Internal Linking — SEO Best Practices

Internal Linking — SEO Best Practices

Internal linking remains critical for search engine success. You use internal links on your website that take your potential customers to other pages on your website. While it’s likely that you already have internal linking on your web pages, it’s also very likely that you haven’t understood how much they can boost your SERP performance. When the right internal linking strategy can increase your organic traffic and make you more visible online, it’s worth taking a closer look at them. Here’s everything that you need to know about internal linking.

Why Is Internal Linking So Important?

Google needs to find the pages on the web. If they don’t know a page exists, it won’t show up on SERPs, and your target audience won’t find it, no matter how many keywords you use or how excellent your content is. Three options exist to get Google to crawl your site:

  1. Website owners can submit a list of pages (your sitemap) to Google to ask them to crawl their website and add their new pages to their list of known pages.
  2. Managed hosts, such as Wix and Blogger, could alert Google when you add a new page.
  3. Add internal links.

Internal linking is the best way to help Google. Search engines use links to discover new content pages, making them as important as high domain authority backlinks. Get them to follow a link from a known page that Google has visited before and improve the user experience and engagement. Internal links ensure that your content has a chance at appearing on the SERP. They help Google understand what your website is about, giving them a better idea of your site structure and where to rank you. Plus, you can signal to them through internal links when you have a high-value piece of content.

Also, when you create a new web page, such as a product page or a new blog post, it becomes an orphan page if it doesn’t have anything linking to it, making it invisible to Google’s PageRank algorithm – a critical component of SERP ranking. Therefore, the more internal links a page has, the better it will perform on SERPs (although link quality is of far more value than link quantity, even when it comes to internal linking).

What is PageRank?

Named after Larry Page, one of the co-founders of Google, this algorithm evaluates the relevance and authority of a webpage by looking at the number of relevant, high-quality links that point to the page. When it comes to backlinks for websites that aren’t your own, the higher the quality of those backlinks, the more value you gain from PageRank. Although Google uses a range of signals to evaluate the worth of your web pages, backlinking is one of the most widely understood. Google no longer uses the original formula, and they don’t provide a score for a website anymore when it comes to the ranking of a page. This means that 3rd party tools have become the standard method for understanding a site’s visibility and value. These include:

  • Domain Authority (Moz)
  • Page Strength (SEMrush)
  • Domain Rating (Ahrefs)

Google announced in 2016 that they were axing PageRank, but it still has a presence in their searching algorithms, as detailed on the Google Link Report page, which says:

Internal linking remains a key signifier of the importance of any given page that you publish. Also, Google looks at the anchor text with those internal links. Pagerank remains at the core of Google’s business model despite not holding as much power as it once did.

Understanding CheiRank

CheiRank is almost the exact opposite of PageRank because it measures the value of a website by the number of outgoing links it has. Make these outgoing links high-quality of those outgoing links, and the reward comes in the form of a higher standing with CheiRank. While this is different from internal linking, it’s another element to consider when creating content, particularly when creating hub pages.

Different Types of Internal Linking

Many brands use two types of internal links on their websites, and they’re easy to separate. These are:

  • Content Links: You embed a content link into the content of the page.
  • Module Links: A module link is part of a navigation menu, in a footer, or listed as a ‘related articles’ section.

When most people think about internal linking, content links spring to mind. However, module links are more scalable and let you make more frequent adjustments to your internal link map. Remember, the goal with internal linking isn’t to have the maximum number of internal links that will take audiences to every page you own. Doing that results in unnatural, forced, and low-quality internal links. Instead, have a firm idea of your site structure to get organic and high-value internal linking. Have a combination of the two types of links to double the benefits gained from internal linking.

Internal Link Structure

Aim to have a great website structure to benefit from improved usability and a better crawling and indexing experience. To get this, picture your website like a pyramid. The pyramid site structure will see your crucial content sitting at the top and the least important at the bottom. Often, brands consider their homepage as the top dog when it comes to their content. Beneath the homepage often comes the About Us page, followed by product pages, blogs, etc.

John Mueller of Google recommends this link structure as opposed to a flat structure. A flat structure means there isn’t a hierarchy to the links as every web page is one click away, making it appear like the pages are equally important. A pyramid site structure shows a clear connection between the different subcategories, helping Google understand how things connect. It forwards the signals into related areas easier than a flat structure would. Therefore, avoid having a link to every page on every page. Relevance is the key, and siloing is the answer.

