If you automate internal linking on your site, there’s a good chance you will harm your SEO.
Since there is already so much that needs to be done on your website across other types of SEO, internal linking can often be an afterthought, so having something auto-link your content for you might seem like a good idea.
While an automated approach to internal linking might save you some time, it can turn your site into a complete mess that makes little sense to the search engine Bots.
Below we look at why automatic internal linking is not a good idea.
- The Basics: What is Internal Linking?
- Why Automation Might Seem Tempting
- The Downfalls of Automated Internal Linking
- The Human Touch: Its Inherent Value
- How to Ace Your Internal Linking Strategy
The Basics: What is Internal Linking?
Internal linking isn’t just connecting one page to another within your site.
It’s a way of helping users and search engines navigate your site, find out where your expertise lies and discover related content.
Proper internal linking also helps distribute page authority and can improve your site’s navigation and user experience.
Why Automation Might Seem Tempting
Why should you spend hours on internal linking when you can press a button and have it all done?
The main reason is that automation can get it wrong, just like any automated tool like a chatbot or an AI text generator.
With these sorts of tools, you see the result immediately, so you know if you got the image you wanted or if the text generator has given you something you can use.
However, with SEO, you may not see the effects of automated internal linking until your website disappears from the search results weeks later.
It’s far hard in SEO to fix something that’s hurt your SEO than it is to do it right in the first place.
The Downfalls of Automated Internal Linking
- Relevance Issues: One major drawback is relevance. Automation tools can’t discern context like a human can. So, you might end up linking a page about ‘apple pies’ to a post about ‘Apple products’. Sounds daft, right? But it can happen because the AI sees the text, not the contextual connection.
- Overstuffing: Ever had a pie with too much filling? That’s what over-optimised internal links can feel like. Some tools might link every single instance of a keyword, making your content look spammy. This isn’t just bad for user experience; it can also get you penalised by search engines.
- Neglecting the User Experience: Your readers aren’t daft. They can sense when something’s off. If links don’t feel natural or lead to unrelated pages, users might bounce off your site faster, negatively affecting your rankings.
- Missing Out on Strategic Opportunities: With automation, you’re letting a tool decide your strategy. But strategic internal linking requires human intuition and foresight, such as guiding users to a conversion page or a flagship content piece.
- Once it’s done, you don’t see the negative effect until it’s too late: Once you run an automatic internal link tool on your site, the first time you discover the negative impact can be weeks later, meaning that unpicking the mess is harder.
The Human Touch: Its Inherent Value
Nothing beats the human touch, especially in SEO. When you manually place internal links:
- You understand the context and can make sure the link makes sense.
- You can prioritise essential pages that you want to boost.
- It’s easier to provide a balanced and diverse anchor text distribution.
- You get to craft a narrative, guiding the reader through a journey on your site.
How to Ace Your Internal Linking Strategy
- Plan Your Structure: Think of your website as a tree. Your homepage is the trunk, category pages are the big branches, and individual posts are the twigs. Ensure there’s a natural flow.
- Use Relevant Anchor Text: Anchor text should be descriptive but not spammy. Keep it relevant to the page you’re linking to.
- Guide Your Visitors: Use internal links to guide visitors to your most important pages or to pages that enhance the understanding of the topic; this is especially important to improve your E-A-T, effectiveness, Authoritativeness and Trust. These are built into Google’s algorithm and content guidelines.
- Review Regularly: Like you’d prune a tree, occasionally check your links. Remove any that are broken or no longer relevant.
- Quality Over Quantity: Don’t go mad with links! Only link when it adds value for the reader. If you stuff too many links into a single page, you are watering down how effective each link is.
While the allure of automation, especially in our fast-paced digital world, might seem like the way forward, there’s no substitute for the nuanced understanding and strategic mindset you bring to your site’s internal linking.
Sorting your internal links is best done when you first publish the article, so don’t write 100s pages of content and think you’ll do the internal links later.
If you do them when you first write content, they will be considered appropriately, whereas if you leave them until later, they will be rushed (and that’s where the automation temptation comes in).
Wherever you are with your site, using a non-automated internal linking tool can help reduce the time it takes to create an effective internal link profile.
Try and develop a Standard Operating procedure (SOP) for internal links and stick to it every time you publish something.