This section of the SEO Guide is designed to help beginners optimize the on-page elements of their web pages, and get the most value possible out of their site before worrying about getting links.
Internal linking is the process of using a website’s navigation, content, and other linkable elements to develop a logical and coherent linking structure to highlight and emphasize the importance of the keywords for which the website is aiming to rank.
Internal linking contribute to the usability and search engine friendliness of a website in a variety of ways:
- Internal links, whether text links or image links, allow for creating internal navigation links in a much more precise and less conspicuous (compared to main and side navigation) way. This helps both users and search engines find relevant and complementary content.
- If utilized properly, internal links can help create a topic hierarchy which can assist search engines in better categorizing (and assigning value) to content.
- Internal links, especially text links, help push the link value from your home (or top level) page(s) deeper into your website, which can then translate into an improved ability of those secondary, tertiary (or even deeper) pages.
There are three navigational structures (main, footer, side) which are used, in combination or individually, on websites. Each of these navigational units can help contribute to improved rankings; however, before they can contribute in a positive way, we need first make sure they are not creating problems and hindering potential rankings.
Generally, the main navigation appears below the masthead as a row of links (and often drop-downs) which allow users to navigate through the website. Since the placement of the main navigation usually results in a lot of links before any of the website content is displayed, it is important to make sure that even if the navigation does not take keyword-specific optimization into account, that it at least is not a drag on rankings.
For example, if you have a large number of categories of products (services, topics, etc), do not try to stuff every single category into your main menu; this will create a link landscape on your pages which is top-heavy, and will take away from the ability of every page on your website to reach its full potential when it comes to rankings.
The footer navigation is traditionally saved for links which are important but do not need to be conspicuous as those in the main navigation. Footer links often include links to the ‘About Us’, ‘Privacy’, ‘Contact Us’, and other similar pages. At the same time, it is good practice to repeat your most important navigational links in the footer.
The secondary navigation, which can usually be found on the side of certain pages, can help relieve the load off of the main navigation by making it unnecessary to have multiple nested dropdowns which inevitably make almost every page top-heavy. Instead of having less important or sub-sections on your site have their own dedicated main navigation links, it is helpful to have those secondary links appear on the side of your pages where appropriate.
For example, if you are selling widgets which are categorized by type of material, color, and size, instead of having a dropdown menu in your main navigation that lists all those options, you can have one link in your navigation which points to the widgets page. This would give your side navigation the options for your visitors (and the search engines) to be able to dig deeper into your subcategories based on material, color, and size.
Naturally, not every possible variation can be covered here, but the above example should give you a good idea as to how you can utilize your side navigation to ease the burden off of your main navigation.