Internal Linking for SEO: How to Create an Effective Internal Linking Strategy

Brandon LazovicApril 21, 2021

Internal linking is one of the best ways to help your website rank better in search engine results pages (SERPs) for the keywords and topics that are most relevant to your business. It's also an effective way to increase traffic, which will lead to more conversions and sales. 

The following article discusses how internal links work, what they're good for, and some of the best practices you should follow when creating a strategy for internal linking on your site!

What Is Internal Linking In SEO? 

Internal linking is the process of connecting pages on your site to one another, usually through hyperlinks. This technique can be used for a variety of purposes, but it's primarily associated with search engine optimization and getting you higher rankings in SERPs. It works by strengthening the connections between related content on your website which makes it easier for Google bots to crawl, discover, and rank them in the search results. 

How Does Internal Linking Help SEO? 

Internal linking can help the SEO efforts for your website in a number of ways.  For one, it's a great way to link to content on other pages on your site that are relevant and valuable. 

By doing this, you'll be able to rank these pages higher in the SERPs as their connections become stronger. Linking also helps Google understand what topics exist on your website which will help them better determine how powerful each page is within its niche. 

It can also help improve click-through rates by making visitors more likely to navigate between different sections of your site and stay there longer than they normally would have.

Internal links also have the added benefit of passing SEO authority from other pages. For example, let’s say your web page has a score of 50. By introducing internal links to two pages with optimized anchor text, you’re passing “half” of that authority to those two other pages, which can help them rank better as a result. 

Read our latest guide to learn more about search engine optimization and what tactics you should be incorporating into your SEO strategy. 

How Many Internal Links Is Too Many? 

In general, it’s fairly safe to assume that one link per 100 words of content is a good number. However, this isn't an exact science and the amount can vary depending on various factors, like the purpose of your web page (is it a resource blog article or a product page?). 

If you have more than one page with valuable information relating to one another (such as a series), then it's okay to link back-and-forth between each individual page in order to provide value and really make readers feel like they're getting something out of their visit.

The biggest thing is to keep user experience in mind. If you’re injecting too many internal links that become obtrusive to the user reading your content, then it’s safe to say that you’re inserting too many links on your web page. 

What Is The Difference Between Internal Vs. External Links? 

External links are hyperlinks that take a user off the page and to another website. 

Internal links, on the other hand, are those links (text or images) within your web content that point back-and-forth between pages of your site.

From a SEO standpoint, you always want to optimize to keep users within your web experience and navigating to other pages on your website. 

However, Google does take into consideration in its ranking algorithm web pages that link out to other quality / authority resources on external websites. 

Again, best practice is to keep the user in mind - if you’re referencing content, quotes, or statistics on external websites, you want to link to them to show not only those users, but also Google, that your information comes from a trusted source. 

Think of it like writing a research paper - if you have quality content, but no sources to back up that information, is it going to be trusted by your professor or stand up to peer review scrutiny? 

Should I Use Nofollow On Internal Links? 

This largely depends on the purpose of your web  page. NoFollow tags tell search engine crawlers not to crawl / follow the link to that page and in turn won't pass any authority from one page to another. 

The question you should ask yourself, is “do I want this page being crawled, indexed, or ranking on Google, but still want users to find that content?” If the answer is no, you don’t want that page appearing in the search results, then you should use a nofollow attribute. Otherwise, don’t  include nofollow tags on the internal links for your website. 

Internal Linking Best Practices For SEO

Now that we’ve covered the basics of internal linking, let’s review best practices for crafting and implementing an internal linking strategy for your website. 

Create Your Ideal Site Structure

The first step is to create your ideal site structure. What do you want the user experience of navigating through your website to be like? How will they move from page to page? 

Perhaps you’ve noticed that content on a certain topic tends to perform well in Google search results, and it seems as though these pages always rank highly for this keyword when there are other unrelated topics mixed with them. 

This could indicate that if those irrelevant pages were taken out, then the higher performing ones would probably stay at or near the top because all of their relevancy factors would still apply. To implement an internal linking strategy successfully, focus on what kind of information architecture works best for SEO rankings rather than simply trying not duplicate links on your website. 

Identify Important Content / Pages

Next, you want to identify your most important content or pages on your website for internal linking.  The most popular way to do this is by using Google's Webmaster Tools, which will show you the pages on your website that are receiving traffic from search engines. If one of these pages has a high number of backlinks and also receives a lot of organic traffic then it would be good for SEO purposes.

These types of pages should be used as targets for internal links. As an example, if someone were wanting to rank well in Google searches for "dog food" they might want to link all other dog related content including "puppy pictures" or even articles about training dogs internally throughout their site so there isn't any chance that another competing article can take over their position in SERPS when people google "dog food". 

Conduct An Internal Linking Audit

After you’ve identified your priority pages to target for internal linking, you should conduct an internal linking audit to discover the following issues on your website. You can either utilize Google Search Console to discover what pages on your website have internal links pointing to them, as well as Screaming Frog to uncover technical issues that are hurting your page’s keyword rankings due to internal linking issues. 

