In this article, SEO Expert Nikola Roza shows the importance of internal linking, but more importantly, he gives you his top tips on how to interlink like a boss!
I bet you heard that internal link building is somewhat important for SEO? It’s nice if you can do it right, but if you can’t, it’s no big deal.
Well, let ME tell you something that’ll shock you.
Saying that internal links are somewhat important for the health of your website is like saying the Sun is somewhat important for life on earth.
In this Guide, I will show you the importance of internal linking. But perhaps more importantly, you’ll learn how to interlink like a boss!
Let’s dive right in.
What Are Internal Links Exactly?
Internal links are hyperlinks that target the same domain as the linking page is from.
In other words, internal links connect pages on the same domain, while external links connect those on different websites.
What Are the Types of Internal Links? And Are They all Effective in The Same Way?
There are 2 types of internal links:
Contextual internal links are those that are found within the body of the content and that link contextually.
For example, you can see in this SEMrush vs Ahrefs article that Pedro contextually linked to his SEMrush 30-day free trial page.
Programmatic links are those in the navigation bar, sidebar and footer.
They’re called programmatic because they speak of the “program” of your site.
For example, Pedro’s list of categories clearly show you that his site is geared towards content creation/marketing and email marketing.
As for the strength of each type of links, I really like this analogy Matt Diggity used in one of his webinars.
He said contextual internal links are like nuclear weapons; navigation links are like bow and arrows; sidebar links are akin to slingshots, and footer links are first aid kits.
Very funny and also true.
Importance of Internal Linking – 6 Reasons Why Internal Links Are Super Important for SEO
There are actually more than 6. In fact I could list out 20 reasons why you need to interlink like your life depends on it.
But I won’t.
Because you can easily realize the importance of internal links just by continuing to read.
#1- Internal Links Help Google Crawl and Index Your Site
Take a look at the image above.
Google and other search engines use links to crawl the web and hyperlinks are the primary way content is discovered and indexed.
If your pages aren’t properly interlinked and your site isn’t well linked to from the outside, you run the risk of having many of your pages orphaned, invisible to Google and never ranking or even getting indexed.
#2- Links Spread Authority Through Your Site
Authority (PageRank) flows through internal links along with those crawlers crawling your site.
This has major implications for SEO.
Content that’s well linked to internally tends to rank higher in Google than it’s brothers who’re underlinked.
And it’s a double whammy if you use keywords in your internal link anchor text.
Learn why below…
#3- Internal Links Build Topical Relevance
And the linked sentence you see above is called anchor text. And the keyword “keyword research guide” is the phrase I’m targeting with that anchor text.
Google is going to crawl that link and pass PageRank along with other link signals.
Then they’re going to look at the anchor text. They’ll see the anchor talks about keyword research and will start to associate that page with keyword research as a topic.
This will lead to higher rankings down the line.
When intelligently used, anchor text helps in building relevance and topical authority and you need to take advantage of it.
Plus it’s 100% safe from any type of penalty.
#4- Internal Links Help With Site Architecture
Correction, internal links ARE site architecture.
Site structure is a way to build your site from the ground up so as to make it accessible to both humans and bots.
The number #1 rule here and applicable to all sites, except maybe behemoths like Amazon or Ebay, is to have all your posts and pages within the 3-click distance from the homepage.
This helps spread PageRank but it’s also good for the users.
How To Follow the 3-Click Rule?
I know that the 3-click rule sounds confusing and intimidating. I remember it was for me when I first heard of the concept, and it took me a while to figure it out.
But it’s very simple, I promise.
Here’s an example from Pedro’s site
All Pedro’s content is tightly categorized, which is good. All his categories are in the menu which means that all content is accessible in exactly 2 or 3 clicks.
Let’s follow the click trail now.
We’re on the homepage and click on the “Blogging Tips” category.
That’s the first click.
When the category loads you can count the number of posts it contains. I did and It’s 10 posts. These 10 articles are 2 clicks away from the homepage.
But then as you scroll down you see the category page’s pagination. For each paginated content page there’s a link that leads to it, meaning one more step.
That’s optimal site structuring and the best way to build site architecture with the help of internal links.
There’s a way to put all content only 2 clicks from the homepage. You can do it by installing an HTML sitemap and putting it in the footer.
