When it comes to on-page SEO strategies, it’s important to have a strong internal linking strategy. Many SEOs, when they hear creating and building links, fall into the trap of hyper-focusing on solely backlinks, but internal links can be just as important, yet are often overlooked. Not only are internal links beneficial for SEO but also for user experience and website authority.
So, if you’re one of those SEO experts who overlooked internal linking for the sake of other optimizations, listen up. This article will not only change your mind on internal linking importance, but it will also show you how to implement internal linking effectively.
In this guide, I’ll introduce the unique qualities of e-commerce internal linking. I’ll then share the data analysis of three e-commerce websites—including what they link to and why—so you can gain an in-depth understanding of internal linking strategies.
Are you ready to become more intentional with your e-commerce internal linking efforts? Then read on!
Essentials on Internal Links of E-Commerce Brands
- On-page SEO strategies should include a strong internal linking strategy, even though this often gets ignored in favor of backlinks.
- E-commerce websites, with numerous URLs, present a unique challenge.
- Balancing internal linking opportunities with the need to guide customers through the sales funnel is crucial.
- NPD analyzed 3 e-commerce websites for internal linking patterns.
- Site A, a coffee company, focused on linking to collection pages to guide users down the conversion funnel. This also included blog content in the funnel.
- Site B, an artesian water brand, prioritized informational pages, emphasizing brand awareness and customer education. This emphasizes informational pages, lacking product pages.
- Site C, a bicycle retailer, had a vast number of internal links, especially to category pages, employing a siloed subfolder structure. This prioritizes driving customers down the conversion funnel through collections, reducing the risk of 404 errors
- Best practices for e-commerce internal linking include:
- Using descriptive anchor text to clearly communicate the purpose of internal links.
- Updating old pages with new internal links to pass equity to newer pages.
- Linking to old pages from new pages to maintain relevance.
- Prioritizing internal links to high-converting pages for strategic optimization.
What Makes E-Commerce Internal Linking Unique?
Before we dive into the data analysis, I first want to share why this information is so important.
It’s true that every website has its own unique struggles, including those pertaining to internal linking. E-commerce websites are no different.
So, what’s so unique about e-commerce internal linking?
E-commerce websites often have dozens, or even hundreds, of URLs. This means they are rife with internal linking opportunities, but there may not always be many places to link from.
There is also the concern with keeping customers moving along the sales funnel.
That is, you want to move customers naturally from top-of-the-funnel pages to bottom-of-the-funnel pages. You don’t want to risk interfering with their natural progression.
The good news is that internal links, when used strategically, can help your visitors and even drive traffic further down the funnel. Well-placed internal links are also beneficial for e-commerce SEO as they guide crawlbots throughout your site.
The Linking Strategies of Top E-Commerce Sites: Our Data
Now that you understand the unique e-commerce internal linking struggles, it’s time to consider how you can navigate them.
One way you can do this is to learn what strategies other e-commerce sites use.
That’s where my team at NP Digital can help.
Using Google Search Console (GSC), my team has analyzed the internal linking profiles of three of NP Digital’s agency clients. The objective is to identify a common theme within each brand and answer two key questions:
- Which pages are these brands clearly targeting?
- Why are these brands targeting those pages?
If you’d like to perform a similar analysis for your brand, simply log in to your GSC account and head over to the “Links” section. Here you can see your top linked pages, both external and internal.
First up, we have a coffee company based in the United States.
Based on GSC, Client A has 5,841 total internal links.
The top three linked pages, making up 15 percent of internal links, are the:
- Blog landing page
- Store finder page
- Build your own package page
As we dive deeper into the list of internal links, we see a healthy share of collection pages. As an e-commerce website, this isn’t surprising. After all, we’d expect the brand to link to collection and product pages within blog posts as a way to drive traffic further down the conversion funnel.
You may be asking, why direct traffic to collection pages versus product pages? You’re right, the product page is further down the funnel than a collection page. However, by linking to collections instead of product pages, you’re strengthening the subfolder as a whole. In addition, this avoids putting your users in a situation where it feels like you are making a decision for them. If that happens, they may just leave your site altogether.
Collections, also referred to as categories, are an important part of a website’s hierarchy. They establish the relationship between items, and they can be used to create unique item relationships for special events like sales and holidays.
Collection pages also tend to be less volatile than product pages.
While products may be discontinued or out of stock, collection pages tend to be more permanent fixtures. By linking to categories versus product pages, you’re reducing the odds of needing to redirect internal links down the line.
Of course, Client A does link to products here and there; but total links to collection pages are in the thousands, while total links to product pages are in the hundreds.
In addition to collection pages, Client A also has a high number of internal links to their blog. To improve their internal linking profile, they could create subject matter blog posts that enable them to group like URLs together. This would serve as a sort of “collection roundup,” enabling them to create reciprocal (i.e., link from blog post to collection page, link from same collection page to same blog post) internal link pathways.
Next is an artesian water brand based in the United States.
Client B has significantly fewer links than Client A, totaling just 1,374.
Client B also clearly takes a different approach to its internal linking strategy.
