Why worry about the links on your website?
Links are a critical part of your website because they do three things:
- Let your website visitor find content on your website
- Help search engines understand how your website content connects to other content
- Give your website credibility by having other high-quality websites link to your site
Types of links
There are three types of links we’ll talk about:
Internal links are relevant links from one page, post, or product on your website to another.
Some good examples of relevant internal links are:
- Your About page to your Services page
- One product page to other related products
- One blog post to other related blog posts, or to the next post in the series
I’ve used the word "relevant" a few times. When possible, internal links should be relevant for the content you are linking to.
Sometimes, product recommendation apps will place “you might also like” links to products at the bottom of your product pages. Which products those links go to may be out of your control. That’s not a big deal.
But for blog posts and other informational links, linking pages or posts that are somewhat related can help search engines make sense of your website (aka good for your SEO!).
Don’t obsess over this, just keep it in mind as you create links!
External links are relevant links from your website content to other websites or online content.
Some good examples of relevant external links are:
- Your blog post to a resource you used for the article
- Your resources page to the websites for the resources you are recommending
- The website for a service provider in a related niche to yours
I’m going to emphasize the word “relevant” here even more. External links can boost your SEO as well. They do that by helping search engines put your website in context with other content you are linking to.
However, search engines ARE smart enough these days to understand if you link to random sites from your content. And you won’t get points for it.
Just link to other sites when it will help your website visitors to do so, and it may help the search engines too.
Backlinks are links from other websites to your website or to specific content on your site. We’ll talk more about backlinks later in the post so I won’t go into more detail here.
Why links are important
Relevant internal and external links can help your SEO. They can also make it easier for your visitors to navigate your site.
You have less control over these, but backlinks from great sources can boost your traffic and your SEO as well.
How to check your links
Let’s start with checking internal and external links on your site. These are the links you place on your site, remember, that link to other content on your site or to other websites.
Check for broken links
First, we’ll check for broken links. Broken links are links to content that does not exist, so the user will see an error page. This can be a frustrating experience for users and is something we want to avoid.
There are tools called “link checkers” that will check your site for broken links.
Here are two free tools:
Dr. Link Check
This tool will check up to 1500 links. It has a very clean dashboard that shows you all the links checked - the broken, blocked, and external links.
It makes it easy to see what’s going on with the various types of links. It offers paid tiers for exporting reports and more.
We talked about broken links – these need to be corrected so that they link to the content you are trying to share.
Blocked links are affiliate or other links that lead away from your site.
Affiliate and similar links are usually marked as “nofollow” links. This means that the search engines are not using them for their algorithm and that's ok. Some links should be blocked, including affiliate links.
This tool also separates external links that go to other content on the web from internal links. Check to make sure the external links are not broken either.
I used this tool on my website to show you an example:
Dead link checker
This tool checks 2000 links per site and shows you broken links. This site offers a simpler list of the broken links on your site, whether internal or external links. The tool offers paid services for automated checks.
Here’s what it looks like to use this link checker:
Note: if you use WordPress.org and a security plugin like iThemes or Wordfence, you may have something called rate limiting in place. Rate limiting may cause a link checker may trigger security protocols. At worst, you could get your site locked down. At best, your link check will be inaccurate.
So, temporarily disable those plugins while you are checking links. Then space out your link checking and just be aware that these free link checkers can be limited. (And don’t run two link checkers on your site at the same time… ask me how I know, ha!)
Don't forget to re-enable your security plugin when you are done.
Check for inaccurate links
Next, let’s check for links that are not broken but don’t lead to where we want users to go.
We can check our internal links for problems. Maybe you moved an offer to another page and forgot to change the link from the homepage?
And we can check our external links for the same problem.
For example, a former client had links from her site to employment forms on various government websites. We checked those links frequently.
Sometimes those government sites would reorganize the forms on their sites. The link would still “work” because the page still existed and the link wasn’t “broken.”
But you wouldn’t see the form you were trying to get to. We would have to find the form and the new link and edit the link on her site.
Check for missing links
This step is a bit different. Instead of evaluating what’s already in place on your site, we’re looking for places that your visitor would expect a link but doesn’t see one.
