There are a lot of natural assets that many websites under-value. A site’s internal links are just one of them. Your internal link structure is important to the way your users interact with your site and can contribute a lot to the way the search engines assess your site. Luckily, a site’s internal linking structure can be improved with a fair amount of ease.
There are three main ways your site’s navigation is displayed to the user. The first, and most obvious, is in the navigation bar. This is the most direct way a user interacts with your site’s navigation, but a lot of sites mess up even this straightforward interaction. It is also thought that left-hand navigation bars are the first things a search engine spider will read when coming to a site. This makes your navigation bar vital to your SEO campaign.
When designing your navigation bar, keep the text concise yet descriptive. Your SEO consultant should talk with you about how to work keywords into your navigation. A lot of companies interpret this advice as ‘put your keywords into every link.’ This leads to a clunky, confusing navigation bar that could be interpreted by the search engines as spammy. Instead of shovelling keywords into the navigation bar, be subtle. For instance, a clumsy attempt for the keyword ‘candy’ might end up with a navigation bar that reads ‘Candy main’, ‘Candy categories’, ‘Buy candy’, ‘Contact Candy Town, the candy experts’, ‘Candy feedback’ and so on. This looks and smells like spam to everyone, human site users included. Alternative keywords come in handy for your navigation bar, but keeping your keywords limited to every second or third link will make everyone happy.
A navigation bar is usually supported at the bottom of a page with footer navigation. Footers are more often the victim of keyword stuffing than navigation bars, mainly because users don’t pay a whole lot of attention to them. Your footer links should be just as clean as your navigation bar. Some sites cram links to every page in their footers, making them unsightly, unusable and less valuable. Consider the anchor text in your footers carefully and, to ensure every page is clearly marked out for search engine spiders, link from the footer to a site map. Your site map can ensure everyone finds their way on your site, spiders included.
The next level of internal links is inline text links. These are the hyperlinks placed within your content, and again are a linking method that has been sadly abused by some sites. Keep your in-text links relevant and restrict them to a couple per piece of content.
Internal links are of huge value to a site but are easy to mess up if your search engine optimisation plan is too eager. Plan your links out carefully, and they will help your pages to do better, becoming the foundation on which your SEO campaign can build.