Content Linking Management

In this lesson, we look at effective content-linking management practices.

Content Linking Management

In this lesson, we look at the challenges of linking to content online and effective content-linking management practices.

Link Management - https URL against planet earth in space background.Links help users navigate your content and are an essential part of search engine optimization.

The ability to link content to different pages or sections of your website and other websites is what makes the World Wide Web the World Wide Web.

Without the ability to link content, all you would end up with is something like…well..we’ll let the video below explain it:

While many marketing sites provide excellent information on effective ways to build a content-linking strategy to boost your site’s traffic and SEO, the focus of this lesson is on how to effectively manage your content links.

In this lesson, we look at content linking, the challenges of linking to content online, and how to manage links effectively on your website and other digital assets.

Content Linking Basics

While most of us are familiar with content links (called hyperlinks), it will help to understand the challenges of managing links in your content if we start with a basic overview of what links are made of and the different types of content links used on the web.

What Is A Content Link Made Of?

Take a look at the illustration below. It shows how a content link is created, with each part of the hyperlink broken down and labeled.

Anatomy of a hyperlink
Anatomy of a hyperlink

Let’s look at the parts of the hyperlink shown above:

  1. Start of link tag: This bit of HTML code is called an anchor tag (hence why it starts with an “a”). The opening tag informs web browsers and search engines that a link pointing to some destination is going to follow. An entire anchor tag includes the opening tag, any tag attributes, the link referral, the anchor text or object, and a closing tag.
  2. Attribute: The href (Hypertext Reference) is an essential attribute of the anchor tag (i.e. the <a> element). It determines the link’s destination and indicates the relationship between pages to search engines.
  3. Scheme: This part indicates the protocol (a set method for exchanging or transferring data around a computer network) that the web browser must use to request the resource. For websites, the protocol is typically either HTTPS (secured version) or HTTP (unsecured version)
  4. Link Referral Location: This is the target link or the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) destination to which the link is pointing. Note: The destination doesn’t always have to be another web page. It could be the address of an image or a file to download. It could also be something other than a URL, such as a specific section of a page or URL (called a jump link – see further below) beginning with a # sign.
  5. Anchor Text: This is the visible text and clickable part of the link.
  6. Close of link tag: This bit of HTML code indicates the end of the link tag to search engines.

As you can see, quite a lot goes into a hyperlink. The example above shows the construction of a very simple hyperlink.

There are more elements that can go into creating URLs, usually consisting of adding different attribute tags to links, such as attributes to indicate formatting (e.g. style="color: #0000ff"), instructions for where to open the links (e.g. target="_blank"), instructions for search engines (e.g. rel="nofollow"), and more.

Additionally, URLs for content like blog posts can have various levels of organizational structure between the domain name and the article title (also called the post slug), including subfolders, post IDs, post date, categories, subcategories, etc.

Blog post URL
An example of a URL for a blog post filed under a category.

For this lesson, we won’t concern ourselves with all the technical aspects of hyperlinks (see the “Resources” and “Reference” sections at the end of this lesson for more information on where to go to learn this), but with the areas dealing with managing hyperlinks in your content.

Types Of Content Links

Let’s look now at some of the different types of links commonly used in web content.

First off, content links typically fall into one of two main types:

  • External Links
  • Internal Links

External Content Links

Links are considered to be external if hyperlinks point from a source domain to a target domain (i.e. a domain other than itself).

In other words:

  • If another website links to yours, this is considered an external link to your site.
  • Similarly, if you link out from your site to another website, this is also considered to be an external link.

External linking is an important part of a website’s search engine optimization (SEO) strategy (also called off-site SEO).

The PROs of external linking include:

  • Links pointing from external websites to yours can help to boost your authority, improve your search rankings, and increase traffic to your site.

The CONs of external linking include:

  • You have no control over who links to your website, what they are linking to, and where they are linking from.

While we provide some useful link management methods and tips in this lesson, external linking strategies are beyond the scope of this tutorial.

If you are interested in learning more about SEO linking strategies (including external linking strategies) see the “Resources” and “References” sections at the end of this lesson.

Internal Content Links

Internal links are links pointing to other URLs on your website.

