You can’t get far in your SEO journey without encountering links, and for a little word, it can have a big impact on your marketing. There are several different types of links, all with unique benefits to your web pages, leading to those all-important improved rankings.
Embedded in content using anchor text, hyperlinks signal various things to search engines and users depending on how they’re used. In this article we’ll be explaining the different types of links, and how to use internal and external links properly.
What are the different types of links?
An external link takes you to a different domain to the one you’re on. These are sometimes referred to as outbound links, and you generally use them to support what you’re saying within your content or direct your users to useful and relevant resources or services.
An internal link is one that takes you to a different page on the same domain, helping your user navigate around the site to relevant content. The importance of internal linking for SEO is that it shows Google what pages are relevant when it crawls your site, telling it what to rank.
You could call them the holy grail of SEO when earned correctly; backlinks are when another website links to your content. When done by a reputable and popular site, backlinks show search engines that what you have to say is relevant,valuable, and helpful, therefore increasing its ranking as well as your domain authority. You’re being seen as an authoritative site and will be rewarded accordingly.
What’s the difference between a backlink and an external link?
This may initially seem a little confusing, as they are essentially both backlinks to an external source, but the definition depends on your perspective.
If you’re the one writing the content and linking to another domain, you’re using an external link. If your content is being linked to by a domain other than your own, your content is being linked back to, and therefore it’s backlink.
How important is link architecture?
Link architecture refers specifically to internal linking. Google’s bots don’t tend to use navigation menus, it uses links instead, so ensuring all the major pages of your site are clickable within your homepage content is vital to your site being successfully crawled.
Side-by-side with search engine friendliness, your links need to also make sense to users on various journeys through your website, depending on what they need from you.
What is link juice?
This rather quirky term is often used by SEOs like us, and it means the authority (which can generally be equated to value) that a backlink means to the website whose content is being linked to.
For example, if you’ve written an article and a well-known site like BBC News includes a link to it as part of a piece they've published, the link juice is seriously good indeed! A small amount of the authority from the BBC News website gets passed down the link to your website. This is why high domain authority backlinks are so sought after.
What are the benefits of internal linking and do internal links help SEO?
It’s important not to underestimate the power of internal linking, or to get too carried away chasing those backlinks instead; internal links are quick to create, and they’re signals to Google that you have power over. Here are just some of the ways internal linking can help your SEO:
1. Helps Google navigate your site
2. As we mentioned earlier, Google moves around your website via internal links - so make it an easy journey to all the important parts of your site.
3. Creates a positive user experience
4. A sensible internal linking structure keeps users engaged with your site, and this in turn shows Google that you’re a website that offers value to the user;something they take into consideration when dishing out rankings.
5. Helps raise your profile on your target keywords
6. The text that your link is anchored to can be used to your advantage, by allowing you to link to relevant pages using descriptive keywords you want to rank for. Keep it natural and readable, of course!
How important is crawl depth?
Crawl depth refers to how ‘deep’ a user has to go within a website to reach a piece of content, with each click increasing the chance that the user will give up and look elsewhere on the web for what they want. Crawl depth is determined by how many clicks it takes from your homepage to reach a specific webpage. Crawl depth can be influenced by your internal links; a good internal linking structure will mean that you’re never far away from the page you need.
There are up to 4 stages of the linking structure that a user can reasonably expect to reach depending on what it is they’re looking for. These stages are as follows:
1 - The home page
2 - Main categories
3 - Subcategories
4 - Products
What are the benefits of external linking?
Providing value to your users is a goal of any website, and it's something that Google will openly reward. Giving your content credibility by referring to external sources to support what you’re saying gives your users reference points, helping to mark your content as helpful. This can potentially boost your domain authority. Remember not to over do it, don't link externally just because you can in the hope it will benefit you. Make sure that external link provides some genuine benefit to the user.
Links in general help Google gain an understanding of where you’re positioned in your market, industry or niche, so external links to relevant sources can also help them out on this front.
How do links affect SEO?
When it comes to SEO, links tell Google what they need to know about the relevance, credibility and user experience of a website. To harness the power of internal and external links,here are some top SEO best practices for linking:
Top 5 internal linking best practices
Create lots of content to link from and to
Ensure that this content is original, well researched, and relevant to your audience. Use original insights and experience if you can!
Link high authority pages to new ones for improved rankings
Use the success of your existing pages to help the ones you’ve just created rise through the ranks - they can piggy back from an established page’s authority.
Use correct anchor text
Using ‘click here’ and ‘find out more’ can be tempting, but it could damage your page’s performance in the long run. Make your anchor text descriptive of what the link will take a user too, so that the link naturally occurs within the content.
Make your links relevant
Your customer’s journey through your website should be smooth, so bumps in the road like a lot of links that take them to places they weren’t looking to go will have them reversing out of your site.
Avoid excessive amounts of sitewide footer links
Your footer accompanies your user around your site, but Google prefers most links to be naturally occurring within your content. Keep your footer links to a minimum
Top 5 external linking best practices
Use accurate anchor text
Just like with internal links, anchor text for external links should be descriptive of what you’re linking to, to help the user know where they’re going if they click.
Don't use lots of external links
Too many external links will dilute your content, and you may struggle to keep hold of your user’s attention by sending them off to another site at any opportunity.
Make sure external links open in new tabs
Any external links you do include shouldn’t leave your own website a distant memory in the minds of your users either, so ensure any external links open in a newtab.
Avoid linking to low quality websites
Linking to sites with a low domain authority could impact yours, so ensure the sites you’re linking to have credibility, and provide your user with a positive experience.
Only externally link when it’s necessary
Linking to content that doesn’t relate to your own will be a huge turn off to your users, and to Google; it compromises the trust you’re looking to earn from both.
Do you need help with your website linking?
If you’d like your links to work harder for you, but you don’t know where to start, help is at hand; 427 Marketing offers a full suite of SEO services that works to improve your rankings, which includes using links to your advantage. Get your links landing you more users by getting intouch with us.