Siloing and Internal Linking

A silo operates apart from others. Siloing internal links means categorizing and grouping your links and your content to make it easier for website crawlers and search engines to navigate and understand the value of your web pages. Done right, siloing your internal links allows you to edge yourself ahead of your competitor on the SERPs. There are two main types of link siloing:

  • Organizational Silo: This ensures you connect relevant pages, providing value to readers and audiences. It makes it easier for search engines to navigate between relevant content.
  • Link Silo: Embed links to boost page authority across a range of your web pages. Consider relevance and value for an effective way to build trust and domain authority.

It’s easy to get lost in the concept of AI and automated algorithms. However, when creating content and links, the human element matters. Lacking internal links makes it harder for your human visitors to find what they need, resulting in a drop in user experience. Many will quickly bounce away from your content and look elsewhere for the value that they need. Therefore, think more about the need for an organized internal linking structure to improve page visit times and increase the number of pages viewed by visitors.

It’s easy to get lost in the concept of AI and automated algorithms. However, when creating content and links, the human element matters. Lacking internal links makes it harder for your human visitors to find what they need, resulting in a drop in user experience. Many will quickly bounce away from your content and look elsewhere for the value that they need. Therefore, think more about the need for an organized internal linking structure to improve page visit times and increase the number of pages viewed by visitors.

Example: You sell pet food, and your domain name is www.petfood.com. On your homepage, you have three different categories:

  • Dog food
  • Cat food
  • Rabbit food

Each of these links takes you to a dedicated page of content about the various types of food available. This helps website visitors find the right page and makes use of high-value keywords as anchor texts. You’ll find this adds value to your homepage, improving authority and SERP performance. Clicking on the dog food link takes visitors to another page, which breaks down the categories even further:

  • Labrador Dog Food
  • German Shepherd Dog Food
  • Poodle Dog Food

Each of these pages now has a direct route to and from the homepage. As you get further away from the homepage, the keywords become more focused; some may even start to rank on SERPs organically, even without that vital link juice. The key here is to have a link on the most distant page that takes readers straight to that homepage. That means a potential user’s journey (or a search engine crawler bot’s journey) can be a complete circle with no risk of hitting a dead end.

The Importance of Keyword-Rich Anchor Text

Internal linking alone is rarely enough to boost your SERP ranking. Internal linking needs to reflect keywords if you want to maximize the silo technique. While keyword-rich anchor text is generally frowned upon in terms of backlinks, Google recommends on-site internal linking to make as much use of your industry keywords as possible.

best practies

Anchor text helps users and search engines understand more about where you’ll likely end up after clicking on that link. Therefore, this makes keywords critical. Google has said that using a lot of exact match internal link anchor text won’t harm your SEO, but avoid overuse. If all of your anchor text looks the same, it can start to look a lot like spam, which alone can harm the user experience, resulting in higher bounce rates and a potentially lasting effect on your SERP ranking. Also, avoid using the same anchor text for internal linking to different pages. This will only confuse search engines. Search engine bots assume that the two pages are about the same thing because they use the same anchor text.

Internal Linking To Important Pages

Whenever you embed a link from one page to another on your site, you’re sending link authority to the linked page. Page authority remains a factor when ranking on search engines, and while your internal links don’t carry as much weight as high-quality backlinks from another domain, they do help. Ensure that you make strategic use of internal linking to and from your most important pages. Look at your website using a link-building resource like Moz Pro or Ahrefs. Use the available tools to find out which of your pages has the highest page authority. As Moz developed the PA Score, choosing this tool is a great idea. Page authority has a score range of one to 100, similar to Domain Authority (DA). The higher the number, the greater the PA, and the better chance you have at ranking well.

Using Moz Pro, select Links > Top Pages. Find this on the menu on the left-hand side of the screen. Here you can analyze the most valuable pages of the domain entered. Good page authority all depends on your competition as it is a comparative metric. If you want to get the latest scoop on your competition, click Research Another Site Link in Link Explorer and see their results. View the number of internal links they have and what they are by filtering down the status code. Look at the broken links, 5xx server error links, and 301-permanent redirect links. Keeping an eye on the competition benefits you a lot. Rather than stay in the dark and let them storm the SERPs, learn from them and do better, understand where you are doing better than them and what you both are doing to remain in the race. Compare this against your site and see where you can make improvements using internal links.

