Internal Linking 101

Building internal links is the single easiest and most evergreen SEO strategy there is.

And the best part is that you don’t have to be an SEO geek to understand it. I promise.

After you read this article, you’ll be able to go to your website or blog and start creating effective internal links right away.

Sound good?

Let’s start:

What is an Internal Link?

In layman’s terms, an internal link is when you link one page on your website to another on the same domain.

Here is how it would look in HTML:
<a href=”http://www.myinternallink.com/same-site/different-page/”>other page on same website</a> and how it looks without HTML: Gotch SEO

Why Do Internal Links Matter?

There are several reasons why you need to be using internal links:

Authority flow: when you link internally, you are sending link equity to another page. Over time, this builds authority for your website and makes your link building efforts more effective.

Indexing: internal links allow the search engine crawlers to properly index your website.

Bounce rate: internal links will decrease bounce rate on your site and will increase pageviews/average time spent on your site.

Sales funnel: since it’s your website, you can dictate what pages a user should go to. If you’re trying to sell a product or even drive leads, you can structure your site so that the internal links guide your user to the most important money pages on your site.

11 Rules of Internal Linking

You should follow the rules below to ensure that your internal links are having a positive impact on your organic growth:

1. Use Exact Match Anchor Text

Internal links are evaluated differently than external anchor text. You CAN use exact match and keyword-rich anchors when linking internally. Just always do what’s natural and best for the user.

2. Be Smart About the First Instance of a Link

It’s pretty well-known in the SEO industry, that Google only counts the first anchor text of any internal link. Meaning, if you link to a page more than once (on the same page), Google will only count the first anchor text used. This means you have to be intelligent on how you structure any particular page.

You have to remember that links in your navigation are a part of your internal linking.

So, if you’re really trying to improve the visibility of a certain page/keyword, make sure use a strong anchor text for the very first instance of the link. This is easy to accomplish if it isn’t in your navigation.

3. Leverage Your Homepage

The homepage is typically the strongest page on any website and you should leverage the authority appropriately. With that being said, be extremely selective with what pages you link to from the homepage. You want maximum authority to flow to your most important pages on your site.

4. Deep Link

To ensure maximum indexation of your website, you should try to build deep links whenever possible. Building links to deeper pages will help Google or other search engines discover the pages and hopefully begin to send more organic traffic to them.

5. Use Silos for Maximum Relevancy

You should always structure your internal linking strategy to serve your users. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t create a structure that serves both the user and the search engines. To have the best of both worlds, you can use silo structures. In essence, a silo structure is a group pages with highly relevant SEO content that link to one another.

This creates a strong web of relevancy, which will boost each page’s visibility.

Like so:
Relevancy Bubble-min

I like to call this structure the relevancy bubble.

In essence, you’re breaking down a “mother” or “hub” article into smaller more complex articles (micro topics). These articles will drive organic traffic because of long tail keyword visibility, but will also strengthen the original mother article.

6. Keep It Follow

This might be obvious, but your internal links should always be Follow. The only time it’s appropriate to use the “NoFollow” tag on your site is when you’re using affiliate links or in your blog comment section. Even in circumstances when you’re trying to eliminate duplicate content, you should still only use the “noindex”, “follow” tags.

7. Open Your Links in New Window

Personally, I have all my links open up in a new window. I think it’s a poor user experience when you’re reading an article and you want to check out a link, but then lose your spot because the referenced resource didn’t open in a new window.

Now you’ll have to go back and find where you left off…

Is it the end of the world? No. Is it annoying? Yes.

I always tell clients to set every link to open in a new window. This is particularly important for external links because you don’t want the person to abandon your site!

8. ALT Tag = Anchor Text

There may be some circumstances when you would want to link your images to an internal resource. If you do this, then make sure your ALT tag reflects the target keyword of the page you’re linking to. For example, if I was linking an image from this article to my “Trust Flow” article, I would use “trust flow” in my ALT tag. Google considers the ALT tag as the anchor text in image links.

9. Avoid These Coding Mistakes

Your internal links should always be in HTML. You need to avoid Javascript links and any links embedded within Flash elements (you shouldn’t be using Flash anyway!). Search engines spiders typically can’t crawl these types of links. If they can’t crawl it, then it’s hurting your site’s authority and indexation. Stick to HTML-based linking.

10. Manual Internal Linking is Best

I highly recommend you do not use plugins for internal linking. There are plugins that automate the internal linking process and they should be avoided because A) plugins don’t understand user experience/intent and B) the plugins inject internal links randomly.

The process of internal linking is to improve user experience.

For example, how could any plugin know that I want you to go to this page to join my email list?

The answer:

It can’t.

Always do your internal linking manually and keep the user in mind!

11. Don’t Go Crazy With Internal Links

You should never build links internally just to manipulate the search engine. The purpose of a link on your site is help your reader.

If you’re overwhelming them with a ridiculous amount of links, you’re actually hurting the user experience because they’ll have a hard time choosing what link to click on.

This will lead to inaction and higher bounce rates.

Less is always more.

Not only is having too many internal links bad for guiding your users through your site, but it will actually split the authority flowing to each page.

More links = less authority flow per link

Less links = more authority flow per link

Let the Internal Linking Begin!

You are now equipped to start building highly effective internal links on your website. Just follow the rules, take action, and watch your website’s authority and organic traffic grow over time.

Do you have some questions about internal linking?

Let’s talk below because that’s where the best discussions happen!

Thanks for reading,

– Gotch

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Nathan Gotch

Nathan Gotch is an SEO professional with over 10 years of experience. He's the founder of the #1 SEO business training program in the world, Gotch SEO Academy. And the author of The SEO Entrepreneur. Nathan's SEO expertise is featured on Semrush, Ahrefs, and Search Engine Journal.