Internal Linking

Internal Linking

What Are Internal Links?

Internal links are hyperlinks that point to pages on the same domain. These are different than external links, which link out to pages on other domains.

Why Are Internal Links Important for SEO?

Internal links help Google find, index and understand all of the pages on your site.

If you use them strategically, internal links can send page authority (also known as PageRank) to important pages.

In short: internal linking is key for any site that wants higher rankings in Google.

Best Practices

Use Keyword-Rich Anchor Text

You can even get away with using some exact match anchor text in your internal links.

(Which is a big no-no when it comes to your site’s backlinks)

In fact, Google even recommends that you use keywords in your anchor text:

Google recommends that you use keywords in your anchor text

For example, here’s an internal link on a page from my site:

Internal link on Backlinko page

That anchor text helps users AND Google understand that the page I’m linking to is about “Mobile SEO”.

That said, it looks spammy if all of your anchor text is exactly the same.

Google has said that using lots of exact match anchor text in internal links won’t “typically” hurt you.

Google said that using exact-match anchor text in internal links doesn't typically hurt you

But I like to stay on the safe side. That’s why I mix up my internal link anchor text quite a bit:

Mix-up internal link anchor text

Link to Important Pages

When you link to another page on your site, you send link authority to that page.

Link to important pages

(Which can help that page rank better in Google)

These internal links aren’t nearly as powerful as links from other websites. But they still help.

That’s why smart SEOs strategically link to important pages.

Here’s the exact process:

First, fire up your link building tool of choice, like Ahrefs or Moz Pro.

Next, find the pages on your site with the MOST link authority.

Ahrefs – Pages with most link authority

Finally, link FROM those pages to the pages that you want to rank most.

For example, a few months ago I published this guide to Google RankBrain.

Google RankBrain SEO post

This is a high-priority page for me. But because it’s a brand new page it had pretty much zero backlinks.

Enter: internal linking.

First, I fired up Ahrefs to find pages with the most authority to throw around.

And I added internal links from those high-authority pages to my new post.

Internal links added to post

I also used keyword-rich anchor text whenever possible:

Use keyword-rich anchor text whenever possible

Don’t Use The Same Anchor Text For Two Different Pages

This confuses the heck out of Google.

For example, let’s say you have two pages on your site.

One is about grain-free chocolate chip cookies. And the other is about low-carb chocolate chip cookies.

Two separate product pages

Well, you wouldn’t want to link to both pages with the same anchor text:

Same anchor text linking different pages

When Google sees that, they think that both pages are on the exact same topic.

Instead, use different, descriptive anchor text for each page:

Use descriptive anchor text to link pages

Audit Internal Links With the Google Search Console

The Google Search Console has an AWESOME feature called: “links”.

Google Search Console – Links

And you can use this feature to see how your your site’s internal links are set up.

For example, if you look at my report, you can see that most of my internal links point to my about page, contact page, privacy policy etc.

Most Backlinko internal links point to certain pages

This isn’t ideal for SEO. But because these pages are all in my site’s main navigation, it’s something I have to live with.

Moving onto other pages, you can see that these 7 pages have the most internal links pointing to them:

Backlinko – Other pages with high internal linking

This is no surprise because I link to these pages from my site’s sidebar:

Backlinko site – Sidebar links

And because these are all high-priority pages for me, I’m glad that they’re getting the lion’s share of my internal linking.

So all good.

I recommend doing an internal link audit 1-2x per year. You’ll sometimes find that low-priority pages are getting a ton of internal link love.

(Which is something you can quickly fix)

Put Links High Up On Your Page

I’ve tested internal link placement A LOT.

And I can tell you that putting internal links towards the top of your page can reduce your bounce rate and improve Dwell Time.

What does this have to do with SEO?

Well, when someone spends a long time on your site, it tells Google: “People are loving this result. This page must be a great result for this keyword. Let’s bump it up a few spots”.

High dwell time improves rankings

And when you put internal links high up on your page, it gives people something to click on right away.

Which means they’ll spend more time on your site.

For example, you can see that I placed an internal link in the intro of this blog post:

Skyscraper Technique – Internal link in the intro

Of course, you want to add internal links throughout your page. But don’t be afraid to add 1-2 internal links at the top of your page when it makes sense.

Dofollow Links

If you want to send PageRank around your site via internal links, you’ll need to use normal dofollow links.

