On-page internal linking to benefit SEO will occasionally deal heavy damage to the conversion funnel. If sites wish to thrive in the future, on-page linking strategies needs to be planned holistically and framed with an understanding that SEO is just one aspect that needs to be considered.
If you took inventory of all your site links, internal or externally bound, you’d find that they would all fall along a spectrum of helpfulness: helpfulness to the business vs. helpfulness to the site visitor, as shown below.
Most internal linking does very little to improve the visitor experience and many links that help the visitor learn and understand better are out-of-sync with the company’s business and site objectives.
Why is it important to know this? Well, if all of your site links are internal links, you’re like a lot of people – not taking your visitors away from you site unnecessarily, molding the way link authority flows to your pages, and losing out on many opportunities by becoming obsessed with “link hoarding.”
Get Rid Of Useless Links
A useless link is one that is not helpful to visitors or to the business. These usually feel very out-of-place, and were created for personal preference or no reason at all.
Example: Lew’s Links Page
The site is a good example of what not to do. There’s an element of coherency in reading about “Lew,” his life, and happenings, up until you get to the page with his favorite links, and then all proverbial hell breaks loose!
Personal sites are notorious for these kinds of irrelevant links, but business sites are also guilty. Examples:
- Irrelevant or slightly relevant links created because of link trades
- Link to the business owner’s favorite football team
- Links to old vendors or customers with no current relationship
Reevaluate Information, Contextual, and Navigational Links
Some of your site links probably exist either to define terms or provide context to other content. These provide the most value to the visitors, but only help the business by minimizing visitor confusion.
Many internal links provide direction to the flow of the site, but aren’t helping SEO and aren’t selling the conversion funnel.
Example: Email Direct’s Features Page
This is typical of many pages. Links often point to other pages saying “Learn More” or worse yet, “Click Here.” These links are critical to the navigation of the site, but could be so much better in helping the business and visitors. In this case, the anchor text should reflect the destination page, e.g., “Learn More About What’s Achievable With Our Creative Tools” and some of the feature descriptions could do a lot better at promoting the destination pages to get visitors into the conversion funnel.
Other links to be aware of:
- Links to the definitions of words are helpful, but linking to a site glossary page on the same website is more useful than linking to a dictionary website, which takes the visitor off-site and likely provides additional unnecessary information. An even better method is to program pop-up definitions or use a glossary plugin.
- Linking to the homepage of a company you mention in a blog post is good, but linking to a deeper page, post, news story, etc. that provides more targeted value or context for that mention is going to be more valuable to your visitors. You should also program external links to open in new windows as a way to keep people on your page.
Build The Most Powerful On-Page Links In The World!
The ultimate link is one that helps SEO, informs visitors, and encourages conversion. It really is possible to maximize all of these factors in a way that the helps the business along with the visitor.
As previously mentioned, SEO’s often get stuck on the SEO benefit of internal links, so the click-through and conversion of those links gets neglected. Often, they don’t even want the visitor to click the link. In reality, the benefits gained by better link planning often outweigh the SEO value a link would have had with “good anchor text.”
Example: A Typical Seth Godin Blog Post
Seth Godin doesn’t care about SEO. He makes up for it by doing a fantastic job really marketing each link on his site. Look at the first link.
- He gives the reader just enough context to want to click through to the link.
- He doesn’t say who “Matt” is (now I want to know).
- He doesn’t summarize the post (which would have negated my desire to click through).
- He calls it “masterful.”
He wants the visitor to go to the original source. My suspicion is that the click-through rate is much higher on his posts than those of the typical blog or website because of these factors. He’s not afraid to promote someone else, and that’s refreshing. You may not think of this as adding value to his business, but promoting other people really is one of the best ways to improve your own likeability, whether as a person or a brand. With links, the people who have the most are very often the ones who give the most.
Look at the second link in the post. Once again, Seth doesn’t overshare information, but makes the destination page appealing by talking about the effect it’s having. It’s actually an internal link to another post on his site, and in this case, he’s helping his readers by painting a mental picture and building up to the click-through, and has found a way to integrate a keyword.
Final things to learn:
- You can a better job at selling and marketing your own links. If you don’t want people to click through, don’t link, even for SEO. Plan optimized internal links in ways that feel authentic and help get people excited about the page they’re clicking to.
- Many blog posts link to other posts with keyword because they hear it “helps SEO.” Most of the time, this isn’t well-planned. The page you link to MUST provide either value or context to the content you’re linking from. A mediocre blog post that mentions PPC and links to another mediocre blog post about PPC using “PPC” as anchor text has not necessarily increase value for the visitor. If you don’t have the content waiting to impress people when they click through, either create the content, find someone else’s content you can link to, or don’t link at all.
- If you link to someone else’s website, let them know about it. Not only is external linking helpful to your visitors (assuming you’ve linked to better, higher contextualized, or more authoritative content than your own), but it always improves relationships with those you’ve linked to, and that can end up being a huge win to you later.
The main ideas undergirding this framework are (1) to get rid of the bad links on your site, (2) minimize or moderate the amount of links that are purely for SEO or purely informational, and (3) move toward having more links on your site that are driving conversions because they are powerful and persuasive.