Once you identify the pages with the most authority, add a link to those pages that take you directly to the page you want to rank more highly for, such as your freshest piece of content that hasn’t yet earned any backlinks, your latest product, or a study that you’ve carried out.

You could have a section on your homepage that highlights your latest blog post. If your homepage is the page with the highest page authority, it’s only going to help your new blog post earn some authority as a result. Regularly check your page authority score as it can fluctuate.

Internal Link Placement

SEO professionals often debate about the optimal placement of internal links within your content. The consensus seems to be that you should have some internal linking placed high up in your content within the second paragraph. This gives users an action to take that may take them closer to the pain point resolution they seek. Improve dwell time and reduce bounce rate this way. Of course, you can use internal linking throughout the content page – this still provides benefits so long as they are relevant. If you add multiple links, focus on prioritizing internal links at the top of the page. Look at how Wikipedia makes use of internal links immediately.

anchor-text

The NoFollow Blunder

Some website owners still make the mistake of adding a NoFollow tag to their internal linking. This is usually the result of using an outdated tool or plugin that automatically adds a NoFollow tag to external links. Always make sure that you tag your internal links as DoFollow; otherwise, there’s little point in having them there.

If you don’t want pages indexed, such as technical pages, adding NoFollow makes sense. However, when links tie together information for the user’s benefit, and you want them to dig deeper into your site quickly, the recommendation is to use DoFollow links.

Crawl Budget and Page Indexing

Google and other search engines usually find and index every one of a site’s pages. However, if you have hundreds of pages on your website (like eCommerce stores often do), your crawl budget might mean that you only have a set number of your pages indexed. Internal linking becomes even more critical when you have pages deeply buried within your site structure or orphan pages. The bots seeking new pages can follow your internal links from already indexed pages straight to your more unknown pages. Pick a high authority page to add an internal link to help the bots find these non-indexed pages.

Strategic Homepage Linking

For many, the homepage has the highest authority rating, which is why the homepage is usually at the top of the pyramid structure. Make sure to discover if this is the case for you using the above method of Moz Pro and looking at the page authority. If your homepage has more backlinks and more authority, add internal links here to ensure that a site visitor or search engine can access almost any other page on your site. For example, adding an internal link to your blog page adds authority to that blog page. Then, ensure that your blog posts use internal linking to add authority to more pages.

Automating Internal Linking

Plenty of online tools can generate internal links automatically. However, manually creating internal links is better. It is easier to strategically place your internal links where they have the most value for site visitors. An internal link generator will not understand which of your pages need the added authority they gain from an internal link, nor will it understand which of your pages have the most existing authority.

Using an internal link-generating tool could result in dramatic anchor text spam, which may make your content unreadable. Finally, an internal link generator usually focuses on SEO benefits and not providing value to your target audience. Always focus on the audience – you create a better user experience this way. Manually entering internal links where they have the most value will always benefit you both in the long and short term.

Using Older Pages

Find an older page on your website, usually a blog post. Go through that old page and look for places where you can link to some of your newest pages. Edit the older page and add keyword-rich anchor text if you need to. The benefit of this practice is that you can gain valuable internal links that benefit both audiences and search engines. Make this a key part of your regular SEO website audit. As your older page likely is a known page to Google, it makes it easier to find your new, possibly better page.

Too Many Links

It’s possible to have too many internal links on any given page. As a rough figure, anything higher than 100 internal and external links is too many. Matt Cutts, the former member of the Google search engine quality team and the Administrator of the United States Digital Service, posted in 2009 that although Google can now index a lot more pages, keeping your number of internal and external links to fewer than 100 is still recommended. Tools such as the SEOmoz PRO Campaign Manager can help you keep tabs on the number of internal links and learn when you have too many. When a warning that states’ Too Many On-Page Links’ pops up, remove some from your website.

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If you have too many links on a page, you’re giving a user too many options, which can end up being very confusing. That’s going to lead to higher bounce rates and fewer conversions. Always consider the human element when it comes to internal linking, and think strategically about how those internal links add value to your audience.

Same Link, Different Anchor Text

Sometimes, the same internal links appear more than once on a single page. This isn’t too uncommon, especially if you have a website with many links and pages to link to. Ensure that you don’t use the same anchor text for the matching internal links. Always use the keyword-rich anchor text on the first of the links to appear on the page, as it’s this one that Google will count. Your navigation link anchor text is crucial, as it tends to override editorially embedded anchor text and links.

