You’ve probably heard of internal linking, one of the most underrated workhorses of SEO and UX.
Very few SEOs can confidently say they have ever sat down and worked on an internal link building strategy. Instead, most of them just randomly insert links, provided they look good on a page or connect with the rest of the content.
Serious SEOs understand how crucial internal link building is to their SEO success. Meaning, they don’t take it lightly or treat it as an afterthought like most people do.
Let’s try to clear up what we mean when we talk about internal links. Hint: it includes a lot more than the simple act of linking from one blog post to another.
What’s Internal Linking?
Internal linking is the practice of linking from one of your website’s page to another.
An internal link refers to any link that points to another page within the same website.
They’re the links that go from one page to another but within the same domain name. They’re commonly used in the navigational menu, where we have links pointing to different pages on your website from your homepage.
Why Are Internal Links So Important?
You’re doing your website a huge disservice by ignoring internal links.
Other than improving your website’s usability and strengthening its SEO, here are a few more ways having a solid internal link building strategy can pay off:
1# Driving Your Visitors to Hidden Pages on Your Website
Getting people to visit your site is already hard enough. Now imagine the pain of watching them click away, never to come back after you’ve worked so hard to get them to your site.
Ideally, you’ll want them to stay longer and see what else you can offer.
With internal links, instead of watching them leave, you can use that opportunity to direct them to other pages that you think might interest them.
Besides creating a better over user experience, this might also get them to spend more time on your website, thus producing even better SEO results for you.
2# Great for Building an Intuitive Website Structure
A great web design is all about creating an intuitive online experience. If your visitors can figure out things right off the bat, then you’re halfway there.
The point is to try and make it easy for your visitors to find the information that brought them to your site in the first place.
In which case, internal links are a critical part of creating that experience.
You can start by identifying the most important pages of your site. Next, include the links to the pages to the most obvious or most frequented spots on your site.
You also want to organize your site around a clear menu and categories that make it easy to navigate, especially as your site grows.
3#Helps Google Algorithm to Understand Your Website Better
Google uses a complex algorithm to crawl and index pages. This call for them to understand your web pages better to determine their most appropriate rank positions.
These algorithms are as complicated as they come. They have to weigh in several factors when ranking a webpage.
Among the things they use to gauge your site’s relevance and value is your link profile.
While external links are given more weight, internal links still count.
When Google crawlers land on your site, they have to evaluate all the pages connected to it to add them to their database. When all your site pages are connected, a website crawler will have an easy time finding them all.
Meaning, they have a better chance of showing up in the SERPs.
Not only that. The algorithm also has to pay close attention to the language you’ve used on a page, as well as all the pages linking back to it to understand it better.
4# They Give You Full Control Over the Anchor Text you Use
An anchor text refers to the hyperlinked text on a page. It’s one of the factors that the Google algorithm uses to understand your page better.
Say a particular page on your website has “dog food” as the anchor text. The search engine algorithm will look at this anchor and try to establish the relationship between the page and the term.
By contrast, internal link building gives you total control over your anchor texts. It presents you with a lot of opportunities to associate your pages with a keyword phrase you’re looking to rank for.
To find out more about anchor texts and how to work them into your overall link building strategy, here’s an article you might want to read:
5# Strengths the SEO Authority of Your Webpages
Internal linking is how you distribute your link juice.
When one of your pages has more authority, linking it to another page will increase the value of that particular page.
This is an excellent strategy for boosting the value of less authoritative pages on your website.
You should, however, keep in mind that the more links a page has, the less value it transfers.
In other words, you’re not to abuse this strategy.
If one of your pages makes it to the top of the SERPs, don’t suddenly swarm it with links. Instead, only link it to one or two of your most important pages, as long as their content is relevant to the post.
What’s Link Juice?
Link juice is the term used to refer to the SEO value passed down from one site or webpage to another through hyperlinks.
Think of them as a vote of confidence from other websites.
These sites must know your value or worth to agree to link to you.
There are two types of links a site or page can get: external links (or backlinks) or internal links.
External links bring you the said link juice, and internal linking is how you evenly distribute it throughout your website.
Different Types of Internal Links
As we said, there are two broad categories of links: internal links and external links.
Internal links can further be broken down into two:
- Navigational Links
- Contextual Internal Links
Navigational links are as they sound. They make up the main navigational structure of your website.
They implemented site-wide. They aim to help site visitors find the content they want, regardless of where they land.
These links can be found on:
- Your site’s menu
- Your site’s footer
They’re meant to guide or make your visitors’ journey as straightforward as possible.
