Since the various Google Panda updates hit, a greater importance has been placed on on-site SEO. Sites with bad internal link structures were smacked, that is sites which link to the same pieces of content with different URLs, sites with large amounts of "thin" content such as tag archives, member profile pages, search result pages and so on. I had to do a lot of reading about this to try and improve our onsite SEO for WPLift.
One thing I found out was that your site's internal linking structure is very important - sites that did well in the updates grouped together similar content in "hubs" which helps Google know which content is related, its also good from a user's point of view as it provides them with more content they may be interested in. For example rather than having a menu or footer which links to every section on your site, you would split the site into main sections and have a "hub" page for each section which then links out to topics on that subject, these pages then all link back to the "hub" page.
This sort of structure should be created by hand so you can ensure everything is tightly related so today Im looking at a plugin that will help you do just that. No Sweat Internal links ( excuse the cheesey landing page ) is a plugin which allows you to create different types of internal linking structures and will inject the links into your posts or pages and allow you to change them as you like from a central page - a lot easier than manually adding links to each page. Because it allows you to manage your links from the plugin page you can also experiment with different linking structures quite easily.
Creating Linking Structures
Once you have activated the plugin you will see a new menu item added named "No Sweat Internal Links", if you visit this you can enter your license key and choose two introductory texts. Introductory texts are what will go before your link is added, so for this I chose "Further Reading on This Topic" and "Check out More about This Topic". You then have a choice of placements for where the link will be injected, choose from Top, Bottom or Shortcode placement. Finally on this page you can choose which post types you would like to show links on.
Now you can visit "New Structure" and being creating your first one. On this page you will see at the top, 4 different linking structures : Hub, Ring, Web and Star. You will need to choose one of these so lets take a look at what each one and what you can do with it.
The Hub structure is probably the simplest but most powerful one, it is a series of pages ( or posts, or other post type but I will refer to it as pages for this guide ) which all link back to one main page. Examples of this would be a page that you want to drive traffic to or rank highly in the search results as it is your "money page" such as a product signup page or an affiliate review etc.
If you would like to create a Hub structure, on the "New Structure" page, tick the "Hub" box and name this structure something relevant so you can identify it. Then you can choose the number of "Nodes" which are pages pointing to your main target page.
I chose 3 nodes and then you can then choose which main page you want your nodes to be linking to, For this example I chose our Free WordPress Themes of the Year post which is your "Target", you then choose a "source" for each node which is the post that will be linking to it. For each one I chose a relevent post on the same topic. You can then enter anchor text for each node - you can keep this the same or as I did, enter a slight variant for each one, I chose "Free WordPress Themes" , "WordPress Free Themes" and "Best Free WordPress Themes".
If you then visit one of your "node" pages you will see the link has been added where you chose to place it, linking back to your "Target" page.
The Ring structure is also quite simple and is designed to get people to stay on your site by providing a link to another page on the same topic, sort of like how the Next and Previous post buttons work in your theme but you can choose topics which are closely related which increases the chance of the reader being interested.
You can choose the number of nodes again and pick a "source" post which will then populate the "Target" for the next node, leading around in a ring pattern.
The web structure is a little more complex and is basically a combination of the two previous structres - each page will have two links on it, one pointing to a main target page like the Hub structure and also will point to another related page like the ring structure.
Setup for the Web structure, note that each node will link to 2 target pages, the main hub page and the next ring page.
The last type of link structure you can choose is called the "Star" which is a more complex version of the "Ring" stucture - each post will link to the next in a circle pattern like the ring, but will also have an additional link across to another post in the structure:
To use this structure you will need a minimum of 4 nodes and will need to define two links for each one, picking your first source will populate the next node and so on.
Internal linking is definitely something you should be doing on your site to provide more weight to the pages you choose rather than just relying on using WordPress categories, archives, tags and whatever navigation structure your theme uses. By carefully planning your linking structure and using a plugin like this you can direct "link juice" to the pages you wish to target which if you are competing for a certain search engine ranking may just give you the edge over your competition. You can grab the plugin for $17 here.