In other words, when you link to your own pages on your website, those are internal links.

Although all internal links perform the same essential function, which is to help users better navigate your content and help search engines to better understand and index your content, there are different kinds of internal links you can use on your site.

For example:

  • Permalinks
  • Anchor Text Links
  • Jump Links
  • Image Links
  • Category Links
  • Tag Links
  • Archive Page Links
  • Menu Links
  • RSS Feed Links
  • “Read More” Links
  • Pagination Links
  • etc.

info

To learn more about using the different kinds of internal linking methods listed above, see these excellent step-by-step tutorials:

Now that we have briefly covered the structure and types of links commonly used in web content, let’s look at some of the problems you can experience with links and how to fix these.

Content Link Management

Some common problems you may experience using links in your content which can lead to error pages (e.g. page not found errors), wrong destinations, poor user experience, etc. include the following:

Incorrect Links

This includes incorrectly formatted links, misspelled links, links with additional or missing characters, etc., and can lead to a ‘page not found’ error message.

Page not found error message
Oops! That page can’t be found…check your links!

It’s easy to add an incorrect link to content, especially when typing out URLs.

e.g.

  • https:/domain.com/article-name-goes-here (missing slash)
  • https://domian.com/article-name-goes-here (misspelled domain name)
  • https://domain.com/articel-name-goes-here (misspelled post address)
  • https://domain.com.com/article-name-goes-herehttp (additional text or invalid character string added to URL)

Solution:

Check to make sure that the URL has been typed correctly, spelled correctly, copied and pasted correctly, etc.

Content Not Found At Destination URL

This can affect URLs, jump links, links to images or file downloads, etc. and typically happen when content sections or pages are moved to a different section of your website without thought of the consequences (i.e. what about all the links pointing to the content that has been moved?).

Pointing links to content that cannot be found at their intended destination can result in error pages, poor user experience, or both.

Solution:

  • Keep track of changes to page URLs in your documentation.
  • Use the broken link and/or redirection tools (see below).
  • Use a search and replace tool to change URLs used in multiple locations of your site (see below).
  • Use a link management tool to manage links used in multiple locations of your site (see below).

Pages With Renamed URLs

If you rename the URL of a blog post (e.g. by changing the post slug), links pointing to the old URL from other pages (especially external links) or websites can lead to error not found pages.

Solution:

  • In WordPress sites, a feature called permalinks creates an internal redirection if you change the post slug. External links pointing to the old URL can still lead to errors, however, so additional steps may be required.
  • Keep track of changes to page URLs in your documentation.
  • Use the broken link and/or redirection tools (see below).
  • Use a search and replace tool to change URLs used in multiple locations of your site (see below).
  • Use a link management tool to manage links used in multiple locations of your site (see below).

Links To Private Content

Linking to content in private areas of your website (e.g. password-protected pages, membership areas like members-only forums or download sections, restricted areas in server directories, etc.) can lead to “permission denied” errors and error messages.

Solution:

  • Check when copying and pasting links into your content.
  • Don’t publish links to private content on public-facing pages or areas of your website.

Self-Referring Links

Circular reference links occur when links point back to the same source the content originates from.

If you are linking from content on a page back to itself, users will most likely just see the page load again.

However, if you redirect a page URL to itself, the page may go into an endless loop of redirects, resulting in an ERR_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTS error message displaying in your web browser, like the example below.

This page isn't working error message.
An ‘ERR_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTS’ error page.

Solution:

  • Use the redirection tool (see below) and check that you are not copying and pasting the same URL into the ‘from’ and ‘to’ fields.

Pages, URLs, Or Sites That No Longer Exist

External links pointing to pages, URLs, or sites that no longer exist will lead to a ‘page not found’ error.

Solution:

  • Use the broken link-checking tool to fix or remove broken links (see below).
  • Use a search and replace tool to change URLs used in multiple locations of your site (see below).
  • Use a link management tool to manage links used in multiple locations of your site (see below).

Jump Links Not Working

If jump links are not working properly, either nothing will happen when a user clicks on a jump link or they will end up going to a different content section, which can be confusing and frustrating to users.

