Every site has – and should have – internal links. Though they’re easily forgotten, they’re a fundamental way of improving your site’s performance in search engines. To put it simply, internal links are what they sound like – hyperlinks that go from one page to another on the same domain or website. We’ll be looking at what they are in a little more detail, show you the SEO benefits and give you a quick rundown of how to use internal links on your own site.
What internal links do
They’re most commonly used in main navigation and allow your users to move around the domain according to a hierarchy that makes sense for your site. They also help distribute link equity/ranking power across websites. Though external links are important – those “backlinks” that take visitors to other sites – internal links are another – and arguably easier – way to significantly boost your site’s performance.
How they help your SEO performance
To put it simply, a search engine like Google has “spiders” or web crawlers that trawl the content and pathways of a site when deciding to direct visitors there. If you publish new content that isn’t on the sitemap and has no internal or external links, then the search engine has a harder time “seeing” it, potentially ignoring entire chunks of content simply because it cannot quickly locate a path to them. In other words, link equity will be unevenly distributed across the site.
Internal links can be a clever way to get traffic to pages you can’t naturally link to in any other way. A properly organised and logically hierarchical site distributes the ranking power evenly, resulting in a better ranking overall for each page. The more internal links, the more trust and equity for your site.
How to use internal links
The best way to build a high-performance hierarchy that’s navigable for both users and search algorithms, is to create internal links and supplementary URL structures. The links can be images but are more commonly anchor texts that the user sees and clicks. Try the following tips to boost performance:
Structure your hierarchy with the most important pages at the top, going down the pyramid in importance. Create “silos” or logical subcategories to organise pages that naturally belong together – each topic cluster is linked to the main hub and so to the rest of the hierarchy. You want natural, relevant links, which will perform better than simply trying to shoehorn various keywords into content. When in doubt, it’s better not to link than to create an irrelevant link.
Use good anchor texts – they don’t need to be an exact match. Make the text clear, specific and as natural as possible in context. Make sure to keep internal links in mind every time you publish new content, and avoid using the same anchor text over and over again.
Conduct a comprehensive site audit to find any broken links, links pointing to blocked or deleted pages, “orphan pages” (those with no links), links going to irrelevant pages, or links written in the wrong format. Alternatively, audit tools are simple to use and will help you understand your redirect traffic.
Don’t overdo it. It can be a bad idea to have too many internal links. Prioritise your user experience and link only when it’s natural and helpful to do so – 10 or so is a rough limit (this page has 8).
Remember that your site needs to be user-friendly, too. Regularly check that your site architecture, user experience and navigability is what it should be, especially if the site is expanding.
You could conduct your own Google search to help you decide exactly where to link from. Use the search operator site:yourdomain.com “keyword or phrase related to page” to see how often the phrase appears in your site’s posts. If you find a keyword with no link – put a link there. Your SEO team can help with this.
Identify your power pages: those pages that have the most backlinks and highest authority. Your most important sites should have the most internal links to tell web crawlers how important it is. A tool like Screaming Frog can help you filter out your top pages.
At Fibre Marketing, we’ve found that Internal link building is simple once you understand the basic principles. As with most SEO, you’re essentially finding ways to make your site as visible, relevant and valuable to users as possible – and this is a question of understanding the rules search engines use to determine this.