The Role of Internal Linking in my own SEO Strategy

Google Panda and then Penguin came along and spoiled the party.  It’s now much more difficult to try to get your page to rank for specific keyword phrases.

The old way of SEO was to:

  1. Identify low competition, high demand phrases.
  2. Create a page around the phrase.
  3. Backlink to that page using the specific keyword phrase.

This process would usually allow us to rank for any keyword phrase.  The only difference between ranking for low or high competition phrases was the number of times we needed to repeat step 3.

Today, this technique will get your site penalized, even de-indexed.

Google is on the lookout for artificially create links, and none are more obvious than anchor text links like that look like this:


That paragraph has 5 links in it, but even just one link would be one too many if those links point to a web page on a different domain.

NOTE: That example is actually one that Google shows us in the Webmaster Guidelines under “Link Schemes”.

The problem is, it is not natural to link to another site using keyword rich anchor text links like this.  The only reason someone would do that is to try to make the site pointed to in that link rank higher for that particular phrase.

But what about Wikipedia?  They a lot of keyword rich anchor text links, and that site comes up in just about every search?  Google loves Wikipedia!

Here is a screenshot from Wikipedia:


See all of those keyword rich anchor texts?

So why does Wikipedia get away with it?

Well they don’t….

If you mouse over a link on Wikipedia, chances are the link will be to an internal page on the site:


This type of linking IS natural, because it’s there to help the visitor navigate the site.  As someone is reading an article on Wikipedia and they come to the word metabolic, as shown in that screenshot, they might wonder what “metabolic” means.  They can easily and quickly click the link to be taken to a page on Wikipedia that explains the meaning.

Can you see how this type of internal link IS NATURAL?

If you still don’t see it, think of it this way.

Suppose we had a web page that talked about health, and mentioned the word metabolic but did not have a page on the site about  the meaning of the word.  If you wanted to link to a page about “metabolic”, you’d have to link to a different site.

If you linked using keyword-rich anchor text, like in the Wikipedia screenshot, what does that tell your visitor?  They will wonder why you are sending them off to another website and may even become suspicious and wonder about your motives.  It simply doesn’t make sense to link like that to an external link, without some measure of explanation.

This would be OK:


In that example, you are directing a visitor to another website, and telling them why they might want to go there.  There is no unexpected link to another site that could raise suspicion.

So, the fact is, keyword-rich anchor text links to external websites, within the body of an article, ARE NOT NATURAL.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Google.  Here is what they say just before they show the example I showed you at the beginning of this article:


OK; so how can we rank for our chosen keyword phrases?

The thing is, Google DO NOT want you to choose what phrases your pages should rank for.  They want 100% control over that.

That is why they have started penalizing sites that have inbound “unnatural” links, like those keyword-rich anchor text variety.  And things will only get worse as Google’s tolerance for web spammers (that’s what they call webmasters that create links like this) reaches breaking point.

My own plan for ranking for specific keywords

Back in 2012 I published a case study for internal linking and showed how it boosted my rankings for several important keyword phrases.  You can read that case study here.  Ever since the success of that study, I've used internal linking extensively on all of my niche sites.  I even helped develop a WordPress plugin that could do the internal linking for me (more on that later) and another tool that could analyze my sites and show me internal linking problems and where I needed to concentrate my efforts.  Up until now, those tools have only been available to my “Insider Members”.

Let me outline the strategy I use to rank for specific keywords phrases.

  1. Use keyword research to find out low competition, high demand keyword phrases.
  2. Pick a phrase you want to rank for, and then find out what supporting words and phrases should be included in an article about that phrase.  For example, if you want to rank for gestational diabetes symptoms, your article will also include words like: glucose, mother, baby, blood pressure, pregnancy, diabetes, health, test, trimester, weight, insulin, sugar, blood, nutrition, symptoms, pancreas, maternity, glucose challenge test, tolerance testing.  I call these theme words.
  3. Write an article that is well themed around the topic by using those theme words and phrases.  Believe me, you will need them if your article is going to adequately cover the topic.
  4. Get links from pages on other web sites that are related to your topic of gestational diabetes.  That would include pages that talk about gestational diabetes, diabetes in general and pregnancy.  For these links, simply link to your article using your article’s title or URL.  Never try to use keyword rich anchor text in these links.
  5. Use internal linking on your site to hone in on specific keyword phrases.  For example, wherever you mention gestational diabetes on your site, link to your gestational diabetes page using a relevant phrase in your article.  Remember, these internal link, keyword-rich anchor texts ARE natural and help your visitor, so Google loves them.

