Working with clients of all shapes and sizes, I constantly write to different sets of requirements. Some clients focus on word count, others on topic relevance. Some provide keywords and take advantage of optimization strategies, while others just want to get particular information out there.
Regardless of the goal of a piece, regardless of whether a client asks you to do this, you should always try to incorporate internal links from that business into your copy. These can be older blog posts or even webpages within their site, but work to add in at least three to each piece you write.
Why is this particular ask important, and how did three become the magic number? I actually researched this so I could better understand it myself.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERNAL LINKS
Including internal links in content has two primary benefits. First, it gets people who come to your site to read one thing to potentially look at something else. They spend more time on the site and get to know the brand a little better. This could be what leads them to making a purchase, engaging services, and becoming a loyal customer.
Additionally, internal linking makes your content rate better when searched. It’s yet another form of optimization. As search engine bots look through your site for new content, a strong internal linking strategy helps them understand the structure of your site. This creates a hierarchy that search engines can read, allowing for the more important content on your site to rank in search results and rank higher.
The cool thing here, and what you can really take away rather than all the technical stuff, is that internal linking lets you decide what’s important on a site. It’s what you’ll link to the most throughout blog posts. You really have a tool here to drive search results to significant pages, like the ones that transform site visitors into customers.
And yes, you may notice that I don’t use this strategy myself on my own blog. I probably should, since I do have so many valuable tips for content writers and those who use content to drive marketing strategies, but optimization isn’t necessarily my goal here, so I relax a little on SEO tactics.
HOW THREE BECAME THE MAGIC NUMBER
There’s actually a “rule” about linking to prevent people from jamming in so many that it’s hard to get through the content. If you keep your links to 3-5 total per 1,000 words, chances are you won’t interrupt the flow of your reader. Since you want to leave space for external links, keeping internal links to around three, and writing long-form content, creates a winning combination.
That said, there are exceptions based on what type of site you’re writing for and what the piece is actually about. When I write for a client that has a linking strategy associated with any mention of a city, and the piece I’m writing is about the best places to live in Georgia, I’m going to have more city-based internal links throughout the piece than three. Chances are I’ll have somewhere closer to 10-15 internal inks, but they’re spaced out in a logical way, so it’s okay.
Additionally, if you’re writing a heavily-researched piece, and you need to cite sources, you’ll have more external links than what’s prescribed for the average. Also okay, since you’re following the rules of attribution and preventing plagiarism.
So, let the exceptions in, but maintain a healthy average of 3-5 when it comes to links for those everyday pieces you’ll write.
ADDING LINKS WITH FINESSE
Knowing you should incorporate internal links, and doing it well, are two totally different things. When you feel pressure to get those links in, you’ll make a mistake, stuffing a link somewhere that messes with the flow of the piece.
A properly placed link feels like it belongs in the piece, so I tend to do my link research first. Once I have a headline, I’ll go through the client’s site and find a handful of potential internal links. Knowing what they are before I begin writing makes it easier for me to naturally incorporate them.
Next, I focus on selecting what words to hyperlink. This is also important for flow. You want to think about an entire phrase to hyperlink rather than a single word in most cases. Linking a phrase stands out more, but it also clues in your reader more clearly as to what content they’ll find on the other side. And, that’s also why your linking words should directly pertain to the location you’re sending your reader to.
When it comes to word choice, I sometimes try to incorporate the headline or pieces of the opening sentence of the linked copy into my piece. It’s a natural choice for what to hyperlink.
If I’m summarizing a section of the article I’m internally linking to in my piece — most often I’m making a bulleted list of what the linked article covers more fully — I’ll hyperlink an introductory phrase from my piece, something that leads into my bulleted list.
To test your hyperlink choices though, make sure to read your piece after you’ve inserted them into the copy. If you don't get tripped up on them while reading it through, neither will anyone else.
A BLOG WITHOUT LINKS IS INCOMPLETE
Unless you’re asked not to, consider a blog without internal links (and maybe one external link) incomplete. Other blogs, webpages, and even the contact page on your client’s site all count as an internal link. There should be no shortage of options.
With that in mind, plan on putting three internal links into each piece you write. You’ll provide an easy service to your clients that helps optimize their content. You’ll also add value to the content you create. Everybody wins.