Typically, contextual links will be placed inside your website’s content, in the main body.
They’re the links within a text pointing to another relevant page or post.
At Media One, we have lots of these links in our posts.
How to Audit Your Website for Internal Links
Unless you’re researching an internal link building strategy for a completely new site, chances are you already have some level of internal linking in place.
The only thing lacking, perhaps, is strategic thinking.
Before you even think of working on an internal linking strategy, it helps to know your current standing.
So, how do you audit your website for internal linking?
Well, follow this guide:
Step One: Head Over to SEMrush Link Auditing Tool
Enter your domain name in the text bar provided and click on “Start Audit.”
A form will pop up prompting you to either login or register. If you already have a SEMrush account, go ahead and log in. Otherwise, click on register to sign up.
Step 2: Start Site Audit
After logging into your SEMrush account, another form will pop up. You’ll be asked to choose the “limit of checked pages” and your “crawl source.”
Next, click on “start site audit.”
You’ll be provided with a detailed internal linking report.
SEMrush delivers great insights into how to easily and quickly improve your internal links before you can go ahead and plan on a full internal linking strategy.
In the thematic report provided, we’re specifically interested in “internal linking.”
Go ahead and click on internal linking to draw some insights into your current internal link standing.
Speaking of which, the report is divided into five key parts:
- Pages Crawl Depth: Here, you’ll gain great insights into your website’s crawl depth. The general rule of thumb is that your most important pages should be reachable within three clicks from your homepage.
- Internal Links: Here, you’ll see how many of your pages receive internal links, as well as how many of them are linking to other pages. The report will also show you the number of orphan pages on your site.
- Internal Link Distribution: This section of the report allows you to see which of your pages have a weak internal link rank (IPL) and the reason this is so.
- Internal Link Issues: Find out if your site is experiencing any Internal link issues (such as broken links, warning, or notices).
- Pages Passing Internal Link Rank: See the most authoritative pages on your site or the pages that are more likely to influence the other pages.
This SEMrush report was designed to give you detailed insights into your internal linking structure.
The information provided should help you plan a robust internal link building strategy.
10 Internal Linking Mistakes to Avoid
Let’s walk you through 10 common internal linking mistakes SEOs make all the time together with some quick fixes for them.
Without wasting any more of your time, let’s get the ball rolling:
Mistake 1: Broken Internal Links
This happens when you link your webpage to a non-existent page, resulting in a 404 error.
Consequently, both the user and search engine will be directed to a page that doesn’t exist, which is bad for communicating authority.
How to Fix it: You have two ways to fix the problem:
- Remove the hyperlink
- Replace the link with another relevant working link
Go through all the broken links and remedy the situation by either removing the hyperlink or replacing the link with a relevant, working link.
Mistake 2: Uncrawlable Link
This error occurs when your link is formatted incorrectly. For instance, your link might contain unwanted characters. You simply didn’t copy your link correctly.
How to Fix it: Go through all the links that have been reported as error and try to replace them with a working link.
Mistake 3: On-page Internal Link Overloads
Any page with more than 3000 internal links will be flagged. There’s no rule as to how many internal links a page should have, but it’s common sense not to overload any page with so many internal links.
How to Fix it: Identify all the pages with more than 3, 000 links and see if you can remove unnecessary links.
Mistake 4: No-follow Attribute in Outgoing Internal Links
Having the rel=” no follow” attribute on your outgoing internal links will restrict the Google bot’s flow through your website.
How to Fix It: Remove the no-follow attribute from your link. This can be done either at the site level or on a one-on-one basis on individual links.
Mistake 5: Orphaned Page
An orphaned page is exactly as it sounds. It’s not linked to any other page on your website.
That means the page can’t be accessed in a Googlebot crawl.
How to Fix It: If you find the page valuable, then you should at least consider linking one of your pages to it.
If it serves no purpose, then it helps to just remove it or add a “no index” tag to it.
Mistake 6: Crawl Depth of More than 3 Clicks
No page on your website should be more than three clicks away from your homepage.
When a user has to make more than three clicks to get to any page on your website, search engines will have no option but to think that page isn’t important.
As a result, they’ll reward it with a lower SEO score.
How to Fix it: Figure out where to place the pages and make them accessible in less than three clicks from the homepage.
Mistake 7: Having Only One Link on a Page
As we said, you don’t have to overload your site with so many internal links. It’s the same with skimping on the links.
You’re missing out on a lot of UX and link building opportunities by not including more than one link to your web pages.
How to Fix it: Identify a few other relevant pages that can benefit from being linked to these pages.