Solution:

  • Make sure that you have set up your jump link’s anchor and target links correctly (i.e. both the source and destination terms match, and the right link attributes and a # or id have been used in the anchor and target locations).
  • If using WordPress, you can use a plugin like Easy Table of Contents to automatically create and add jump links to your content sections. (This is the plugin used on this site – see the top of this lesson for a live example).
  • For a step-by-step tutorial on using Jump Links in WordPress, go here: How To Create Jump Links

Wrong URL Protocol

Most sites nowadays use the https:// protocol, which is more secure than sites using http://.

Normally, this is not an issue, as sites whose URLs begin with https:// will automatically convert URLs to the right protocol and deliver users to the right pages.

However, if the destination URL points to a site that begins with http:// (i.e. a site that is not secure), visitors may get a warning message like the one shown below:

Warning shown on sites that do not support HTTPS.
This warning message is shown on sites that do not support HTTPS.

Seeing a message like the one above can discourage visitors from visiting the website.

Solution:

  • Make sure your site uses the HTTPS protocol. Many reliable and secure web hosting platforms offer free Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates, which allow you to run secure sites with the HTTPS protocol.  For more information, go here: HTTP vs HTTPS: What You Need to Know
  • Make sure that your links match the destination URL’s protocol (i.e. don’t point https:// URL links to http:// sites and vice-versa).

Non-Clickable Links

Formatting regular content to look like clickable links can lead to a poor user experience.

For example:

This looks like a clickable link … but it’s not! (Go ahead..try to click on it!)

In the above example, the text has been styled and formatted to look like a clickable link, when in fact, it’s just plain text with underlined formatting and text colors that match the colors of a clickable link.

Solution:

  • Avoid styling and formatting your text to look like clickable links. This will only frustrate your website users.

How To Check And Fix Broken Links

Regularly checking your content for broken links and fixing these promptly is an important part of good link management, as broken links can affect your site’s SEO and lead to poor user experience.

If your site runs on WordPress, one of the WordPress CMS plugins we recommend installing on your site is Broken Link Checker.

Broken Link Checker - Detected Links screen
The Broken Link Checker plugin lists all the links found on your site with status reports, anchor text, and where it is located.

This plugin continually checks your site’s internal and external links to help you find and fix broken links.

Broken Link Checker - Broken Links tab.
You can view all broken links in your content in the Broken Links tab.

When broken links are detected, the plugin sends you a report. You can then go into the plugin’s screen and perform various options, such as editing the link’s URL, unlinking it from your content, marking it as “not broken”, dismissing, or rechecking the link.

The plugin also lists any problems that it suspects may be temporary or false positives.

Broken Link Checker - Warnings tab.
If warnings persist for any link, the plugin marks it as a broken link.

You can also view all links you have redirected or dismissed.

Broken Link Checker - Redirects tab.
The Broken Link Checker screen also lists all redirected and dismissed links.

The plugin also lets you recheck and visit any links that you are not sure about.

Broken Link Checker - Redirected Links tab.
Google+ no longer exists…better recheck this link!

For a complete step-by-step tutorial on using this plugin, go here: How To Detect And Fix Broken Links In WordPress

To download the plugin, go here: Broken Link Checker

Link Redirections

Broken links can happen when you move content from one page to another or change the page URL.

For example, let’s say you have a web page on your site called https://www.dreamcar.com/sports and you then rename your page URL to https://www.dreamcar.com/ferrari.

Diagram showing a page that moved to a new URL.
What are your best options for redirecting your website visitors from old pages to new pages?

If other websites are linking to https://www.dreamcar.com/sports and a visitor clicks on this link, they will most likely end up seeing an error page, unless you redirect visitors from the old URL to the new URL.

You can add a “this page has moved” message on the old page and add a link pointing to the location where the content now resides, or…

You can set up a link redirection that will automatically send anyone clicking on a link pointing to the old page to the new page.

Posts Table showing a redirected post.
If your site runs on WordPress, you can easily redirect visitors from old posts to new posts using a plugin.

Redirections are not only useful for ensuring that site visitors reach their intended content, but they can also inform search engines to update their database records with your new content location.

