of content marketing exists in the content, then that should be the anchor text, because that's as specific as we can get and as short as we can get for that. Same thing as if I mentioned types of content marketing, I would link to the other page not using the same anchor for different pages. This is such a common mistake and it really does, I think, funnel Google a bit when it's trying to understand which page should I rank, you've said both of these are qualified to rank for this keyword.

Angela:

That ties in really nicely to the next point about making sure that you're using keywords in the anchor text that you want your page to rank for. A good way to kind of meet both of these needs, making sure you're using keywords that you want a page to rank for and that you're using different anchor tags is to create a library of your URLs maybe in a Google Sheet or somewhere else that is easier for you to navigate. List out all of the URLs on your page and list out the keywords and potential anchor texts that you want to use for those URLs. That way, you're able to quickly see where you might be overlapping.

Angela:

It's also a great reference when you're writing a blog post or adding more content onto your site to kind of jump in, do a control find and find some of the opportunities that you have to link to especially if you have a really large site with a ton of content. Again, making sure that you're using the keywords, think about what we touched on earlier from Jonas in the start of the presentation, using synonyms for your primary keyword, mentioning some of the secondary keywords, even thinking of the long-tail keywords that you want your page to ring for. Those are all different opportunities for you to leverage within your content as anchor texts for your specific URLs.

Jonas:

This one's kind of self-explanatory as we've touched on it a few times already, but overdoing internal links. It was a great question earlier about how many, what's the right amount. If you look at it and you go, "Wow, that's a lot of internal links." Not only is it look a little bit spammy or fishy, but it's harder to read when you've got all this anchor text, because the text keeps changing colors. And so, just think about the value that a page has to pass along and what happens a lot of times is as Angela was just saying, you add more content all the time. Previously, you might have added internal links but now you keep adding more and more. You're going to have to go back and trim some out and it's never an easy decision. I struggle with it.

Jonas:

I go back and I'm like, "Oh, there's too many links here. I need to kill one of my darlings and I don't know which one to remove." Sometimes a way to get around that is to remove it from the body copy if it's maybe less important and you have other ones that are more important to keep in there and then add it in a carousel or a related article so you're still retaining the link, but it's no longer an editorial link if you've already got too many and you just have to prioritize which ones to include.

Jonas:

Finally, the idea here is you're going to remove content. Sometimes you want to inherit websites and you've had multiple SEOs and webmasters going in there and redirecting content and redirecting and redirecting. At some point, you're going to have too many hops. Similar to the problem where Bernard mentioned earlier about like crawl depth, this is sort of redirect chains is another issue that can happen from having internal links that just keep getting redirected. It slows down page load time, which is bad for users and also affects your core web vitals. You've just got things that you want to go back and look at when you've... I've used software like ContentKing or any other type of software that kind of alerts you if you've got a redirect chain that's happening in real time, rather than having to do a Screaming Frog crawl or something.

Jonas:

But whatever software you're comfortable with using, make sure that if you've got multiple hops, you just fix those 301s and go directly from the original link to the new source and then fix your 404s and any other broken content that you may have removed and forgotten to redirect over the years or if you've changed URLs. Just best practice in general, it's good for users. You don't want users to find broken links, especially if a page is broken and it still shows up in the search results. That's also a bad thing.

Jonas:

Quick summary, internal links help Google to find and understand your content, helps users navigate, discover, and take action on your website. There are different types of internal links that serve different purposes. Some of them for navigation, some of them to pass along in relevance and context signals and some for authority. Then, remember the I CARE framework in order to implement best practices. Again, not because you might get penalized if you don't do it, but we're all about being efficient and providing the best guidance on how to do things the right way. If there's a good way and a better way, we choose the better way. Got Twitter handle here and Angela's LinkedIn profile there. If you want to follow along with any of us, connect with us, feel free to do so and happy to continue answering questions.

Travis:

Awesome, wonderful job. We do have I think 10 minutes left. I'm not sure if you have a hard stop at 11:00 Central, but we do have around 10 questions to kind of get through. Let me know if you need to step away.

Jonas:

Well, I'm good. If you're good, Angela, we can hang out.