Mistake 8: Permanent Redirects
Passing your internal links through a permanent redirect will significantly reduce your crawl budget.
How to Fix It: Remove all redirects and allow your page to send your visitors directly to the destination page.
Check to make sure the redirects aren’t attracting traffic from any other source before removing it.
Mistake 9: Redirect Loops
Your internal link might trigger a chain of redirects and loops that make it hard for search engines bots to crawl your website.
They also result in poor UX.
How to Fix It: Again, update the link and make sure that it’s pointing to a live, accessible page.
Remember to also remove intermediary redirects.
Make a point to also identify the cause of the loop.
Mistake 10: When an HTTPS link Leads to an HTTP page and Vice Versa
Sometimes you may copy your link as HTTP when it’s actually HTTPS and vice versa.
How to Fix It: Double-check your links to make sure you have copied the right protocol.
Manually update all HTTP links to HTTPS one by one. See if your developer can help you update them site-wide.
Internal Linking Optimization Tools
Part of running an effective internal linking strategy involves running regular site audits to identify broken links.
You need specialized crawlers and rank tracking tools to help you out with this.
We have identified a few tools you can use:
Rank trackers with the ability to crawl sites:
SEO tools that you can use to optimise your site for internal linking:
Key Pointers to Observe When Optimising Your Site for Internal Linking
Thinking of working on your internal link building strategy?
Here’s a list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind while at it:
1# Don’t Over Do it
How many links should a page have?
This question sparks a lot of debate.
While there’s no limit as to the number of internal links you can include on a webpage, Google suggests that you trim them down to a reasonable number (not more than a few thousands of them).
It’s not uncommon to come across a webpage with upwards of 100 or 200 links. As long as their content is valuable, these pages will still rank.
So, it’s safe to say that having too many outgoing links on a page doesn’t necessarily dilute its rank like some people love to assume.
It’s only an issue when the underlying content isn’t high-quality enough.
2# Use an Internal Anchor Text for the Keywords that you want to Rank for
Search engine bots use anchor text to find out what the page is about. Using an anchor text that’s the same as the keyword that you wish to rank for signals higher relevance.
Google suggests that you choose a descriptive text.
According to John Mueller, Google uses anchor texts to draw additional context.
When working on an anchor text, it helps to prioritize the anchor text that contains your target keyword or a related phrase.
3# Don’t use the Same Anchor Text to Link to Two or More Different Sites
Google has reiterated using descriptive anchor text.
Try to wear the mind of Google bot. When crawling your website, it will be looking for ways to understand it better.
Other than looking at the title and H1, H2, and H3 tags, it will also proceed to analyze your anchor text for more information.
The more your anchor text connects to the keyword that you wish to rank for, the more these bots will be compelled to rank it higher for that particular keyword.
So, instead of using the same anchor text twice, why not try to describe it differently (using a related phrase) to increase its relevance score?
4# A Link in the Main Body of Your Content is More Valuable than a Link in the Footer
Mueller confirmed this in a video statement:
It turns out, Google bots can distinguish between the main content, footer text, and other content blocks.
In the video, Mueller confirms that Google values links in the main body differently from those in the footer.
The easiest and most recommended way to place a link on a page is to use the ahref tag.
6# Don’t Use Internal Nofollow
Internal no-follow tags used to work with “PageRank Sculpting,” an outdated ranking strategy for preventing PageRank from flowing to unimportant pages.
Nowadays SEOs use it to prevent Googlebot from crawling certain pages where robots.txt fail.
However, the Nofollow attribute is looked at as a signal of distrust and using it for your internal content beats the purpose of using an internal link in the first place.
7# Your Click Depth Shouldn’t Exceed 3
Click depth can be defined as the number of clicks it takes for you to move from the homepage to any page or post on your website.
In which case, users aren’t supposed to make more than three clicks to get to any page, especially the most important ones.
Here’s what Mueller had to say about click depth:
A good site structure will have a click depth that’s as low as possible.
But this is a line that you want to tread carefully. While working to keep your click depth low, you don’t want to sacrifice user experience by filling up your homepage with links.
The point is to make sure that the most important pages don’t take more than 3 clicks. As for the rest, it doesn’t matter even if they take more than 8 clicks.
8# Internal Links Will Help You Out with Your Crawl Budget
A crawl budget refers to the number of pages that Google crawls and indexes within a particular timeframe.
Remember Google has to index pages for them to rank.
If they don’t index any particular page, that means it won’t rank.
Google knows how to find and index pages. Rarely does it miss a page.
However, you can make its work easier and increase the odds of all your pages getting indexed by linking them internally.
Go through your log files to find out how efficient your internal link structure is.
Be sure to check which pages aren’t crawled often or happen to rank worse and see if you can add more internal links to them.
9# Don’t Link to the Same Target or Page Twice
It’s the same as using the same anchor text on a page twice.
While this won’t do your site any harm, there’s nothing to benefit from doing it.
Instead, search engine bots will only read those pages as duplicates and then proceed to merge them.
They won’t be getting any extra link juice as it’s widely assumed.
10# Don’t Link to Unimportant Pages
Linking to low-quality content will impact your crawl budget.
By low quality, we mean thin, duplicate, or spammy content.
Personally, I would fix the low-quality content first before I even think of linking any of my high performing post to it.
11# Avoid Using Anchor Texts Such as “Click Here” in Your Internal Posts
As we mentioned, the best anchor text to use internally is a descriptive one.
You’re simply helping search engine bots to understand your page better.
That’s the mindset to carry when working around your anchor text.
Using terms such as “click here” or “read this post” is a lazy approach to using anchor text.
As Google points out, you’re not just pointing to an outside source, but also helping search engine bots understand your content better.
12# Use Rel=next/prev for Paginations
Rel=next/prev used to be a staple in SEO until 2019 when Google made it official that they no longer use it.
Here’s what they had to say about this:
Now Google only wants you to focus on what’s good for your users.
In other words, Googlebot has become smart enough to figure out your next page without necessarily depending on you to be explicit about it
8 Internal Linking Best Practices
What do you think constitutes a good internal link building strategy? How many links should you have on a page? And where exactly must you place them?
Read on to find out:
1# Think Your Site Visitors First
Think of your page visitors first and everything else later.
After all, you’re doing all this to improve their experience and perhaps help search engines understand your content better.
That’s to say, everything must feel natural.
Make sure the user can easily spot the link and be able to click on it.
2# Place the Links in the Main Body
The Googlebot checks internal links to understand the context of your page.
It’s a general belief that the links in your main body carry more weight than those in your navigation or footer.
In other words, you’re to invest more in contextual text links than navigational links.
3# Link from Your New Posts to Old and Vice Versa
Every time you write a new post that relates to a post you wrote earlier on, go ahead and link to it provided it’s high-value.
At the same time, go back to some of your best performing old posts and see if you can link them to your new post.
The goal is to try and create an internal link system where your old and new posts feed off each other.
An Important Note: Use Google’s search operator to trawl your site for related content.
“Site: www.yoursite.com [keyword]”
Site: mediaonemarketing.com.sg [internal linking]
We did the same with our website and this article, and here are the results we found:
4# Link High Authority Pages to Pages that Are Almost Ranking High
Internal linking is there to boost low authority pages and to help those that are almost performing well climb up in the SERPs.
So, if you have a high authority site, don’t be quick to link it with a low authority blog post. Instead, try to find one that’s almost ranking high, and use the page to prod it up.
5# Consider Linking Pages with High Traffic to Pages with High Conversion Rates
This is how you use internal linking to grow your business.
Look for pages with high traffic and link to pages that drive the highest conversions.
6# Use Descriptive Anchor Texts
Like we said, you’re not just pointing to another source, but helping search engine draw context from your page.
For this, you want to use an anchor text that’s relevant to the keyword you’re targeting, and what better way to go about it than to use an anchor text that describes it.
7# If you can’t find an anchor text to use for the link, then add it as a Related Link
This is a strategy we commonly use here at Media One.
When you can’t come up with the perfect descriptive anchor text for a post you want to link to, then consider adding the post as a related link, using the post’s headline as the anchor text.
For example, here’s a related link about “internal linking.”
8# Include a CTA to Every Single One of Your Sales Page
Every single one of your sales pages must have a CTA, one of the most important internal links you can’t afford to miss. That’s because it guides your site visitors to conversion.
While at it, you want to watch the verbs that you use for your CTA. Using words like “contact us” or “click here” aren’t really CTAs.
You might want to read the following article to find out more about how to craft a highly converting CTA:
9# Don’t Overdo It
The total number of links a page has, including those in your navigation, should never exceed 100.
Anything above 100 is overkill.
Keep in mind that having fewer links means the links will be passing more authority.
At the same time, you don’t want to only include one link. If the content is quality enough, then don’t restrict the number of pages that can benefit from it as long as you keep it within a reasonable count.
10# Find All Broken Links and Fix them
Broken links are bad for SEO and UX.
Use a broken link checker such as Screaming Frog or Google Analytics to find these links and fix them.