Link Building for SEO: How Internal Link Structure Affects Link Equity

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Video Transcript

Now let’s discuss how your site’s internal link structure affects your overall link equity. But first, let’s establish a few basics.

Two types of links: external and internal

  • One. There are two types of links on a website: external links and internal links. And while links going to your pages from other domains carry more weight, internal links are still critically important to SEO. 

Link Equity Flow

  • And two. Link equity should be thought of as something that flows through a website. Remember from lesson 2, link equity is the name given to that little bit of SEO power that’s passed from one page to another. Generally speaking, it comes to your site from an outside page—an external link. And that outside page passes that link equity to your page, when it links to it. And when that page links to other internal pages on your site—via internal links—link equity carries through to them too.

Support or Stifle The Spread Link Equity

  • And finally, three. Which brings us to the role of your internal link structure. As I already said, link equity flows through your site from page to page by way of internal links, just like it does from external links to your pages. Which is to say, your internal links can either support or stifle the spread of link equity through your site. That is, how well link equity flows depends on your internal link structure. So that structure is what I want to talk about now so you can evaluate for yourself whether your internal link structure is helping or hampering your link equity flow.

Better Internal Linking = Passing More Link Equity

Clearly at the heart of the flow of link equity is a good internal link structure…now how do we get there? 

  • Support the Most Important Pages: The first thing to look at whether the structure is supporting your most important pages. And whether those important pages are properly linked to lesser ones. It’s imperative your internal link structure supports your best pages for a healthy flow of link equity. And one way to determine whether that’s happening, is to look at your Internal Links Report from within Google Search Console. This report reflects the number of internal links pointing to each page which is a signal to Google on its relative importance. If an important page does not appear in the list, or if a less important page has a relatively high number of internal links, you should take a look at your link structure because it probably reflects an imbalance.

  • Connect All Pages: Next, ensure all pages are connected so that the search crawler can get through the entire site. Why is that so critical? Well, If you haven’t properly linked them together, Googlebot won’t be able to get through the entire sure, and, if it can’t, some pages won’t be crawled and indexed, and link equity won’t flow. In other words, your top performing pages won’t be helping your underperforming ones and giving them link equity. The most extreme example of this problem are so-called “Orphan Pages”. That is, if Google has no way of getting to a specific page—aka an “orphan page”—then to Google it doesn’t exist. internal backlinks, if you will, are critical to helping link equity flow and for lesser pages to rank. Overall they improve the strength of your SEO profile.
  • Short Click Paths: In addition to all pages being connected, another integral factor, making for a good internal link structure, is the length of click paths. Specifically, your internal link structure should make it easy for Google to get to any page on your site in a minimum of clicks, so keep your click paths as short as possible.
  • Optimal Link Structure: To that end, the optimal internal link structure looks something like this…a lot of people will tell you a flat site architecture is best and that can be misleading. What you really need to know is, with respect to SEO, the smaller the number of clicks from the homepage to each piece of content is always best. Shortening the distance between the most authoritative pages, like your homepage, and all other pages, increases the chances of the lower ranking pages getting crawled more frequently. And it allows link equity to flow throughout the entire site.
  • Supports Getting to Every Page from Any Page: The structure I show here reflects the minimum amount of links possible between the top level and any given page. Again, remember it’s important to make sure the structure allows for getting to any page on your site from any other.
  • Anchor Text Describes the Destination: And finally, when you are linking pages together, it’s important that you optimize your anchor text to clearly describe what will be found at the link destination. SEO best practices dictate that anchor text be relevant to the page you’re linking to. And the keywords in your anchor text are one of the signals search engines use to determine the topic of a page. Anchor text is a super important signal.

So in summary those best practices for internal structure. There are four. Those are:

  1. Support Your Most Important Pages: One, support your most important pages first and foremost. The last thing you want is an important page, with great content, not getting crawled. Check in Google Search Console on whether that’s happening and optimize accordingly.

  2. Connect All Pages: Two, make sure all pages are connected properly so crawlers can get through the entire site and link equity can flow properly.
  3. Short Click Paths: Three, short click paths. Make sure your internal link structure supports getting through the site in a minimum of clicks
  4. Anchor Text Describes the Destination: And last but not least, Four, optimize your internal anchor text to clearly describe what will be found at the link destination, leveraging the keywords you’re optimizing for, in that text.

Now let’s look at an example of this kind of structure at Here is the Main Navigation. This would be the second tier in the pyramid I just showed you. This links to the main sections of the site…Products, Services, Industries and so on then the Sub-Navigation, the third tier in our pyramid structure. Those are the subsections that sit within those main sections. Products, Analytics, Blockchain, Cloud, and so on. And finally the Tertiary-Navigation, the fourth tier in our pyramid structure. Those are the sub-sub-sections. IBM Cloud, IBM Cloud Private, Object storage and so on. IBM has a nicely organized and intuitive structure. Makes sense for users and search engines alike. This sort of structure, at least in theory, could keep going indefinitely but most likely you wouldn’t go beyond a tertiary level in your navigation structure. The fourth level of navigation likely would be those links in the body of content or from the footer. Ok so in the next video I am going to talk about how you can get some backlinks so stay tuned.