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Do Internal Links Help SEO? 7 Ways to Link Your Way to The Top

Julia McCoy
Monday, 27th May 2024
do internal links help seo

Optimizing content and tweaking technical SEO elements are often at the top of many SEO strategies. But don’t miss out on one major success factor: your internal linking strategy. Creating those connections between website pages plays a surprisingly huge role in SEO performance.

How do internal links help SEO?

Internal links help search engines understand your site structure, distribute link equity, and guide visitors to your most valuable content.

Let’s explore the power of navigational links and uncover strategies you can implement today to give your SEO a boost.

Table Of Contents:

What Are Internal Links and Why Are They Important for SEO?

Internal links are like the glue that holds your website together. They help both your visitors and search engines navigate through your content and understand what your site is all about.

Internal links play a vital role in your SEO strategy. According to John Mueller, Senior Search Analyst at Google, internal linking is one of the most significant actions you can take on your website because it helps guide both Google and visitors to the pages you consider important.

“Yes, absolutely… Internal linking is super critical for SEO. It’s one of the biggest things you can do on a website to guide Google and visitors to the pages that you think are important.”

– John Mueller, Senior Search Analyst at Google

There are a few different types of internal links you’ll find on most websites:

  • Contextual links within your content
  • Navigation links in your header, footer, and sitemap
  • Links in your breadcrumbs

Each type of link serves a purpose in creating a user-friendly site structure and helping search engines index your pages.

How do internal links help SEO?

Internal Links Guide Search Engines

I like to think of internal links as a map for search engines. As they crawl through your site, following each link, they start to put together a picture of your site’s hierarchy and topic clusters.

By linking related pages together, you show Google and other search engines that these pages cover similar subject matter. You’re essentially creating a web of information that’s all interconnected.

Internal links also help search engines:

  • Discover new pages on your site
  • Determine which pages are most important based on the number and quality of links pointing to them
  • Understand the relationship between different pages and sections of your site

So really, a solid internal linking structure is crucial for SEO. It’s like leaving breadcrumbs for Google to follow so they can properly index and rank your content.

Internal Links Improve User Experience

Internal links aren’t just for search engines though – they’re important for your website visitors too.

Think about the last time you were on a website and couldn’t find what you were looking for.

Frustrating, right?

By including helpful internal links within your content, you can guide readers to related information they may be interested in. This keeps them on your site longer, exploring relevant content they may not have found otherwise.

I’ve found that the more time someone spends clicking through my site, the more likely they are to convert into a subscriber or customer. Internal links keep people engaged and moving through your content instead of bouncing off to find information elsewhere.

The key is to make it easy for visitors to navigate to the content they need. A well-planned internal linking structure is a win-win for both SEO and user experience.

7 Internal Linking Best Practices to Boost Your SEO

Okay, so we know internal links are important for both users and search engines. But how can you create an effective link structure?

Here are some of the best practices I’ve learned over the years.

1. Place Contextual Links Within Page Copy

Contextual links are essential for improving SEO by connecting relevant pages on your site. These internal links, embedded within the body of a page, serve to deepen the conversation or aid visitors on their current journey.

For instance, if you have an article discussing SEO strategies, you can link terms like “keyword research” or “on-page optimization” to other detailed articles on those topics. This method helps in maintaining relevance and enhances user experience by providing additional valuable information.

You can also add a “Further Reading” block at the end of an article to guide readers toward more related content.

Here’s an example:

do internal links help seo

This format makes it easy for users to find additional information without disrupting their reading flow.

The key takeaway here is relevancy; only link to pages that genuinely contribute value and contextually fit into what you’re discussing. Avoid linking merely as an attempt to flatten site architecture or pass along link equity.

2. Use Keyword-Rich Anchor Text

When linking to other pages on your site, be strategic about the words you use in your anchor text. Rather than using generic phrases like “click here”, include keywords that describe what the linked page is about.