That way each post will only be 2 clicks from the homepage and a lot of authority will flow downstream.
That’s how my HTML sitemap is set up.
#5- Internal Hyperlinks are Useful to Humans
Internal links, beside being pathways for bots are also ways for humans to explore your site.
#6- Lower Bounce Rate and Increased Dwell Time
Internal links can reduce bounce rate, eliminate pogo sticking and increase dwell time.
Bounce rate is when people land on a page on your site from Google, peruse it and then leave.
If they left after 4 seconds that’s called “pogo sticking” and it’s bad for SEO.
If they stayed 1 minute+ that is good and Google will reward your site with higher rankings.
And if they stayed a couple of minutes and then they clicked on an internal link to explore further that is excellent and your rankings will increase even higher.
Not to mention that having users stick longer on your site gives you more chances to convert them into email subscribers or get them to click on your affiliate link.
Dwell time is a UX metric that shows the average time spent on your site.
Besides the obvious benefits listed above, there’s also an SEO benefit to keeping your tribe longer on your site.
When Google sees their users stay and enjoy your pages, they will increase your rank across the board because Google’s job is to promote high quality sites, and demote spammy blogs with horrible UX.
Internal link are important, crucial even!
But how to add them to your site properly?
Recommended For You:
Understanding the Importance of Internal Linking – 7 Ways to Add Internal Links to Your Blog
It’s not enough to just plomp internal links willy-nilly on your pages.
Instead you need to be strategic and really know what you’re doing to see an impact on your organic traffic levels.
Learn more below!
#1- Always use Followed Internal Links
I think you already know this but it’s probably the number #1 mistake I see bloggers still make.
And it’s killing their progress and burying their blogs.
The days of PageRank sculpting are long gone.
Nowadays there’s no reason to nofollow your internal links, and If you do, you’ll miss out on the SEO benefit that comes from passing link juice from page A to page B.
Plus no following internal links prevents Google from crawling your site properly.
What to Do if You Already Have Nofollow Internal Links on Your Site?
Then you need to do an internal link audit.
I recommend SiteBulb, a premium tool with a 14 day free trial. No credit card needed.
#2- Avoid Generic Anchor Text- Use Keywords Instead
What is anchor text exactly?
It’s the visible part of the link. The part you can click.
For example, here’s an internal link leading to Pedro’s SEMrush 30-day free trial guide.
“SEMrush 30-day free trial” is the anchor text.
And here’s what the link looks like in HTML.
How to Use Anchor Text For SEO?
Anchor text signals to Google what the link-receiving page is about.
You can use it strategically to tell Google what keywords you want to rank for.
And because internal anchor text is impossible to over optimize you can go aggressive and include your main set of keywords over and over.
That’s why you shouldn’t use generic anchor text. It’s a waste of valuable SEO equity.
#3- Link Relevantly and Try To Silo Things As Much As Possible
Relevant internal links hold more power and are better for the user too.
But what does link relevancy really mean?
It means that your internal links need to make sense within the context of the page. You can easily link from page A to page A1.
But it’s much harder to link from page A to page Z.
Oftentimes it doesn’t make any sense and you shouldn’t do it.
How about an example?
This SEMrush vs Ahrefs guide can easily link to all other articles on Pedro’s site that talk about SEMrush.
And in fact if you visit that page you’ll see that it does.
Those are contextual, strong, relevant internal links that help Pedro rank higher for SEMrush related queries.
You should also try to silo your posts as much as you can, while not going berserk over it.
What is post siloring?
It’s the process of first creating a set of pages on your site that belong to a category silo and then interlinking those pages between them and ONLY between them.
That way you build topical authority and relevance for those topics (see image below)
Internal siloing is a concept first introduced by Bruce Clay a decade ago. It was a perfect internal linking setup for the search bots who weren’t that clever about understanding content on the page, and had to be spoon fed crucial info.
However, in 2021 and beyond, even though internal link siloing can still help, more often than not it will become a burden on your site if you try to implement it.
This model is simply too restrictive to be effective, especially for sites with a few dozen pages at most. Thoses site wouldn’t have content enough to interlink and would suffer for it.
My recommendation is to first create natural silos with WordPress taxonomies (categories and tags); and then break them to pieces by linking where it makes sense for the reader.
