Think of internal linking as your website’s own spiderweb.
When woven right, you get site visitors to stay longer and explore more pages. You increase your visitors’ time on page and tell search engines you know your niche well.
A couple of years ago, I revamped a client’s website and, in my excitement, I overlooked its internal link structure. The result? Confused visitors and missed opportunities. It was a tough lesson on the importance of interlinking.
So here’s a lowdown on the lessons I learned. This isn’t just another guide, though. It’s your roadmap to creating a website that’s so interconnected that both your users and Google can’t help but love it.
Let’s cut to the chase and start learning how to place internal links properly.
Why Are Internal Linking Best Practices Important?
Here are 3 solid reasons to convince you why you should take your internal linking efforts to the next level.
A. They Serve As Guides To Search Engines
When it comes to boosting your website’s visibility, internal links are your secret weapon.
When you strategically interlink relevant content on the same website, you provide Google with clear signals about how different pages connect and relate to one another. Having a meticulous internal linking structure lets Google discover new pages on your site during the crawling process.
Google uses search engine crawlers called Googlebot. As this bot comes across your links, they eagerly follow them to index your pages.
Googlebot deciphers the intricate web of relationships between your blog articles, posts, and other content from your site pages. As a result, Google will fully understand the topics covered on various pages of your site.
B. They Pass Authority aka PageRank
First things first, what is PageRank? It’s an algorithm Google uses to assess the importance and relevance of web pages.
Here’s an example:
When external links from reputable sources point to a specific webpage on your website (let’s say Page 1), that page gains authority in the form of PageRank.
Once that happens, your strong internal linking structure comes into play. The page authority can then be passed on from Page 1 to other pages within the same domain through internal links.
So, adding internal links within your content, particularly in blog posts, lets you intentionally guide authority flow throughout your website. This amplifies the overall page authority and reinforces your content’s SEO value.
C. They Improve Your Sites User Experience (UX)
Internal linking gives easy access to your relevant pages and optimizes the user journey.
Let’s say a user lands on your blog post about “SEO best strategies.” Strategically incorporating internal links within that content will guide your user to relevant pages that delve deeper into specific SEO topics, like “Best SEO software for 2023”, “Content optimization for SEO”, or “What is enterprise SEO?”
They keep users engaged and immersed in your site’s valuable resources. Relevant internal links also increase the chances of them completing desired actions, be it making a purchase, filling out a form, or exploring additional products.
Now that we’ve got a grip on how much Google’s algorithms and crawlers love a well-woven internal linking system, it’s time for the main event. Let’s uncover the 13 internal linking strategies to supercharge your SEO.
13 Internal Linking Best Practices To Rank Better
Inserting internal links sounds easy and it is if you don’t care about SEO. But that’s not you, is it?
To successfully implement your internal linking plans, you’ll need to know the best practices to employ.
Best Practice 1: Perform An Internal Link Audit
Without an audit, you’re going in blind. Relying on guesswork will dampen your SEO efforts.
On the other hand, an internal link audit helps you identify any irrelevant or broken internal links that will hinder your website’s performance. Additionally, when you analyze your internal linking structure, you will make sure that every link serves a purpose and contributes to your SEO goals.
How do you perform an audit?
Start with identifying broken internal links within your site. You can use tools like:
- Google Search Console
To give you an idea, here’s how you could do it in Ahrefs. First, do a site audit using its platform.
Then, follow these steps:
Go to Project → Internal Pages → HTTP status codes → 4XX.
After running a site audit and identifying the broken internal links, here’s what you should do:
- Fix or remove broken internal links so the user experience is more seamless.
- Assess internal link relevance and context to make sure they align with the content of the linked pages.
- Identify any missing internal links that could be added to connect relevant pages and improve navigation.
- Analyze internal links distribution across important pages to ensure they receive adequate visibility.
In doing these, Google and other search engines will accurately understand the relationship between the linked pages and properly index the web pages.
Best Practice 2: Create Lots Of High-Quality Content
Content is king. That’s true for SEO and in developing a robust internal linking strategy.
Why is that?
Producing valuable and relevant content opens up numerous opportunities for creating internal links.
Each piece of content can be strategically linked to other relevant pages on your website. This forms a network of interconnected information.
One of the best ways to do this is to leverage the hub and spoke strategy. Picture the hub as your main topic, the one that’s buzzing with high-volume search terms. It’s the heart of your conversation, the big idea you’ll delve into. The spokes are your sub-topics based on lower-volume and long-tail search terms.
Here’s an example:
For our client in the database industry, we created hubs on “data pipeline” and “data connector” since those are the main search terms we’re trying to rank for. The spokes are the primary search terms like “data pipeline tools” and “mysql to parquet” and they’ll be the supporting acts, topics we deep-dive into.
