Link strategy: Internal links vs. backlinks

David Mercer

One of the biggest goals of any startup, blogger or webmaster is to drive traffic to their blog or site.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is arguably the most commonly used method for increasing the flow of traffic through a site.

However, on-site SEO (read more about the difference between on-site SEO and off-site SEO in the article “On-site SEO vs. off-site SEO“) only really helps to increase the amount of organic search traffic. It doesn’t say anything about how to channel that traffic, or how to get traffic via alternative methods.

Building backlinks

Off-site SEO focuses on any aspect of SEO that isn’t part of your own site. In other words, off-site SEO is the discipline of building backlinks through social networks and other media.

Backlinks are arguably the most important single component of an online marketing/SEO campaign because they not only help to drive traffic, but also further increase your PageRank and therefore likelihood of appearing high up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

You can learn more about how to build backlinks by reading these articles:

From these articles, it’s plain to see how the content produced needs to be targeted, engaging and relevant so as to stimulate debate and the likelihood that more people will see and share it further. But backlinks only bring traffic to your site. They can’t direct traffic around it, the way you want.

Effective Internal links

Backlinks drive traffic to your site, but that is less than half the equation because once traffic has arrived at any given page (most likely a blog post), you want to move it to a landing page to convert it. A landing page is basically a page designed to “close the deal” – like a dedicated newsletter sign up page, or product purchase page. A conversion is a specific desired action taken by a visitor, that meets one or more of your defined business objectives.

You can learn more about goals, business objectives and conversions by reading the following articles:

However, it’s not just a case of converting visitors and raking in the cash. It is important to be useful in some way or another. That’s why it is critical that you implement a great internal linking strategy that creates an intricate web of cross-references to your other content in a natural way.

This allows traffic arriving at your site to flow organically through your pages to find the desired information. By providing easily understood and accessible options to browse your content, you allow people to find exactly what they want (it might not be in the article they arrived to read, but in a linked piece of content).

Visitors who find what they are after “reward” you by following you or tweeting about your content, or simply word of mouth recommendations.

Internal Links vs. Backlinks

So which is more important, internal links or backlinks?

In this case, I would say that backlinks only just pip an excellent internal linking strategy at the post. The reason being that backlinks are responsible for driving traffic to your site in the first place. It is better to have eyeballs on the page than not.

However, it may help to look at the situation like this: Backlinks are the fuel that drive the engine. But the actual work is done by the internal links that help visitors quickly and easily move to the content they want.

People who find what they want on your site are far more likely to funnel through to a landing page and convert, or drive more traffic to your site through various social media and other commendations.

The following articles, courses and services will help you to learn more about how to manipulate traffic to meet your business objectives:

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