Whereas Client A largely linked to their collections subfolder, Client B’s top 10 pages are informational pages. Client B does have the capability to sell its products on its site, however, their priority appears to be customer education. The top three pages are:
- About us
- Delivery service terms
These make up 34 percent of all of Client B’s internal links.
One interesting thing to note is that Client B does have a /products/ subfolder on their site, but they do not internally link to any of the product pages.
Perhaps you’re wondering isn’t Client B concerned with conversions? It doesn’t appear to be so.
With a brand like Client B that relies largely on their distribution channels for sales, they likely aren’t as concerned with website conversions. Instead, they use their website as a way to build brand awareness and educate their customer base.
Last but not least is a bicycle retailer based in the United States.
This client has the highest number of internal links in our analysis by far, with 7,743,886.
Their top linked page is their shipping information page, followed closely by two category pages. These three combined make up just 2 percent of their internal linking instances.
One interesting thing to note about this website is its use of siloed subfolders.
What do I mean by that?
When you have multiple levels of category pages, you’ll typically see that items in the lower-level categories feed into the higher-level category. Let’s look at Urban Outfitters as an example:
Within the Casual Dresses sub-category, there are 290 products. These feed into both the Dresses sub-category and the even larger Women’s category.
With Client C, that’s not the case. Items within a sub-category on their website do not feed into the larger category. This means all items on their website are siloed. The category pages are simply buckets for these items and not relational databases like we typically think of category and sub-category pages.
It’s also difficult to analyze Client C because they don’t use the traditional /product/ or /category/ subfolders. We cannot filter within GSC to see exactly how many links are categories versus products. Instead, the subfolders are each given highly specific names and, again, they’re not related to one another.
Regardless, we can see many of these collection or high-level categorical pages are receiving a large number of internal links.
We can also see that blog pages are the recipients of some internal links, but it’s not possible to easily narrow down the exact number. This is because each blog article has its own specific URL outside of the /blog/ subfolder, similar to the product and category pages.
Insights From Our Findings on E-Commerce Linking Practices
As our analysis clearly showed, there are various e-commerce internal linking strategies.
If there’s one thing to take away here, it’s that internal linking can demonstrate a brand’s top priorities.
For two of our clients, Client A and Client C, there is a fair amount of internal links pointing to collection subfolders. This was more clearly seen with Client A based on their website structure. However, even though Client C’s collection subfolders were siloed, we still saw significant internal linking activity.
What does this tell us?
Namely, that Clients A and C are concerned with driving customers further down the conversion funnel. With collections, there is less risk of 404 errors so for many site owners, this is preferable to linking directly to products.
In addition to driving traffic to collection pages, Client A is also looking to improve the individual equity of their blog posts. Therefore, they are driving more internal links there.
This tells us that they’re looking to include more blog content in their customer funnel. This is a smart step, as it creates space for both internal and external linking opportunities.
Client B, on the other hand, has more internal links to informational pages and no links to product pages. This may be a sign of their distribution model, which is largely focused on external sales versus e-commerce sales.
With all of that said, it’s important to work backward from your end goals when building an e-commerce internal linking strategy. Is your site more educational or conversion-based? Details like these will make the difference in what types of internal links are best.
Best Practices for Internal Linking for E-Commerce
Whatever your strategy, there are some universal e-commerce internal linking best practices to follow. These best practices are especially important when it comes to avoiding common e-commerce SEO mistakes.
- Use descriptive anchor text. It’s best practice to use clear anchor text that tells users exactly what to expect when they click. This is especially important when linking off-site.
- Update old pages with new internal links. In general, older pages on your site will have greater link equity. As such, it’s important to use those old pages to pass equity to newer pages on your site.
- Link to old pages from new pages. As pages age, their relevancy may decrease. You can increase that relevancy—in the eyes of users and crawlbots—by linking to older pages from newer (i.e., more relevant) pages.
- Link to high-converting pages. When linking internally, it’s never a bad idea to strategically optimize your returns by linking to high-converting pages.
With these strategies in place, you can boost page performance in no time.
What is internal linking?
Internal linking is the practice of linking from one page on your site to another page on that same site. This is different from external linking, which occurs when a website links from a page on their site to a page on another website.
Do internal links help SEO?
Internal links help SEO in two big ways. First, internal links can pass link equity from one page on your website to another page on your website. This is a great way to increase the equity of new pages. Second, internal links make it easier for search engines to crawl and index the pages on your website, which may make it easier for you to rank on SERPs.
How to build internal links for e-commerce SEO?
To build internal links for e-commerce SEO, you want to consider relevancy, relationship, and value. More specifically, the relevancy of the page you’re linking to, the relationship between the two pages, and the value of the two pages. You should prioritize linking to relevant pages that are hierarchically linked (e.g., categories link to sub-categories) and have (or you wish to have) high value.
Do you feel like you need to improve your e-commerce internal linking efforts? Now you know how!
With the data above, you can begin to outline a strategy for your own website. Just remember that your overall marketing priorities should shape the internal linking strategy you choose.
This will make it easier to see gains in the metrics that matter most to you.
Do you have questions about internal linking for e-commerce? Leave them in the comments below.
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