This strategy weaves a rich tapestry of contextually linked content, enhancing your SEO game. With one main search term at the center (hub), you can create threads of related content – the spokes.
Besides keeping search engines happy, adding internal links within your content also guides users to additional relevant information, enhancing their user experience and increasing your industry authority on the topic.
This internal link structure plays a vital role in establishing a coherent site architecture. It helps search engines understand the relationships between different site pages and improve their ability to index and rank your content.
Here are tried and tested techniques to push you in the right direction:
Following these tactics lets you develop a wealth of high-quality content that:
- Provides value to your audience
- Strengthens your internal linking strategies
With this, you’ll drive traffic to important pages and increase the overall link value within your website.
Best Practice 3: Link High Authority Pages To Freshly Created Pages
Unlocking the full potential of your newly published content often hinges on your approach to internal linking.
Why? Because when you weave internal links pointing from high authority pages to your fresh content, you’re transferring valuable “link juice” or link equity.
This link juice transfer sends signals to search crawlers that your fresh content is contextually relevant and valuable. Thus, increasing their visibility in search engines.
So, what types of links should you use? Contextual links.
Unlike navigational links, which are often found in menus or sidebars and help users navigate through the website, contextual links are integrated seamlessly within the text. They offer further value by directing users to related or supporting content on the same site.
More importantly, they help search engines index your website as they provide a clear pathway for crawlers to navigate and understand the importance of your new pages.
Best Practice 4: Use SEO-Friendly Anchor Texts
An anchor text – the clickable words containing a hyperlink – plays a pivotal role in boosting your internal linking strategies.
However, you can’t just use random, generic anchor text like “click here.” It has to be SEO-friendly and descriptive.
But what does it mean to have a descriptive anchor text?
It needs to accurately mirror the linked page’s content. This supplies search engines with enhanced context and boosts your internal links’ relevance.
Also, you can use an exact match anchor text. This means that the anchor text of the link matches the target page’s exact search term or phrase.
Keep this in mind, though:
Don’t use the same anchor text within one blog post or page. But more on that later.
Best Practice 5: Link Deep (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3)
A solid internal linking strategy demands more than linking to your homepage or top-tier pages. It invites you to link deep – to penetrate the multiple layers of your website and establish a robust hierarchical structure.
How does linking deep do that? Well, it weaves a web of relevant links, extending from one page to many others fortifying your entire site structure.
Picture this: as you add links, targeting not just your top-level pages, but also your 2nd-tier and 3rd-tier pages, you distribute link equity across your website. This often-overlooked broad-based strategy strengthens the authority of all your pages.
Now, how do you decide which links below to what tiers?
- Tier 1 are the big hubs, they are the main topics (e.g. content marketing).
- Tier 2 are the subtopics of the hubs (e.g. benefits of content marketing, content marketing best practices).
- Tier 3 are mostly low volume/long tail search terms that cover the topics more holistically (e.g. benefits of content marketing software for content creation, content marketing best practices for start-ups).
Best Practice 6: Use A Lot Of Internal Links
When orchestrating your internal linking strategy, a fundamental question often emerges:
“How many internal links should I incorporate?”
The answer leans towards a generous number, though with a caveat.
Based on what I’ve discussed so far, the premise is simple. More links generally yield a richer network of interconnections between your pages. This translates to a better site structure so Google bots can navigate your website seamlessly.
However, the line between beneficial and excessive is thin. Too many internal links can clutter the site and hurt user experience, potentially repelling rather than engaging your audience. If that happens, your SEO efforts can go down the drain.
So, here’s what you should do:
Aim for a balance.
Incorporate many internal links while avoiding saturation. Your internal linking placements should have a purpose. It can’t be there for the sake of it. The end goal should be to provide users with a multitude of navigation options and additional resources.
Additionally, think about your external links as well when deciding on how many links you should incorporate within a page so you don’t needlessly saturate the content.
Best Practice 7: Make Sure Image Links Have Alt Attributes
Just as your text-based internal links utilize anchor text, image links should also have alt attributes. They’re descriptive tags that articulate the image content.
So, to give you an idea, here’s how you add those if you’re using WordPress:
Here’s a visual:
Think of these “alt text” or “alt tags” as the internal link anchor text for your image links. Create concise and descriptive phrases that accurately represent the image content. If it aligns naturally, include relevant search terms.
This tag provides a clear context for search engines and accessibility for visually impaired users. For the former, they provide context to images, helping search engines understand and index the image content.
For the latter, screen readers use these tags to describe images, enhancing their browsing experience. Additionally, they provide a textual representation of an image to give an idea of its content in case the image fails to load.
