Adding keywords to your internal linking is still effective, but you must be careful to not go too far. You should be internally linking with keywords, but you want to be sure it is done in a natural way.
The fact of the matter is, there is still a lot of power that internal links have when you use descriptive words. This is one way Google deciphers what a page is about – all the keywords in the anchor text that you link to on your page.
But there is also another factor. And that is how often you link to your page. So keep that in mind as well.
The following are tips to help keep your on-site optimization more natural, so you don’t get dinged by Google for over optimization.
Tips to adding keywords to internal links
1. Make the content flow naturally
This is the most important factor. If your content flows naturally and the anchor text doesn’t feel inherently spammy, you should be good to go.
My take is you shouldn’t worry too much about the over optimization, as long as you content flows and you are varying the keywords of your internal anchor text, in a natural way, that fits into the content.
2. Think about Co-Occurrence
Joost at Yoast brings up a great point about co-occurrence:
If you over-optimize anchor text you might hurt your website. And by over-optimizing, we mean keyword stuffing. Previously, you could give all anchor texts the same keyword and Google made your website rank higher for that keyword. Nowadays, Google is smart enough to understand that the content around the anchor text says more about the relevancy of a keyword than the anchor text itself. So make sure the anchor text looks natural in your copy: it’s fine to use keywords but don’t add the exact same keywords to each and every one of your anchor texts.
3. Think about the click worthiness
After reading about Google’s reasonable surfer patent, I realized that all links (both internal and external links) – their strength of the link is based on the probability that someone would click on it.
So making your links stand out to visitors – the click worthiness of the link, the difference in color, etc. should all help.
4. Link to other pages naturally
I say link to whatever page you want, however, you want, as long as you are doing it naturally and in the benefit of the user. So this means sometimes I will include longer anchor text phrases (i.e larger part of a sentence) into the internal link’s anchor text. This allows me to add internal links without changing the flow of the content.
5. Vary your anchor text
When you focus on user experience and add in anchor text naturally in your content, the content still flows nicely.
However, if you try to stuff keywords, and the same keyword over and over, it may reduce the quality of your writing.
When you add in keyword rich anchor text that is natural (i.e you didn’t have to rewrite a sentence), it will naturally vary your keywords in the internal links.
You can manually change your keywords to try to target certain keywords, but just do with care and make sure that the content flows.
6. Use LSI and keyword variations
Using keyword variations, synonyms and LSI keywords has the advantage of topical modeling and helps you rank your pages for a variety of keywords.
Examples incorporating LSI Keywords/ Keyword Variations to the Anchor Text
If I want to rank one of my pages for “white hat link building guide” for example, instead of linking 30 of my internal pages with the anchor text of white hat link building guide, I would choose a variety of keywords.
Why? Because if I kept using white hat link building guide as my anchor text, it may sound unnatural. It may not always work. You may just have more general terms like white hat link building, white hat links, white hat SEO, etc.
Assuming I am not doing it on the fly, I may create a prior keyword rich anchor text strategy for a really important page.
For this example, I may choose the following anchor text throughout other pages, to link back to my main landing page about white hat link building:
Exact match and Partial Match anchor text with your internal linking:
- White hat link building guide (exact match anchor text)
- White hat link building tutorial
- Guide to building white hat links
- Link Building Guide
LSI keywords or related keywords in your internal linking
- How to build natural links
- white hat link building
- white hat SEO
- white hat backlink
- whitehat backlinks
- white hat backlinks
- white hat techniques
- white hat link building techniques
- link building techniques
- Longer phrases that include descriptive anchor text
Google will see all these keywords and the algo may decide my page is relevant to the main theme of “white hat link building.” If so, I would likely rank for many “white hat link building” keywords, assuming the article offers immense value and I get a lot of links to it. This example needs lots of links since SEO topics like this are very competitive.
So what if, instead of varying the keywords like my above example, you only used the exact match anchor text of “white hat link building guide” throughout all your pages?
I think this scenario is still okay, assuming the content still flows. (Update for 2019: I do not think this situation is still be okay. I believe the march update in 2018 targeted over-optimization and I believe it will harm your site if you use too many exact match internal links)
Obviously, if you take anything to the extreme and it takes away from the user experience, anything can be bad. However, if you are natural with your internal linking, you should have no worries about it causing harm to your site.
With that said, it is optimal to vary your internal linking with LSI keywords. This allows you to have content that flows more naturally without keyword stuffing your content. It also potentially allows you to show relevance for a wider variety of keywords.