Another use for redirecting URLs is if your site has pages or links pointing to http:// addresses that need to point to https://.

If you use WordPress, we recommend using a plugin like Redirection or any other plugin that will add link redirection codes to your site’s .htaccess file.

Replacing Broken Or Missing Links

If your content links to an external page that is no longer available (i.e. it leads to an error page when you click on the link), then your choices are:

  • Leave the link in the article leading to an error page (not recommended)
  • Replace the link with a link to another site containing similar information (e.g. the same news item reported elsewhere or someone else’s review of the same product)
  • Remove the link altogether.
  • Redirect the link (see the section below)

tip

Another option you can use to leave a link pointing to content that is no longer available (for reference purposes ) when there is no other URL you can point your link to, is to replace the link from the broken or missing page with an existing archived version of the page stored on Wayback Machine.

Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine archives hundreds of billions of previously indexed web pages.

Wayback Machine is a massive historical database of previously indexed web pages. It stores hundreds of billions of archived “snapshots” of web pages (note: these pages may or may no longer exist).

For example, during a recent content review, we found this link in an article leading to an error page:

https://unamo.com/blog/mobile-first-indexing

404 Not Found error
Uh oh…where has this page gone?

The site itself seemed fine but a link to their blog section lead to the error shown above.

While this could simply be a temporary issue that would be rectified in time by the site owners, external links are out of our control, so we decided to replace the link with the archived version of the page stored on Wayback Machine’s servers.

Here is how to do this:

First, visit Wayback Machine and enter the URL of the page you are looking for. This will bring up a calendar listing all previous instances that the page was crawled and indexed by the Internet Archive.

Hover over one of the highlighted dates and click on a saved snapshot.

Internet Archive Wayback Machine
Fortunately, Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine stored the version of the page we are looking for.

This will bring up the archived page.

Internet Archive Wayback Machine - Archived web page
Found it!

Now, simply copy and paste the archived URL into your content, replacing the original link.

So, in this example, we replaced the link shown below that led to an error page…

https://unamo.com/blog/mobile-first-indexing

With this link to the archived version of the web page…

https://web.archive.org/web/20201113031427/https://unamo.com/blog/seo/mobile-first-indexing

Even though the page is missing images and other elements, visitors will still be able to reference the information relating to the link in our content and not an error page.

More info: Wayback Machine

Link Management Tools

Here are some popular tools for managing links, tracking link performance, and managing affiliate links in your content:

LinkTrackr

LinkTrackr
LinkTrackr

LinkTrackr is a web-based link tracking, affiliate cloaking and split testing software used to track sales and leads.

This all-in-one link management tool is designed to enhance your affiliate marketing and sales funnel tracking experience. It lets you easily shorten and cloak your affiliate links with a user-friendly interface that seamlessly integrates with all popular affiliate networks.

Key Features of this powerful tool include:

