Internal Linking for SEO: Best Practices, Strategies, and Tools
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Content is the foundation of marketing activities. But the content itself will only take you so far.
You are going to need links (also called “backlinks”) to help your content rank in the search results. There are two types of links – external links and internal links. Both will help boost your search engine ranking and play a critical role in your SEO strategy. We could write a book about external linking strategies – but in this article, we will focus on internal links.
Your website needs a structure, which is crucial for your content to rank higher in the search results. More importantly, a well-structured website makes it easier for your users to find what they want. Google will also use the website structure to mark and highlight important/relevant content. In other words, using the right combination of internal links in your content can boost your SEO value.
But you will need a clear internal linking strategy to make that happen.
In this post, we will discuss the following in detail.
- What Internal Links Are.
- Importance of Internal Linking.
- How to Set Up an Internal Linking Strategy.
- How to Use Internal linking for SEO.
- The Best Tools for Internal Linking.
Let’s dive in.
An internal link is any link from one page of your website to another page on your website. Internal linking is the strategy to build a link structure within a website, including links to blog posts and web pages. Unlike external links, they don’t link to pages on other websites or domains.
A strong interlinking strategy can boost your website’s usability and findability (SEO). Better usability is an essential SEO factor, which is why every website needs internal linking for SEO.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of a well-defined internal linking strategy.
Improve Website Usability
The purpose of internal linking is to improve the user experience (or UX). The goal is to provide your visitors with relevant information as they navigate your website.
For example, say you run a business offering tree-trimming services. You may have a service page for tree stump removal – as well as a related blog post, for example, “How Much Does Tree Stump Removal Cost?”. Placing a link to the blog post on the service page (or from the blog post to the service page) could provide excellent value to potential customers – as well as help Google better understand the nature of your website.
In short, your website needs to make it easier for users to find what they want. That’s where strategic internal linking comes in.
An internal linking structure helps you:
- Categorize your blog posts and product pages.
- Link your posts and product/service pages.
That, in turn, makes it easier for new users to find what they want.
Help Google Understand Your Website
A well-designed internal linking strategy helps search engines better understand what your website is all about and the value it provides – and of course, what you are selling. If Google’s bots can quickly understand what’s relevant on your website, internal linking can boost your overall SEO.
It’s natural for your onsite blog to have more articles on your core expertise. For example, if you are a WordPress development agency, your onsite blog will have tons of articles on WordPress development. However, Google will struggle to decide which posts are more relevant/important without proper internal linking.
This usually leads to competing with your own content for ranking in search results. But with a carefully crafted internal linking strategy, you can eliminate this risk. Internal linking gives Google signals on how to rank your content and which pages are most important.
Now that you have understood why your website needs internal links, let’s discuss how they differ from external links. Here are a few main differences between the two.
|Internal Links||External Links|
|Internal links connect various pages on your website/domain together.||External links connect to web pages on other websites/domains.|
|They are easy and free to control.||They are difficult to control as external links take users away from your website.|
|They pass link value to other pages and links on your website.||They pass link equity to other websites.|
|They keep users longer on your website, potentially increasing the page views.||External links lead users away from your website, and the users may not return.|
|Internal links can improve keyword ranking if you use SEO-optimized anchor text for linking.||These links improve SEO value for other websites.|
|Internal links can improve the trustworthiness of your content but to a lesser extent.||External links can improve the trustworthiness of your content to a greater extent.|
|They help to increase your page authority.||They help to increase your domain authority.|
Remember that both links are an on-page SEO factor. They both help boost traffic to your website.
- Improves overall user experience.
- Improves page rank and link equity.
- Boosts page views.
- Decrease bounce rate.
- Improves site indexing.
- Helps Google understand your website.
- Can help the readers.
- Improve domain authority.
- Enhance the credibility of your content.
- Will not hurt your page rank.
Carefully planned internal linking strategies can make a big impact on Google. So, you will need to create a strategy tailored to your website. Moreover, you will have to evaluate and update this strategy periodically.
The primary purpose of the internal linking strategy should be:
- Improve Site Navigation (UX): Make it easier for your users to find what they want. The sooner they find relevant information, the longer they stay on your website.
- Create a Highly Crawlable Link Structure: Let Google’s bots crawl your website quickly and efficiently. Use internal linking for SEO to make your website more crawlable.
