External links often get most of the focus when trying to get good search engine rankings but internal links also play an important role. A few key steps can help you build an effective internal linking strategy.
What Is Internal Linking?
Hyperlinks can either be internal or external, depending on their target or destination. External links take you to webpages or resources on a different domain, while internal links direct you to webpages (or assets like images and documents) on the same domain.
These links help users navigate from one webpage to another and therefore play an essential role in delivering a cohesive user experience.
Why Is Internal Linking Important?
Links serve two purposes when it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO). First of all, links facilitate the process by which search engines discover pages on a website. Secondly, the quality and number of links coming into a page are used as a ranking signal. Google clearly states that “the number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal to search engines about the relative importance of that page.”
Google provides a free Internal Links Report tool which can be used to see a list of a website’s internal links. It explains that “If an important page does not appear in this list, or if a less important page has a relatively large number of internal links, you should consider reviewing your internal link structure.”
From an SEO point of view, internal links help to distribute “link juice”across a website. Link juice is a casual term used within the context of SEO to describe passing equity or “ranking power” from one page to the next. This equity translates into “votes” and is a key factor in powering a webpage’s ability to rank highly in the search results.
It’s possible to identify pages on your site which have a high number of authoritative links, and to tactically distribute the “link juice” from these pages on to other pages you’d like to give a boost in rankings.
It’s this notion of being able to control ranking power that is key to developing an effective internal linking strategy.
In addition to navigation links, search engines also follow the links in editorial content. These are links inserted into the copy on a page by the website administrator, giving them control over how traffic and link juice is directed from one page to the next. Jon Cooper from Point Blank SEO says “Internal links are HUGE for link building because you can control everything about them, from the location on the page to the anchor text.”
How to Leverage Internal Links for SEO
Your first step is to identify the pages that would benefit from a boost in their search ranking. A good place to start is to refer to your Google Search Console data.
The “Search Analytics” report identifies the sweet spot: the web pages languishing at the bottom of the first page in the Google results, or somewhere on the second page in positions 10 to 20.
These particular pages could benefit from an internal link boost because they are getting a high number of impressions (which means they are displaying in the search results) but a low number of clicks due to their low ranking in the search results.
In the example below, I’ve identified a particular keyphrase that has a high number of impressions (4,248) but a low number of clicks to our site (only 8.) And most importantly, I’m making the assumption it is performing poorly because it has an average position of 15 in the search engine results page (SERPs), placing it in the middle of the second page of search results:
Looking more closely at one specific keyword and its click, impression and ranking data:
Click on the option next to the keyword to see the specific page on your site ranking for that keyphrase:
The next step is to then find other relevant pages on your domain where it would make logical sense to add an internal link through to the page you are attempting to boost.
Use the “site” and “intext” search operators in your Google search and replace the domain with your sites address and the target keyword.
As you can see in the results below, there are a number of relevant pages on our site containing our key phrase “meta descriptions.” The top page on the list “How to Write A Killer Meta Description” is indeed the page we’re trying to boost:
Creating Internal Links from Relevant Pages to the Pages You Are Trying to Boost
Here are some tips for creating high quality relevant links to your content:
Use appropriate anchor text: Anchor text is the text contained in a hyperlink that leads you to another page. For example, the anchor text in the following link makes it clear what the linked to page is going to be about: learn about our search engine optimisation services. Including keywords in your anchor text is important but be sure to keep your anchor text concise and on topic. Don’t force keywords into anchor text for the sake of it as this can be seen as spam.
Link equally: By this I mean avoid linking to the same pages over and over again. Your internal linking strategy is about linking to a variety of specific pages deeper in your site with the result of helping them to rank better in the search results.
Make sure internal links are “followed”: Ensure that internal links can be followed by the search engines, so that link juice can be passed between pages effectively. Learn more about “DoFollow” links here.
Don’t over do it: Use a sensible and appropriate amount of links per page. The guidance from Google is to simply keep links on a given page to a reasonable number. Moz suggests a limit of 100 links per page (this includes all navigation and in content links).
Create a large amount of useful content: Internal linking can only be implemented if there’s content to link to. As you add content to your site, carefully consider how you use internal linking by bearing in mind the user experience and the signals these internal links will send to the search engine.
More Ways to Boost Your Rankings with Internal Links
To take this one step further, you can use paid tools like Ahrefs, which will give you a list of the most linked to and therefore the most “powerful” pages on your site in terms of link juice.
Review these pages and find opportunities to add logical and useful internal links to the pages which you are trying to boost. In the example below, we have another high performing page relating to meta descriptions. Our Are Meta Descriptions Still Important for SEO page has 63 DoFollow inbound links, and is a good candidate for passing some link love to the page we want to boost:
Now take a look at the link we’ve created from this page. It has good keywords in the anchor text and the link is located in a topically relevant paragraph related to the target destination page. The link is helpful to our visitors, and the anchor text underpins the nature of the page it’s linking to while passing on that all important link juice.
Internal Linking to Boost Your Search Rankings: A Quick Summary
Internal linking is often an overlooked and undervalued element of search engine optimisation but it is well worth the effort in terms of boosting your rankings.
Your strategy should consist of:
- Identifying the target page that would benefit from a relatively small boost in the SERPs, either to a higher position on the first page, or from the second page to the first. Use your Google Search Console data to guide your decision.
- Identifying the other relevant pages on your website that should be linking to your target. These are going to be topically relevant pages that have a logical and legitimate reason to link to the target.
- Building the actual links while taking care to use quality anchor text and building links the search engines can crawl.
- Identifying other “powerful” pages on your website that could also be candidates for linking to the target.