Angela:

Yeah, I'm good.

Travis:

Fantastic. Sam has a question. How do you understand Google's reasonable surfer patent in terms of the value or misunderstood value when it comes to link placement, for example, higher on the page has more weight.

Jonas:

In this case, I feel it's more about context and relevance rather than placement on the page. Especially with Google prioritizing user experience so heavily, I find it sort of hard to believe that Google would continue to wait links that are just higher up on the page or first mention over a link that's in a place that's more relevant. I just think that Google's kind of moving away from that and putting more of a focus on best experience.

Travis:

Perfect. Then, Kristen asked, how do you quantify the ROI of investing and improving internal linking, especially for non-automated links like editorials versus breadcrumbs or navigation.

Jonas:

ROI is always a tough one to answer on this because I know that I never really like to try to pin down one very specific, what kind of a lift can we get if we add internal links because it's just nothing happens in a vacuum. There's so many other things that happen. Pages are always earning additional links. You're creating new content and you're linking to a new piece of content, just having the content on your site if you're broadening your topic clusters, now you have more content about a thing. I find it really hard to put a quantifiable number down, whether that's dollar value or time saved or speed to rank or more traffic. I think all of those things are benefits, but I don't know that there's a good way to quantify that. Angela, if you want to chime in.

Angela:

I think it's hard because you can't really guarantee that that might be the one aspect that's holding your page back from ranking. It could be in combination of a few other efforts that all of those efforts tied together, they can help boost your ranking and speed to rank and just know that you always want to try to avoid having anything orphaned on your site. If you've got pages that aren't being linked to, there's value to at least go in and make sure that those pages get one link at least passed on to them so that they're not just kind of out in limbo on your domain.

Jonas:

If I had to get cornered and say what's one thing you could do to measure the potential impact, I might say if your site doesn't have a very good internal linking structure, maybe you could pull the page authority scores as is and then add a bunch of internal links and see if your page authority scores across those site, across all those pages increase at a higher rate, maybe because they're inheriting more link value. That's kind of one numeric way I might try to look at it, but I mean, other than the fact that it definitely is, it's the key to a more efficient strategy so that the rising tides lift all ships, as they say. If you have all those internal links, they're all connected and they'll sort of pull each other up a little bit more quickly, but I don't really think I have a hard data point to say that you'll get this much money back from an investment in it.

Travis:

That makes sense. An anonymous asked, I'd like to know your opinion about the reverse silo, internal linking strategy. Do you apply it and do you apply it successfully?

Jonas:

Silos? I don't like that word. There's pros and cons to it. I think that in terms of siloing, I'm not a fan of the version where it's like either don't link out from this topic cluster to any other topic cluster. Keep it all in the family. I'm not a fan of that strategy because I view topics as being interconnected. Everything is interconnected. Content strategy is connected to SEO. Strategy is connected to lead generation. There's like Venn diagram circles. And so, to me, it doesn't make sense, especially with Google putting so much emphasis on understanding relationships and overlapping topics and everything. I feel like that would probably be a disservice. I mean, if you just pull up any report in Clearscope, if you run a report, you'll see that any particular page has semantically connected themes and those themes are going to appear on other reports as well, that are related to each other.

Jonas:

I don't agree with the siloing of any topic clusters in general. Also, I guess there's also the thinking of only link up from cluster pages to pillar pages, but maybe don't link back down. There's other versions of siloing. I also am not a fan of that because you want to draw those connections. You want those wires to be connected to say, "Here's my pillar page about this big broad theme and here's a subtopic within that on the pillar page, and here's our piece of content that expands on that that's all about it." Then, that expanded page would then link back to the pillar page and say, "Well, here's the broader section that's more definitional about this entire theme." That's just my take on it. I don't know if there's anything more you've experienced, Angela?

Travis:

That makes sense.

Angela:

No. I mean, I'm right there with you. There's so much overlap between our content that it's important to make those connections because people aren't thinking in silos, so we shouldn't be kind of leaving them up in silos either.