  • Link Shortening and Cloaking: Effortlessly shorten and cloak your affiliate links for a professional and clean appearance. Compatibility with all major affiliate networks ensures flexibility in your marketing strategies.
  • Link Rotation and Split Testing: Rotate links and conduct split tests on landing pages or offers to optimize conversion rates. Test the effectiveness of different strategies and refine your approach for maximum results.
  • Retargeting Capabilities: Insert retargeting codes on any cloaked link to engage with your audience effectively. Enhance your marketing efforts by reconnecting with potential customers through retargeting.
  • Customizable Redirects: Redirect links based on geo-location, click limits, and expiration dates, providing precise control over your campaigns. Ensure your links are directed strategically for the best user experience.
  • Seamless Integration with Google Analytics: Works seamlessly with Google Analytics, allowing you to track and analyze data effortlessly. Gain valuable insights into the performance of your links and campaigns.
  • Comprehensive Sales and Leads Tracking: Real-time conversion data for every sale or lead in your funnel. Track your entire sales funnel, including upsells, downsells, and one-time offers with ease.
  • Source, Medium, and Campaign Tracking: Easily identify the source of your conversions by creating campaigns to track various channels. Gain a deeper understanding of your marketing channels and their impact on conversions.
  • Intelligent Conversion Rules: Avoid duplicate conversions with intelligent tracking rules that can be easily customized. Tailor the conversion tracking rules to align with your specific promotions and marketing strategies.
  • ROI and Profitability Reports: Detailed reports show your expenditure, profitability, ROI, and other critical metrics. Make informed decisions based on comprehensive data to maximize your return on investment.
  • Affiliate Marketing Optimization: Cloak and track affiliate links to protect your commissions and gain control over your data. LinkTrackr supports major affiliate networks, including ClickBank, JVZoo, Commission Junction, Shareasale, and more.
  • Import Commission Reports: Easily import CSV reports from affiliate networks for in-depth commission tracking. Match Sub IDs to our tracking system for detailed reports on each commission generated.
  • Pixel and Postback Tracking: Streamline tracking for networks supporting third-party pixel codes or postbacks. Automatically integrate affiliate sales data into LinkTrackr with pixel and postback tracking.
  • PPC Campaign Tracking: Centralize and consolidate your PPC campaigns for more effective management. Optimize Google AdWords campaigns with automatic tracking of campaign, ad group, ad ID, and keywords.
  • Keyword-Specific Conversion Data: Identify which keywords are driving sales and leads for better PPC optimization. Track each conversion back to the referring keyword to refine your keyword strategy.
  • A/B Split Testing and URL Rotator: Optimize landing pages and test affiliate offers from different networks. Improve conversion rates and ROI by systematically testing and refining your landing pages.
  • Customizable Tracking Rules: Configure every aspect of your tracking to align with your specific requirements. Customize tracking rules for ad networks, Google Analytics, and other trackers to suit your unique needs.
  • Custom Cookie Rules and Session Settings: Set custom cookie lengths for varied conversion results aligned with your ad network. Customize session length and exclusion settings to define new and unique visitors based on your preferences.
  • Efficient Bot Filtering: Regularly updated bot list ensures real traffic engagement. Optionally add your own bot filters to tailor bot engagement based on your preferences.

LinkTrackr empowers you to take control of your marketing efforts, providing a comprehensive solution for link management, sales funnel tracking, and affiliate marketing optimization.

More info: LinkTrackr

Pretty Links

Pretty Links
Pretty Links

Pretty Links is an affiliate links, link branding, and link tracking and marketing plugin for WordPress.

Key Features of this plugin include:

  • Link Optimization: Create clean, simple URLs that redirect to any other URL, effortlessly turning long URLs into concise ones. Fully configurable slugs with the option to generate random characters or create personalized slugs for your URLs.
  • Seamless Stripe Sales: Unlock the power of PrettyPay™ Links for branded, one-click paths to payment, enabling instant sales anywhere.
  • Versatile Redirects: Support for 301 (Permanent), 302 (Temporary), and 307 (Temporary) redirects, offering flexibility in directing users.
  • One-Click Link Sharing: Centralized area for copying and managing pretty links, simplifying link sharing and management.
  • Comprehensive Tracking: Track the number of clicks and unique clicks per link, providing insights into the performance of your pretty links. Generate highly customizable reports with configurable charts per day, filterable by link, date range, and unique clicks.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Extremely intuitive admin user interface for easy setup and efficient link management.
  • Download Click Details: Download click data for your links with the plugin generating a CSV containing essential information for effective link management.

The plugin also offers a Pro version with advanced features and tools for enhanced link management, such as

  • Product Displays: Create beautifully styled and responsive displays for affiliate links to boost commissions effortlessly.
  • Keyword & URL Replacements: Automate keyword and URL replacements, allowing Pretty Links to scan and replace defined keywords and URLs within your site’s content.
  • Advanced Redirect Types: Take control with cloaked redirects, JavaScript redirects, Meta-Refresh redirects, Tracking Pixel redirects, and Geographic redirects.
  • Automatic Pretty Links for Posts/Pages: Automation feature to create pretty links automatically for new pages or posts, streamlining the link creation process.
  • Link Categories & Tags: Group and categorize links for more straightforward link management.
  • Expiring Links: Set expiration dates for links, deciding where users are redirected after clicking an expired link.
  • Link Health: Weekly scans to identify and report any broken links created within the Pretty Links plugin.

