There are many ways to optimize your website and make it easier for your users to navigate and for search engines to crawl. The better you get at both of these forms of optimization, the faster your website traffic will grow. Today we are going to look at a method of optimization that caters to both of those tasks. This post is going to teach you the fundamentals of internal linking for SEO.
Internal links are simply links that go from one page of your website to another page on your website. Pretty easy, right? While the concept itself is very simple, there are nuances to doing it effectively. If done wrong you could end up doing more harm than good to your website, as well as wasting precious time.
In a nutshell, your internal links should work to accomplish the following:
- Distribute page authority throughout the website
- Facilitate better navigation for both users and search engines
- Define information hierarchy for your website
Best Internal Linking Techniques
However basic it may sound, trust me when I tell you: internal linking for SEO has its secrets. I don’t intend to keep them to myself. I will take you through the basic internal linking dos and donts that will help you improve your website’s performance in the search engines.
1. Utilize anchor texts
No, not that kind of anchor. Anchor text is the visible part of a hyperlink which typically appears to the user in blue and is underlined, depending on the styling of your website. I recommend using descriptive, long-tail anchor texts for internal links. This means placing your internal link within a natural flow of words that describes the content in the target link.
Don’t force your anchor text. Just like you should never try to force an awkward keyword into content, the same applies to anchor text.
First, it notifies the user what to expect on the target page. It may spark users’ interest and prompt them to visit the page later or immediately once they see the link.
The anchor text should flow naturally within a sentence. Avoid tricks to match the anchor text with the target link. While this may seem like a smart way to match the keywords, you risk attracting SEO penalties. Updated search engine algorithms often view the exact match as an unnatural situation.
Taking a step back, don’t use a whole paragraph as an anchor text just because I said to make it descriptive. It looks quite shoddy. A simple phrase within a sentence will suffice. Also, avoid anchoring your internal links to texts like “click here”. They simply add no value to your article, user experience or SEO. (Sometimes it is hard to avoid this, and I am guilty of it for sure.)
The internal link helps let a search engine (and a user) know what the piece of content being linked to is about. Therefor using varied, long-tail keywords will help pieces if content rank for more keywords.
Learn more: Moz Guide to Anchor Text
2. Ensure the Link is Relevant
Splashing links all over individual pages on your website is not the main agenda. It’s not an internal link party. The content on the two linked pages should be related and ultimately the internal link should support your content.
It lacks purpose to link a “skateboard review” page to a “weight-loss diet” page. A page on “skating tips and tricks” would be more relevant to the former. Then again, I don’t know why you would be talking about those 2 very different things on the same website unless it’s a personal blog. But I digress…
Remember, internal links should provide the user with a natural flow of related information. Don’t bore them to death by displaying everything your site has to offer on one page. Linking to one page multiple times in the same post is also irrelevant. One time is enough.
“Link juice” is a term I use often when teaching SEO. In regard to internal linking, the more internal links a page has, the more you dilute the link juice that each internal link holds.
More on Link Juice and above image source
I would also advise against linking to your homepage. There are often other avenues to reach your homepage, an internal link is not necessary. Your home page should also be the first link in your navigation, so a user can always get there.
3. Make use of Follow links
In outdated techniques, no follow tags were added to internal links to allow a page to retain link equity. However, with updated ranking algorithms, follow links are more relevant in internal linking. At the end of the day, you want crawlers to easily find your content and no follow links hinder that.
My point here: If you are reading a guide that says you should no-follow your internal links, don’t follow that advice.
4. Stick to a Reasonable Number of Internal Links per Page
What is the reasonable number, you ask? Frankly, I have no idea either. In fact, no one does. That is not to mean you can make it rain blue (or whatever color you choose) links on your page.
Here, the key is to optimize user experience. Put yourself in the user’s shoes and imagine how confusing it would be to visit a page littered with links throughout the content, sidebars as well as header and footer.
The amount of internal links your content should have is largely dependent on the depth of your post/page as well as how many topics it covers. A long piece of content is naturally going to have more links than a quick blurb or blog post.
There it is again: “Naturally”. I will repeat this in various lessons an various techniques because it is so important with SEO. Always remember to write naturally. Link naturally. Just act natural. Nobody wants to read something that seems like it was written specifically for search engines, or for robots.
5. Spice Up Old Posts with Internal Links to New Content
In the monotonous cycle of posting and publishing, it is easy for old articles to be forgotten. To avoid this, sprinkle freshly posted articles with one or two links to older posts. Old posts can support or add to the information on new posts. Utilize naturally crafted anchor texts to drive traffic between pages, whether new or old.
6. Capitalize on high converting pages
There are pages on your website that will naturally attract more traffic than others. The content is probably fresh and juicy or simply rich with unique information. Either way, capitalize on this by adding internal links to such a page. It could prompt visitors to check out another page on your site. Ensure you keep it relevant.
Internal links create a sense of order within your page. If done effectively, that order helps to boost your search engine ranking and improve user experience. While internal links are not going to put you in the #1 position of search results pages, they are a critical component to on-site SEO and help lay the foundation for your website’s overall optimization.
Hungry for more? Check out my favorite resources for learning about great internal linking strategies:
Neil Patel’s Guide to Internal Links
Have questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Great article Dev! The use of links may seem simple but if used incorrectly or overused, they can be counterproductive. Knowing the difference of when, where, and which ones to use, will help you get ranked. So much to learn about this online marketing! You’ve helped immensely with this article explaining how and when to use links.
You are right, the proper usage of internal links does take a little bit of time and experience to master – but not a ton. Once you get the hang of it it becomes second nature. What’s even better is when you can come up with content ideas through creating internal links. I’ll be covering this in a lesson soon, so stay tuned. Thanks for the comment!
I have often wondered if I was not adding enough or to man y internal links and after reading this it sounds we are on the the same page so thanks for the reinforcement!
I do have one question though. Should I try linking, at one point or another, to all the posts that I write or should I just focus on say 10 posts that really focus on what my website is all about?
That’s a great question. You absolutely want there to be at least one link somewhere on your website to the post – outside of just your sitemap. The easier it is for search engines to crawl your website and get to that link the easier it will be to index that content. If you have to click through 3 different pages to get to a piece of content it will take some time for that content to get indexed and rank…usually. Search engine’s can work in mysterious ways sometimes haha. Hope that makes sense. Feel free to let me know if you need any further clarification and I’ll be happy to provide some additional insight/links for you to check out.
Thanks for this post!
It’s only recently I’ve realised the importance of internal links and try to incorporate them as much as possible into new posts.
I appreciate that nobody knows how many should be added to a post but do you think 3 – 5 is sufficient? The worry is always not wanting to annoy google with spammy like content so I wouldn’t want to go overboard!
I wouldn’t worry as much about internal links as I would external and/or affiliate links. As long as your internal links are relevant, support the content you are writing and helpful to the user they won’t be viewed as spammy. With that said, the concern should be more placed on the link equity each link holds. So too many links will diminish the overall value of each link. With that said, for a piece of content that’s 1500 words (which should be your minimum length target) 3-5 links is perfect. You could even add a few more with a piece of content that long but 3-5 is definitely the sweet spot. Thanks for the comment!