Internal links are the threads that hold together the fabric of a website.
A website without internal links transporting visitors from one point of interest to another is not going to be providing the best experience. Without links, a website is not much more than a loosely bound collection of pages. Links in the right places engage with visitors who want to know more, drawing them into your site, moving them around and holding their attention.
How do I manage my links?
Starting with a mass of ideas for blog posts is one thing. Keeping them together within the structure of a website is something else. Learn how to manage and keep track of your big ideas without using post-it notes, big walls or marker pens.
There’s no question about links being important, but they are often overlooked by the experts … because they look so simple.
Why should I manage my Links?
It happens … but it’s frustrating.
For your visitors, being presented with nothing is a pain, and usually, it’s going to make them want to look somewhere else. If you’re lucky, they might look somewhere else on your site, but then again, they might not.
If they don’t look somewhere else on your site, then they’re away, off, gone … and they may not come back.
Broken links are one thing, and you should be checking for them. They are usually caused by errors, and you can fix them.
These are not the links I am talking about. The links that have my attention are those that you want to link to pages that you haven’t yet written.
You know the story. You want to link one page to a second, but the second page doesn’t exist. It will do, soon, once you have written it but you haven’t written it yet. How do you manage links to pages that you haven’t written?
If you set the link live on the originating page, your visitors are going to see an “Oops!” message when they click on the link because there is nothing at the other end. This is not good for the visitor experience and it’s not good for the site SEO.
Manage links with post-it notes.
You could manage your future, as yet unwritten, links with post-it notes.
Here’s an example:
I am writing a post about tracking links in posts, and I am going to be using the Pyramid Model for numbering the posts (for my use, not for site navigation). It occurs to me that a quick explanation of the Pyramid Model that I am thinking of might be useful, but to write about it here – in a post about how to manage links – could be distracting, and could have a negative impact on the site SEO.
I am writing post number 2.4.2 – about tracking links – and I make reference to the Pyramid Model as an approach to numbering them. I haven’t yet written the Pyramid Model post and I don’t want to create the link because it will lead to the “Ooops!” message.
I also do not want to create a dummy page because they don’t look particularly good (even though at the moment I do have some across the site) and I am not sure how long it’s going to be before I can get down to writing it. I don’t know how long the dummy page would need to remain.
What I need is to be able to write a “holding paragraph” where the link will eventually go, so the original post hangs together, and then I need to keep a note of the proposed link, its destination and its purpose.
How do I manage the links?
Using my Pyramid Model for numbering, I know that the “Pyramid Model” post in this case is going to be post number [3.2.1].
You can now see that there are opportunities for links to pages that I haven’t yet written (here they’re in green) and here there is also an opportunity to link to the “Pyramid Model” post from the picture of the post-it note … but I can’t do it on the site without creating my own little problems.
I am currently writing post number [2.4.2], and I can use the post-it note to record and manage the links.
You can look at the post-it note future link management ideas right here. It’s probably worth reading anyhow because the approach to managing links using mind-mapping software is based on the manual post-it note process.
Using post-it notes means that you can manage your unwritten links, and no one apart from you will notice anything. It works fine if you want to use it, but you’re going to end up with a lot of post-it notes.
It’s possible to use the same post-it note ideas and do the same thing using mind-mapping software, without the pile of post-it notes.
Manage links with Mind-mapping software
If you are running a monster website with the sort of big income that we can only dream of, I dare say there are tools that will manage your pages and the relationships between your pages. I don’t know, I haven’t looked. To be honest, I’m not even sure that I would know the right questions to be asking.
What I do know is that we’re not there yet.
We have the ambition and we have the challenges that go with that ambition, but we don’t have the cash! But … even if there was some fancy software out there, it would probably be overkill for the first few hundred pages. It would also probably come with costs that we could well do without.
We know what we need to do, we need to be able to manage our links.
We know that we can use post-it notes to manage our links, or maybe we could try something else.
Mind-mapping software is brilliant for developing new ideas … almost as brilliant as doing it all manually with a whiteboard. Its brilliance doesn’t stop there, mind-mapping software is also brilliant for keeping track of your current ideas … and to manage links to and from pages that you haven’t yet written.
