What Are Internal Links In SEO?

Want to know all about internal links and their importance in SEO? Read our in-depth guide on the topic to gain the required insight.

Photo of Brodey Sheppard
Brodey Sheppard

Internal linking is crucial in SEO as it helps search engines like Google form an idea about your site structure.

The links work to create a hierarchy on the website, giving the most important pages and blog posts more link value or authority compared to the other pages on the same domain. Of course, they also play a crucial role in establishing user engagement, improving site rankings, and facilitating navigation.

What Are Internal Links

But this is just a brief summary of the importance of internal linking in SEO. There’s a lot more to discuss, starting with the basic definition of internal links, and that’s why we’ve come forth with this comprehensive, informative guide.

Here we’ll be talking in length about internal links, the difference between internal and external links, and the need for an internal link building strategy. We’ll also highlight the ways to audit existing links to find new internal linking opportunities.

What Is An Internal Link?

Let’s get right into the answer to the question that forms the basis of our guide. Internal links are hyperlinks that go from any page on a domain to a different page on that same domain for easy navigation. In other words, they point to another page on the same website.

Link To Important Pages

Both users and search engines use these links to find content on the site. Users also use internal linking to navigate through the website to find the content they had been initially looking for. In fact, even search engines like Google depend on internal links for navigation; without them, they wouldn’t be successful in finding pages relevant to the user’s search.

That brings us to the types of internal links marketing specialists usually depend on:

A) Navigation Links

Navigation internal links are hyperlinks directing a page to the other sections and pages of a site. They allow users to find what they had been looking for in the first place by establishing a strong connection between a specific text and the interlinked pages.

B) Contextual Links

Contextual links are hyperlinks relevant to a site within your web content. These internal links point to another page of the same site or a different domain. They are placed contextually within the blog post or article so that they appear natural to the readers (not forced or out of place).

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Internal Links Vs. External Links

Websites contain both internal and external links. While the former helps connect the pages and posts of a website, the latter connects the pages of a website to other sites. External links are equally important in SEO as they allow search engines to know whether or not your website offers useful information.

When several websites have authority in the industry and link to the pages on your site, search engines will receive a positive signal, indicating that the website is reliable. This will allow you to rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

There’s a lot more to know about external links, but today, our prime focus will be on internal links and the internal linking strategies important for SEO.

Internal Links Vs External Links

Why Is Internal Linking Important For SEO?

Internal links pointing to the other pages of a website is a crucial SEO ranking factor. It helps search engines discover the content on your website through easy navigation.

Links From High Quality Pages

If the post and pages on your site have a lot of links, including both internal and external links, Google will consider the content provided to be of high authority. This will help improve your chances of ranking higher on the search results.

To sum up, internal links are useful for the following reasons:

  • Help users navigate any website
  • Spread link equity or ranking power throughout the website
  • Establish the information hierarchy for the website
  • Links pass authority from one page to another

Let’s now explain the benefits of internal link building in detail. In the following section, we’ll be highlighting a few points to understand the importance of internal links in SEO better.

1. Link Value

Search engines like Google usually divide the link value between the links on the web page. Now, the homepage of any website generally has the greatest link value because it includes the most backlinks.

This value or authority is shared among all the links on the homepage. Later, it’s passed to the next page to be divided among the links on that page. So, it’s obvious that your new blog post will get a higher link value provided it’s linked from the homepage rather than only the category page. This will also help Google find the pages on the site much faster.

The basic concept is that a link passes its link value, so adding more links to a post will increase its authority. After all, Google considers pages with a higher number of valuable links as more crucial for SEO, increasing the chances of ranking higher.

2. Understanding The Relationship Between Page Content

Links help Google understand the relationship between the different contents on the pages of your website. It follows the internal links of the site using a bot known as Googlebot.