The plugin also offers seamless integration with Google Analytics for easy link tracking and compatibility with other analytics tools for performance insights.

More info: Pretty Links

Rebrandly

Rebrandly
Rebrandly

If you are seeking a comprehensive link management solution, Rebrandly is another tool worth exploring.

Rebrandly provides advanced analytics and tracking features, allowing you to monitor and optimize every aspect of your links.

With Rebrandly, you can create custom tracking links, analyze your traffic sources, and even set up A/B tests to optimize your conversions and fine-tune your affiliate marketing campaigns effectively.

More info: Rebrandly

Bitly

Bitly
Bitly

While primarily known for its URL shortening capabilities, Bitly also offers link management features that can benefit affiliate marketers.

With Bitly, you can create shortened, trackable links and gain insights into their performance through analytics. This tool is especially handy for those who frequently share their affiliate links on social media platforms.

More info: Bitly

Trackerly

Trackerly - Add Destination URL screen
Use Trackerly to manage, redirect, and track the performance of your marketing links.

What happens if you add links to distributable documents such as PDFs, slides, videos, emails, etc., and then change the content’s destination URL on your site?

Or, let’s say that you are an affiliate for a certain product and the company decides to change affiliate platforms, requiring you to change all of your affiliate links or lose out on affiliate commissions.

Affiliate program email
What do you do if you have hundreds or thousands of affiliate links placed on your site and the company decides to change its links?

The best way to handle the situations described above is to use a link redirection management tool that lets you manage thousands of links (some tools even allow you to manage links on multiple domains) from a central location.

For more information and a step-by-step tutorial, go here: Using A Link Management And Tracking Tool

If replacing links to content that is no longer found on a page with a link to another page or site containing similar information (e.g. the same news item reported elsewhere or someone else’s review of the same product), removing the link or linking to an archived web page is not an option, then consider using one of the link redirection tools listed below.

Redirection Tools

Redirection enables you to forward one URL to another. It’s a handy way to not only send users and search engines to another URL while preserving your search engine rankings for that page, but you can also preserve the ‘link juice’ of the out-of-date content by redirecting old pages or posts to new ones with newer and better information.

WordPress Plugins

As mentioned earlier, a great plugin you can use to create automated redirection links is Redirection.

WordPress plugin - Redirection
WordPress plugin – Redirection

See our description of the plugin here or visit the plugin site directly for more information: Redirection

For other WordPress plugins you can use to manage link redirections, see this tutorial: How To Redirect Links In WordPress

SmartCrawl

SmartCrawl
SmartCrawl – WordPress SEO Plugin

If you use a WordPress SEO plugin like SmartCrawl, you can take advantage of SmartCrawl’s Automatic Linking feature, which lets you boost your site’s SEO through internal linking methods by having the plugin automatically link words in your content to other posts or pages on your blog or even external sites.

SmartCrawl WordPress SEO Plugin - Automatic Linking
Activate SmartCrawl’s Automatic Linking feature to automatically link words in your content.

The plugin gives you complete control over your linking by allowing you to specify which post types you want automatic linking to be inserted in and linked to, the minimum lengths of post titles to autolink to, the maximum number of links per post or page, optional settings, exclusions, etc.

SmartCrawl Advanced Tools screen - Automatic Linking.
Configure SmartCrawl’s Automatic Linking feature in the plugin’s Advanced Tools screen.

Another powerful feature of the plugin is URL Redirection, which lets you automatically redirect traffic from one URL to another.

This feature is useful if you have changed the URL of a post or page on your site and want to redirect visitors to the post or page’s new URL.

SmartCrawl WordPress SEO Plugin - URL Redirection
Use SmartCrawl’s URL Redirection feature if you change the URL of a post or page on your site.

SmartCrawl’s URL Redirection feature includes advanced redirection options, such as the ability to use Regex (regular expression), which looks for all URLs containing a specific word in the URL and redirects them to a single URL.

SmartCrawl WordPress SEO Plugin - URL Redirection
SmartCrawl’s URL Redirection feature contains advanced redirection options.

You can download SmartCrawl for free and learn more about SmartCrawl’s Automatic Links and URL Redirection features.