#4- Don’t Have Too Many Links On The Page
Having too many links on a page is a bad user experience that will repel anyone visiting your site.
It’s also awful for SEO as you’ll be diluting and wasting PageRank way too much
So you lose current traffic and you lose on future traffic you could have.
The reasonable number of lnk you can have on your page is ~100. This includes your nav bar, sidebar, footer and content body.
And both internal and external links are counted.
How to Check the Number of Links on a Page?
Go to this page and input your URL.
Click on “Count Links”
Wait 10s and scroll down to the report.
The tool will show you the number of internal and external links + which ones are followed and which ones are nofollowed.
This free tool is a gem.
You can even see all links listed out with important details:
- Link URL;
- Link anchor text;
- Anchor type;
This is a great feature if you want to do a quick one-page internal link audit.
#5- Link to Old Pages from New Posts
Whenever you’re getting ready to publish a new post, make sure you stop for a moment, go back and add in a few keyword-rich internal links pointing to your old posts.
That way your new post will be supporting old ones and you’ll be telling Google your older content is still valuable and should still get some visibility in the search engines.
#6- Link to New Pages From Old Ones
Conversely, after you’ve published a new article on your site you need to start promoting it.
The first promotional step is digging into your site and finding pages that can contextually and relevantly link to your new post.
This way you give your new page a bump in the SERPS and the effect is immediate as soon as Google crawls your internal links.
To find linking opportunities simply do a site search + relevant keyword.
For example, if Pedro wanted to link to his ConvertKit guide here, he’d need to find all posts on his site that talk about or mention ConvertKit.
So he’d do a site search “site:astutecopyblogging.com ConvertKit” and all posts that come up are those Google think are most relevant.
They’re all excellent internal linking opportunities.
#7- Remove Obsolete Internal Links
This tip is so simple and yet it is an advanced internal linking strategy almost no one ever mentions.
I’m talking about removing internal links you no longer need.
For example, let’s say you have a page that was promoting last year’s hot product. Now that product is no longer available but your page is still standing with all those juicy links pointing at it.
You want to keep the page indexed because the product might become hot in the future, but there’s really no need to funnel so much PageRank to it.
So, find those internal links and remove them. Doing so will put all that PR back into other links going to other pages on your site and helping them rank higher.
Think of it like this.
If you have 10 links on page A, each passes 10% of PageRank.
Remove 1 and now your links each pass 10% PR + 11% of the removed link’s 10%.
It’s a small difference but in SEO every incremental win is still a win.
Affiliate links also take away PR from your site and even though they’re a necessity, there are times when you can safely remove them.
I’m talking about event marketing pages. A good example is any Black Friday deal page targeting Black Friday sales of X product.
Because those pages can only get traffic in the last week of November and first week of December, there’s no reason to have affiliate links on them during the rest of the year.
So, what I did, as soon as BFCM 2020 was over, I went in and updated all my pages by removing affiliate links.
That put a lot of PageRank that was being wasted back into my site’s circulation.
Internal Linking FAQ – All You Must Know To Link Effectively
Quora is brimming with webmasters interested in the topic of the importance of internal linking.
I spent a solid hour researching, reading and jotting down questions I can answer here.
Both the questions and answers are below, and if you feel like I missed yours, make sure you tell me in the comment section below and I’ll go back and update this guide.
#1- What is An Internal Link? Give Me an Example, NOW! I Mean Pretty Please 🙂
Internal links are hyperlinks that point from one page of your site to another page on your site. For example, this is an internal link that leads to Pedro’s excellent on-page SEO guide.
#2- What is the Main Difference Between Internal and External Backlinks?
The main difference is that internal links point to pages on your domain, while external backlinks point to pages that reside on other websites.
In terms of SEO, the main difference is that external backlinks are a much stronger ranking signal. And they’re also much more scrutinized by the Google Penguin algorithm.
It’s extremely rare to get an algorithm Penguin penalty because of aggressive internal linking. On the other hand, it’s super common and perhaps the new normal to get slammed by Penguin 4.0 as soon as your link profile starts to look unnatural.
#3- Why Is Internal Linking Important?
Proper internal linking strategy is crucial for your site’s growth and wellbeing. Consider it one of rare, true SEO quick win.