Are there places in your content that you could add a link to a blog post, product, or page that would make it easier for your visitor to take the next step?
Are there orphan pages where you can’t get back to the main navigation, or you have to click several times to get back?
In particular, any place that you find yourself having to use the back button on your brower - that’s a good place to make sure there are other links to use to get to other places on your site.
As you are reviewing your links, check to see if there are places you could add links. These new links might help users navigate your site and access relevant content more easily.
Here are a few more ideas of internal links that might be helpful to your users:
- One blog post to a related product, or vice versa
- Your Services page to individual service pages for each service
- Product collection to individual product pages
Check for external links that might be useful to your visitors, also. Are there resources you could link to that would add value for them?
What are backlinks?
Ok, we are getting back to backlinks.
A backlink is when someone else links to your website from their content. A backlink is only as good as the quality of the website that links to yours. I’m going to repeat that - a backlink is only as good as its quality. A few high-quality links from leaders in your niche or connected to your niche will help your SEO waaaay more than a bunch of links from low-quality sites.
Don’t forget that Google knows and ranks the quality of websites and the quality of information provided there.
People used to pay or trade for these backlinks to their website like they did (and still do?) for followers on social. That’s not a great idea.
Good backlinks that help your SEO are a bit similar to a getting die-hard follower on social media. They come from good relationships.
So there are two keys to having good backlinks.
- building relationships with people in your niche or in niches related to yours
- creating content that those folks want to link to from their content
How to check your backlinks
There are several options for checking your backlinks. Accuracy varies, so if this is important to your strategy, you may want to use several ways to check. Also, I recommend monitoring your backlinks over time if you are building your backlinks.
Use Google Search Console to check your backlinks. Under "Links" on the Google Search Console dashboard, you can see external (and internal) links.
Here's an example:
You can download the external links and keep track of this information over time, if that's useful to your business.
So please note that Google's terminology is different from what I have here. They are calling "external links" what I am calling "backlinks."
They don't have a category for links from your website to other websites, and they don't report that information.
You can also use a free checker like https://smallseotools.com/backlink-checker/. They will give you limited data for free, but it is a start to see the links they report from other content to your site.
All-in-one paid SEO tools may include checking and evaluating your backlinks as part of their features.
Are backlinks something to spend time on?
Again, it depends on your strategy. It’s ONE way - one small piece - to improve your SEO, but there are lots of others.
If you are focusing on your SEO and building these relationships makes sense, then yes, asking for links from those you are building relationships with might be a good use of your time. The links need to make sense as well - they need to be from and to relevant content on both ends.
If that’s not part of your strategy or you are focusing on other areas of SEO, then I would work on the other areas first.
Anyone who says they are going to do SEO for you and get you a ton of backlinks, especially quickly - I’d be wary of.
How to do backlinks right
Backlinks done right involve relationships.
One example of the right way to do it - is - let’s say you see content that you admire. You engage with that person’s content. You leave comments and engage on social media with them and their work. You make the time and effort to build a genuine - repeat genuine - relationship.
Then - and only then - you might create content that is a review, a response, or a complement to their content.
With that relationship in place, you might get a link from their content to yours.
Can you get “cold backlinks”?
Can you do this cold, where you write content that relates to someone else’s, and then request a backlink from their content to yours?
Is it successful?
Well, how many cold emails do you get? How many do you consider?
Maybe a few.
It CAN work, and some people recommend this as a practice.
I am leery of it, and maybe that’s my introvert cringing at cold emails. I’d much rather build a relationship because there are so many more benefits.
I can’t emphasize enough that this is not a quick way to get traffic to your site. This is a strategy that, done right, is about building relationships. The links you get back to your content will be secondary.
Connections and links make the world go ‘round
We do call it the world wide web, after all!
So the links that connect your website content to and from the rest of the web are critical to being successful in your corner of it.
Also, the internal links on your site help your user to stay on your site longer and find more things they want to see.
The thoughtful connections you make from one part of your site to another helps users navigate easier.
Each one is a way to serve your customer, client, lead, or listener better.
Want monthly reminders to check things like links on your website? Check out Your Website Buddy™!