Google’s John Mueller answered a question about internal linking and emphasized that internal linking beyond site breadcrumb navigation is one of the “biggest things” a publisher can do to tell Google which content is most important.
In children’s stories, a protagonist might venture into a forest and leave behind a trail of bread crumbs that they can follow to avoid getting lost.
The website likewise provides a “breadcrumb” path in the form of breadcrumb site navigation so that the visitor of the site can navigate back through the site’s website structure.
A breadcrumb usually starts on the home page, then goes to a category page, and then to the article.
Home > Category > Article (You Are Here)
Breadcrumb structured data
Breadcrumb structured data is a reflection of breadcrumb navigation which is part of the so-called internal mobility.
Internal navigation makes it easy for site visitors to navigate through the website, going back and forth between the categories and subcategories of the website to find interesting things to read.
Breadcrumb structured data Tells Google what the website’s category is about.
- This class is about x.
- This class is about y.
- This class is about z.
Breadcrumb navigation is reflected in the structured data, which is the context for what’s being discussed.
Is breadcrumb structured data enough for internal linking?
The person asking the question wanted to know if setting up structured breadcrumb navigation was sufficient for SEO internal linking.
this is the question:
“If you have structured data to set up breadcrumbs, does internal linking still matter for SEO?”
Internal linking is important
Google’s John Mueller responded by saying that internal linking is an opportunity to communicate something more to Google than internal navigation links can.
John Mueller answered if internal linking matters:
It’s something where internal linking is crucial to SEO.
I think it’s one of the biggest things you can do on a website to kind of direct Google and direct visitors to pages that you think are important.
And what you think is important is entirely up to you.
You can decide to make the things that matter where you make the most money or you can make the things that matter where you are the strongest competitor or maybe the weakest competitor.
With internal linking, you can really focus things on those trends and those parts of your site.
And that’s not something you can replace with structured data.
So just because there’s structured data on a page somewhere, I wouldn’t see that as a replacement for a normal internal link.
Even if you also provide URLs in the structured data, we don’t use those URLs in the same way as regular internal links on a page.
So it’s definitely not the case that hreflang annotations replace links between country versions or breadcrumb annotations replace links between different levels of a website.
You should already have regular HTML links between the different parts of your website.
And ideally, not only should you have a core set of links, you should look at them strategically and think about what you care about most and how you can highlight that with your internal linking. “
Why is internal linking important?
John Mueller didn’t say internal correlation was a ranking factor. He just said it’s a good way to tell Google which pages of a site are important.
If we step back a bit and look at how a website is structured, the site structure in a traditional website is 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 layers of categories and subcategories across the site navigation, topics go from very general (at the top) to way more and more specific, at the bottom of this hierarchical site structure.
The larger the site, the more pages it has, and the more likely an important page is to get buried and remain forgotten in the torrent of content.
What John Mueller suggested is that Strategic internal linking 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 quickly reach content of interest.
As Mueller recommended:
“…you should look at it strategically and think about what you care about most and how you can bring that out through your internal association.”
The importance of internal linking is not to “trick” Google into thinking the web page is XYZ-appropriate.
It tells search engines which pages are most important.
An internal link is just a way to point to your important content and ensure that search engines can find and rank it.
Internal linking is critical to search engine optimization (SEO)
Watch the video at the 25:14 minute mark: