The art of internal hyperlinking


Everybody wants traffic on their blog or website. Direct traffic. Referring traffic. Search traffic. All good in their own way. Direct traffic means having a strong brand. Referring traffic means having a strong network. Search traffic means having a strong team. The first two are hard to influence, but search - that's the one you can influence the most. And even if search technology has changed a lot in the past few years, with mathematical algorithms slowly getting replaced by social ones, old school search engine optimization can still make a difference.

Let's say you already have good content. And you have it technically optimized and search engine friendly. Like, Tweet and +1 buttons implemented where applicable, since they are more and more important for search result rankings. All good, but you might have missed something. Since it's very hard to persuade other people to link to your site giving you a higher PageRank, you just have to do it yourself. I'm talking about internal hyperlinking, where you cross-reference the content you already have. Google loves it so much that their official blog, besides influential blogs such as Mashable and ReadWriteWeb, have main headings referencing itself.

I approached this issue from two different angles. Sometime in October 2010 I took the time to systematically cross reference all my blog posts. It took me a lot of time, but I think it was worth it. Besides, I developed a "similar content" module, which additionally does it for me. The results on the diagram below, which display search-based traffic on my blog, are not real proof of that fact, since the experiment was not fully scientific; there are many other SEO factors, additional content and optimizations that were put into the equation. But still, most energy was put into content cross referencing and the trend looks pretty good.

Search referrer trend

Traffic to via search engines

Since internal hyperlinking is an ongoing process, you have to have a good overview about the content you own, something that provides you with the complete picture. I used a plain Excel file, grouping my posts into general categories and started drawing arrows representing hyperlinks. At this point, it's already become a bit of a mess, so I'm thinking about moving to a stronger diagram-oriented software, but I think you get the picture.

Internal hyperlinks cross reference internal hyperlink structure

Internal hyperlinking can help, and it's something you can do even if you don't have a lot of technical skills. Just a lot of time, but we're in a recession anyways. Now go for it and let me know about the results.

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written 4.9.2011 22:00 CET on chronolog
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