Best Practice 8: Avoid Creating Sitewide Footer Links
The world of internal linking has transformed quite a bit and you should keep up with these changes to bolster your SEO efforts. One area that’s seen a real shake-up and you need to keep an eye on is the use of sitewide footer links.
Here’s an example of footer links:
They used to be a common method to increase internal links, but have gotten pushed aside because of search engine algorithms upgrades. Now, if you’re not careful with your site-wide footer links, search engines can see them as spammy.
So, instead of employing a sea of footer links, do as we’ve been discussing in this article.
Add internal links contextually within your content. That’s a more effective internal linking strategy. If you have plenty of footer links, tag them as nofollow (more on that later).
Always go back to the purpose of internal site links. Remember, internal links are hyperlinks that connect pages on your site.
They’re there as navigational aids for both users and search engines. Too many links will dilute the link value and be counterproductive.
Best Practice 9: Don’t Use The Same Anchor Texts For Two Different Pages
Establishing site architecture involves more than incorporating internal and external links. It requires thoughtful consideration of anchor texts, as mentioned earlier.
So, while it’s common to have many internal links, using the same anchor text for each will be counterproductive.
When you use the same anchor text for two different pages, you confuse search engine crawlers.
Think about it this way:
You’re in a city and there are two coffee shops, both called “Cup of Joe”. You ask two different people for directions to “Cup of Joe”, but they point you in two different directions. Confusing, right?
The same concept applies to using the same anchor text for two different pages on your website. An anchor text acts like a signpost, telling users and search engines alike what to expect when they follow a link.
So, if you use the same anchor text for links pointing to two different pages, it’s like giving confusing directions.
Google crawlers might stumble, unsure which page the anchor text truly points to. This can disrupt proper indexing and the flow of the link juice. Plus, users will end up on a page they didn’t expect.
To avoid this mistake, use unique and descriptive anchor texts for each page. This way, both search engines and users have a clear idea of where each link will lead them.
Here’s an example of anchor texts done right:
Both internal links are about cookies, but as you can see the anchor texts are different from each other.
To mitigate this and clarify the path for both users and search engines, make each anchor text a clear signpost, directing to a unique web page and accurately reflecting its content.
Best Practice 10: Put Important Links High Up On Your Page
Mastering the art of internal linking involves knowing where to place these links.
Ideally, you should place your internal links in the introduction or within the first few paragraphs. Think of your website as a book. You want to hook your readers right from the start, right?
This gives your readers something to check out immediately, enticing them to explore more of your website’s content. This keeps them engaged longer and the longer they stay on your website, the higher the chances that they’ll take your desired actions.
Why is this effective?
It’s simple. High link placement ensures that search engines and users encounter these links early. This improves their visibility and underscores their importance.
But this doesn’t mean that you should place all the links within the 1st half of your web page. The best practice is to have most internal links spread across your content. Just put the 1 or 2 most important ones on the top.
Best Practice 11: Use Follow Links
In the realm of SEO, the distinction between ‘nofollow’ and ‘follow’ links is crucial. This practice, simple but potent, enhances your site’s visibility, search traffic, and performance.
How are they different from each other?
When crafting your internal linking strategy, make sure your internal links are ‘follow’ links so, search engines can cross and pass authority through them. This bolsters the linked pages’ ranking potential in search results.
Unlike a ‘nofollow’ link, which tells search engines not to follow or pass SEO value through the link, a ‘follow’ link maximizes the SEO benefits of your internal links.
While ‘nofollow’ links have their place, especially when linking to untrusted content or user-generated content, ‘follow’ links should be the default for your internal links.
Best Practice 12: Don’t Use Link Automation
Yes, the promise of automation in creating internal links is appealing. However, the reality can be less than ideal.
Automated tools may generate more links but often at the expense of quality and relevance. For instance:
- The plugins can generate many internal links, but a lot will have the same anchor text.
- Plugins and tools incorporate internal links without comprehending the pages that require the most boost or are ideal for linking from.
In addition, manually managing this task encourages you to actively curate your pages, allowing you to effectively survey your content landscape. Consequently, when generating new content, you are well-informed on which pages or links to incorporate into it.
Invest time in manually building your internal links. Understand the content and context of your pages to create meaningful and beneficial links. This will be good for both your readers and the crawlers.
Best Practice 13: Fix Internal Link Issues
To avoid confusing search engine crawlers and giving users a bad experience, closely monitor your website for internal link issues, fixing any broken or redirected links promptly.
Otherwise, your broken links will hurt your site’s performance in search results. Each internal link carries potential link value so if a link leads nowhere or redirects incorrectly, that value is lost, and your web pages’ SEO performance will suffer.
