The importance of internal links and backlinks to website SEO

Many factors influence website SEO, but hyperlinks are a vital component of ensuring pages rank highly in search results

Tuesday, 4 April, 2023

You probably don’t think much about search engine optimisation, yet it’s central to the internet and how we use it.

Without website SEO, it would be extremely difficult to find answers to anything.

The online experience would be akin to the Dark Web, where reliance on message boards is essential to find content beyond the reach of search engine web crawlers.

These crawlers are endlessly combing through the world wide web – also known as the surface web – to catalogue and organise the ever-evolving oceans of available content.

Having determined what’s out there, search engines use complex algorithms to determine the order in which their results are listed in response to specific user input strings.

It’s these algorithms which determine that the BroadbandDeals website should display first if you search for our name in your web browser, rather than entering the full website address.

(You can tell a website hasn’t been effectively SEO’d when other pages like its Wikipedia entry come ahead of it in search results).

Black magic

Search engines like Bing and Google are fiercely secretive about the precise formulation of the (incredibly complex) algorithms used to rate and rank webpage content.

If they were completely transparent about their methods, marketing agencies would simply cheat their way to the first page of results using any means at their disposal.

We’ve seen this sort of black hat marketing in the past with concepts like word clouds and link farms – formerly commonplace SEO boosting techniques, now effectively verboten.

What we do know about these mysterious algorithms is that internal and external hyperlinks are hugely valuable.

These are the bold blue bits of text on this page, like this link to a recent BroadbandDeals story about ChatGPT.

Because it connects to another page on the website, this is known as an internal link.

If another website published a link to that story on their own site, it would be an inbound link – also known as a backlink.

These are even more valuable in terms of SEO than internal links. The external website is saying it values this content so much, it’s willing to let its own visitors leave in pursuit of it.

Since the amount of time spent on a site is also an SEO ranking factor, it’s not in Company A’s interests to provide a backlink to Company B’s website unless it’s a worthwhile resource.

That’s why backlinks are highly valued – and why companies are often desperate to acquire them, providing free content to third-party sites or offering their employees up for interview.

How is this monitored?

Search engines don’t stop working once you click on a link on their results. They’re monitoring everything you do online.

If you visit site X but leave after 30 seconds, the search engines conclude the content wasn’t relevant or of value. They do the same if you’ve followed a backlink to the site only to depart immediately.

On the other hand, if you spend ten minutes on site Y, it implies Y contains higher quality content. This will boost B’s future ranking results slightly over X, which will be correspondingly downgraded.

With less than ten per cent of Google users navigating to page 2 of search results, achieving a coveted first page (top ten) website SEO ranking result is hugely significant.

I’ve got a website. Should I worry about links?

The simple answer is yes.

If you’re developing or launching your own website, internal links and backlinks are invaluable to quickly increasing ranking results.

A new website will struggle to achieve a high SEO ranking result because some factors (how long it’s been live, how frequently it’s been updated) will count against it.

It will also suffer if its top level domain is obscure, or commonly associated with low-value content.

Without extensive content to hold audience attentions, it might have short average visit durations, while limited content reduces any scope to incorporate SEO-friendly keywords.

Internal links and backlinks represent one of the easier ways to maximise website SEO, working towards a respectable position in future search results.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!