Jonas:

I think when it comes down to is like, whenever you have a question and I'm not sure, like what is the answer to this question? I think about what is Google trying to achieve. If you answer that question in a way that's that sort of goes against what Google's trying to achieve, which is sort of, I'm going to silo this because I want to sort of manipulate the relevant signal, then that's not in line with where Google is or is going, which is I want the best user experience. If the best user experience means somebody that's on one particular topic cluster might be interested in something that's in another topic cluster and sort of gating them from that would not be a good user experience. I guess that's what I always say. What would Google do? What would Google say? We always want to stay in line with their guidance.

Travis:

It makes a ton of sense. Then another question from anonymous, how would you go about performing an internal linking audit and what tools would you use?

Jonas:

Do you ever do anything like that on your delivery side?

Angela:

Not on the content team, but I have asked for these reports before, because I do use them in figuring out what pages we need to link out to. I believe they use Screaming Frog, if I'm not wrong.

Jonas:

I like to use ContentKing and I know there's a smaller set of us at Terakeet that do it. It's primarily because I think it's better for sites that maybe don't have 20 million pages on them or something where you want to have a giant full crawl, but it's always on, so I can pop into any page and I can see what are the referring pages for this, what are the anger texts that are being used. It's really good for that.

Jonas:

I definitely am a fan of auditing internal links, especially if you've got multiple content creators that are working, it's a good idea to go back and look. I know Angela mentioned a few times that you're going to always create new content and sometimes you're creating something that previously, maybe you considered part of another page and then what happens is either search and intent changes and you need to spin off a page, you need to break apart a pillar or you need to consolidate. It's always a good idea to go back and audit the internal links to make sure you're using a wide variety, you're not missing opportunities because maybe there's some, if you have 10 higher volume terms that you want a page to rank for that you've used throughout your content but you haven't actually used those as anchor text, it's important to go back and say, "I've used this word or this phrase six times and I haven't used this one at all and that's a really important one. It adds more context, more value. I'm going to change one of the anchor texts and do that."

Jonas:

I actually keep a checklist. I do it in a Google Sheet because I'm kind of old school. I have my Google Sheet and I have a column for, here's all of my keywords that I want this page to rank for and I put a little checkbox, did I use this word on the page? Then, there's another column for a checkbox. Did I use this keyword in the anchor text? I try to check off as many of those boxes as I can. If I want a page to rank for 20 terms, I'm not going to be able to add all 20 keywords because sometimes the phrasing is weird, but I try to do as many as I can. Is it on the page? Did I use it in the anchor text? Then, I feel like I've checked my boxes.

Jonas:

And so, that's kind of my ongoing audit, but then I can go back and I can look at that and say, "Oh, I really should be adding a few more of these anchor texts." If somebody else takes over the site, then they've got a list of everything you've ever done, every page that you've kept, and every link that you've built and it's all right there for them.

Travis:

Awesome. We have a question from Peter who says faceted navigation is a big problem. Is there any advice should you use nofollow on them or how should you approach that?

Jonas:

To be totally honest, I'm not as well versed on the absolute best practices of doing massive faceted navigation implementations, but I've heard so many times that Google recommends not to mess around with nofollow for any internal links, really. I mean, there's no reason to. I think they've said, "If you've got several million pages, maybe you want to do that because of crawl budget or something." But if you have less than a million pages, they've said, "Don't worry about nofollowing those." I wouldn't do it as generally just nofollowing any links internally if possible, because then, it snips the wire for authority. I mean, maybe you're passing context, but Google's not going to go to the page, not going to see what's there. I feel like there's too much risk involved in doing that. I don't see the benefit side of it.

Travis:

Awesome. Makes sense.

Jonas:

It'd be like that house diagram would be three links, three rooms would be lit up, and the rest would be dark.

Travis:

Then, looks like we have two more questions. First one's from Windy. New research suggests benefits from limiting, removing navigation from a homepage header similar to a landing page in order to move the user down the homepage with this process. Homepage main navigation is in the footer. What are your thoughts about this practice?