For example, if I was linking to my guide on content marketing, I might use the anchor text “content marketing tips” or “how to create a content strategy.” This helps both users and search engines understand the context of the linked page.

Just be careful not to overuse exact-match keywords in your anchor text. Mix it up and use variations to keep things looking natural. You don’t want to raise any red flags with Google.

3. Link from Top-Ranking Pages

One smart internal linking tactic is to link from your highest-traffic, top-ranking pages to other pages you want to boost. By passing some of that link equity (or “link juice”) to less popular pages, you can help them rank higher in search results.

I like to think of it as sharing the wealth. If I have a blog post that’s consistently bringing in tons of organic traffic, I’ll look for opportunities to naturally link to other relevant posts or pages I want to rank for. Over time, this can give those lower-performing pages a nice boost.

4. Use Hubs and Spokes to Boost Rankings

The hub and spoke model is an effective way to organize your information topically, enhancing your internal linking structure for better SEO performance.

In this model:

  • Hubs function as home pages for broad topics that are difficult to rank for on their own, similar to category pages.
  • Spokes are individual articles that delve deeper into subsections of the broader topic, akin to subcategories.

A well-structured internal linking strategy connects these hubs and spokes effectively.

For example, let’s say you have a cooking blog with a central hub page titled “Recipes Index.”

This hub page serves as the central point where visitors can access different categories of recipes, such as “Desserts,” “Healthy Meals,” “Vegetarian Dishes,” and so on.

Each category serves as a spoke, linking back to the hub page, and within each category page, there are links to specific recipes.

Here’s what it would look like:

Hub Page: “Recipes Index”

Spoke 1: “Desserts” links to individual dessert recipes

Spoke 2: “Healthy Meals” links to individual healthy meal recipes

Spoke 3: “Vegetarian Dishes” links to individual vegetarian dish recipes

And so on …

In this example, the hub page consolidates all the main categories of recipes, while each spoke page dives deeper into a specific category. This strategy not only helps to organize content for users but also creates a strong internal linking structure that can improve SEO by distributing link equity throughout the site.

5. Ensure Links Are Dofollow

When adding internal links, make sure they’re do-follow links. This means they pass link equity and are followed by search engine crawlers.

Sometimes links can be set to no-follow (like in blog comments), which tells search engines to ignore them.

For most of your internal links, you’ll want them to be dofollow so they count as “votes” for the linked page in Google’s eyes. The more internal links a page has pointing to it, the more important it will seem to search engines.

6. Add Links to Orphan Pages

Do you have any orphan pages on your site that don’t have any internal links pointing to them? These pages can be difficult for users and search engines to find unless they’re directly typing in the URL.

Make a habit of auditing your site for orphan pages and adding contextual internal links to them from relevant pages. This will help integrate them into your site structure and make them more discoverable.

6. Link Older Pages to New Posts

Often overlooked (or forgotten), but an easy win: adding internal links from an old piece of content to new content.

Every 3-6 months, update older articles with relevant contextual links that point to new pages that didn’t exist when you first wrote them.

To identify older pages that need updates:

  • Audit Your Content: Use tools like Google Analytics to identify high-performing old articles. These are prime candidates for adding internal links because they already attract traffic.
  • Select Relevant New Posts: Choose newer blog posts or web pages related in topic or theme to ensure a natural flow between linked contents. This will keep readers engaged longer on your site.

An example would be updating an older page discussing “on-page optimization techniques” by including a link pointing towards recent updates on “latest SEO trends”.

This not only makes sense contextually but also provides additional information valuable to both users & search engine algorithms alike!

Two tips for adding internal links to old posts:

  1. Select Anchor Text Wisely: The anchor text should be descriptive and keyword-rich without being spammy. For instance, if you’re linking to a post about “content marketing tips,” use that exact phrase as the anchor text.
  2. Add Contextual Value: Ensure the link adds value by fitting seamlessly into the context where it’s placed within the old article. Avoid forcing unrelated topics together just for backlinking purposes; this can harm user experience and SEO ranking.