Broken Internal Links

Broken internal links are one of the most common problems that websites run into, and can sometimes be a huge problem when they go unnoticed! 

This happens when you link to pages that either don't exist anymore (and result in 404 errors); or the URLs have changed, but a 301 redirect wasn't implemented from the old version to the new version of the page. 

You can use Screaming Frog to discover broken internal links on your website and work to fix them by either removing those links, or updating them to current pages. 

301 Redirect Chains

A 301 redirect is the process where you set up redirects that go from one webpage to another using 301 status codes, which tells Google that this page has permanently moved and should be redirected accordingly. 

In the case of 301 redirect chains, there are multiple redirects in place. So let’s say you have Page A that redirects to Page B. But Page B then redirects to Page C, and so on. 

Every time this happens, your page loses a little SEO value with each redirect in the chain, which can hinder your keyword rankings because you’re losing that SEO value along the way. 

Another analogy is like a leaky bucket - your bucket is losing water due to the leak. And the more 301 redirects you have in the chain, the more leaks pop up in your bucket, so you lose more water with each leak. 

Again, Screaming Frog can help identify 301 redirect chains so you can fix them so that your page is linking to the final destination URL in the path. 

Links To Unimportant Pages

While not hurtful, linking to unimportant pages isn’t beneficial for SEO. An unimportant page meets the following criteria: 

  • It has thin / no valuable content
  • It has noindex or nofollow tags preventing it from appearing on Google 
  • The content is hidden behind a pay or sign-in wall (Google can’t index or discover this type of content)
  • The page isn’t targeting keywords or driving organic traffic
  • The page has little benefit to users

For pages like this, that you aren’t actively driving users to read or browse, you want to remove those internal links and replace them with links that point to more valuable pages to encourage users to continue browsing other content on your website (as well as pass SEO value to more worthy pages). 

Orphan Pages

Internal links can be helpful for orphan pages. An orphan page is a webpage that has no incoming hyperlinks, internal or external and it ranks at the bottom of search engine results pages (SERPs).  

An example might be an old product page about a discontinued item; this could have been removed from your navigation menu due to lack of interest in the product but may still receive some organic traffic through Google searches. 

Orphan pages are problematic for SEO - Google relies on search crawlers to discover pages on a website. If that page isn’t linked anywhere, Google won’t be able to find that page, and because it isn’t able to find that page, it won’t rank in the search results. 

Google may also deem that page to be unimportant because it has no internal linkings point to it. 

If you find one of these pages on your website, which are not ranking well on SERP’s then consider linking internally to other relevant content as a way to give more value back towards those orphans while also passing SEO value too since they will appear higher up on SERPS if linked by other pages on your website. 

Update Menu Navigation and Footer

Updating your menu navigation and footer of your website is vital for internal linking. You want to take your priority pages that you pulled and ensure that they're being linked in your website's menu or footer with optimized anchor text to help promote crawlability and improved keyword rankings. 

Create Related Content Site Section

Creating a related content section on your website can help with internal linking if you're churning out a lot of content on a regular basis.  You want to make sure that the content you're creating is related and a good fit for your website's niche. You can also use this section as an opportunity to promote some of your other top pages on your site which will help improve their ranking too.

Add Links To High-Performing Posts

If some of your pages are struggling to rank, or aren't performing as well as they should be, take stock of your highest performing posts on your website. When relevant, include internal links from these posts that point to your underperforming pages. 

These top-performing posts likely have backlinks from external websites that are boosting their rankings (Google considers backlinks to be one of the biggest ranking factors in its algorithm). 

Because they perform well, Google is also likely to crawl them more frequently, so you're encouraging its search crawlers to follow and crawl your underperforming pages more frequently as well, which can help drive more organic traffic / keyword rankings for them.

Optimize Anchor Text

Optimizing your anchor text for SEO is vital when internal linking on your website. Anchor text is the clickable hyperlink that you create in your web content to point to other pages on your website. 

When someone clicks on an anchor, they are taken directly from one page or post to another. This means that by optimizing them with keyword phrases and relevant words, Google will likely prioritize these posts higher when it comes time for search engine crawling - which can help boost their rankings and drive more organic traffic/keyword ranking results.

Anchor Text Best Practices

The best practice for maximizing your SEO benefits of this strategy is to include keywords into each link as well as using natural language (not just gibberish) so readers understand what's being linked without having to hover over it. 

For example, if you have a mortgage rates page, you want to make sure that the anchor text for your internal link is something like “today’s mortgage rates” or “current rates for 30 year fixed mortgages”. 

Anchor text helps Google better understand the context and relevance of the web page you’re linking to. The more times Google sees that anchor text used, the more confident it will be in determining that’s what your web page is all about, which will boost your keyword rankings for that phrase. 

So make sure that you aren’t using generic terms like “click here”, or unoptimized anchor text that isn’t targeting specific phrases that you’ve conducted keyword research for. 

Conclusion

As you can see, internal links are a fantastic way to boost your search engine rankings. However, don’t just create any old link that has the keyword in it - use words and phrases that properly represent what your web page is all about. This will help Google better understand where you want them to go when they click on an internal link from one of your pages.

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