At KoMarketing we strongly believe SEO is most effective when educating client marketing teams in addition to providing impactful recommendations and tactics. Because content marketing is a typical area we implement SEO tactics, working alongside our client’s content marketing team is also common practice.
Recently one of our client contacts asked for more guidance on the SEO best practices they should consider when linking internally between web pages. There was confusion as to why certain tactics were being applied and if customization should occur based on the type of content being optimized.
In this post, I am going to review best practices we communicate to clients, and important points to consider when linking across frequently developed B2B content marketing assets and web pages.
What Is Internal Linking?
Internal linking refers to hyperlinks on a web page that point to another web page on the same domain. There are several places internal linking traditionally occurs, particularly in a website’s navigational architecture. Here are the most common areas in a website for internal linking:
- Primary site navigation.
- A web page sitemap.
- Secondary navigational menus and footer navigation.
- Within the main body content of an individual web page, like a blog post or article perhaps.
The area we see the most confusion and need for advice is internal linking that occurs in the main body content of a web page. While this post is meant to address these types of internal links primarily and the impact on SEO, best practices below can be considered for most internal linking scenarios as well.
SEO Best Practices for Internal Linking
As illustrated in a resource from Moz on internal linking, the basic HTML for a hyperlink is as follows:
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.same-domain.com/"
title="Keyword Text">Keyword Text</a>
The screenshot immediately below illustrates the format for a correctly formatted internal link. Via Moz, “imagine this link is on the domain jonwye.com”
The formatting example above is important for two reasons:
- An understanding of properly formatted HTML when linking is important when understanding why any link may or may not impact SEO.
- SEO practitioners and resources often refer to components of an HTML hyperlink when illustrating best practices and factors that have an impact on SEO, link “visible / anchor text” as listed above.
In addition to the HTML code used to create an internal link (or any hyperlink), consider the following linking best practices as well.
- Keyword Mapping: Create a mapping of website addresses (internal web pages) and associated target keywords. This helps content marketers reference what destinations to consider if there are opportunities to connect keywords to target web pages through cross-linking.
- The First Link: The first link in the main body of content should be to an internal web page whenever possible and applicable.
- Anchor Text: Use descriptive but accurate and concise anchor text for the first internal cross-link.
- Number of Links: Limit links (both external and internal) on a web page to less than 150 total links. According to the Moz article referenced above, as many as 200 or even 250 might get crawled by a search engine, but sticking to less than 150 is a best practice.
- Clicks to Page: Try not to make any internal web page, especially important ones for SEO, more than 3 clicks away from other internal web pages.
- Orphan Pages: Always have at least one cross-link to another internal web page. Do not leave “orphan pages” on the website.
All this said, avoid forcing the cross-link. In other words, consider why a cross-link to another resource would add value to the web page visitor before integrating primarily for SEO benefit.
Internal Linking Between B2B Content Assets
As mentioned before, questions often arise when implementing cross-linking in the main content area of a web page. Frequency of internal links on a page, usage and copy, and landing page focus all come to mind as areas B2B content marketers look for guidance with respect to SEO.
Here are some general guidelines and recommendations to consider across the different types of content marketing assets found in B2B websites.
Blog Posts and Articles
These types of content assets create confusion because there is not a universal formula for SEO success when applying cross-links in the body of a blog post or article. The most important considerations are as follows:
- The first link in the main body of content should be to an internal web page whenever possible and applicable. This first link will likely be the one Google primarily attributes a (small) percentage towards keyword relevance.
- Use descriptive but accurate and concise anchor text for all internal cross-links, particularly the first one however.
- Avoid excessively long anchor text, unless you are referencing other article titles or page headings.
- Cross-links made through images and media should certainly include ALT and Title properties in the image HTML code.
And as previously alluded, cross-links should be relevant and add value for the reader. It’s a subjective guideline but worth revisiting on a case-by-base basis when considering implementation.
Lead Nurturing Assets
These type of assets refer primarily to landing pages associated with content marketing assets like white papers, webinars, research reports, etc. They may be “gated” (IE require form submissions for access) or simply a web page location with embedded media or other lead nurturing information.
For these type of assets, we often recommend obvious cross-links that function like navigational elements in the main content area. These cross-links should point to relevant products and solution pages first, but consider related content such as blog posts or other article resources.
For gated assets in particular, keep in mind that the form submission is the primary goal of the page. Cross-links should be done in a manner that supports content marketing objectives but only acts as a secondary call-to-action on the page.
These pages help validate a B2B vendor’s expertise in a particular industry, like healthcare or financial services as example. As such, it’s even more important to cross-link as many relevant lead nurturing assets as possible, alongside applicable product and solutions pages.
It’s also worth considering sales-oriented call-to-actions on these pages, since buyers that feel they have already validated the vendor should have an easy way to get in touch with sales personnel if interested.
Product and Solution Pages
It doesn’t make sense to add many if any internal cross-links in the copy found in the main content areas of product and solution pages.
Because these are the pages you want readers to complete some sort of sales-oriented objective; form submission, email communication, or even a phone call.
It is still advantageous to cross-link supporting lead nurturing assets and thought leadership (IE blog posts and articles) but only as a secondary call-to-action in comparison to sales oriented conversion opportunities.
Lastly, organizational pages refer to company information, leadership bios, event pages, etc. It’s easy to orphan these pages or simply direct users (and search engines) to external resources like social media profiles or conference / event-specific destinations.
While these external links probably make sense, consider the following internal linking opportunities as well:
- General organizational overviews should definitely cross-link to key product and solution pages.
- Bios and event pages might cross-link to applicable blog posts, industry or conference coverage, or related lead nurturing assets.
In addition to the fact that it’s not ideal to orphan site assets, keep in mind that organizational pages are often higher trafficked assets. As we illustrated in our 2015 B2B buyer report, potential buyers often review organizational web pages to validate vendors in the buying process.
Internal linking is an important part of a B2B SEO program. Cross-links help search engines establish connections between web pages and navigate between sections of content.
While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for cross-linking, certain best practices across the types of web pages and content marketing assets, found on B2B websites, can be applied.
What tactics for internal linking has your organization found successful in improving the SEO program? I would love to read your perspective via comments below or on Twitter and Linkedin!