Internal links are super critical for SEO
Google’s John Mueller answered a question about internal linking and claimed that internal linking that goes beyond navigating the site’s breadcrumb is one of the “greatest things” a publisher can do. can do to tell Google what content is most important.
In children’s stories, a protagonist might venture into a forest and leave behind a trail of breadcrumbs that they can follow in order to avoid getting lost.
A website similarly provides a “breadcrumb” trail in the form of site navigation so that a site visitor can navigate back through the website structure of a website.
Typically, a breadcrumb starts at the homepage, then goes to a category page, then to an article.
Home > Category > Article (You Are Here)
Breadcrumb Structured Data
Breadcrumb structured data is a reflection of breadcrumb navigation which is part of what is known as internal browsing.
Internal navigation allows site visitors to easily navigate a website, move back and forth between categories and subcategories of a website to find interesting things to read.
Breadcrumb Structured Data tells Google what a website category is about.
- This category is about x.
- This category is about y.
- This category is about z.
Navigation on the Breadcrumb site is reflected in structured data, which is the context of what is being discussed.
Is Breadcrumb structured data sufficient for internal linking?
The person asking the question wanted to know if implementing breadcrumb structured data navigation was sufficient for internal linking for SEO.
This is the question:
“If you’ve configured structured data for breadcrumbs, are internal links still important for SEO?”
Internal links are important
Google’s John Mueller responded by stating that internal links are an opportunity to communicate something more to Google than internal navigational links can communicate.
John Mueller answered if internal links matter:
This is something where internal linking is extremely SEO critical.
I think it’s one of the most important things you can do on a website to guide Google and lead visitors to the pages you think are important.
And what you think is important is entirely up to you.
You can decide to make it big where you make the most money or you can make it big where you are the strongest competitor or maybe the weakest competitor.
With internal linking, you can really focus on those directions and parts of your site.
And it’s not something you can just replace with structured data.
So just because there’s structured data in a page somewhere, I wouldn’t see that as a replacement for a normal internal link.
Even though in structured data you also provide URLs, we don’t use these URLs the same way we would use normal internal links on a page.
It is therefore certainly not true that hreflang annotations replace links between national versions or that breadcrumb annotations replace links between different levels of a website.
You really should have normal HTML links between different parts of your website.
And ideally, you shouldn’t just have a basic set of links, but rather look at it strategically and think about what interests you most and how can you highlight it with your internal linking.
Why internal links are important
John Mueller didn’t say internal linking was a ranking factor. He just said that it’s a good way to tell Google which pages of a site are important.
If we go back a bit and look at how a website is structured, in a traditional website, the site structure looks like a pyramid.
The top of the pyramid is a small dot that usually contains general information about what the site is about and what it offers.
As you click through the category and subcategory layers through the site navigation, the topics go from very general (at the top) to increasingly very specific, well at the bottom of this site structure pyramidal.
The bigger the site, the more pages there are and the more likely it is that an important page will get buried and remain forgotten in the avalanche of content.
What John Mueller suggested is that strategic internal networking is a way to direct Google and site visitors to the most popular or important topics.
Thoughtful use of internal linking can help Google and site visitors get to important content quickly.
As Mueller recommended:
“…you should look at it strategically and think about what interests you most and how can you highlight it with your internal linking.”
The point of internal links is not to “trick” Google into thinking a web page is relevant to XYZ.
It tells search engines which pages are most important.
Internal links are just a way to point to your important content and ensure that search engines can find and rank it.
Internal links are super critical for SEO
Watch the video at minute 25:14: