Internal linking should be part of every SEO strategy. Find out everything you need to know about this powerful technical SEO tactic.
Internal Linking: Everything You Need to Know
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Author: Michal Stolpe, SEO Specialist
Internal linking is an extremely important part of any website’s SEO strategy. It can help you to improve the user’s experience, help make the relationship between your pages more understandable for bots, and even allow you to generate more revenue. In this post, we will discuss what internal linking is, how it works, and the different types of internal links you can use on your website.
I will also provide some tips on how you can analyse your internal links and use that information to improve your website’s SEO.
What is Internal Linking?
Internal linking is the process of linking one page on your website to other internal pages. In contrast, external links are, unsurprisingly, links to pages outside of your website. This can be done using any type of hyperlink but the most common are:
- Hyperlinked Text: The most common type of internal link. Simply a piece of text on one page that has been hyperlinked to another page on your website. For example, if I wanted to link to our blog post on outsourcing SEO, I would just highlight the keyword-rich anchor text that says “outsourcing SEO” and insert a link to that blog post.
This type also includes all the navigational links in your headers, menus, and footers.
- Images: You can also use images to create internal links. For example, you could have an image of a product and link it to the corresponding product page on your website.
Why is Internal Linking Important?
It may seem trivial, but internal links are important for several reasons:
- They help search engines discover new pages on your website which leads to faster indexing.
- They help search engines understand the structure of your website as well as the relationship between different pages on your website.
- They help improve the user experience by making it easier for users to navigate through your website.
- They can help increase the number of page views you receive and increase the average length of a session.
- They can help increase your website’s conversion rate.
Internal linking should be a core element of your on-page SEO strategy. By linking to other pages on your site, you’re effectively creating a map of your website for Google and other search engines’ crawlers. This makes it easier for them to index your pages (especially the new ones) and surface them on the search engine results page.
Naturally, if search engines are aware of the existence of a web page then it will be a great help in attracting organic search engine traffic.
Another benefit is that it helps to spread link equity (or “link juice”) around your website. When you have some high authority pages resulting from a strong backlink profile, linking them to weaker pages on your site will help boost them.
This is especially useful if you have new content that you want to rank well. By linking to new pages from stronger pages on your site, you can give them a headstart and help to push them further up the results page quicker by passing on some of that page authority.
Improves User Experience
When a user lands on a product page, likes what they see, and decides they are interested, most will go through a conscious and subconscious process of establishing some sort of trust in the brand before making a purchasing commitment. The same applies to using a website’s information and advice.
An internal linking structure that shows a website has a comprehensive offering of information about a subject is key to establishing this trust. Equally, quick and easy access to more information about the company itself, shipping and returns policies, contact pages, and FAQs contribute to this goal.
Reduces Bounce Rate
In this way, internal linking can help to reduce your bounce rate. If a visitor lands on a page and doesn’t quickly find what they were looking for, they’re likely to click back to the search results or hit the “back” button. However, if you have relevant internal links on that page, you can keep some of them engaged for longer and reduce your bounce rate.
Despite persistent rumours, Google employees have repeatedly confirmed that bounce rate is not a ranking factor on its own. So, reducing your bounce rate won’t directly affect SEO, but by providing visitors with more of the kind of information they’re looking for you can keep them on your site longer, which can lead to more conversions and sales.
In addition, you can still look at bounce rate as a proxy metric for how engaging or useful your website is to its users. On top of good internal linking, this incorporates things like page load speed, mobile optimization, and website design – which do directly affect SEO.
Types of Internal Links
There are two main types of internal links: navigational, and contextual.
- Navigational links are typically used in the main navigation menu of a website. They help users quickly find the information they are looking for.
- Contextual links are typically found in blog posts and articles. They help provide additional information to the reader by linking to other relevant content on your website that goes into more detail on a certain topic.
This kind of internal link also helps search engines to understand what each page is about, and which ones are more important than others (by being linked to more or fewer times). The ‘anchor text’ of a contextual link should be keyword rich and accurate about what the linked page contains to assist with this process.
DoFollow Links vs NoFollow Links
Another important distinction to be aware of is between follow and nofollow links. By default, all links are dofollow links (aka “follow links”). This means that when a search engine encounters them, it will count them as a vote in favour of the linked-to page. This helps to improve the ranking of that page for relevant keywords.
The major difference between follow and nofollow links is that follow links will pass on link equity to the linked page, while nofollow links will not. This means that follow links are generally more valuable for SEO purposes than nofollow links.
However, there are certain situations where nofollow links can be more appropriate. For example, if you’re linking to an external site that you don’t fully trust, or if you’re linking to a page that’s not relevant to your site, it may be better to use a nofollow link.
It is best practice for most of your internal linking to consist of follow links, this way, Google’s crawlers will literally ‘follow’ them, and establish that they are related to the current page. Internal links will usually be follow links by default, so there’s nothing special you need to do to ensure this is the case.
5 Top Tips for Internal Linking
- Don’t overdo it – Make sure links make sense in the context of the page, have descriptive anchor text, and remember that too many links on a single page can be off-putting to users. The number of internal links on each page should generally not exceed 150.
- Use keyword-rich anchor text for your links, but don’t stuff keywords. Google will know if you’re trying to game the system by using inaccurate anchor texts.
- Make sure your links are working properly – Fix broken internal links as they are frustrating for users, and confusing for search engine crawlers.
- Add a related posts section – There are a variety of plugins and ready-made theme options that will automatically place a ‘related posts’ section on each of your articles. This can be a quick and easy way to implement useful internal links.
- Pagination – if your content is split between different pages, it’s good practice to include “prev” and “next” links so that users can quickly navigate through them. This also serves as an indicator to Google that the content on these pages are related.
How to Perform an Internal Link Analysis
Many free and paid tools are available to help you analyse your internal linking strategy and see if it is performing as it should. If it is working well, your website should adequately establish topical authority by including internal links to each article about a specific topic/subtopic and also boost ‘money’ pages by linking to them often from the purely informational pages.
Google Search Console is a great place to start carrying out this analysis as it shows you exactly what Google already knows about your website and takes out a lot of the guesswork.
Once you’re logged into your Google Search Console account, click the “Links” tab in the left-hand menu, and then “More” under the internal links section.
Here, you will be able to see every single internal link that has been identified by Google. More importantly, you can sort the pages by how many internal links they have received. This gives you a quick and easy way to identify which pages may be suffering from a relative lack of attention.
Once you have identified a page that seems a little neglected, you can then search for the best-performing related pages in the “Search Results” tab in the left-hand menu by using appropriate keywords as a query. These would be perfect candidates to add internal links to your neglected page (provided they can be incorporated with natural anchor text).
Using the same process, you can also identify pages which may be linked to more often than you would like, inflating their importance unnecessarily, and may benefit from fewer links.
By using your own judgement and knowledge of your website, you can adjust the internal linking to communicate the site structure and the hierarchy of your pages to Google and other search engines. It would be worth your while to do the same kind of analysis for both your internal and external links.
This kind of analysis will also help you to root out any Orphaned URLs. Orphan pages are those pages on a site which are not linked to by any other page on the same website – they’re all alone out there on the vast internet – very sad.
Orphaned URLs are bad for SEO because they’re effectively dead ends. There’s no way for Google to know what other pages are related to them, and as a result, they’ll rank lower in search results.
Internal linking can fix this problem by giving Google an easy way to find and index all the important pages on your site. Plus, it can help visitors navigate your site more easily.
For large websites with thousands of different URLs, orphan pages can also cause problems when it comes to crawl budget optimisation. Search engines like Google have finite resources and cannot always index every page on a large website.
If you imagine that your website will only be afforded a certain amount of ‘crawl budget‘, then it’s important that it is spent identifying the most important pages on your site. A solid set of internal links will ensure this is what takes place.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, internal linking is a simple but effective way to improve your website and increase its value as an asset. By taking the time to add internal links pointing to other relevant pages on the same domain, you can make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for, and you can help search engines better understand and index your site. So what are you waiting for? Start linking!
And if you’re interested in learning a whole lot more about SEO best practices for free, check out our comprehensive SEO Textbook!
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