Your internal linking structure should help Google understand the following:
- Relevance of Pages: Add internal links to help Google’s bots understand your site’s relevance to a certain niche.
- Relationships Between Pages: Add internal links to the pages covering a similar topic. This will help Google understand the relationship between the pages.
- Value of Pages: Add internal links to help share the link equity between pages. When the link value gets shared, it increases the potential for a higher search ranking.
You will need to consider several factors to achieve these goals. How you use internal linking for SEO will change depending on your site structure, industry, and overall objectives. While every strategy will look a bit different, the following steps should help you get started.
Step One: Determine the Ideal Structure
The first step in an internal linking strategy is to hash out the hierarchy of your website. Think of your website as a pyramid. The homepage sits at the top, followed by categories or sections, and then comes the product pages and blog posts, among other individual pages.
Your links generally fall into two basic types: structural and contextual.
Structural links include navigation bars, site maps, footers, and headers, which form the structure of your website. On the other hand, contextual links are simply links in the content. They increase the usability of your website.
Make sure to use these internal links carefully to plan the ideal structure of your website. For example, if you have an eCommerce website, your menu would likely reflect the following site structure.
|Great-Grandchild Pages(Product Pages, Individual Pages, Blog Posts, Etc.)|
Step Two: Determine the Most Important Content
It can be pillar posts or long-form articles. They are relatively long posts combining tips and insights from other posts on your website.
The purpose of this content is to provide your users with the best, most comprehensive, and most actionable information. Cornerstone content typically focuses on educating your target audience, not selling your products/services.
Keep the following in mind:
- Choose the best-performing blog posts and articles.
- Make sure to choose content optimized for the most competitive keywords.
- Optimize the cornerstone content for long-tail keywords.
- Add internal links to all your long-tail articles from a pillar post.
- Rewrite the content if necessary.
Step Three: Add the Contextual Links
As mentioned before, contextual links are the links within your content. These links help Google identify your website’s most important/relevant content. There are a few factors you need to consider.
- Try to use the keyword you are targeting as the anchor text when adding contextual links.
- You can also add internal links at the end of the page in an “Additional Resources” section. But remember that links within the content are more valuable.
- Link only relevant pieces of content to your cornerstone content.
Step Four: Link Hierarchical Pages Together
Usually, large sites (like eCommerce stores) require hierarchical page linking for a well-structured website. This helps Google’s bots crawl your website and understand the relationship between different pages.
If you have a large website, you will need to link hierarchical pages. This is how it works – at a glance.
- Link parent pages to relevant child pages.
- Link sibling pages to one another.
- Link child pages to grandchild pages.
- Link grandchild pages to great-grandchild pages.
Keep in mind: hierarchical linking might not be necessary for small websites. Speak with an SEO consultant to understand what the best strategy will look like.
Step Five: Add Navigational Links
In addition to contextual links, you should also consider adding navigational links. Navigational links allow you to connect your cornerstone content to the homepage or other top navigation. Navigational links will encourage visitors to stay a little longer on your website.
As a result, your bounce rate will ideally go down. The longer visitors stay on your website, the more likely they are to convert. Most importantly, adding these links to your cornerstone content will make your website more structured in the eyes of Google.
All things considered, adding navigational links make your website user and search-friendly.
Most people think that adding random internal links can help improve their search rankings. But that’s far from the truth. There are different ways to add internal links to your content, but some tricks may not always work. For example, adding internal links in your content works, but adding them to the target keywords works better.
Most website owners make the mistake of hiding or burying their main internal links, making it difficult for search engine bots to crawl their websites. Unfortunately, your great content and keyword research are a waste without SEO-optimized internal linking.
Keep the following practices in mind when using internal linking for SEO.
Use Keyword-Rich Anchor Texts
It would be best if you always used keyword-rich anchor texts for internal linking – it’s a Google-recommended SEO best practice. Generally, the anchor text should be no longer than 3-5 words.
Anchor text helps users and Google understand what the page you are linking to is about. For example, here’s an internal link from a mold inspection blog post.
The internal link states that the pages we are linking it to are about mold problem, mold growth, and professional mold inspector. This signal is very easy for both users and Google’s bots to understand.
That said, avoid using the same anchor text in your content twice. It’s confusing for Google, which might think of it as spam. Instead, you can use variants for anchor text. For example, in this case, you could use terms like “mold issues” or “indoor mold concerns.”
