Optimizing pages is not enough if the links between them are not optimized. That’s why building your internal linking in the form of semantic cocoons is essential. In this guide, we'll tell you why and how to put it all together!
- What is internal linking?
- What is meant by "links"?
- Why optimize internal links for SEO?
- Internal links: identify technical problems with internal linking
- What are semantic cocoons?
What is internal linking?
Internal linking in SEO also known as linking (or internal netlinking) simply refers to organizing your links to navigate from one page to another on the same website. These links are therefore the connection, the bridge between page A and page B. They define the architecture of a site.
What is meant by "links"?
If you create a website from scratch, you start with a keyword research to understand the demand in your sector, and then build your editorial roadmap around the themes that interest your potential customers. These themes will form the basis of the semantic cocoons, which in turn will determine the optimal linking of your content pages.
Even if your site has been live for some time and contains many pages, this work is essential to confirm if your netlinking is well done, and if not improve it: in any case it is necessary to start from scratch to ensure not to be biased!
There are 2 types of SEO links:
- Internal links: these are links between pages within the same domain name (links between a site and its blog also count). These are the ones that we’ll consider for the design of the site and its internal linking.
- External links or "backlinks": these are incoming links, therefore coming from another domain name. Backlinks are part of Netlinking, an SEO discipline that is a vast subject in itself.
Why optimize internal links for SEO?
Picture a large building or the main roads of a city, the point is to connect each place, each room in a logical way in order to facilitate the circulation for the users.
For the Internet user
Indeed, the first beneficiaries are the users, the readers of your content. If your linking strategy is well executed, it will not only make navigation easier, but will also direct your prospects to related pages that will complete the information they are looking for or to more transactional pages on your site (offer, solution, purchase, etc.).
In other words, if your internal linking is well optimized, it should convert better thanks to the well-designed ergonomics of your website.
For the PageRank traffic
At the time, Yahoo! and Alta Vista were ranking pages based only on their content. That's when Google came along and had the good idea to add an additional ranking criteria: the number of people who link to the page. This was the beginning of their PageRank algorithm which measures the popularity of a page, on the principle that an interesting page is necessarily recommended by other pages. You must have heard about it under the forms: "SEO juice", "Google juice", etc.
Today, the quantity of incoming links is not enough: to counter spam linking techniques (abusive), the algorithm has been strengthened by integrating the concept of quality.
Thus, a good SEO page, in addition to having a good content, must receive links from pages with a high PageRank: the more referring pages with high PageRank you have, the better!
And this works as much for external links (Netlinking) as for internal links within your site.
The size of each planet is proportional to the size of the other planets that point to it.
You must be thinking: but why are we talking about site design and internal links, when I could just work on my netlinking and make sure to receive quality backlinks?
Well, because you will have done a lot of work and perhaps committed a certain budget, to receive backlinks that your site is not ready to receive, because it does not have the design, the tree structure allowing it to properly distribute the juice to bring your target pages up in SEO!
Working on your Netlinking is often essential, but your site must first be well designed to take advantage of it. This is the purpose of what we call internal linking, whose role is to redistribute the popularity (=PageRank) acquired by the site to its internal pages.
PS : This implies not to create orphan pages, because they'd be very badly considered by Google. This is one of the differences with SEA (paid search), since you can have orphan pages in SEA without it being detrimental.
...But that's not all!
PageRank is distributed. If a page has a PageRank (PR) of 100 and 10 outgoing links, each page that receives the link will have a PR = PR(A)/10 = 10.
Conclusion: it's in your interest not to insert too many links in the site's page with a high PR in order to avoid diluting the juice everywhere and instead distribute more "juice" to the target pages.
For example, it is not recommended in SEO to have large footers, with all the links to the categories and subcategories of the site.
On the contrary, we recommend thinking of a tree structure when creating "category" and "subcategory" pages that play the role of a hub: if on an e-commerce site the homepage directly linked to the product pages without going through the category pages, the juice would be so diluted that none of the pages would really benefit!
A good link is not limited to the PageRank of the referring page, it must also deal with a topic very close to the target page.
For example, a link from a "trek in Nepal" page to a "cheap computers" page will have very little weight and will be detrimental to both pages, but mainly to the "cheap computers" page.
And it is finally completely logical because if a link is not themed, it is not really relevant! While Google's main objective is to offer quality content, said quality content must allow the user to navigate to other pages with quality content on the same theme.
This is the notion of themed PageRank , which some people also call the semantic shiftphenomenon: we can say today that the best page in the world will not rank very high in search results if it does not have themed links that push it.
We are talking about semantic cocoons, which is a method whose principle is to create intelligent links within a site, which push pages, in addition to the external links (backlinks) that they could otherwise receive.
Let's take the example of an online venue booking site. A user is looking for a nice bar in Paris, and so starts his search on Google by "nice bar in Paris". He chooses the result "top bar in Paris".
On the page, they will then be redirected to "popular" links which are neither more nor less than links to the pages that make up the tree structure of the site. In our case, these popular links have been classified by theme: neighborhoods, events, establishments and guides containing in-depth articles, while remaining within the main theme "bar in Paris".
To summarize, a good internal linking is:
- Well themed links
- The control of links that you include on each page to not dilute the juice and give importance to the target pages.
Ok so far so good, but ... how to do it on your site? No panic, let’s look into it.
Internal links: identify technical problems with internal linking
Internal linking designates links within a site (does not include outgoing links nor backlinks).
This is an important topic in SEO because internal links determine the distribution of PageRank within a site.
PageRank is the weight or authority of a page or a site. It is acquired through backlinks, and is then distributed through internal links.
The design of internal linking is usually done after a keyword research, which identifies the tree structure (parent page / child pages / etc.) by theme. It is not set in time, but evolves during the site’s lifetime.
We will focus here on the technical execution of these links.
The following paragraphs will only focus on important links: between pages that are useful for SEO. The links "contact us", "create an account", or any link pointing to deindexed pages or pages blocked by robots.txt are not considered for the below checks.
Check that a link is in HTML
The first thing to do is to check that the internal links are set up using an HTML tag.
To do this, browse your site and do a "right-click>inspect" on the link anchor (= the text on which the link is located):
If you have a tag like above, with the URL and the link anchor, then all is good.
Analyze the link anchor
The second point is to analyze the link anchor.
This must correspond to an expression related to the subject of the target page: either the main keyword targeted by the page, or a synonym.
Avoid at all costs "see more", "learn more", "click here", etc. which do not transmit semantics: if this is the case, they must be modified!
Duplicate links to product pages
When it comes to product pages (or any other type of page for that matter), also check that the link is not used several times on the page (always with the same method "right click>inspect"):
On the block above, there are 3 links to the same product page: a link on the image, a link on "Pilates in the workplace" and a link on "learn more".
In this case, you should only keep the link on the anchor "Pilates in the workplace".
If you want to allow users to click everywhere on the content block, you can make the whole block clickable for the user via the Jquery library for example.
Now, you now know everything about internal links!
What are semantic cocoons?
The method consists "quite simply" in creating a tree structure based on the search intention of the Internet user, and which makes it possible to link the pages in such a way as to bring up the target pages.
Rather than organizing your site like this:
Instead, we'll start with the keywords and go like this:
Instead, we'll start with the following principle:
- Top of the silo: Defines a semantic universe
- The parent pages: Targets the most competitive keywords
- Child pages: Legitimize the silo, reinforce the mother pages, target the middle and long tail
Internal linking is essential for a good SEO. The semantic cocoon approach is a natural solution to respond to different search intentions in a classified way. By doing this, you are seen as experts in your field by Google and users alike.
Article written by Louis Chevant
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