Long before the concept of “interlink” or “blog” ever came about, we had newspapers and magazines. As I grew up, my taste in these things changed. Sports Illustrated replaced kids magazines, and then Time, local newspapers, and Popular Science replaced those.
But the way I consumed the periodicals remained largely the same. I had columnists that I liked, and each week, I’d look for their columns. I read most of what they put out.
If you’re anything like me, you probably ported this to consumption of blog posts. You find a site or blog that you like, and you subscribe to it with a service like Feedly. And then you read most of the posts when they come out.
Because of this tendency of us readers and because of historical precedence, we make assumptions about how people consume our blogs. And this isn’t good because we tend to make the wrong assumptions. In fact, we tend to have entirely the wrong mental model for our blogs.
We tend to think of them as columns in periodicals. But we should view them as interlinked pages, a la Wikipedia.
The Interlink Idea in Simple Terms
When you find yourself at a Wikipedia page, you’re often doing some kind of research. You might find the bit of information that you needed and then close the browser. But, if you’re curious or bored, you might also follow the numerous links to other Wikipedia pages in any given article.
This is no accident. Wikipedia is designed to let you move fluidly through the site, binge reading to satisfy your curiosity. In fact, in a bit of meta-trivia, Wikipedia actually has a page explaining a phenomenon whereby clicking on the first interlink on each Wikipedia page you arrive at will eventually lead you to their philosophy page. Pretty weird, huh?
For our purposes, the main point is that Wikipedia entries are heavily interlinked. If you were to plot a graph of the whole thing, it would look like a gigantic, complex spiderweb. All too frequently with our blogs, however, they would look like a straight line, with the occasional links to other posts.
We want them to look like spiderwebs. And a deliberate interlink campaign is the key to that.
The Mechanics of Interlinking
Alright, so what exactly does this entail? How do you go about linking to other blog posts on your site? Well, you have a lot of options.
- The most obvious strategy is natural, in-post links. This can be as simple as “in my last post, I talked about…” Or you can work a link into the flow of the post, the way I might do something like this if I were talking about guest posts.
- You can create a separate call to action at the bottom of each page, encouraging visitors to visit some specific page. For instance, check out Hit Subscribe client SubMain’s post where there’s a link at the bottom encouraging you to learn more about GhostDoc.
- Speaking of that blog, take a look at the side gutter on the right. It has a widget called “Latest Articles” with links to, you guessed it, the latest articles. This shows you that not everything has to be in-post linking.
- Similarly, a lot of blogs have a “popular posts” section. This is a good tactic because you’re supplying links to your readership’s favorite posts.
- And finally, the various site navigation menus and things like tags and categories give readers another means to explore your site.
All of these provide slightly different ways to turn your blog post into a web of links, a la Wikipedia. And all of them should play a role in your approach.
Why Do We Do This?
At this point, it’s fair for you to be asking why you should do this. I mean, I’ve just been explaining what it is and telling you to do it so far. You’re probably thinking that it sounds like a lot of work, and you want a good reason to go to all that effort. So let’s take a look at the motivations.
It Helps With SEO
First and foremost, consider the SEO angle. Search engines work their magic by finding your site and crawling it. They go searching through all of the pages that they can find, filing them away to show to searchers.
The main mechanism for this searching is actually called a spider, reinforcing the web of links metaphor. These spiders find a page, index its content, and then move on to do the same for any pages you’ve linked to on that page. The more links you have on each page, the more pages the search engines will find. If you have an “orphaned” page that nothing on your site links to, the search engines may actually never find it.
So one of the biggest motivations for lots of interlinking is to make your site as attractive as possible to the search engines who will index it and determine its placement in search results.
It Lowers Your Bounce Rate
Bounce rate could (and probably will) be the subject of its own post here on this blog. But for now, take a deep dive if you want by checking out this Kissmetrics post about it. I’ll just summarize by defining it quickly. Bounce rate is the rate at which visitors to your site visit one single page and then leave (via the back button, closing the browser, typing in a different URL, etc.).
For the overwhelming majority of sites, you don’t want users bouncing after they land somewhere. This holds doubly true for Hit Subscribe’s target audience. You want visitors to find your site through search or social share. And then you want them to click on other pages, ideally landing somewhere like the page containing your offers. The best outcome is that visitors become customers.
But for anything good to happen, they need to not just show up, read a few paragraphs, and close the tab. There’s nothing worse than a reader who lands on your site, is interested in your content, but bounces, not knowing where to click next.
It Promotes Longer Range Engagement
If you’re a new Hit Subscribe visitor, I’d love nothing more than for you to read this page, click on our offerings, and decide that you’re ready to invest in us as a content partner. But let’s be realistic. That home run doesn’t happen very often.
You need to build trust with your readers, particularly the new ones. And an interlink strategy helps you do this. It subtly steers them toward additional content of yours, encouraging them to keep reading through your site.
A realistic outcome that you want is for new visitors to read that first page and like it. Then, they’ll look for more content and find more that they like. This will prompt them to subscribe to your RSS feed, bookmark your site, or sign up for your mailing list. (You do have a mailing list, don’t you?)
Some Hacks to Make It Easier
Hopefully, you’re now convinced of the merits of this practice. But whether you do it or not is another matter. I mean, most people are convinced of the merits of regular exercise and flossing, but that doesn’t mean they prioritize these things.
So how can you make it a little easier on yourself? While not exactly daunting, it can feel cumbersome to start doing this if you’re not already used to it. Here are some tips:
- If you have a column-like style to your tone, you can easily get in the habit of linking to your last post, saying “last time…”
- When you plan topics, plan ones that build on one another—a series of posts. These will have a natural reason to interlink.
- If you think you’ve talked about something in the past that you’re currently referencing, stop and do a quick google search of your own blog. If anything germane comes up, include a link.
- On the flip side, when you write a new post, google your blog to see if you’ve mentioned that concept in past posts. Update them with a link to your new post.
- If you want to invest a bit of money, the paid version of Yoast has a feature where it will suggest links to you.
All of these things can and do help. But truth be told, if you just practice this, you’ll get used to it and it will become second nature.
It’s Truly Worth the Effort
And you should practice it. It’s worth the effort and it will benefit you in all of the ways that I’ve mentioned. It will help your site, your stats, and your SEO.
But beyond that, it will help your readers. If they like your content and find it helpful, more often than not they have a little voice in their head saying, ” I want to read more.” Offering them a lot of interlinking choices in each post lets them do just that—and they’ll get the most value they can out of your blog.