Summary

Linking to content and pages on your site and other websites is essential to having an online presence. Links help users navigate your site and find what they are looking for and having a good linking strategy is important for SEO.

Content linking, however, also presents a challenge, as all your links also need to be managed, especially when the content or pages these links are pointing to get moved elsewhere, or destination pages and URLs are changed, replaced, or removed.

Action Steps

Review your internal and external content linking strategy and implement some of the tools and methods suggested in this lesson to manage your links effectively.

Resources

References

Next Steps

***

Image: https

Linking Content On Multiple Web Pages

How do you interlink content across many web pages when the content on those pages hasn’t even been written yet? Here’s how…

Linking Content On Multiple Web Pages

How do you interlink content across many web pages when the content on those pages hasn’t even been written yet? This article provides helpful content-linking planning tips for larger content projects.

Laptop with network image - Creating Interlinked ContentContent linking is not only good for SEO, it’s also what makes the World Wide Web possible.

While interlinking topic-related content in existing web pages is easy to do, how do you link to content that has not been created yet?

This creates challenges when planning larger content projects with fully interlinked content such as an article series or an online course.

Planning a site like ContentManagementCourse.com is a great example of how challenging this can be. This site launched with over 100 fully interlinked course lessons.

In this article, we show you step-by-step how we created the course content for this site as a practical example of interlinking content across many pages.

ContentManagementCourse.com Content Planning Process

Here’s the planning process we used to create the content for ContentManagementCourse.com:

Step 1 – Set Goals

Our goal is to provide a comprehensive and practical online course to help businesses learn how to manage their content more effectively.

Achieving this goal required planning several course modules with many interlinked lessons covering several content-related areas.

Step 2 – Create A Content Strategy

Based on the goals described above, we defined a content strategy for this site that included creating the following content:

  1. Site Pages – Create standard website ‘must-have’ pages (e.g. Home Page, About Us, Contact Us, Legal Pages, etc.)
  2. Course Modules – Create comprehensive course modules with fully interlinked course lessons across six categories:
  3. Email Lessons – Create a series of emails aimed at helping users to understand and apply all of the course lessons on this site.
  4. Blog – Create and publish new content that expands on the content of existing course lessons, with practical tips and additional information o help users improve their content management skills.
A chart depicting ContentManagementCourse.com's Content Strategy
The main content sections of this site. All sections contain fully interlinked content.

Once the main content sections were defined, the strategy was to implement the creation of the course content and the launch of this site into the following stages:

  1. Set up the site with ‘must-have’ navigational pages.
  2. Create all course modules and lessons with fully interlinked content prior to launching the site.
  3. Launch the site, and
  4. Continually add new content on a regular basis expanding and linking to existing course content.

Stage #2 above is the challenging part and the focus of this article. The other stages are fairly common when developing business websites (i.e. set up and launch the website, then start publishing new content).

After defining the content strategy, the next step was to plan the course content outline describing the modules, lessons, and topics covered in each of these sections.

Step 3 – Planning The Course Content Outline

A simple spreadsheet was used to plan the course content outline, with columns to classify and organize course modules and lessons, track content production, and record information about each item of content created for the site.

The spreadsheet also employed a simple color-coding scheme:

  • White (No highlight) – Lesson planned but not worked on yet.
  • Yellow – Lesson worked on but not completed yet.
  • Green – Lesson completed.
  • Purple – New lesson or blog article to be added later (the content is not required to launch the course. It can be created, published, then linked to and from the main course content afterward).
ContentManagementCourse.com - course content planning spreadsheet.
The course content planning spreadsheet for ContentManagementCourse.com.

Note: In addition to adding course content planning columns, other columns were included for additional information about each content item, so this spreadsheet can be used to perform a content audit and content reviews.

Planning the course and creating the course content outline took several weeks.

Step 4 – Developing The Course Website

Here’s a breakdown of the steps required to complete this stage:

1 – Build The Website

As explained throughout this course, one of the most effective tools for managing content is to use a Content Management System (CMS) and WordPress is the world’s most widely used CMS platform.

