Publishing unique and useful content is one of the most important factors in running a website. However, search engine optimization is equally important to get visitors from organic search. Otherwise, your beautiful content is of no use without any readers. Earlier days, SEO was all about getting backlinks from high quality websites. Things are changed now and you need to make your site’s internal linking structure in order to improve the visibility. In this article, we will explain how to improve your internal linking using different methods in WordPress site. Check out the complete WordPress SEO guide for beginners to optimize your site.
Where Can I See Internal Linking Details?
Before reading further, it is important to understand the current internal linking details of your site. For this you have to add and verify your site in Google Search Console. The new interface still contains the legacy sections that shows internal linking details of the verified site. this will help you to understand the most linked pages on your site. You can take this as a reference and optimize the site structure.
1. Header and Footer Menu
Header or primary navigation menu helps you to link high level and important pages on your site. Traditionally header menu includes pages like home, blog, about us and contact us. Since these pages are most frequently accessed pages, it makes sense to link them on the header section visible throughout the site. For example, users need to look for the contact page on your site whenever they wanted to contact you.
Similarly, you can have a footer menu with other important pages on your site like terms, privacy, etc. You can go to “Appearance > Menus” and create menus for your site. Most themes obviously support header menu however, not all themes support menu in footer area. You may need to modify footer.php file to insert menu in footer area.
2. Sidebar and Footer Widget
Similar to header and footer, sidebar widgets play important role in building internal linking structure for your site. Generally, you can link recent, popular, category and collection articles in the sidebar. This will help you to promote and drive traffic to those pages. WordPress be default offers a “Navigation Menu” widget that you can insert on sidebar and footer.
- Go to “Appearance > Menus” section and create a menu with your pages. Save the menu and note down the name.
- Now, go to “Appearance > Widgets” section and insert “Navigation Menu” widget to your sidebar or footer.
- Give a title for your widget and select the menu name you have created.
- Save the widget to show navigation menu items on your site.
3. Use Categories and Tags
You can create categories in WordPress with parent and child relationship. After setup categories, you assign categories to posts in the editor before publishing. Remember, assigning category is mandatory for posts in WordPress. Otherwise, WordPress will assign a default category when you click on “Publish” button”. Breadcrumb is a visual navigation to show the category structure of your site. Make sure to show the breadcrumb on each post, especially those posts having multiple categories. This will help the users landing on a page to understand the current location of the page on your site. Google also shows breadcrumb in the search results that can easily improve the click through rate.
Similar to categories, you can assign tags to structure your site. Though tags do not appear in breadcrumb, both tags and categories will create archive pages. These archive pages can also drive traffic from Google and other feed readers.
4. Find Articles with No Internal Links
When creating new site, you may not have sufficient articles to link each other. Over the period most of your old articles will left over without linking to any other articles on your site. Find all old articles that contain no links and try to update with relevant links. This will boost the internal linking structure and help to regain the ranking of those old pages.
5. Find Articles Not Linked to Other Pages
You have to combine this step with the previous step. Some articles on your site may have links to other pages but not having any inbound links from other pages. These pages without any inbound internal links are dead pages though you have sitewide header, footer and sidebar links. You can find pages with no inbound internal links and link them on pages that contain no links (identified in step 2).
6. Table of Content
Internal linking is not always between two different articles. You also can link between sections of the same article. You can easily do this by adding custom CSS ids to headings and show all headings as a table of content. Google will show the sectional links in search results so that users can directly jump into that section instead of reading the entire article.
Remember, Google also uses passage indexing to show a section of the page in the search results. Having table of content with sectional links will help to improve your search engine visibility with passage indexing.
7. Related Articles
The popular option used by many bloggers is to show related articles at the bottom of the page. You can collect the relevant internal links and show them as a block to improve the click through rate.
8. Internal Linking for Pages
Unlike blog posts, WordPress allows pages to have parent and child relationship. This will be very useful for niche websites to show links in a structured manner. For example, you may have a parent page for “dogs” and child pages for “dog training”, “dog care” and “dog food”. You can make use of this parent-child setup in two ways:
- Link all sub-pages on the parent page so that users can easily navigate to the required section easily.