The bot arrives at the homepage and starts rendering the page. It then follows the first link to determine the relationship between the posts and the content of the different pages. Long story short, internal links help Google understand that the content on a particular web page is related to the content of the various other pages of the same site.

3. User Experience

Internal linking is an effective way to improve the user experience of your website by helping visitors gain easy access to relevant and interesting content. For example, including a product page link on the buyer’s guide for the same product will point the users directly to that page. They won’t have to search for it separately on Google.

Long story short, including internal links in your website will not only increase the average time users spend on-site but will also direct them to the purchase site. They can even be leveraged to improve the site experience and overall search performance.

User Experience Flow

4. Boosts Page Views

The content provided via internal linking should be relevant to the readers so that they will be more willing to read your other articles and blog posts. This will not only increase page views but will also improve chances of boosting conversion rates, especially if you’re a brand or online business.

Furthermore, new visitors will be able to discover your site with ease. Just make sure you optimise the page speed to counter bounce rates.

Visitors Wont Wait Long For A Page To Load

Why Do You Need An Internal Linking Strategy?

When used appropriately, internal links prove to be a powerful tool in SEO, and for that, you’ll need an internal linking strategy. This will help you understand link equity and its relevance in the business; consequently, you’ll be able to use a suitable internal linking structure to achieve business goals.

Keep in mind that the best internal linking strategies influence user engagement metrics, such as conversion rates, page views per session, time spent on a web page. They also impact your rank in SERPs for high-priority, relevant keywords.

Internal Linking Strategies: Create A Good Internal Link Structure For SEO

There are a few points to consider while setting up strategies for internal linking. These factors may differ based on your goals and website, but then this section will help you get started.

The following points should be considered while creating an internal linking structure:

1. Shallow Click-Depth

It’s better to keep the linking structure of your website as shallow as possible, keeping each page accessible within two to three clicks from the homepage of the site. You may also use internal search and tag cloud to ensure smooth navigation in complicated websites.

The goal is to make sure that it takes fewer clicks to reach a page from the website homepage, facilitating a better user and web experience.

2. Linking In The Main Content Of The Page

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are mainly two types of internal links -contextual and navigational links. You may use navigational links in the headers, footers, and navigational bars of the website to help visitors find a related page within the site domain.

On the other hand, contextual links can be strategically placed in the content of your pages. They have a higher SEO value and will help your website rank higher in the SERPs.

So, if you’ve written various blogs and articles about a specific topic, link them to each other to show Google and your readers that they are related. You may link them directly in the form of contextual links in your content or add internal links at the end of the article.

Then again, there are two types of links you should avoid including in your content:

A) Homepage Links:

The homepage of a website already has multiple links, so there’s no point in linking the content to your homepage. Instead, focus on optimising the content of your internal pages to boost the overall SEO strategy of your site.

B) Contact Us Page Links:

Those who are new to the content marketing world make this mistake quite often. They link to their “contact us” page towards the end of the blog post or article as part of their call to action, using anchor texts like “give us a call.”

Refrain from linking the content on your internal pages to the “contact us” page unless absolutely necessary.

In short, avoid linking to the top-level pages of your website, i.e., the pages to which your main navigation menu already has a sufficient number of links. The best links for your site structure should be the most natural contextual links, more on that in the next point.

3. Use Internal Links That Are Natural For Readers

While internally linking the pages within your site, the primary focus should be on adding value and providing relevant information to your readers. The link value that gets distributed throughout your website also provides value to the people visiting the site.

Internal linking also enhances user engagement on your website. After all, when the reader comes across an internal link that matches the content context, they’ll more likely click on it. This can also be an external link; just ensure that the links point to a content source that the reader will find relevant to their Google search.

Internal links are more beneficial for your site. As long as they are relevant and placed naturally within your content, the readers will spend a long time on your site, becoming more involved in the overall website experience.

Content links send strong signals to both users and search engines that the content you are linking to is equally informative and relevant to the conducted Google search. This not only ensures a smooth user experience but also helps your SEO.