7. Perform an Internal Link Audit

Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to perform a full audit of your site architecture. You can use a tool like Screaming Frog or Ahrefs to crawl your site and get a bird’s eye view of your internal and external links.

Look for any broken links that need to be fixed, pages with too many or too few links, and opportunities to add more contextual internal links.

Aim for a nice balance — you don’t want to overdo it with too many links on a single page, but you also don’t want important pages to be isolated with no links.

I try to audit my internal links at least once every three months to keep things in tip-top shape. It’s a bit of work, but the SEO benefits are well worth it.

Key Takeaway: Internal links act like a roadmap for search engines and visitors. They help with site navigation, improve indexing, and boost SEO by linking related pages together. Use keyword-rich anchor text, link from high-traffic pages, ensure do-follow status, add links to orphan pages, and regularly audit your internal linking structure.

How to Create an Effective Internal Linking Strategy

Want to know the secret to a killer internal linking strategy? It all starts with identifying your most important pages. These are the pages you want to rank high in search engines and drive the most traffic to.

But how do you figure out which pages are your VIPs? Here’s what I do:

Step 1: Identify Your Most Important Pages

First, take a look at your analytics. Which pages are getting the most site visitors? These are likely your most popular and valuable pages.

Next, think about your business goals. What pages are most critical for driving conversions and revenue? These could be your product pages, service pages, or key landing pages.

Finally, consider your pillar content. These are your in-depth, comprehensive articles that cover the core topics of your business. They should be the foundation of your internal linking strategy.

Step 2: Analyze Your Current Internal Link Structure

Now that you know your most important pages, it’s time to analyze your current internal link structure. How are your pages currently linked together?

Use a tool like Yoast SEO’s internal linking tool or Ahrefs’ Site Audit to get a visual map of your site’s structure. This will help you see how your pages are connected and identify any issues like orphaned pages or broken links.

Step 3: Identify Content Gaps and Opportunities

As you’re analyzing your site structure, keep an eye out for content gaps and opportunities. Are there any topics you haven’t covered yet that could be valuable for your audience?

Look for ways to create new content that fills these gaps and provides more internal linking opportunities.

For example, if you have a post about “how to train for a marathon,” you could create a new post about “the best running shoes for marathon training” and link the two together.

Step 4: Build Your Internal Linking Strategy

Now it’s time to put your link building strategy into action. Here are a few tips:

  • Use descriptive, keyword-rich anchor text when linking to other pages. This helps search engines understand what the linked page is about.
  • Link to your most important pages often, especially from your homepage and other high-traffic pages.
  • Add contextual links to your content to guide readers to related pages.
  • Don’t go overboard with internal links. A few strategic links are better than dozens of irrelevant ones.

Remember, internal link building is an ongoing process. As you create new content and update old pages, always look for opportunities to add relevant internal links.

Common Internal Linking Mistakes to Avoid

Internal linking is a powerful tool for boosting your SEO and helping site visitors navigate your content. But there are a few common mistakes I see people making all the time.

Here are the top internal linking mistakes to avoid:

I get it, the footer seems like a great place to cram in a bunch of internal links. But here’s the thing: overusing footer links can actually hurt your SEO.

Search engines may view an excessive number of footer links as spammy or manipulative. Plus, footer links don’t carry as much weight as contextual links within your content.

Instead of stuffing your footer with links, focus on adding a few key navigation links and important pages. Keep it simple and user-friendly.

Linking to Irrelevant Pages

It’s tempting to link to every page on your site in an attempt to boost your internal linking. But linking to irrelevant pages can do more harm than good.

When you link to pages that aren’t related to the topic at hand, it can confuse readers and search engines alike. It may also cause visitors to bounce from your site if they click on a link expecting one thing and get something totally different.

Only link to pages that are truly relevant to the content you’re linking from.

