For•ward•link•ing – v. the act of inserting links to newer posts into older posts.
Ok, full disclosure time… that’s not a real word. I made it up. But, bear with me… it’s worth learning about just the same!
Conceptually, it’s quite simple, and based on the ideas of Backlinking and Deep Linking.
Backlinks are when one website links [back] to another website. They’re usually provided for the purpose of citation or reference, and are highly sought after for SEO reasons.
Deep Links are when a blog post within your website links to another, older blog post within your same website. They’re also used as references, hoping that readers of the new blog post will dig deeper into your site by way of these links.
So now we come to Forward Links which, as mentioned above, are used to link to newer posts from older posts. Allow me to illustrate.
I have a post, The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile, which gets tremendous search traffic every day. Sure, it’s got links within it (deep links) to other articles and posts within my site, as well as a few external links (backlinks) to other sites. But what about those other LinkedIn-related posts in my archive? Couldn’t they be working to generate even more interest in that Ultimate Guide?
Benefits of Forwardlinking
We’ll go through the mechanics of setting up forwardlinks in a moment, but let’s first make sure we fully understand the benefits of doing it.
Virtually No SEO Benefit
I know, I know… I said we’d go over benefits and the first thing I do is tell you something forwardlinks won’t do. That’s because I want to state from the outset that it’s unlikely you’ll achieve any SEO benefit from this technique. It’s possible you could get a bump from the extra links, updates to content, and perhaps an uptick in traffic from the referral posts… but don’t count on it. Any SEO bump is pure gravy.
Here’s what you will get:
Fresh Set Of Eyes On Old Content
While you’re checking out old posts, looking for a place to insert a link, review it for overall correctness. Is it still valid and up-to-date? Or are there some things that need to be corrected. Screenshots of social networks, for instance, are the bane of my existence. I have dozens of old blog posts that could use new screenshots. If you don’t have time to make the updates right then, that’s fine, just note the post in a spreadsheet and prioritize those that get updated.
Easy Call To Action
If you haven’t been religious about inserting a call to action into every blog post, here’s an easy one for you. On any related articles that don’t already have a CTA, put one in that simply suggests they’d be interested in reading the newer article for more information. In the case of my example above, I had a post about the benefits of LinkedIn groups, and inserted a call to action – to get your profile cleaned up – right into the middle of the post.
Deep Referral Traffic
For the same reasons we want to put deep links on our new posts, we should be putting forward links on our older posts. If you have decent blog posts in your archive, they should be getting traffic daily. It might just be one or two readers, or perhaps hundreds, but the traffic should be there (if not, make sure that you’re optimizing your blog posts and re-sharing your evergreen content to social). Therefore, when those readers hit those old posts, they’re just as likely to click a link within the post to another article of interest as with any other post you might write and publish.
Reduced Bounce Rate
And if those readers on older articles are clicking through to some of your other posts, that will help reduce your bounce rate on those older articles. And, well… ok, yeah, that can positively impact your SEO. If Google sees fewer and fewer people clicking Back off your content, that’s a positive ranking signal to Google to send more traffic to those posts. And it looks nice on your monthly reports.
Increased Time On Site
You know what else happens if people click through to more than one article on your site? They spend more time reading. That is actually a metric that Google looks at: Time On Site.
The longer someone clicks around in your site, the more they must like it, and Google sees that as a super positive signal.
Which means, yes, there actually are SEO benefits to forwardlinking (but only if readers click the links).
This is perhaps my favorite reason for forwardlinking: if you’ve taken the time to create a fantastic blog post or article, make sure that it gets placed in a prominent location on social profiles, your About page, or perhaps your Bio. Maybe even your email signature. The idea is that in all of these locations, you should be referencing some of your best works so that new contacts might get an idea of who you are and what you’ve done. On my Google+ profile, for instance, I listed 4 – 5 of my “best” articles. When I realized that my LinkedIn profile guide wasn’t on the list, I was quick to add it. Make sure you leverage the great content that you’ve created to increase your perceived authority in your niche.
How to Implement Forwardlinks
Now that you know why, let’s get into the how. And that’s relatively simple, depending on your blog platform.
Hopefully you have a Site Search implemented, or a tagging system, or some way to be able to pull up a list of all past blog posts that have a particular keyword or tag. For instance, I used my Site Search to find all posts that mention LinkedIn. It took about 5 seconds.
If your blog is powered by WordPress, you can use the SBI! for WordPress plugin to more easily connect blog posts targeting the same topic.
Next, right-mouse click on the title/link of any blog post in the list that you might want to update and open it in a new tab (leaving your search list intact).
Review that post, looking for the best place to insert your link. That may involve adding an extra sentence or two. You can use the title of the post, or just some words that are related and link them. Whatever makes the most sense under the circumstances.
Save your changes and close the tab, moving onto the next post in your search list.
And that’s it! Your total time invested will depend of course on how many posts you have in your archive that can accept a link logically. I spent about 20 minutes updating a couple dozen posts in my archive (and then took a few minutes to write up this blog telling you about it).
So anytime you have a new blog post, or even an old blog post that you want to make even better, think about what other content you have in your site that you can potentially forwardlink from.
For more tips and ideas on how to promote your new blog posts, be sure to read the full checklist at How To Promote Blog Posts For Maximum Visibility.