4. Including Relevant Keywords In The Anchor Text

Most SEO experts would ask you to refrain from including keywords in the internally-linked anchor text for any particular content or post. But the anchor text should be able to tell the readers what they can expect from the linked source.

Rich Anchors Influence Rankings

Also, including keywords won’t be a problem, provided your content is highly optimised. But it’s important to choose the right anchor text, for which you have to consider three factors:

A) Relevance:

Avoid forcing an exact-match, internally-linked anchor text into your website content. Look for internal linking opportunities to place it strategically so that it doesn’t lose relevance.

B) Keyword Length

Use long-tail keywords in the anchor text to boost SEO rankings for any specific term on the target web page. Just make sure it’s written in a way that searchers would generally conduct a search on Google.

C) Diversity

Diversify the anchor texts wherever possible, but not in a way that might detract from the efforts of optimising your web pages for specific keywords.

That said, plan how you wish to use the anchor text of the internal links. After all, it indicates the connection between two pages on your site and the topic relevance.

Keep in mind that you’ll have complete control over the anchor text to be included in the content for adding internal links. So, make sure you use it in a way that indicates each target page topic.

You may use tools like Google Search Console to identify the long-tail keywords that may not help your web pages rank but enable them to receive impressions.

5. Maintain A Reasonable Number Of Internal Links On Each Web Page

As per the guidelines set by Google Webmaster, it’s better to limit the number of internal links on the web pages to a reasonable number. This will aid user readability while limiting the chances of getting flagged for plagiarism.

It’s also important to note that the first anchor text is usually given more priority than the other, especially if there are many internal links pointing to the same URL. Now, when it comes to specifying the term “reasonable,” in this case, there’s no magical number to simplify things. Just make sure you include as many links in the important pages of your website as it would be beneficial to the readers.

6. Linking Important Pages

Search engines like Google easily find orphan pages (pages that are not linked to any other web page) on websites, but users are unable to. Make sure the orphan pages of your website are deleted, blocked, or linked out from the indexation.

7. Linking Hierarchical Pages

If your website has hierarchical pages, make sure you link the parent pages to its child pages and vice versa. Don’t forget to link its sibling pages as well. This type of internal linking with related pages and posts helps keep a website organised.

8. Use Relevant Links

Never link any page of your website just for the sake of it; make sure you link to content that’s relevant to the source and context of the blog post or article. For instance, a page talking about dog food shouldn’t necessarily be linked to content related to the cat scratching posts.

Build Strong Backlinks Graphic

After all, they are not closely related to each other, so cross-linking one page with the other internally will not lead to any mutual enhancement. But if you have a page on cat food, then it can be linked to the pages on your website that talk about cats as it’s more relevant to readers who are more likely cat parents.

9. Use Follow Links

The best way to build your site architecture is by including follow links on the pages of your website.

Now, the theoretical internal linking strategy in the past was to nofollow links on a page to increase the link juice of the page within the site. But the page rank sculpting didn’t work as a useful SEO strategy.

Let’s talk a bit about nofollow links in detail. The concept of nofollow was introduced by search engines in 2005, which was then known by the attribute rel nofollow (rel being short for relationship). Now, the idea behind rel nofollow was that this link shouldn’t influence the ranking of the link target in the search engine index.

This is because the search algorithms of ’rel nofollow’ links depend on the number of links directing to the pages on the site, which, in turn, reduces the effectiveness of internet advertising. But today, content marketers and advertisers believe that it’s a good idea to include a nofollow tag. The tag will ask Google not to follow a particular link so that no link value or equity is lost.

How Nofollow Links Work On Page Seo

10. Linking To Popular And More Recent Blog Posts

One of the best practices is linking pages to the most popular or the most recent blog post or article on your website. You may create sections in the footer or sidebar of the site so that they appear on all the posts and pages.

