Let’s talk about link structure and link equity — what are internal links? And do internal links help SEO?
For some of us, blogging is just a fun, creative outlet — and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if blogging is more than just a pastime for you, you’ll care about SEO. You want to optimise your posts and you’ll care about your on-site health, along with any number of factors that affect your rankings in Google.
One area where people often fall down is internal linking — often, bloggers focus so much on guest posting and building links to their website that they overlook their internal lining strategy — a common SEO mistake you should avoid.
Creating regular, quality content is important, but it’s not enough. For reasons we’ll outline below, you need to think about linking to other internal pages, which will drive valuable traffic to other posts. Think of internal links as a web. You want to make sure your content is connected, which will give Google an idea as to the structure, hierarchy and overall theme of your website. You want to make sure that none of your pages are left out of this intricate web.
So let’s break down this topic — what are internal links? Do internal links help SEO? Is there such a thing as ‘too many’ internal links? And what are some SEO best practices when it comes to internal linking?
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What Are Internal Links?
Put simply, internal links are hyperlinks from one page of your website to another. You’ll have seen them on nearly every single website you’ve visited.
Internal links are used by your website users and search engines to find content on your domain. Nobody — users or Googlebots — will find a page unless it has links pointing to it. Knowing this, it’s easy to see how savvy bloggers can use internal linking strategically and to see how internal links help SEO and site health. Using internal linking wisely can result in a significant boost to a website’s performance.
Types of Internal Links
Before we dive into internal links, you should know that there are two types of internal like:
- Navigational — These types of links help users to find the ‘main’ pages of your website, such a hte contact page, the about page, and so on. For bloggers, it’s likely that navigational links won’t be as important to your strategy as contextual links. After all, your focus is going to be driving traffic towards certain blog posts, rather than a service page.
- Contextual — In this post, we’ll focus on contextual links. These links appear in your content and they point users to relevant, interesting content on your domain. Contextual links have higher SEO value
What is the Purpose of Internal Linking?
It is widely recognised that internal linking has three main purposes:
- Website navigation — Internal links helps users (and little Google sprites) to navigate a website.
- Hierarchy and architecture — Internal linking helps us to establish a ‘hierarchy’ of links. We are effectively telling Google which posts are the most important and which posts we really want to rank for.
- Distributing page authority — Internal linking can help to distribute page authority and ranking power across your blog. This is known as ‘spreading link equity’.
Why is it Important to Spread Link Equity?
Linking internally can help to spread link equity, meaning that your backlink building is all the more effective. Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you got a backlink from Parents. Congratulations! Not only do they have a domain authority of 85, but if you are a parenting blogger, it’s a hugely relevant and valuable backlink. It might even open doors to more guest post opportunities in the future.
Let’s imagine this backlink from Parents is pointing to a specific post on your website. If you don’t link out to any other pages, only that blog post benefits. By linking to more internal pages from that post, you can share and spread the link equity, meaning that your websites benefits more generally. It’s worth noting that a page can only pass so much PageRank. So you can funnel it into one page, or spread it to a few. If you do so, you split that power, but it means that more pages benefit, which is, on the whole, better for your website.
Do Internal Links Help SEO?
Now you know the basics about internal links and why they’re important, you’ll want to know: do internal links help SEO? Why are they important to your overall strategy?
Simply, internal links are one of the most important SEO elements. Fortunately, as a blogger and website owner, internal links are entirely within your control. And the good news is, tweaking your internal link structure could represent some pretty immediate quick-wins in terms of SEO.
Internal links help Google to find, understand and index the pages and posts of your website. Google needs all the clues it can get to understand your website and your posts, so it can appropriately rank your content. If a post has a lot of links pointing to it (whether these links are external links pointing to your content or internal links), this is a signal to Google that the post is high-value, or important.
For sake of argument, let’s say you create a post, but you don’t link to it from anywhere else on your website, and you don’t have any backlinks built to it — this is what’s known as an orphan page. Google can’t find orphan pages because they don’t know they’ve been created, which means they aren’t going to rank or perform well.
What’s more, internal links can be used to boost page views and improve time on site.
Internal Linking Strategy: Best Practice
In terms of internal linking strategy, there are a few things you can do. In fact, Neil Patel has recommended the following as golden rules of internal linking:
1. Create regular, quality, revant content
If you want to build a lot of internal links, you’ll need to have lots of content. You’ll want this content to be valuable, keyword-rich and relevant to your niche. To keep you on task, you should consider creating a content calendar for your blog. Planning your content in this way will help you stay organised, but it’ll also give you an idea as to what posts could (and should) link to other posts. If you find that certain posts don’t really relate to, or connect with, any other posts, you might want to take this as a sign that it isn’t the right fit for your website.
2. Use relevant anchor text
Don’t miss a trick with internal linking. It’s just one side of the coin — you should also be using appropriate anchor text to point users to other pages. Give Google, and your users, hints with the anchor text. Make the text informative so it’s completely clear what they can expect if they click the link.
3. Learn where not to link to…
The general rule is to avoid linking to navigational pages, such as the homepage and the ‘contact us’ page. This is especially important for bloggers, as these pages aren’t particularly important in terms of ranking.
4. And where you should link to
It’s wise to link to relevant, informational blogs in the same vein which will keep your readers interested — and keep them on your website. Link to pages and posts that will provide real value to your readers. Consider user experience and ask — if I was a user on this website, reading this post, would I be likely to click through to this content?
5. Avoid NoFollow Links
Whatever you do, make sure your internal links don’t have a nofollow tag! This will prevent link juice from spreading throughout your website. It might sound obvious, but it’s a mistake some people make.
6. Be sensible with the number of internal links
There is no hard-and-fast rule with how many internal links you should include in your content. Even if there was, we know Google wouldn’t tell us — they famously like to keep their cards close to their chest. But don’t take things to extremes. As with most aspect of SEO, be sure to keep your user experience hat on. If every other sentence contains an internal link, it’s going to look unnatural and spammy to a reader. Instead, just use them when relevant and natural — this will keep Google happy as well as your readers.
How much thought have you put into your internal linking? It might be worth occasionally conducting an internal link audit and using an internal links checker (I’d recommend Screaming Frog) to make sure you have no orphan pages. I’d also recommend taking five minutes each time you post a blog and going back to older blogs, linking where appropriate. Build it into your routine and it’ll be second-nature in no time.