Jonas:

I mean, if the reason is to force people down the page to get people to scroll deeper because maybe there's a theory that keeping them on the page longer is good for SEO or scrolled up is good for SEO, I feel like that's at the expense of letting them do what they want. I don't really see the need. I mean, I've even seen, I think a stronger use case would be like if you had a high conversion page, landing page and you wanted to remove them navigation, because you want them to make that conversion. But even then, I would say it's not good because let users do what they want to do and how they want to do it, so provide them with the pathways that you want to take and let them find the way that's the least resistance for them.

Jonas:

Then, use heat mapping software if you need to to see what's being clicked on and where they're moving and what they're doing. But I wouldn't try to gate them, especially from something that's so common that everyone is expecting to find navigation at the top. If that's not there, they might just look at that and go, "Oh, there's nowhere to go here. I'm just going to leave because I think the site's broken because there's no navigation where I should expect to find it."

Travis:

That makes a lot of sense. Then, the last question is from Lauren. She's asking, do you have a different spreadsheet to keep track of internal linking for every article you write?

Jonas:

I don't. I have one spreadsheet that is all of my keywords in one column, search volume. Actually, if you search topic clusters and you go to Terakeet, you should find us somewhere on the first page. I've got a downloadable template that I use for all my topic clusters there. I don't know that I have my... It's basically columns for category cluster, head term, all the keywords that would rank for that page, and then formulas to sum up the value in the search volume. I don't know that I have the check the columns for internal linking or anchor text on there or not. I can't remember. I have it on my main spreadsheet, but I keep track of everything on one page. I mean, I guess if you have 100,000 keywords you're tracking, that's a different story. Then, maybe you want to break it out by cluster or by page to make it a little bit more manageable, but whatever works for you, really.

Jonas:

I mean, I like to have everything on one page because I'm really only tracking I think 10,000 keywords or something, so I can sort and filter. That's why I like it. I can just turn on a filter and I can say, "Show me all the head terms that contain this keyword." Then, they're all right there and I don't have to go zipping around to different documents or different tabs or anything, but whatever your workflow is, is probably what works best for you.

Angela:

I'd say from just a content production standpoint, what you mentioned, Jonas, about at least having a page of your primary keywords, your secondary keywords, and URL, it at least gives you an opportunity of being able as you're writing new content to go back and say like, "Okay, I know that I want this page to rank for these keywords. Here's my secondary keywords and my primary keywords for this URL. I'm talking about all of those here in this new blog article I'm producing." You can quickly jump in and grab and it's kind of that cheat sheet to understand what you're looking to link to and making sure that you're using the best anchor text within your articles.

Travis:

Awesome. Well, that's all the questions we've received so far. Great job though. Big thank you to Jonas and Angela for joining us today and to Terakeet for lending me out. Also, we'll be sending this recording out tomorrow morning along with Jonas and Angela's social handles in case you have any additional questions or want to connect with them, but Jonas, Angela, do y'all have any parting words before we sign off?

Angela:

No, thanks for having us and my piece of advice especially when it comes to content and linking out, just think about your users first and not necessarily the search engine aspect because Google's thinking like humans, so we should make sure that we're writing and thinking like humans.

Jonas:

It's been a blast again as it was last time. I think it's been a year as I recall since the last time we did this and we did it on top of clusters, so this is highly related. Maybe you can even throw a link to that topic cluster's webinar in the email if anybody wants to go and catch up on that, because that's kind of the sort of the bigger picture of this one. But I would say, think about those users and also ask yourself, is this in line with what Google's recommending not with what I may have read from some SEOs who are speculating on one thing or another, or there's so many studies that say I've proven this because I did this study. Well, there's no way to do an SEO study in a black box. It's impossible.

Jonas:

Always just ask yourself the question, is this what Google is doing now? Is this where Google is headed? Is this what Google is trying to achieve? Is this the best experience for my users? A lot of the mystery will sort of evaporate and it'll be a lot easier to implement a strategy and stay organized and keep your notes and your details, ways your teams grow and you have more people writing content and publishing content that everyone has access to the same information and that they know where you came from and where you're going, so that somebody else doesn't take over and then start doing things differently and racking the progress that you've already made.


Written by
Bernard Huang
Co-founder of Clearscope

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