Your articles and blogs on the different pages of the website will get a significant boost since the link value will be passed on. Internally linking pages to popular content will also help readers easily find the posts relevant to their search, thereby increasing traffic to your site, which again sends a positive signal to Google. As a result, you’ll be ranking higher on the search results pages.

11. Add Internal Links To Taxonomies

Taxonomies are what we refer to as tags and categories; they help organise the site so that users and Google can easily understand what your site has to offer. They form the site structure by focusing on three aspects: Logistics, Governance, and Keywords.

If you own a blog, it would be potentially beneficial to add internal links to the tags and categories the post belongs to. Adding links will help Google understand your blog and site structure, while users get to easily navigate to posts related to their conducted search.

Also, make sure you use relevant keywords to tell readers what your web content is all about. It’s important to choose the right keywords as they play a crucial role in the internal site structure.

Diagram Of Internal Link Structure

How To Audit Existing Internal Links For SEO?

It’s important to audit the existing links of your site before adding more internal links pointing to the different pages within the website. The first step to do this is by using auditing tools and software like Ahrefs and Google Analytics to crawl the site. Once that’s done, check for the following issues:

1. Broken Links

Auditing your website using platforms like Google Analytics, SEMRush, and Ahrefs will show you the broken links on every page. These internal links usually lead to poor web experience and a waste of link equity.

Now, there are two ways to tackle this issue:

  1. Reinstating broken pages at the same domain or URL
  2. Redirecting the broken pages to a different but relevant URL. You’ll need to remove or update all the internal links pointing to them.

2. Orphan Pages

Pages having no internal links pointing to them are referred to as orphan pages. You may eliminate the ones offering no value to your website. In fact, unimportant, orphaned pages should be removed for two reasons:

  1. Unless you submit a sitemap using Google Search Console or they have backlinks from pages on other sites, search engines like Google won’t be able to find them.
  2. There won’t be any page rank transferred via internal links.

Make sure you skim the list of orphan pages, and if there are many pages on the site, simply sort the list by organic search traffic (high to low). Orphan pages that still receive organic traffic will help your site rank higher on SERPs, provided you add internal links to them. As such, there’s no need to eliminate these pages.

3. Important Pages

Start sorting the working pages on your website based on the number of links on each page (high to low). If you see unimportant pages with many internal links, remove or delete them unless the links serve navigational purposes.

4. Fix Content Duplication

A common issue with interlinking is that it might create the duplicated versions of the pages on your site. This usually happens when there is no redirect set up, the two URLs of the websites will look like separate duplicate pages.

Now, you can’t solve this problem by simply setting the redirects up. Fix the internal links to prevent the constant triggering of unnecessary redirects.

5. Cut Down On Image Links

Avoid using image links without anchor texts, but that doesn’t mean changing anchor texts into images. There is no point in changing a text link to an image link if there is no textual connection between the link and the image.

Screen Readers Read Images Without Alt Tags

If you wish to link pages on your site with images, make sure that every image on the page at least has a descriptive “alt text.”

The Importance Of Internal Linking For SEO

A site without relevant links will have a hard time ranking in Google’s SERPs, and that’s a fact. You’ll need a solid internal linking strategy to show both users and search engines which of your content is related and which of the articles and blog posts are more valuable and informative.

So, invest the required time and resources in internal link building to increase the ranking power of your website and help search engines and users understand your site better. Use keywords in the internally linked and diversified anchor texts and link your content to relevant pages on the site to build your site architecture.

You may find internal linking opportunities by looking for pages on the site that essentially rank for related topics. Just make sure you go over your existing internal links as well before adding new ones so that you manage to increase the link juice of the site.

Photo of Brodey Sheppard

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey is the CEO of sitecentre and a data-analyst in the SEO, Paid advertising space who uses machine learning and AI to advance sitecentre as an industry-leading digital marketing agency across Australia.

Find them on their website: sitecentre, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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