Internal Links Overview + [Case Study]

In this article/case study we are going to talk about a few things.

  1. How To Maximize rankings purely from internal links.
  2. How To Maximize Internal with topically relevant articles.
  3. How To Maximize Effectiveness of external link building, with the combination of the above two strategies.

Case Study + SEO Test

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on how to approach internal links and maximize the effectiveness of link building.

To confess, this case study is a subsection of a larger study. If you want the full details, read the full content driven website case study. 

We created this subjection of the larger case study to go deeper into how we approached the on-page SEO aspect of our large case study. 

In addition, we’ll share our more recent case studies + SEO testing.

Internal Link Optimization

If you look at any single factor in SEO, you should be able to export it to a spreadsheet and be able to tell what the page is all about. 

If we are talking about keyword density, you should be able to export the highest density keywords and from that page alone understand what the page is about. 

When we are talking about internal links, you should be able to export all the internal links anchor text that link to any given page, and it should “tell a story.” You should know what the page you are trying to rank is all about simply from the internal links selected. 

How We Came To This Conclusion 

A client we were recently assigned had been penalized. The client site has recovered and growth exploded so much we can hardly tell there was a penalty in the first place.

It’s actually the client from this case study.

We found that the pages that survived the penalty, frankly did a much better job with internal linking, specifically in the area of anchor text. 

In short, we found that you can be much more aggressive with internal links than you can with external links. Also, the internal links you use have to “tell a story.”

Internal Link Examples

And here we go…. 

Don’t use Bland or meaningless Internal Anchor text 

Don’t use bland or anchor text that doesn’t tell a story. For example, “neutral” or URLs links don’t really say anything about the target page you are trying to rank.

If your article cluster or silo uses internal anchor like this, it’s confusing to search engines, they won’t have a clue what your target page is about:

Don’t Use Majority Fragmented Match Anchor Text

Another common mistake that we see is a focus on mainly fragmented keywords. Meaning if you are trying to rank for “best seo tools” – using the anchor text “best” is a confusing ranking signal to search engines. 

After all, are you trying to rank for “best seo tools” or the word “best”?

In our experience, something like this would also not be ideal:

Majority Exact Match Variations + Partial Match is the way to Go

We discover that majority Exact match variations and partial match keywords are far more effective. 

An exact match keyword might be:

  • best seo tools | 1,300 searches per month
  • search engine optimization tools | 500 searches per month
  • Pretty much any keyword with decent search volume that describes the target page

An partial match keyword would be a keyword that you don’t find in a SEO keyword research tool, but helps describe the target keyword in a grammatically correct way:

For example: 

  • tools for search engines | 0 searches per month
  • software for Google search optimization | searches per month
  • Words that describe your target page, but might not be an exact match variation, often they are exact match keywords “mixed up.”

In our fictitious example, if we look at the following keywords at a glance, you’ll know what the page is all about:

If humans struggle to understand what a page is all about based on the internal anchor text alone, so will search engines. 

Is there an ideal ratio for Exact Match Variations + Partial match?

We currently are seeing the best results with a 70/30 split. Frankly it’s a range and there is no ‘magic sweet spot’ that we are currently aware of. Meaning, don’t stress if you are off by a little.

Here is the current calculations we maintain for a large scale client:

How Can you Easily Locate Internal Link Information?

We recommend using the crawler Screaming Frog. You can use other tools like Ahrefs, but crawlers tend to be the most effective. 

Here is how you do it:

  1. Select the URL you’d like to work on
  2. Select the ‘inlinks’ tab
  3. Filter for ‘Content’
  4. Then scroll back over to the ‘anchor text’ tab section ( couldn’t fit in screenshot)

Then scroll back over to the Anchor text section:

What types of articles should you get internal links from?

The types of articles you get internal links from should be relevant to the target article you are trying to rank. For example, you shouldn’t internally  link for the sake of linking.

Here are some Strategies you Can Use

Use Your Brain

This might be more difficult for certain members of your team 🤔 

That said, the first pass when you look at all the articles internally linking should logically make sense.

For example, if we are trying to rank our “best seo tools” article, we should probably not get a link from an article about something unrelated (ie our yearly team retreat.)

Use Current Or Plan Topically Relevant Articles

Writing content that is topically relevant generally provides a boost in rankings.  The idea is that you want to cover the topic as thoroughly as possible

Does writing and internally Topical Relevant articles actually work?

According to our testing YES. 

After a recent Google update around September October, a service website that we run dropped out of the 10 positions to around #17. You’ll note many of the ranking website have a very low DR/authority:

 During the same update, the same website with incredibly weak authority, broke into the top 10 for a far more difficult keyword, with every single website without expectation, is very powerful.

Note, how all competing websites have a much higher DR: 

What did this happen?

Topically, the more difficult keyword we targeted has a lot more related and topically relevant content internally linking to our page. More much than competing websites. 

Whereas the first keyword, where we fell off of page 1 of Google, there is not a topical authority and had next to none relevant content. 

How does this help magnify link building?

Assuming you have all your internal link ducks in a row, you can build quite a lot of links to supporting pages:

Its similar to how back in the day many SEOs would used tiered link building with many a Spam tool (ie GSA)

However, you are doing it internally, as opposed to externally. By supercharging, supporting pages, we’ve seen amazing gains:

To put it mildly, the combination of:

  • Properly optimized internal anchor text 
  • topically relevant articles 
  • External link building to supporting articles

Where should you build links again?

Clearly, you should link build your main pages you want to rank, but in addition to that you will likely see even better results if you link build supporting pages as we outlined above. 

Meaning, when you are link building, don’t forget about the pages that link to your key pages that drive a lot of revenue:

Need help?

Need help planning topically relevant articles or need a hand optimizing your internal links?

Give us a shout and we’ll see if we can help.

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