Internal links refer to those URLs that link to other pages on your website. These are different from external links that connect to pages from your website to another one.
Internal linking is one of the important components of on page SEO and can help you rank your new pages real quick, and at the same time boost the strength of your older pages.
The basic concept behind internal linking is to improve user engagement, at the same time help Google crawl your website better. This idea is to enhance the SEO value of the website by distributing the link juice internally within the web pages.
1. For your users
Understand that everything we do in on-page SEO is aimed towards enhancing the user experience.
The same is the case behind using internal links.
Internal links help your users navigate your website with ease.
In addition, many a time, your user may want to seek information that is not covered as part of the current page. Or some supporting information is required by the user which can’t be provided within the current page.
In such cases, internal links help users refer to other useful resources on your website.
The idea is to direct your user to the right resources on your website so that he gets what he is looking for.
2. For Google
Google crawler finds your web pages through links, both internal and external. The more links your page has, the more gateways you offer to Google to crawl your page.
Your internal backlinks help Google understand the structure of your website, the connection between the content on multiple pages and the relevance & context of each content piece.
For example, we have linked this blog post to our pillar post on important on page SEO factors, and vice versa. That way, Google gets a relationship between these two content pieces and marks OnPage Champ as a resource talking about on-page SEO elements.
Another advantage of internal linking is that it passes the link equity further down to the linked pages, thereby pushing up the SEO value of the linked pages. We call this as passing the link value.
More link value a page has, the more is the probability of it getting ranked on Google.
That’s why internal linking is such an important and critical aspect of your on-page SEO optimization exercise.
There is no right or wrong place on your website to link internally. Just keep your user in mind and link so that they can find the relevant content on your website easily.
Following are some of the ways through which you can link to your other pages:
You can (rather you should) interlink your pages/posts with each other. Link to other good resources on your website, which you think your user might be interested in exploring as part of his internet search.
These are real strong links because you are telling the user that here’s a useful link for you, so do click on it.
These refer to the links that you provide on your home page or on the top/bottom navigation.
Needless to say, you should add only those pages that hold a high business value for you and which you want your users to see right away.
Google treats navigational links with high importance. Moreover, these are directly linked to your homepage so a lot of link equity gets passed to these pages.
These refer to the links coming from category/tags/author pages.
Taxonomies give structure to your content and help both your user and Google understand the relation between multiple content pieces.
For example, we have added this particular blog post (and multiple others like it) to the main category of “on-page SEO”. That way, “on-page SEO” becomes one of the branches of our content tree, while blogs like this connect as stems and leaves.
This makes the entire content structure really easy to understand.
You would have seen almost every site talking about their recently added posts or top posts.
This is mostly done in the sidebars via widgets.
This practice not just links to other pages but also drives engagement on your website, thereby sending positive signals to Google.
1. Link internally with a purpose
Link to other pages only when you see your user benefiting from the link.
Adding value to your readers should be your starting point and not just the passing of link value.
Since most of us link from the main content, these should be highly relevant to the topic of discussion.
If they are relevant, your user will click and move to your other pages, thereby driving up the engagement factor.
An engaged user is an indication of a great website, and that means higher ranking.
In a way, right internal linking helps both your reader as well as your SEO.
If you want to build internal links, you obviously need to have lots of content on your website, and lots of pages hosting that content.
That’s why it gets critical to have a content strategy in place.
Only if you are creating a well thought and related content, you can give relevant links.
If you are not building content, you can’t build any more internal links either (after a specific point).
And as Neil Patel says:
It lies in plenty of happy links going to helpful places.”
3. Keep topical relevance in mind
If you are following the first 2 points, you are bound to link relevant content i.e. content that speaks of similar ideas and support each other to build an overall larger picture.
Once you link keeping topical relevance in mind, the SEO strength of your pages increases dramatically.
For example, in one of my personal projects, I created content pieces around mutual fund platforms,mutual fund apps detailed reviews, mutual fund investment strategies, investment caveats, etc. and linked them internally.
Since the content was of very high quality and multiple pieces were closely knit together through internal links, most of these content pieces rank in the top 3 positions on Google, that too without any external backlinks.
All thanks to staying focussed on a larger topic and linking relevant pieces together.
4. Always do-follow
One reason behind internal linking is to allow the flow of link value deep down, thereby giving an SEO boost to other pages.
Why in this world would you like to stop that by using a “rel=nofollow” attribute?
But making internal links “nofollow” at a grand scale will do no good for your SEO.
Avoid it all costs.
5. Mind the anchor tex
Don’t keyword stuff your anchor text while linking back. That’s a practice of the past and is nothing but a spam today.
A keyword mentioned once in a while is fine (and it won’t harm).
Important is to write natural and stay within the context of the surrounding words & paragraphs. Google is smart enough to catch if you are force-fitting a link or mentioning it naturally.
6. Don’t overdo it
How many maximum internal links are good enough?
While John Muller mentioned 100, he left more ambiguity than clarity in his answer by saying that there can be even more.
This number 100 can be easily achieved, given that there are so many navigational links on a webpage page. Does that mean you should add links to your content with high caution?
Again, the answer lies in finding the value for your users and then linking to the right pages. Unless you are spamming or you are Wikipedia, I don’t think you will be linking too much.
May be an internal link for every 300-400 words is a good measure, but let user value drive that number. An aberration here or there is perfectly fine.
1. Use Search Console
You can check your topmost internal links in the Search Console report, as shown below:-
2. Use OnPage Champ
If you want to check how your top ranking competitors link internally, you don’t need to spend hours of manual research to do that.\
Just log in to OnPage Champ, enter a keyword and location and within a couple of seconds, we will show you the internal links (along with anchor text) that the top-ranking results are using.
If this is the first time you are reading this concept, you are bound to get overwhelmed.
After all, you need to go through all your content pages, run an audit and discover internal linking opportunities. And if you have hundreds of pages on your website, this exercise will take a hell lot of time.
Don’t worry, the key to your success lies in starting small. Start with the below-mentioned steps and build your internal links one at a time.
1. Look for orphans
An orphan page is one to which no page on your website is linking to.
Look out for such pages on your website, decide their business/SEO value and then link them appropriately.
You can use free tools like Screaming Frog to hunt down all your orphan pages, as mentioned in this guide.
Even if you haven’t started internal linking yet, at least start giving internal links to every new blog post/page that you create in the future.
This will ensure you your new pages get an immediate link value and can rank faster.
3. Run a quarterly review
Every quarter, review the internal linking opportunities for both your new and old content. There may be new content pieces that can be linked from some of your high-valueHunt all these opportunities and nail them pages, and vice versa.
Hunt all these opportunities and nail them.
Unfortunately, there is no tool that can help you with this. It’s a manual process to understand the importance of each page, and then linking them together naturally.