Not to mention, those issues will harm user experience and cause them to bounce from your website.
Utilize tools like Google Search Console or reputable third-party SEO agencies to conduct regular checks. These tools help you identify and resolve issues, ensuring your internal links are functioning as they should.
Now that you’re well-versed in the best practices of internal linking, let’s tackle the next big question: how do you expertly spot those golden internal linking opportunities?
Consider the process as a treasure hunt, where you’ll find the perfect spots to weave in valuable links. You can’t just guess your way around.
How To Find Great Internal Link Opportunities
Discovering optimal internal link opportunities often demands a significant investment in manual work. It requires a systematic approach to analyzing your website’s content and identifying relevant connections between different pages.
This is an overview of the manual process:
As you can see, it’ll require several steps and will take too much time. However, the process can be streamlined by leveraging intelligent tools.
Two methods stand out: using ChatGPT and LinkWhisper.
Method 1: Use ChatGPT
ChatGPT offers a transformative approach to improving your website’s internal linking strategy, suggesting placements for your links within your blog posts.
Here’s a step-by-step process:
- Provide the blog post you want to put the links into.
- Have a list of the internal links you want to insert into your piece.
- Feed your content and links into ChatGPT4 using a prompt.
Here are a few prompt ideas to try:
“Here’s a blog post. I want you to understand its content and context, then appropriately suggest where to place the links based on the list of links I’ll give you after.
[Insert your blog post]
Here are the internal links I want you to automatically insert within the blog post:
[Put the internal links you want to include in the blog post]”
Here’s the result based on the blog post and internal links I included in the prompt:
Here’s another one:
As you can see, it gives you the exact text where you can insert the internal link you want and even explains why that link fits the context.
“I’m going to give you 2 things:
1. A blog post where I’d like to find places to link out to the links in #2
2. A list of links
Which do you want first?”
Here’s ChatGPT’s reply:
Then, you’ll need to put your blog post into ChatGPT. You’ll get another reply like this:
Next, you’ll need to provide the list of internal links you want to insert. The results will be like this:
If you want to take it further, you can use this prompt “Can you rewrite the blog post and add those suggestions in?”
Here’s what the results will look like:
As you can see the link is written as “(source)” and is only inserted within the sentence that’s contextually relevant to the internal link. So, you’ll still need to insert the link yourself and choose the anchor text.
In addition, here’s an overview of the key ways ChatGPT can help your internal linking efforts:
Method 2: Use LinkWhisper
LinkWhisper operates as a plugin that swiftly proposes exceptional internal link suggestions.
Here’s how it works:
How Many Internal Links Per Page Are Recommended?
While there’s no definitive rule for the number of internal links per page, Google’s advice is to keep it to a “reasonable number.”
For example, if you have a 1,500-word blog post, then 5 internal links would be enough. If your content reaches 2,000 words, then you can add up to 10 internal links.
As to how to disperse them: Prioritize relevance and user experience rather than implementing a numbers game per post. Every internal link should serve a purpose in your content and should be blended into each page naturally.
The key is to create a balanced and intuitive site structure with natural internal links pointing to relevant content on other pages. If you go overboard, your content dilutes link equity and appears spammy.
Not only will that turn away your target audience, but Google will penalize your site for a spammy-looking page.
Do Internal Links Benefit SEO?
Yes. As long as it’s done correctly. A proper and expertly built internal linking structure lets search engine bots index your pages properly and sends users to relevant pages, making them engage with your site more. So, use this list of the 13 internal linking best practices to guide you.
You can’t just guess your way around. If you do, Google will do the same, and you’ll end up with a website that’s not properly crawled or indexed. Thus, it’s crucial to understand how Google sees internal links to take your website higher in the rankings.
Here’s a brief checklist to get you started:
After deep-diving into internal linking’s best practices, you’re likely buzzing with ideas. So, here’s what you should do next:
- Before adding new links, audit your existing links to understand what you already have.
- Identify your most valuable content pieces.
- Visualize how you want your content to interconnect.
- Then, begin adding relevant internal links to your new content and revisit older posts and see where you can naturally weave in links.
- Use analytics to see how users are navigating your site. Are they following the paths you’ve laid out? Adjust based on user behavior.
So, are you ready to start developing your internal linking strategy and employ the best practices?
Well, Novum is home to experts and tools to take care of your internal linking strategy that goes hand-in-hand with your broader SEO efforts. With the integration of the hub-and-spoke method, building a foundation for internal links becomes seamless. This approach has given clients like Aloa a 442% growth in organic sessions.
What are you waiting for? Make those internal links work for you now and schedule a consultation today.