This method used the power of generic inbound links from other RELATED websites and pages, with the keyword rich anchor text of internal links, to boost rankings for specific keyword phrases.  The added benefits of this type of process is that you’ll also rank for hundreds of long-tail phrases as well, simply because you have so many related keywords on the page.

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7 thoughts on “The Role of Internal Linking in my own SEO Strategy”

  1. Hi Andy,

    Thank you as always for taking the time to create this article. Even after so many years, the concept of backlinking with all of G’s changes needs constant updating and reminding people, so thank you! 🙂

    Having said that, I’m quite perplexed about your comment #4

    (Get links from pages on other web sites that are related to your topic of gestational diabetes. That would include pages that talk about gestational diabetes, diabetes in general and pregnancy. For these links, simply link to your article using your article’s title or URL. Never try to use keyword rich anchor text in these links.)

    In 2014, could you please explain and clarify when you say to ‘Get links from pages on other websites.” You’re not talking about guest posting and forum commenting are you, as that’s considered a little dodgy and outdated nowadays. What do you mean “Get links from…’ in this case?

    And secondly regarding the last 2 sentences of your comment:
    (For these links, simply link to your article using your article’s title or URL. Never try to use keyword rich anchor text in these links).

    I certainly get that, but very often, your article’s title WILL indeed be keyword rich. (Not to be confused with keyword ‘stuffed’).

    Eg;, If your article is titled –

    The Top 10 Gestational Diabetes Symptoms…. (the last 3 words being your intended keywords) and if we are to follow you advice to have the backlink contain the article’s title, but not to have it keyword rich, then what?

    It seems like a contradiction in terms unless I’m overlooking something.

    Thanks as always Andy!

    Take care,

    1. Hi Mark
      Regarding my comment #4. Guest posting is not risky if you do it correctly. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is one of the most natural ways for websites and/or authors to build their reputation. Matt Cutts recently said Guest posting was “done”, but that is more a warning to people who do any of the following in their guest posts:
      * Submit poor content
      * Include keyword rich anchor text in the body of their article
      * Submit to low quality sites or sites that allow spammy content (including articles with keyword rich links in article body)
      * Submit to sites in different niches

      Here is an article I wrote on Guest Blogging recently.

      As for the title and keyword stuffing issue, it’s not a problem if your title is not spammy. It is natural to use the title, whether that includes keywords or not. By linking to the title, you are linking by the most natural method and the link text is not abnormal. What would be abnormal is if you create a link to “The Top 10 Gestational Diabetes Symptoms” using link text “gestational diabetes symptoms”.

  2. Hi again Andy,

    I’m very grateful for you taking the time to reply.

    Yes indeed I truly understand what you’re saying about guest posting. I read this on Matt’s site earlier this year, and I took it as more of method for branding and exposure rather than acquiring backlinks however, hence my query to you.

    He writes this first –

    “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”

    Then he writes this later on –

    “I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.”

    So regarding your initial comment #4, was that what you were specifically meaning on ‘Getting links from other sites’? That is guest blogging?

    I appreciate you clearing up the second half of my reply regarding the title though Andy.

    Man, I tell ya Pal, it’s like constantly walking through a minefield, where you have to watch every little step down to the nitty-gritty. It can wear on ya!

    This in of itself is more painstaking than the actual content creation and marketing part of it – combined!

    Thank you again Andy! 🙂

    1. Regarding #4, no, I wasn’t specifically referring to guest posting, but to any type of backlink to your site. However, guest posting is a good example of a backlink I would go for in this way.

  3. Thanks again for your reply Andy!

    Wishing you the very best of luck with your new Evernote book as well!

    Take care,

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