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Internal Linking Strategies for Topic Clustering

Internal linking in SEO is the most powerful tool at your disposal to clearly state the depth of knowledge over a particular topic cluster. That way, search engines can contextualize and understand better your topical authority.

internal linking topic clusters

Building a topic cluster on your blog requires you to write several pieces of content covering a core topic, as well as related concepts. It is a must-do for any topical SEO expert. Using the right words and writing style matters. Yet, internal linking is the most powerful tool at your disposal to show search engines how your article relates to other pages.

Each article you write about covers (hopefully) at least one topic. You will generally mention a few keywords carefully handpicked for that article. But this article is not the only article covering or mentioning, the given topic. Instead, you generally have multiple blog posts discussing multiple topics and some topics may appear in many of your published pages.

Google has its very own knowledge graph where it already knows what subject matters a given concept is connected to, and how strong is that bond. However, you need to show Google that you also have that expertise in your domain. How is this done, you ask? Well, by using a solid and constantly updated internal linking strategy.

There are various strategies you can implement in order to boost your internal linking signals. Most people adopt one of the below plans without realizing it, and many more mix them to suit their content marketing strategy.

The easiest internal linking strategy in SEO is to simply add links to related pages. For instance, if you have written about coffee beans in the past, and are today writing about coffee machines, there is a high correlation between both pages so adding a link from one to the other makes total sense. If you write many articles related to Coffee, you will have (without even realizing) created a topic cluster through such interlinking.

The main downside for this internal linking SEO strategy is the fact that you are giving a wrong sense of priority or importance to older pages. Oldest pages receive inbound links from newer articles. Yet, old pages do not have outbound links since the content was nonexistent back then. A good piece of content tends to receive inbound links, it’s a known truth in SEO. But that’s harder to do for newer articles you publish! Unless you decide to manually go through your old content inventory and add links to your recent articles. And trust me, you should.

Additionally, your are meshing your content without real thought-through effort or planning. What I mean by that is that you add links to relevant pages without a conscious effort to structure how all of these relationships will be perceived by search engines and users.

Instead of simply adding links to relevant pages, the content editor or blogger should plan its content strategy ahead of time, or revamp it now. The idea is to create a pillar page to cover a given important topic for your brand or blog. These pillar pages are hubs that will link out to articles answering precise questions, or blog posts digging even deeper. Yet, all main pieces of information should appear on your pillar article. For example, if you have a blog about dog food, you may want to arrange your content structure the following way:

internal linking strategy
Have your internal links show structure and create topic clusters.

A pillar page specializes and comprehensively covers a specific topic. This topic must be broad enough to be written about and narrowed down over time. If your pillar page is the end all be all of that topic, then it is probably too narrow. The pillar page should link down to all of its direct children articles — think of it as a textual category page. Each article should be linked to from the right textual context. Therefore, structuring and outlining pillar pages in a human-readable way is crucial for search engines to understand the context of each link. That’s the “many links down” part.

The “one link up” simply says that each article should link to its parent pillar page. Obviously, one article can overlap different pillar pages so add links accordingly. You do also want to add some links to other articles but very carefully as otherwise you will make the pillar page less relevant, and blur out the entire hierarchy of your article. You should want to link to other articles only if they are a “perfect match” to avoid dilution.

Following this strategy from the beginning of your blog’s life will help you keep a clear structure. Additionally, it will make browsing your website easier for visitors, and search engines. The information about a given subject matter resides in one lane with the main page, and plenty of articles to back that cornerstone article up. It is easier to navigate and find the piece of information you are after. The last thing you want to offer your prospects is a blog section with endless “Previous” and “Next” pages. Such a spartan setup only works for small blogs.

Make Old Content Great Again

The problem I faced while running a content-driven website is that I published hundreds of blog posts over time. New articles are easy to link out from. Indeed, you have a library of hundreds of existing blog posts covering many facets of your domain. But what about the older content? There is no mystery here… You must go back and rework on every single old article.

Mainly, when editing old articles, you want to:

  • remove outdated parts and inaccurate data,
  • rework on your old article’s outline and titles
  • write more information (you gained expertise since then, right?), and
  • add links to the relevant fresher pieces of content now published.

Going back in time is a very tedious task. Especially for those having hundreds of published articles living on your blog. Yet, it is very much needed for multiple reasons.

Google and other search engines do not enjoy websites having inaccurate or badly written content. When we start a blog, we generally write articles in a certain way and then learn how to do better. These old pages are most likely poorly written compared to your modern posts. Rewrite these old posts in a more actualized style. Change the outline as well to structure the content better. Alter introduction and conclusion to make them more to-the-point. And at last, add all the missing links. Surely, you wrote again about topics this old piece of content covered and link that new content up. If you have created pillar pages and hubs in your content strategy, absolutely add links to these!

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