Manage links with iThoughts
I have been using iThoughts on the iPad for a long time. Then I found iThoughtsX, which is iThoughts for the mac, and as you can see, it’s designed in Yorkshire.
And there’s more.
Click on the image and you will see mind-mapping software for iPad, iPhone, mac and Windows. I have all of them … because I use a mac and I also use a PC – no misplaced device loyalty here, though I have to say it was a bit of a different story before Windows 10 came along.
The software for the mac and the PC work nicely together. I have the iThoughts files stored in the cloud, so it doesn’t matter where I am or which device I am using … and if you have one of them, you can get a 70% discount on the other.
At this point, I will say that I have spotted an affiliate marketing opportunity. That wasn’t the original intention but as I was looking for the current iThoughts pricing, I noticed that my fellow Yorkshireman was using Fastspring as his e-commerce partner. I followed the links and saw that there was an affiliate program. I was going to wait until I was writing posts about Affiliate Marketing, but then I thought: “why not?”
You can read all about it in the Affiliate Marketing section, once I have written it!
I have applied to the program but I haven’t heard back yet. When I do I shall edit the page accordingly. I have already made the notes on my iThoughts mind-map.
Creating a mind-map to manage links
Creating a mind-map is about identifying and developing a set of interconnected ideas, and then representing them visually. Whiteboards and post-it notes immediately spring to mind. Ideas can be moved around and relationships can be amended. Ideas can also be deleted.
It’s dynamic, and it’s useful, but it’s not really what we’re looking for. We’re not developing ideas, we want to use the relationship management functions to manage the links across the site, and specifically to manage the links that haven’t yet been created.
So, we’re adopting the ability to move stuff around, but once we have added a page reference, we want to stop moving it around. We are trying to build a process that prevents changes to permalinks because changes to permalinks are not good … and there will be a link here to a page on permalinks and why changes to permalinks are not good.
In order to illustrate the point, I am using the iThoughts software to represent Blooger.Me and its menu structure. You can see that the first two numbered columns look pretty much like the site menu bar, which is intentional, and the second column feeds into individual posts and pages. There are actually quite a lot of posts and pages but I am only showing a small number here – the ones that we are discussing.
I am using iThoughts to represent the website. I was writing post number [2.4.2] when I referred to the “Pyramid Model for numbering”. I thought that it would be good practice to write an article on the use of the Pyramid Model, thereby avoiding any confusion, and then to link to it from post number [2.4.2].
I was able to represent this using iThoughts. I then added the Pyramid Model [3.2.1] under the Project Management [3.2] menu tab, and gave it its own colour. The grey balloons are complete, the coloured balloons are still to be completed. I then showed the link between “track links in my posts” and “The Pyramid Model” by connecting the two together on the page.
Hint: In iThoughtsX, click on the “to” balloon first, then holding down the cmd key (on the mac), click on the “from” balloon. Both balloons will now be highlighted, and clicking on the “link” icon will reveal an arrow from one to the other. The link icon is fourth from the left, the one with the double-headed arrow.
Whilst writing this, I now realise that there should also be a link from here (the page you’re on now) to the Pyramid Model, and so in my version of the mind-map, I now have a coloured arrow running from [188.8.131.52] to [3.2.1].
Once a post is published and all the links requirement shave been fulfilled, I can change the colour to grey.
The whole point of this exercise is to avoid links that don’t go anywhere and to avoid place-holder pages that serve little purpose, thereby avoiding any potential negative impact on SEO that you might read about.
It might be fiddly and it might not be for you, mind-mapping software is useful for helping to generate ideas and article structures, but using it to manage links is free.
What have I learned?
Website links, both internal and external, are key elements of the website, providing its structure and framework.
Starting a blog is not quite as simple as the experts will go to great lengths to tell you it is.
As a beginner, most of the questions I would like answers to, aren’t answered.
You can manage your links by repurposing mind-mapping software.
Be on the lookout for Affiliate Marketing opportunities.
We can all do it.