Internal linking is a critical component of your on page SEO and forms the basis of your external link building efforts. It is the only way you have some control on the passing of link value within your website. Knowing the various types of internal links and SEO issues to watch out for is an important step in implementing a successful SEO campaign.
Internal Link types
Menu and Sub-menu links
Menu links usually form the main navigation hierarchy in your website. They are the most common navigation elements of your website and are the major points of entry for your visitors. Though you cannot throw all your links into a single menu if your site is large, you can always use sub-menus to complement the main menu elements on specific pages.
Possible SEO Issues: For large sites, the choices are critical as only a limited set of pages will get links from across the site. Choosing the wrong pages can end up prioritizing them over your target pages in search engines.
Depending on how they are implemented, these can simply reflect the main menu hierarchy and extend it or if generated based on user actions, can have a hierarchy which is different. These are useful to help your visitors know where they came from and where they currently are. But the best breadcrumbs are the ones which help users go to the next step of their choice.
Possible SEO Issues: Nothing specific to breadcrumbs but they are also internal links passing value, so that angle has to be considered. Implemented wrongly, the full benefit may not be achieved.
Contextual links in content
These links are much more powerful than they appear. They, due to their location within content give a strong context to visitors and search engines of the relation between the current page and the page linked to. They also form a loose hierarchy between pages. An example is the link from product pages to brand pages where the menu hierarchy is by product category.
Possible SEO Issues: These have to be chosen correctly to give proper context. Wrong internal linking can boost the wrong pages. Unless formatted properly, these can be very hard to find and keep track of.
Though these usually replicate the menu links, they can also be different and form a completely different set. They provide an option for users to navigate without the need to return to the top of the page.
Possible SEO Issues: Due to their location they can be missed especially when there are changes in URLs.
Benefits of proper Internal Links
Provide you control on passing link value
Internal linking helps you control the flow of link value within your website. If you want to stress Page A for the keyword phrase ‘blue widgets’ then having links from your other pages with ‘blue widgets’ and variations as anchor text to Page A helps search engine determine which page to choose to rank for ‘blue widgets’.
Provides your visitors with alternate navigation paths
Visitors usually get a fixed hierarchy on a website. Taking the above example, visitors could follow a path like Products -> Widgets -> Blue Widgets. Proper internal linking provides alternate paths e.g. Red Widgets -> Blue Widgets or ‘How to use widgets’ -> Blue widgets.
Helps create an alternate secondary hierarchy
Visitors look at your offering differently from each other. For an ecommerce store selling shoes, visitors could prefer any of the following paths
Red color->Size 12->Nike
Running Shoes->Nike->Size 12
Size-12-> Red color -> Running shoes
Internal links form a critical component of your SEO process and it is one of the factors you have control over. Your website and your visitors can benefit greatly from internal linking done right.