Strategies to Grow Organic Blog Traffic: Use Internal Linking Wisely
Ever since Google rocked the world wide web with its Panda updates, bloggers have been a little afraid of using strategies that once worked to increase organic search engine traffic. Google has made it clear that a comprehensive internal linking strategy works to gain SERP ranking.
Why Should Bloggers Fuss With Internal Links?
The most important reason to generate internal links between pages and posts is to capture visitors in a natural way. First-time clicks are incredibly hard to win, and your bounce rate will go down if readers can explore a topic deeply on just one site. Multiple page views also expose visitors to your message many times in subtle ways, so internal links are absolutely necessary for bloggers who are trying to make money online.
Almost as important, a good internal linking strategy helps search engines recognize that you're not just some random blogger posting random information. Bots follow internal links to see how everything is connected. When bots arrive at a destination page from several angles, they place higher importance on the destination—and that improves organic rank in search results.
Create an Internal Linking Plan for Your Blog
Ideally, every page and post will refer to at least one other page or post—with emphasis on the most important (such as your sales page, contact page, a particularly popular series of posts, etc.). Don't leave any orphans because no matter how good the content may be, an orphan loses its power if it's not part of the overall plan. Make blogging easier by formulating and writing down your internal linking strategy.
Here's a broad plan: Each time you create a new post, include HTML links within the body that point to something else on the site. Never say "click here" for these references; turn keywords and phrases into links. It's hard to go overboard, but to avoid irritating readers use 10 or fewer internal links in an average-length blog post. Link to recently published posts as much as possible, but don't be afraid to go back even a year or two to revive an old topic. As your blog grows, create more connections between posts.
Draw a Blog Site Map for Bots and Spiders
Drawing site maps used to be a big pain involving web masters and shelling out a few hundred dollars to get it done right. Bloggers are blessed with plugins that automatically generate site maps—but not all plugins are created equal for gaining organic search engine position.
You could wrack your brains for hours deciding which plugin to choose, but basically what you want is one that (a) indexes posts, pages and categories; (b) creates a destination sitemap page on your blog; (c) generates both an XML and an HTML sitemap; and (d) dynamically creates the map and pings search engines every time the blog is updated. Your final step is to submit the URL of the sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools and Google News (if appropriate for your blog's topic).
"Retrofit" Your Blog's Internal Links
Whether you've been blogging for six months or six years, all is not lost if you haven't been keeping up with your internal linking strategy. Spend a few hours with your most popular posts and topics to improve organic search engine results.
Edit published blog posts to include internal links throughout the content. Over time, articles that are published weeks apart may relate to each other in an organic way, so point back (or forward) to similar subjects. As long as you're in editing mode, point each post to a main page within your blog so visitors and bots can take advantage of relationships between topics.
Internal Linking: Worth the Time and Effort
It's more important than ever to improve your blog's rank in organic search results. By following a comprehensive internal linking strategy and retrofitting previously published posts to fit the new plan, you'll gain search engine position and improve the visitor experience.
So write down a plan, including how each new post connects with others and your main blog pages. Make HTML links within the content to keep readers clicking deeper and deeper within your blog. Install a plugin to help you automatically generate a sitemap and remind search engines that you've updated with fresh content. Follow the plan from this point forward and you'll be pleased with your search engine rank position.
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