Link to Relevant Pages
With search engines like Google getting smarter by the day, link relevancy has become a core SEO factor. A highly relevant internal link can help boost the ranking of both pages – and you should only link to pages that make logical sense and provide users with more information.
Ask yourself these two questions before adding an internal link:
- What’s the topic of the source page?
- What’s the content of the anchor text?
If these two match, you can add the link.
Here’s a poor example of link relevancy. In the following picture, you can see the internal link to a service page. However, the anchor text is neither a target keyword nor describes what the source page is about. This is misleading for both users and search engines.
On the other hand, the following internal link is a good example. Here, the anchor text and the source page are an exact match. It guides both users and search engines in the right direction.
Link to Importance/Popular Pages
Internal links pass link equity. When you add an internal link to a page on your site, you share the link authority with that page. That’s why you should strategically link your content to the most important or popular pages.
You can use your favorite link-building tool to identify the most important or top-performing pages. From here, you can add a link from these pages to the ones you want to rank better. Make sure the link is relevant and uses keyword-optimized anchor text.
Place Links High Up on the Page
Link placement is equally important when using internal links for SEO. The goal of every website is to keep people glued to it. The longer they stay on your site, the more likely they are to convert. That’s why you should place internal links high up on the page. If possible, add internal links in the first few sections of the content.
Don’t Overdo It
Yes, using internal links for SEO is a brilliant idea. However, you should avoid overdoing it. While there is no definitive answer as to exactly how many internal links you can include, avoid making your content look spammy.
Adding too many internal links can distract users, resulting in a poor user experience. Moreover, it will make it difficult for Google’s bots to crawl the page. The chances of getting your page blacklisted are highly likely if you resort to link spamming.
There are many link-building tools on the market – but no two tools are the same. When investing in a link-building tool, you will need to consider a few factors, such as your SEO requirements and budget. Before we wrap up this post, let’s check out a few internal linking tools to help you get started.
Google Search Console
GSC is an essential SEO tool for every website. If you can work with a free basic Links Report, Google Search Console (GSC) is an excellent resource for internal linking. This simple tool shows reports for both external and internal links. GSC provides a list of top pages by link count in the internal links section. You can click on a URL for more information.
It shows the number of internal links pointing to a page/URL – and which URL points where. However, GSC lacks detailed graphics to visualize this analysis. It also fails to provide internal anchor text. But despite these limitations, you can use GSC to evaluate your internal linking for SEO strategy.
Inlinks is a unique tool. It can produce schema. But more importantly, Inlinks helps you create better internal linking silos than most other tools. It is particularly useful for large websites, where creating accurate internal link silos is necessary.
Inlinks builds a knowledge graph of the topics discussed on your website, making it easier for you to get started on internal link analysis. After identifying the topic, you can assign a page to it and create the context and siloes. From here, you can build and deploy the links.
Link Whisper is a great tool for WordPress websites. It’s an easy-to-use WordPress plugin. The best part is you can start with a free basic version and upgrade to its paid version when needed. This nifty tool includes automatic link suggestions, which you can get while writing the content. The bottom line – Link Whisper may identify internal linking opportunities that you might not have thought of before.
It comes with a few unique features, such as:
- Keyword-based auto-linking.
- Broken link finder and fixer.
- Detailed internal link reporting.
- Seamless integration with other plugins like Yoast SEO, Rank Math, or All in One SEO.
With over 1.5 million users, Rankmath is an excellent option for internal linking for SEO. This is one of the relatively new WordPress SEO plugins. It comes with a Content AI, your personal AI-based assistant. It provides you with suggestions, including what keywords to use in your content and a link count. You also get internal links suggestions between posts and pages.
Best of all, it features an internal link-building option that automates the process. However, this feature is flagged as “coming soon” on their website. Like Link Whisper, Rankmath also offers a free basic version. You can upgrade to any of the paid versions as you need.
Over to You
Internal link building is integral to your overall search engine optimization strategy. It’s one of the easiest and most reliable ways to increase your search result ranking, improve user experience, and make your website more crawlable.
You can strengthen your internal linking for SEO with these best practices, strategies, and tools. The sooner you start paying attention to link building, the faster you reap its benefits.
Do you need help with link building or any other SEO strategy?
SEO experts at Foxxr can help you optimize your website for search engines. Rest assured, you will get solutions tailored to your needs and budget. Contact us today to learn more.