- Link all sub-pages in each of the sub-page. For example, “dog training” page should contain links to “dog care” and “dog food” pages.
Tools and Plugins for Internal Linking
Creating header, footer and navigation menu is an easy task and you do not need any additional plugins for this purpose. However, finding pages that contain no links or have no inbound links is a difficult task. Similarly, it is not a practical task to create table of content or related post for each article on your site manually. Here comes the use of handy plugins that you can use to understand internal linking structure and automate some of the tasks.
Yoast SEO Free and Premium
The best way to improve internal linking in WordPress site is use popular Yoast SEO plugin. The free version shows number of internal links for each post/page and number of inbound internal links on the post/page index page. Go to “Posts > All Posts” or “Pages > All Pages” section to get the internal linking details. You can use this information to update the content and improve the internal linking structure.
In addition, you can also insert breadcrumb using Yoast SEO free version. The best part is that you can choose the primary category to show in breadcrumb when you assign multiple categories to a post. The premium version of Yoast SEO offers additional features to further optimize internal linking structure of your site.
- Find orphaned articles that have zero inbound internal links. As mentioned, you can link these orphaned articles inside the article with no internal links.
- Insert table of content block – though this is manual it helps.
- Internal linking suggestion – shows five relevant links so that you can insert them manually or insert it as a related article widget.
- Sub-pages and sibling block to insert page structure.
Gutenberg or Table of Content
You can use the hyperlink tool in WordPress to manually search and link pages from your site. This will be helpful when you know all post articles with relevant keywords and title. Though manual, this is the widely used method to insert internal links in WordPress. If you have noticed, Gutenberg editor also allows you to insert HTML anchor to heading. You can use these anchors and create sectional links to have a structure within an article.
However, using Gutenberg will be a tedious task to insert all sectional links in a beautiful layout. The easy option is to insert table of content is using a dedicated plugin. You can learn more about inserting table of content in our earlier article to automate this task.
Related Posts Plugins
If you are not using Yoast premium, then look for a related post plugin that works for your site. Remember, related posts plugins may slow down your site as they need to index each article on your database and show dynamically when page loads. You can use Google AdSense Matched Content recommendation or other third-party tools like Outbrain to overcome this issue.
There is also an inline related posts plugin available for WordPress that automatically inserts links inside the article.
Automatic Internal Linking
There are plugins like Internal Links Manager to automatically create internal links. You can create keyword and assign links so that the plugin will automatically insert the links. This may work well for smaller sites with limited number of posts or pages. However, for larger sites, this is a dumb idea unless you use those keywords properly on your site. Practically, it is a difficult task to use specific keywords uniformly on entire site.
For example, we have 400 articles on WordPress tutorials and use some phrase in different or similar context. For example, we use the key phrase “Optimize WordPress” for different types of optimization. Automatically inserting a link for all appearances of this key phrase will not help at all. Therefore, make sure to understand before you try to use this type of plugins. Alternate and working option is to use premium plugins like Yoast SEO which offer internal related links block.
WordPress and Internal Links Problems
You also need to careful when using certain internal links in WordPress. We recommend setting noindex or use canonical URL so that it will not affect your ranking.
- Internal search pages – WordPress offers a search box using which users can search content on your site. However, you can find these search pages in Google Search Console when Google tries to index them. Make sure to noindex these pages which do not add any value to users.
- Pagination – when using pagination in comments and splitting a single post with page break, ensure to use canonical URL. This will help you to retain the search engine ranking to the parent page.
- Feeds and tags – WordPress creates automatic feed for each tag and category. If not required, you can disable these feeds to avoid them indexed by Google. Though tags can help in driving traffic, you can noindex tag archives to avoid users landing on archive pages from search results.
- Author and date archives – if you are running a single author blog, author archive and date archive pages will be same as your blog index page. In this case, you can completely disable them of noindex them to avoid duplicate content.
You can check these options are available in your SEO plugin and enable to make use of the features.
As you can see building healthy internal linking structure has multiple steps. You have to include this as one of your routine maintenance tasks to update the content with relevant links. This will allow search engines to crawl all linked pages and index them properly. As a result, you can get good results in search result pages and get traffic to your website.