How To Craft Internal and External Links For Conversion and Click-Through

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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.

Description: Link Classification Chart.jpg

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

Description: Bad_Link_Example.png

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

Description: Email_Direct_Features_Example.png

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

Description: Seth_Godin_Linking_Example.png

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.

Scott Cowley
Scott Cowley is an SEO consultant by night, marketing PhD student by day. He was previously head of SEO at ZAGG and SEO manager at He speaks and writes frequently about social media and digital marketing.
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  • Rahul@MazaKaro

    Very interesting topic ,i know taking care of links details and how to manage evrything is very important so thank you for sharing it ūüôā

  • Jayne Reddyhoff

    I completely agree with your comments about random links on link pages and I agree with your recommendation to “plan optimized internal links in ways that feel authentic and help get people excited about the page they’re clicking to”.

    However I think your diagram is very misleading, as are some of your other statements:

    1. Words on a website page (including anchor text used in links) should be relevant to the topic, or keyword theme, of that page. The keyword theme of a website page should be relevant to what your customer/prospect is interested in. Therefore, it seems to me that the words used in your ‘SEO-friendly’ internal links should be of interest to your website visitor.
    If not what are they doing on your website page?

    2. Visitor-friendly informative/contextual information should be VERY helpful to the business. Prospects rarely come onto a website, proceed through your linear conversion process and click the conversion button, without some extra informative/contextual information to reassure them that they are making the right choice in buying from you.

    I would suggest the issue is not that providing the information is unhelpful to the business (quite the reverse in my opinion), but that the process of guiding your prospect through your conversion path is flawed. You have to guide them back from the information page to your sales process in a way that feels natural and easy (probably via a keyword rich internal link!)
    In my experience it is THAT step that is often missing.

    3. “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.”
    You don’t think that minimizing visitor confusion is a HUGE benefit to the business? I do!

  • al

    Example with Matt is particularly illustrate.

  • David Iwanow

    Scott just wondering about your feedback on Kontera links, they seem to have insanely high CTR but damn they are annoying and to any visitors who find them. While their in your face model works, could a much more discrete automated module work for better internal linking?

    The example would be it changes your onsite links depending on what keywords were used to drive the visitor to your content. So based on the same idea as kontera which has a good ctr but without the popups but the links would only be to your previous posts.

  • Lars_hei

    Ja. Ein wichtiges Thema: interne / externe Verlinkung. Ich versuche den Spagat zwischen internen Links zu meinem Blog zum gleichen Thema sowie interesante externe Links zu anderen Blogs, zur Ursprungsquelle.