Using Generic Anchor Text

Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. And believe it or not, the words you choose for your anchor text matter a lot for SEO.

Generic anchor text like “click here” or “read more” doesn’t give search engines any context about what the linked page is about. It’s a missed opportunity to use keyword-rich anchor text that helps your pages rank.

Instead, use descriptive anchor text that includes relevant keywords. For example, instead of “click here,” try something like “learn more about internal linking strategies.”

Broken links are a big no-no for both user experience and SEO. When a visitor clicks on a link and gets a 404 error page, it’s frustrating and may cause them to leave your site.

Plus, too many broken links can hurt your site’s crawlability and indexing. Search engine bots may get stuck in a loop trying to follow broken links, wasting crawl budget on pages that don’t exist.

do internal links help seo

Use a tool like Ahrefs’ Broken Link Checker or Screaming Frog to regularly check for broken links on your site. Fix or remove any broken links you find to keep your site running smoothly.

By avoiding these common internal linking mistakes, you can create a strong, effective internal linking strategy that boosts your SEO and helps visitors navigate your site with ease.

Measuring the Impact of Your Internal Linking Strategy

You’ve put in the work, optimized your internal links, and made sure your site structure is on point. But how do you know if it’s actually making a difference?

That’s where tracking and analyzing come in. And let me tell you, it’s not as complicated as it might seem.

Tracking Organic Traffic and Rankings

First things first, let’s talk about organic traffic and rankings. This is where tools like Google Analytics and rank-tracking software come in handy.

Keep an eye on your organic traffic over time. Are you seeing an uptick in visits to specific pages after optimizing your internal links? That’s a good sign that your efforts are paying off.

And don’t forget about keyword rankings. Use a tool like Ahrefs, Semrush, or Moz to track your rankings for target keywords. If you see your linked pages climbing the search results, give yourself a pat on the back.

Analyzing User Engagement Metrics

Now, let’s talk about user engagement. This is where things get really interesting.

Dive into your Google Analytics and look at metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and pages per session. If your internal linking is on point, you should see improvements across the board.

Lower bounce rates? Check.

Higher time on page? You bet.

More pages per session? Absolutely.

These are all signs that your internal linking is guiding users to valuable content and keeping them engaged.

And let’s not forget about contextual internal links. When you link to related content within your blog posts, you’re not just helping Google understand your site structure – you’re also providing a better user experience.

So, do internal links help SEO?

You bet they do.

And by tracking your organic traffic, analyzing user engagement metrics, and conducting regular link audits, you can see the impact of your efforts firsthand.

Key Takeaway: Track organic traffic and rankings using tools like Google Analytics. Monitor user engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time on page, and pages per session to gauge internal linking success. Regularly audit your site with Screaming Frog or Ahrefs Site Audit for continuous optimization.

FAQs: Do Internal Links Help SEO?

Should you use internal linking in SEO?

Yes, because it helps search engines understand your site structure and improves user navigation.

Are too many internal links bad for SEO?

Avoid overloading pages with links. Too many can dilute the value of each link and confuse users.

How many internal links for SEO?

Every long-form piece of content and all important pages should have around 3-4 internal links pointing out to other pages, with an additional link per 300 words.

How do I optimize internal links for SEO?

Use keyword-rich anchor text, ensure they are dofollow, and regularly audit your site’s link structure.

Conclusion

Internal links are a crucial piece of the SEO puzzle. By strategically connecting your pages, you’re not just making it easier for visitors to navigate your site; you’re also sending powerful signals to search engines about your content’s relevance and value.

Remember, effective internal linking is all about balance. Use descriptive anchor text, link to and from your most important pages, and keep your linking structure clean and organized. Don’t go overboard with the number of links, and always prioritize the user experience.

By implementing these 9 internal linking strategies, you’ll be well on your way to improving your search rankings and driving more targeted traffic to your site. So go ahead, give your internal links some love, and watch your SEO soar.

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Written by Julia McCoy

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