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Internal Links

Written by: Lars Erik Larson  | January 30, 2020

What Are Internal Links?

Internal links are hyperlinks that link to another page on the same website.

This is typically a link to another webpage on your website. It can however, be a link to other media files such as images or documents.

Why Are Internal Links Important For SEO?

The simple answer ⁠— Internal links help create a better website architecture.

Website architecture is how well all the webpages of a website are structured (linked) together.

It's important for SEO because search engine crawlers (like Googlebot) have to navigate your website.

They start at your homepage, and work their way down through the category pages and onto the content.

A good architecture makes it easier for Googlebot to crawl your website. When you make crawling easy, your webpages will get indexed and ranked. They will appear on Google.

It also makes it easy for link juice (link equity) to be passed all throughout your website.

Link juice helps your individual webpages achieve higher rankings on Google (and other search engines.)

A bad architecture confuses Googlebot, it can't reach certain pages ⁠— like dead-end roads. These pages will not get crawled, indexed or ranked. They won't appear on Google.

Internal links = better website architecture = more indexed and higher ranking webpages

This isn't just theory either — internal links are proven to improve SEO.

One case study from Ninja Outreach showed a 41.86% increase in organic traffic (site-wide.)

Best Practices

Feature Keywords In Anchor Text

You'll want to feature a keyword in some of the anchor texts of your internal links.

FYI — The anchor text of a hyperlink is the text the link is attached to.

Keyword anchor texts can help give search engines a better idea about what the linked page is about.

Google even recommends keyword anchor texts in its SEO starter guide.

You'll notice a lot of our internal links have keywords linking back to posts.

Only use keyword anchor texts if it's relevant — it's perfectly fine having internal links without keywords as anchors.

Takeaway: Use some keywords in your anchor texts of your internal links.

You need to make sure that all your internal links have "dofollow" attributes.

The dofollow attribute is something you can add to your hyperlink HTML.

A dofollow attribute says to Google (and other search engines) "please follow this link and pass link equity."

Conversely, a "nofollow" attribute does the opposite.

99.99% of the time you'll always want internal links to be dofollow.

Takeaway: Make sure your internal links are "dofollow" and not "nofollow."

Do It Manually (No Plugins/Automation)

You'll want to make sure you avoid using plugins or automation software for your internal links.

Do them manually.

There are a few reasons why you shouldn't use a plugin.

  1. They insert internal links randomly
  2. They do not account for user experience
  3. They can accidentally "nofollow" the links

Internal links aren't just for transferring PageRank (link equity) — user experience is also critical.

Takeaway: Avoid using an automation plugin for your internal links.

Avoid Using The Same Anchor Text (For Different Pages)

Never use the same anchor text for different pages you are internally linking.

It sends mixed signals to Google (and other search engines.)

It'll make them think the two pages are the same topic — this is not good.

Ideally, you want to use anchor texts that are unique, even when the pages are similar.

Takeaway: Don't use the same anchor text for two separate pages.

It's important that you audit your internal links a few times a year.

To do this, you'll want to use Google Search Console.

It has a links feature — you can audit your internal links with it.

You'll be able to see which pages the majority of your internal links are pointed at.

Naturally your homepage and main category pages (about, blog, contact, etc...) will have the most.

This is important for good navigation for both user experience and search engine crawlers.

Aside from those pages, you'll want to make certain your best and highest-priority content are getting lots of internal links.

Look at how Brian Dean of Backlinko prioritizes his top content with a horde of internal links.

Remember — internal links act as roads for link equity to boost your pages in content.

The more roads, the better (good quality ones only, though.)

Takeaway: Use Google Search Console to audit which pages your internal links are going to.

Update Old Pages (With New Internal Links)

When you make new content, it creates internal link opportunities for old content.

You'll want to go back and look at old posts — you should be able to find spots to insert new internal links.

This'll bring more link equity ranking power to your newer pages, helping them rank well.

The On-Page SEO post mentions internal links — this is a good opportunity.

You will want to continually scan your old content as you make new content. There will be plenty of internal link opportunities arising.

Takeaway: Go back to old content and find spots for internal links to new content.

You should make sure that all your links — internal or external — open in a new window.

This is what we do at SERP Co — every link I create in these posts open in a new window.

We do this because it creates a better user experience.

Internal links act as additional context and information to a post. When you open one, you don't want to lose your place on the initial piece of content.

Think of it as a bookmark.

Now it needs to be said — this does not apply for ALL links on your website.

For example, you wouldn't want your homepage and category pages opening new windows.

Navigation is their purpose — we are more talking about links in your content.

Takeaway: Make sure all your links in your content "open in a new tab."

Feature An Internal Link In Post Intro

A good strategy to make your internal links more effective, is to put them in your intro.

This is a method that Brian Dean of Backlinko came up with.

He says it has helped increased dwell time and decreased bounce rate.

Here's an example of how he uses it.

It seems to be an effective way of keeping people on your website, and not back to Google.

Takeaway: Put some internal links in your post intros.

Another good strategy is to link from your homepage.

Your homepage is the gateway for search engine crawlers (such as Googlebot) to your website.

It's the page that gets the most ranking power — a few internal links funneling to content can make a huge difference.

Look at how we do it here at SERP Co.

Make sure its important, high-priority content you are linking.

Takeaway: Use some internal links on your homepage to important content.

Don't Overdo It

Last but not least, make sure you don't use too many internal links.

Using too many internal links on a page can dilute the link equity it passes to other pages.

Remember — we want to be strategic with our internal links. We want to prioritize important pages on our website.

Keep total links on a page (internal and external) under 100.

This is what Google has recommended in the past.

Matt Cutts (Google's former head of web spam) made a blog post detailing this recommendation.

He said the reason (to keep links under 100 per page) is user experience.

If you're showing well over 100 links per page, you could be overwhelming your users and giving them a bad experience.

He also goes over how too many links spreads your ranking power (being passed through links) thin.

If you end up with hundreds of links on a page, Google might choose not to follow or to index all those links. At any rate, you’re dividing the PageRank of that page between hundreds of links, so each link is only going to pass along a minuscule amount of PageRank anyway.

FYI — PageRank is the Google algorithm name for link equity/juice.

Takeaway: Keep total links per page (internal and external) under 100.

Final Thoughts

In this post we covered what internal links are, how they affect SEO and 10 best practice guidelines to follow.

Internal links are crucial for creating a road map for search engines to crawl, index and rank your website.

When you use them (internal links) correctly, more pages of your website will appear on Google. They will rank higher too, due to the added link equity.

To learn more about SEO, continue reading the guides in our learning hub, and join our mastermind community group here: SERP University.

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