Internal linking is an integral part of Search Engine Optimization in all kinds of websites whether they are eCommerce, lead generation or just informative websites. Regardless of the objective of a website, internal linking structure needs to be created in such a way that it helps to meet the stated goal.
Identify Goals of a Website
Simply put, online goals can be defined as an ability to drive traffic to the stated pages and having the visitors to take certain actions. In a blog, goal might to have a visitor land on a page, read the blog, spend more than average time-on-site and click on 1 more blog. In a lead generation website, the goal might be to have the visitor land on a particular page with some interesting content, read the content, and to have the visitor fill out a form to download the pdf version of the article with more information. Similarly, in an eCommerce environment, goal would be to have a visitor come to the webpage, add a product into shopping cart and checkout.
Internal Linking Architecture
Next, we can discuss about architecture of the internal linking so it helps the goals of the website. Let’s take the example of an eCommerce website, which probably has a content rich blog, detailed category and product pages, as as well a fully functioning shopping cart. In this case, the most important question is how could we create the most meaningful internal linking structure to support the goal of the website to drive revenue?
We can analyze this from 2 different point of views – first by the the journey of a visitors, called sales funnel.
Typical Sales-Funnel of an eCommerce Website, showing journey of a visitor
Visitors come from
PPC/Blog/SEO efforts To Category/Landing pages To Product Pages To Shopping Cart To Checkout
Since we know our goal and a typical journey of visitors, an Internet Marketer’s goal is to help visitors get deeper into the sales funnel towards checkout process.
So once we get traffic from SEO, PPC efforts or via Social Media, an eCommerce Website always strives to drive visitors deeper into category or product pages. That’s why from most blogs, which is the most common form of content marketing, links are strategically placed to drive traffic to the targeted product pages. When visitors are on a category page, we should help them go to the product page, and if they are in product page, all efforts (call to actions) should be to help them add product to the shopping cart. Generally speaking, this is how all eCommerce sites generate revenue. (Oh, yea, it’s lot more complex than this simplistic representation.)
So linking from a Blog post to a product page or to a category pages makes a perfect sense.
Should there ever be links from a Product Page to a Blog Post?
When we link from category/product pages to blogs, we get the visitors distracted and move them further away from the shopping cart, and it works against our ultimate goal. In most cases, it’s like sending a potential customer trying to purchase an item to the Public Relations department instead of to Checkout Counter.
However, linking away from product pages to blog posts or other informational page may make sense in following scenarios.
1) You are promoting a special blog – So gaining traffic in that blog is your KPI (and necessarily the revenue).
2) The page is informational page, where we are trying to educate the customer. In this case, a link to blog would give them extra knowledge, and thereby we hope to bring them back to the product pages or cart at later time.
So unless you are in these areas of exception, most likely, sticking to our known sales funnel means more revenue to the website. This defines the internal linking architecture.
Internal Linking from SEO Perspective
Let’s do a quick validation of our theory of internal linking architecture purely from SEO point of view. From PageRank Distribution perspective, the most important pages on a website has the highest amount of inbound links. Normally, all pages on a website points to homepage, and that’s one of the reasons, the homepage has the highest PageRank, and authority. Then, based upon how the internal linking is set-up throughout the website, the PageRank distributes throughout the website – deeper the pages are less PageRank it receives.
In simple terms, less important pages point to more important pages. Hence the concept of silo. Lower level pages point to higher level.
If we follow the concept of silo, new and fresh blog contents probably lie at the bottom of the website and it’s natural for the blog to link to similar blogs (sibling links) or to the pages above it (parent linking). So it is very natural to find blogs linking to product pages, and category pages in eCommerce and not vice versa.
So the internal linking architecture in an e-Commerce environment as well as other online ecosystem would be to set up in such as way to help the goal of the website. In our example of an e-Commerce website, it is simply to drive traffic deeper to the lower part of the sales funnel to drive revenue.