Internal links help with:
• Proper crawling and indexing of your site;
• Passing authority throughout your site;
• Building relevance between pages;
• Sending humans from one page onto the next one;
• Building a logical site architecture
• Accumulating positive UX SEO signals which then help with your rankings.
And there’s more. But I trust you get the gist that internal links are really important.
#4- What is the First Anchor Text Rule
The first anchor text rule says that if there are multiple instances of the same link on the page, only the first link’s anchor text will count towards ranking, while others will get ignored by Googlebot.
How about an example?
If you take a look at my site’s navigation, and especially the category section you’ll notice that from my category I link to my Unbounce coupon article.
That’s on purpose. That’s an important page on my site and putting it in the menu ensures that all pages and posts on my site send some of their link authority to that page.
I also get keyword rich anchor text via “Unbounce coupon code”.
The downside to this is that any contextual link to my Unbounce article within the content body is effectively ignored.
So I can’t vary my anchor text at all because Google crawls the menu first and content body second.
That’s the effect of the first anchor rule.
#5- Are Repeated Internal Links on the Page Dangerous?
Will having one link repeated again and again across the same page result in some kind of Google penalty or ranking degradation?
According to Google’s John Mueller, it won’t. You’re free to link away within your site.
#6- How Many Internal Links on The Page Are Too Many?
There is no upper limit per se. You can have thousands of links on a given page and Google will be able to parse them just fine.
However just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Too many links on a page make it look spammy and a horrible experience for the user. And too many links dilute the amount of PageRank passed through each link between your pages.
So if you want internal links to help with your SEO, keep the number of links at a reasonable number. And for general guidelines, have no more than 100 links on the page. This includes both internal links (programmatic and contextual) and external hyperlinks.
#7- How Do I Find Internal Links on the Page?
It’s very easy.
First, install the Mozbar extension here.
Second, fire up the extension on one of your pages and tell Mozbar to highlight all internal links on the page.
#8- How Can I Audit Internal Links?
First of all, you can’t do it manually. There simply too much to do and million ways to err. So you need a tool.
For smaller websites (up to 500 URL’s) I recommend a free tool called Screaming Frog. For larger websites, I recommend SiteBulb. SiteBulb is a sophisticated web crawler that can show you internal links on your entire site and any page on it.
SiteBulb isn’t a free tool, but you do get a 2 week free trial which is more than enough to do a proper internal linking audit.
As a bonus point, SiteBulb is really user friendly. I used it for the first time a month ago and was able to do a complete site audit on my first go. Didn’t even have to consult the SiteBulb blog and training materials.
Here are some guides that can help you:
• How to find broken internal links on a page or site
• Optimize internal link equity flow
#9- Is Internal Link Anchor Text Important?
Yes it is. Keywords in internal link anchors help tell Google what the page that’s receiving the link is about. This builds topical authority and helps you rank higher.
#10- Should I Nofollow Internal Links on My Site? And When?
No you should not. There is no good reason to nofollow internal links. You can’t do PageRank sculpting any more and by nofollowing internally you lose on link equity that could’ve been passed between the linking pages.
It’s best to keep PageRank flowing freely on your site. This means you shouldn’t even use nofollow when you link to no-indexed pages on your site.
Those pages are almost always set to noindex/follow so they still CAN distribute PageRank accordingly.
#11- Do I Have to Interlink Manually for Best Results? Can’t I Use a WordPress Plugin?
Manual internal link building is the best. And that is what I strongly recommend if you have a relatively small website (<500 pages).
However, big websites can profit from a premium internal linking plugin that can remove 95% of work needed, and the result will still be great.
There are many free tools and plugins to choose from, but my favorites are:
• Link Whisper;
• Autolink Manager Pro;
• Internal Link Juicer.
These are all premium plugins, but they are also very affordable and definitely worth getting.
(Conclusion) Are Internal Links Really That Important?
I started this guide on the importance of internal linking by saying that the significance of internal links can’t be overstated. And I repeat it here and now.
The importance of internal linking can’t be overstated.
And it’s a HUGE mistake not to use them to your advantage.
Internal links help with SEO.
They improve site UX.
They help you make more sales and get more subscribers.
Their positive effect compounds as your site grows in size and traffic.
Internal links are my favorite part of on page SEO and it’s no wonder why. They work and they’re easy to do.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below!