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Internal Linking for Ecommerce Websites

internal linking

Internal linking is without doubt one of the most important technical SEO considerations for website owners. Internal links help users navigate around your site with ease and help search engines understand how it is structured and better assess the importance of the pages.

Internal links are particularly important for ecommerce websites, which generally tend to have vast amounts of similar pages. This can create a confusing experience and can result in categories and products becoming buried deep within your website architecture.

So, Why Does Internal Linking Matter?

  • User Experience – Internal links (should) first and foremost help your customers get where they need to go, in this case to your relevant categories and products.

    It’s easy to get bogged down worrying about what Google thinks of your website instead of what’s best for your users, which can lead to spammy, messy internal linking. Focusing on users first will yield results with the search engines. It’s even the first item of Google’s own philosophy.
  • Content Relevance & Indexability – Now we’ve made our main focus our users, we can then start to think specifically about search engine optimisation.

    Internal links help crawlers find and index your pages. There are millions of websites out there and innumerable web pages to crawl and index. The fundamental way crawlers do this is following links from website to website and page to page.

    Making it easier for search engines to find your page through internal linking is good SEO practice. Pages that aren’t linked to at all become orphaned from the website altogether.

    If a page is well linked to on your website, that’s a pretty good indication to a search engine that the page is important to you and your customers, and worth sending users to. 

All in all, effective implementation of internal linking can help your customers, improve conversion rates and boost rankings.

Before You Get Started…

The first step towards improving your internal linking is ensuring that you have a clear idea yourself of how the website taxonomy is structured. If you manage a small to medium sized ecommerce website, an easy and extremely worthwhile task is to map out the pages in an excel sheet or perhaps more visual format, that you can always refer back to.

This is also a good time to do some keyword mapping.

5 Internal Linking Ideas for Ecommerce

Here are some of the best ways you can improve internal linking on your ecommerce website:

#1 Optimise Your Main Navigation

Your main navigation is the overarching layout of your website’s internal linking structure. Ensuring it is simple to use, inclusive and technically sound is an absolute must for ecommerce. Links from your main navigation also carry a lot of weight from an SEO perspective.

  • Be Inclusive But Don’t Overcrowd– prioritise your pages by importance to your users firstly and then from an SEO & Business perspective. Ensure all of your main categories are linked to before moving onto any subcategory pages and try your best to not overload these, avoid creating a wall of links that overwhelm users and make things harder to find. Review internally with your ecommerce managers seasonally to give priority and placement to those pages most important to users at the time of year. Analyse the user flow in Google Analytics as well as best converting pages and what users search on your website for to discover which pages are most important.
  • Consider Anchor Text Usage– If you’ve keyword mapped out your pages you should have a good idea which keywords you’re looking to target. Some product groups have synonyms with similarly high usage, double check which anchor texts you’re using in your navigation to help rankings for the terms you really want to rank for.
  • Check for Links to Non-indexable Pages– Often ecommerce websites will have to use parameter URLs or have duplicate pages that are canonicalised. Sometimes these can accidentally find their way into the navigation and you end up with a situation where one of the most valuable internal links on your website is to a page Google isn’t even going to index. The best way to check if a page is indexable is using Google’s URL inspector tool.
  • Ensure Links Aren’t Obscured From Search Engines by Javascript– We know Google is pretty good at rendering JS now however it’s important to make sure we’re making life as easy as possible for it to find the links in our navigation and not hide them completely. Some website navigations that use JS don’t include the navigation links in the initial HTML load, instead waiting for a user interaction, like clicking on a main category to reveal subcategory links, to then update the DOM with these links. Double check in Web Dev Tools (right click + inspect on your website) that you can find all of your navigation links within the HTML source code without user interaction.

#2 Implement Breadcrumb Navigation

Breadcrumb navigation gives a visual representation of your website structure to users and a pathway for them to follow between the hierarchy of pages. This can be particularly helpful if you have multiple layers of categories and subcategories within your ecommerce store.

When discussing implementation with your developers it’s important to ensure these links are static on the page and thus visible to crawlers. There are some instances where implementation can be dynamic which still provides value to users but has no bearing on search engines.

Depending on what CMS you use, your developer may be able to implement breadcrumb navigation much easier by simply matching the taxonomy of the URLs e.g. homepage.com/main-cat/sub-cat

This is not always possible however. With Shopify for example, the URL structure is very flat out of the box (https://www.pavers.co.uk/collections/flat-mary-jane-shoes is the URL of the above image). A strong, coherent internal linking structure can still be created using the breadcrumb navigation without having to migrate all of your URLs themselves to a different structure.

#3 Related Category Module Links

Related category module links are a great way for you to highlight relevant related product categories to your customers with optimised anchor texts, increase links to high priority pages and boost the rankings of these pages.

#4 Improve Links in Your Onpage Copy

The most obvious place to improve internal linking on your ecommerce site is through the onpage copy. This could be in the category page descriptions, homepage or blogs.

There are a number of tools that can find internal link opportunities without you having to manually look for them yourself. Ahrefs for example will find internal linking opportunities based on unlinked keyword mentions your pages already rank for within your existing content:

Make sure to always share ideal internal linking opportunities when briefing in new and optimising existing content, do not let this come at the cost of the quality of the content though.

#5 Consider Dynamic Content & Links on Product Pages

Consider introducing content at a product page level based on product attributes. Depending on the size of the website and product range you can either do this manually or discuss a tag system with your developer that pulls content onto the page dynamically.

Within the content discussing the product attribute simply include a link back to the category page being discussed, as seen in the image below. This helps both users find similar products via the category page and creates a myriad of horizontal internal links from your product pages.

Conclusion

Internal linking for ecommerce and website hierarchy will likely be a large and ongoing task that needs to be constantly adapted and worked on as ecommerce websites naturally evolve with the ebb and flow of products coming in and out of the business. 

Hopefully you have found the main implementations above useful but bear in mind, as with all websites, they will need to be discussed and rolled out alongside other members of the team such as UX specialists, ecommerce managers and developers, which can take a while. 

This is admittedly quite a complex and nuanced process. If you need help and support with this aspect of your organic search strategy or feel your team would benefit from some consultancy and training, get in touch with us today.

Get in Touch

Concerned you’re not pursuing the right strategy? Worried you’re not getting the results you should be? Let us know. We’ll take a look for free and give you our honest verdict.

Alternatively, if you’d like to have an informal discussion about the results we can help you achieve, get in touch. We’d love to meet you for a chat over a coffee or a beer.

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  • Marcus Hearn

    Marcus has spent his career growing the organic search visibility of both large organisations and SMEs. He specialises in technical SEO but he’s obsessed with curating strategies that leverage expertise and unlock potential.