There are many levers you can pull in search engine optimization (SEO) – from utilizing the right keywords to using a readable URL, publishing unique/relevant content, and more. And one of the most underrated growth levers in SEO is internal anchor text linking – the architecture behind how your users (and Google crawlers) flow through your web pages.
A good internal linking strategy adds value to your visitor’s experience and can improve on-site engagement metrics (bounce rate, session duration, pages per visit). Strong engagement metrics, by the way, send search engines a positive signals that can improve your sites authority/ranking.
That said, most people just throw links around willy nilly, without strategic thought to optimal anchor text. Below you’ll find a few ways to optimize your internal anchor text to for SEO and user experience.
Optimizing Your Internal Anchor Text
Linked Anchor Text Should Feel Natural Within Your Content
What do I mean ‘natural’? Take a look at the two examples below:
- Internal anchor text should be considered an SEO ‘best practice’. Here’s a solid overview of SEO Best Practices: 5 Tactics To Increase Organic Traffic [+ Infographic].
- The best way to ensure success in SEO (including strategic internal anchor text links), is to perform an SEO audit. Taking the time to audit your business will illuminate key strengths and weaknesses, as well as priorities to attack.
See (feel) the difference?
In the first example, the anchor text is appended. It feels a bit forced, even – which creates friction in the reader’s experience. In the second example, the linked anchor text blends seamlessly with the rest of the content and subtly pulls toward a click.
*Additionally, Google’s algorithm doesn’t want you tying pages to seemingly random/unrelated anchor text. If you need ideas on anchor text (particularly for external link building), Linkio is a free/low-cost tool that might help.
Avoid Linking To Less Relevant Content
Your internal links should be relevant to the content they are included in. We have all seen those articles where people are linking to seemingly random pages, in hopes of a few more clicks or passing link authority. Don’t do this. Using less relevant links will appear tacky and distract the user from the core goal of the content they’re currently consuming.
Google and other search engines are getting better at reading and understanding the true nature and purpose of a page. If your link doesn’t relate, it will reflect poorly on you. If you are looking to promote a certain page, then create a piece of relevant content that relates to it so you can include a quality and relevant link.
Don’t Overstuff Internal Links
While internal linking is good practice, be sure not to overdo it. Stuffing your article with tons of linked anchor text and keywords is very distracting. And it’ll limit the volume of visits each linked page may see. Much like a conversion-focused landing page, your content should have one goal and all linked anchor text (which ultimately functions as mini CTAs) should ideally direct visitors to that one goal.
e.g. If a piece of content is focused on teaching internal linking best practices and SEO growth, avoid linking to Facebook ads content.
^Above is a pic from Moz (great SEO blog), showing how internal linking should be structured by category, where the top point is your homepage. In this case, your blog might be a point in the second tier, and under that would be content categories, then key/cornerstone content pieces, the relevant content.
Track (And Test) Linked Anchor Text Performance
In order to truly know how well your internal links are performing, you need to track them. While this might take a little time and work, it can be hugely valuable and give insights that lead to successful optimization/testing.
*NOTE: Do not use UTM parameters on internal links unless you have a very specific usecase.
Some ways to track and view your anchor text performance include using the ‘Behavior Flow’ in Google Analytics, and/or firing an event that contains context on the anchor text. For more details on tracking your internal links, this guide from MonsterInsights is a great place to start.
When Possible, Organize Linked Anchor Text For CTR
Where you put your anchor text within your content is almost as important as the anchor text itself. You want to put the link in a place that has the best chance of being viewed by your readers. And with over 80% of people simply skimming online content, this decision could be the difference between a link getting many views or next to nothing.
In general, people’s eyes gravitate towards headings, subheadings and their first few paragraphs of an article. Because of this, you could try put your anchor text and links near these locations.