Internal Linking With Images

Images are a fantastic resource for SEO and internal linking. Always look for ways to add some internal linking through your images. For example, you could add links to your images to your About Us page or your e-commerce product pages. It won’t always be possible, but in cases where you can make it work, it can be highly profitable in terms of page authority. As images improve the entire user experience, attract their attention more efficiently, and trigger emotions, you might get more clicks.

Auditing A Site’s Internal Linking

Before you start adding new links across your website, conduct an audit of your existing internal links. Do this several times a year. Using the right tools makes this a quick and easy process. Which tool you use comes down to personal preference, and there is plenty to choose from, including DeepCrawl, Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, and Ahrefs Site Audit tool. They work in similar ways. Input your domain name and run a crawl of your website. Once you complete the crawl, you may find one or more of the following issues:

  • Broken Internal Links: A warning, marked as a 4xx page, highlights those pages that have broken internal links on them. Broken links are not good for your SEO as it means that the linking pages are losing page authority while harming the user experience. Sort your results to rank the number of broken links from highest to lowest. Then, work your way down the list and repair the pages. Broken links occur for multiple reasons. If you deleted or removed a page by accident, reinstate it. If you deleted the page for a reason, turn the broken link into a new link to a new URL. If you don’t want to fix the broken link, remove it.
  • Internal Linking to Redirected Pages: These display as 3xx pages. You’ll have to update these to reflect new URLs or remove them altogether. Be aware that if you have made changes to your site structure, you may find that your internal links now lead to something that’s not relevant, so edit or remove these.
  • Internal Links to Less Important Pages: Your report will show you exactly how many working pages are on your website. Sort this information by ‘No. of Inlinks’ from high to low. Look through the list and highlight the least important pages with a high number of internal links. For example, a post about Spring fashion trends this year may have many internal links leading to that page but is no longer relevant. In some cases, removing that content or page is the best option. At the very least, remove as many internal links as possible, leaving only one or two in place for indexing purposes.
  • Important Pages that are Deep Linked: Sort the pages by ‘Depth’ from high to low to see the pages on your site that are the most clicks away from your seed page (this will usually be your homepage). You’re looking for the essential pages that are too far away from your seed page, so highlight the pages that earn you the highest number of conversions or that target a high-value keyword. Increase the internal linking for pages more than three clicks away from your seed page. When the most important page on your website is usually the homepage, any other page that it links to will earn more authority. Google considers deeper pages to hold less value.
  • Orphan Pages: These are the pages that have no incoming internal links. If you have any critical pages that are orphans, Google won’t find them, which means they won’t be indexed and won’t appear on SERPs. They will have no authority either, which will affect your site’s overall SEO performance. Make sure that you add internal links to and from those pages.

Internal links hold a lot more value than many people give them credit for, and when done correctly, they offer plenty of benefits to you. Having a site audit means you can catch any problems quickly and fix them. The more regularly you conduct a site audit for internal linking, the fewer issues you will encounter.

Internal linking is the key to logical and hierarchical website architecture. Utilizing your most powerful pages to guide users and search engines around your content makes it easier to navigate and understand. While all of the above techniques have their value, the most important things to remember are:

  • Diversify your keywords: Don’t stick to using the same anchor text for all of your internal linking, even when you have duplicate links on a page.
  • Stay relevant: It might be tempting to force a link onto a page to boost the authority of the pages linked from and to it. You need to remember that relevancy is vital if you want your internal linking to have value. Spamming techniques and black hat SEO tactics rarely provide value – avoid these at all costs if you don’t want to face the risk of a Google penalty.
  • Limit internal links: Given the value that internal links offer, it is easy to go a bit overboard when adding them. Having two or three well-placed and valuable internal links is more beneficial than a hundred links that will only confuse your audience.

Using Internal Links

Internal linking is an easy SEO method to implement whenever you’re creating new content, offering numerous benefits to you. When you link internally from a high-authority page on your site to a relevant but lower authority page, the one with the lowest authority will get a boost. Also, you help spread the link juice, boost page views, improve PageRank, and improve time on-site. Making Google and your users happy, these benefits all contribute to a better outcome for you in the SERPs.

Take the time to get internal linking right, and your SEO performance might benefit a lot more than expected. When internal links offer so much for you and your site, now is the time to get started. Follow this detailed guide for advice on internal linking and refer back to it as and when needed.