Yup, this is obvious. But it’s worth mentioning because I’ve seen people nofollow their internal links before.

It’s usually because they use some kind of plugin that automatically adds the nofollow tag to external links. And a bug or setting makes their internal links nofollow as well.

Use Internal Links To Help With Indexing

Google is usually finds and indexes all of the important pages on a website.

But if you have LOTS of pages (or a limited Crawl Budget), Google might only index a certain percentage of your site’s pages.

Only some pages might be indexed

That’s where internal links come into play.

Internal links make it easy for Google to find pages on your site.

Internal links make pages easier to be found

(Especially pages that are buried deep in your site’s architecture, sometimes called “Orphan pages”)

So if you have a page or set of pages that you want indexed, internal link to that page or that page’s category from your site’s navigation:

Add internal links to pages or categories to improve indexing

Directly from one page to another:

Direct linking pages

And don’t forget to link from your sitemap to the page you want to get indexed:

Link sitemap to page

Link Strategically From Your Homepage

If you’re like most people, your homepage is the most authoritative page on your entire website.

For example, my homepage has 15% more links than my 2nd most-linked to page:

Homepage has more links than the second most linked-to page

So it’s important to link strategically from your homepage to pages that need some juice.

In my case, I link from my homepage to my blog:

Link from homepage to blog

Yes, that internal link sends authority to my blog feed.

Link strategically from your homepage

But because my blog links to every post on my site, that homepage authority ultimately reaches all of my posts:

Home page authority ultimately reaches all posts

(Would it be better to link directly from my homepage to important posts? Sure. But this works almost as well and keeps my homepage focused on conversions).

Avoid Automation

I’m not a fan of tools that automate internal linking.

Internal link generator – WordPress plugin

Why? 3 reasons:

  1. It’s hard to be strategic: Plugins and tools add internal links without understanding which pages need the most juice. Or which pages on your site are best to link FROM.
  2. Anchor text spam: Depending on the size of your site, a plugin can EASILY create 1k+ exact match anchor text internal links overnight.
  3. Ignores users: Internal links aren’t just for SEO. They also help users find related content on your site. For example, a plugin could never think to add this link:
    Manual internal link not possible with plugin

Help With Site Architecture

Internal links help you create a site architecture that it easy for Google and users to find what they need on your website.

In fact, internal links ARE your site’s architecture.

Internal links are your architecture

Yes, many of your internal links will point from page A to page B. But you also want to link your pages together into categories.

Link pages together in categories

Ecommerce sites do an awesome job of this.

For example, if you look at Zappos.com, all of their belt product pages link to each other via their category page:

Zappos internal linking example

Add Internal Links to Old Pages

I do this as part of my quarterly SEO site audit. And it’s SUPER helpful.

Here’s how it works:

First, find an old article on your site that you published at least a year ago.

Next, grab a list of pages that you published since you first published the old article.

Finally, scan the page for places where you can add an internal link to a new page.

Voila!

You just got a handful of helpful internal links from a few minutes of work.

Don’t Go Overboard

Internal links are great. But at a certain point (at about 100), links on a page don’t pass as much value.

And if you think 100 sounds like a lot of links, keep in mind that this includes ALL internal and external links.

That’s not to say that you can’t go above 100 links on a page. For example, this page on my site has at least 200 links:

SEO Tools post

Just know that starting at about 100, each additional link on that page passes less and less value.

Check Mobile Versions of Your Website

Google has said that it’s OK to have a different internal link structure for the desktop and mobile versions of your website.

Google has said it's okay to have different link structures for desktop and mobile versions of your site

That said:

I recommend keeping both versions as similar as possible.

Either way, it’s worth double checking that the mobile version of your site has all of the key internal links that your desktop version has.

First Link Priority

Sometimes you’ll find yourself with two identical internal links on the same page.

Identical links on the same page

This isn’t a big deal. In fact, it’s common if you have lots of links in your site’s navigation:

Lots of links in the site nav

The only issue is anchor text.

Which anchor text does Google “count”?

The first one on the page.

Only first anchor text counted

That’s why your navigation link anchor text is so important. Not only does your navigation result in A LOT of links, but it can override other anchor text on your page.

Learn More

Website Architecture and Internal Links: A short but thorough video on how website architecture and internal linking work together.

Links Report: All about the super duper useful “Links Report” in the new GSC.

Wikipedia.org: They’re the masters of internal linking. Worth poking around and seeing how they do it.