So, this site was built with WordPress. All the steps are documented on our free WordPress training sites for non-technical users: WPCompendium.org (free tutorials on how to build a WordPress site without coding skills) and WPTrainingManual.com (free tutorials on how to use WordPress).

2 – Put Site In Under Construction Mode

After building the site and adding basic pages (e.g. Contact Us, Legal Pages, etc.), I then installed and activated an “Under Maintenance” plugin so I could work on the content without making it public.

3 – Add Placeholder Pages For Content

This step is really important for your content linking strategy to work. Careful planning is required before building your content pages.

After setting up and configuring the website (about a week’s work), I then returned to the spreadsheet and began to add “placeholder” pages (pages without content) to the website for each content item that would need to be created.

Note: We used WordPress Posts, not WordPress Pages for our course modules and lessons.

This step was comprised of the following tasks:

After creating a placeholder post for the content as per the above, I then published the page.

The reason for publishing pages instead of keeping these unpublished (i.e. in ‘draft’ mode) was to obtain the actual URL of each course module or lesson and record this on the spreadsheet.

I then used these URLs to link to other course content later.

I repeated this process until all the ‘placeholder’ pages (100+ pages) required to launch this course were created (about a week’s work).

Step 5 – Course Content Production

After creating all the placeholders for course modules and lessons listed on the course planning spreadsheet, the process of researching and writing the course content began.

The aim of this stage was to flesh out each lesson as much as possible and worry about final editing and putting the finishing touches later, so I used the content planning spreadsheet to track content production with most of the content being worked on highlighted in yellow.

While working on the lessons, new content ideas came to mind, and I recorded these on the spreadsheet for later.

ContentManagementCourse.com - Tracking content production on the content planning spreadsheet.
Going from content planning to content production.

Writing the course content for this site took about a year.

After creating all the course content, I then went back and reviewed each lesson, making final tweaks and edits to the content, formatting, and structure, checking that the links worked, etc.

As each item was completed, I added the details to the spreadsheet and highlighted them in green.

When all the rows of the spreadsheet were green, the site was then ready to launch.

ContentManagementCourse.com - Content production tracking spreadsheet.
Tracking content production on the content planning spreadsheet. When all rows were highlighted in green, the site was ready to launch.

As you build out your content, you may discover that you need to make changes to the page URLs that you are linking to (e.g. you may need to assign the lesson to a different post category or edit the post slug).

Changing the URL of a page, however, can affect the existing links in your content. With WordPress, you can easily fix this using plugins like Better Search Replace and Redirection.

Step 6 – Launch Website

With all the initial content created and fully interlinked, the site was ready to launch.

All we needed to make the content public was to deactivate the “Under Construction” plugin. The site then immediately became “live”.

After this, we simply began to implement some basic content promotion methods like notifying the search engines (e.g. by submitting sitemaps to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, etc.) to get the pages crawled and indexed.

Step 7 – Add New Content With Links To Existing Content

The hardest part of creating a large project with extensive content interlinking is getting the content planning right and then building out all of your initial content.

Once this is done, adding new content (e.g. via the blog section) and linking it to existing pages is relatively easy, as the main content structure is already in place.

For example, this article was written after the site was launched. All the links you see on this page were easy to add as all of the content being linked to was already written.

In time, this article may also link to content that has yet to be written.

When/if this content eventually does get written, it will simply be a matter of referring to the notes in the content planning spreadsheet, editing this article, adding a link to the newly-created content, and marking the task as done (i.e. highlighting it in green on the spreadsheet ).

Summary

While linking content between existing web pages is simple and easy to do, planning how to fully interlink content on larger projects can be challenging, as it may require linking to content that hasn’t been created yet.

Here’s the strategy for addressing this challenge in a nutshell:

  1. Create and publish ‘placeholder’ pages to get all the web addresses you will link to in your content project.
  2. After obtaining the URL of all your interlinking pages, start building the content for those pages.
  3. As you build out the content on each of your ‘placeholder’ pages, link your content to other content using their page URLs.
Interlinking content strategy
Creating content placeholders allows you to build out fully interlinked content for larger projects

We hope that you have found this article useful.

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Images: Network, Web Page