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:

internal linking

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 DoFollow. 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

Comments

  1. Is most of this internal linking already done for you on a wordpress theme. What may I be missing if I havent put anything in the actual body of the page.

    1. Hi Jason, yes creating categories on WordPress helps, but there are some manual steps for effective internal links as well that would involve you linking contextually within an article

  2. Hi Gotch, Internal linking in a site is very important just as you have listed in the article. It helps share link juice within the linked pages and help you improve page ranks.

    Internal linking is also a very essential part of SEO most people don’t know about, it helps to create anchor links for keywords to rank easily. Thanks for the useful tips.

    – Cheers

  3. What a great guide, Nathan. Another good reason i love using Internal Links in each content within my Website is to increase the Dwell Time (AKA Time on site) of users. Internal Links from high PA webpages can boost our SEO campaign dramatically. I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts, Gotch!

  4. Really A great Post .thanks mate to mention every important point for internal linking .Many webmaster over looks this and i think this post is ideal for them why internal link is so important in increase search engine visibility as well reducing the bounce rate .

  5. Excellent OnPage strategy. It’s been around for a while, but it’s very well explained in this post. This is great info. for seo practitioners. Thanks Nathan !!!

  6. hi nathan,
    one more awesome post from you.
    loving the stuff. I got this link via email as i have subscribed 🙂 Thank you so much the ping.
    Expecting lot more like this 🙂 Keep it up bro 🙂

  7. Nathan – do you have any tips/tricks for finding content on your website to link to? I have some clients with lots and lots of pages… I find it very tedious to go through every post or page and try to determine the best place to link a page to. Some bloggers (Like you) do such a great job of this but if you didn’t implement this method from the beginning what would you recommend?

    1. Hi Shonda,

      Thanks for the comment! Shonda, unfortunately there is no easy solution to this :/ – you just have to categorize the pages based on topics with excel, so you always have it handy

    2. Hey Shonda, agree with Gotch. Especially if you’re wanting to do it on a massive scale that covers everything. But for a short cut, I recommend starting with your “Top pages”. (Ahrefs) This identifies the url’s that will provide the best bang per buck. (same concept as Gotch’s recommendation to pay special attention to the homepage) Start there and expand. Good luck!

    3. Hi Shonda
      In Google you can use the “site:” command to limit search results to a particular domain. Enter your domain and a specific keyword and Google ought to just display instances of that keyword on pages within that domain. Google should also display those results in terms of page importance. Might be a little tedious to then copy/paste each page’s url into excel but a lot easier than reading through tons of content looking for that particular keyword. Context would be as follows
      site: http://www.yourdomain.com keyword.

  8. “Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler. Same Applies to Internal Linking too! I am agree with your advice to link your context to few other articles to get more strong internal links.

    Even Sometimes some low competition keywords also ranks with Strong internal linking too!

  9. Nicely written, Gotch! This article reflects a lot of onsite SEO fundamentals that are key. I particularly appreciate the bit about creating links that open in a new window because I just find it annoying as hell from a user perspective when I end up on a completely different page (which, incidentally, is also why my browser get studded with miles and miles of tabs on a daily basis)! =D

    And for everyone who doesn’t know exactly how to do set up a link to pop open in a new tab, it goes like this: Your Site. Cheers!

  10. I have always wondered if any sidebar links counted as internal link from the home page? I had set up a menu on the side bar to other pages within the site. Would love any insight. Great info by the way!!

  11. Hey Gotch,

    Thanks for the article. I’ve got a question I was hoping you could help with. (in regards to exact match anchors)

    A couple of years ago, I took on a bunch of pre-existing campaigns that were having some odd results that I hadn’t heard mentioned before. They had unoptimized blog posts outranking their main landing pages for our primary keywords. (I think Panda played a role b/c the landing pages were over-optimized)

    I finally heard a phrase to describe it. Keyword cannibalization. Here’s a moz article explaining it in more detail. https://moz.com/blog/how-to-solve-keyword-cannibalization

    Since then, I’ve been very hesitate to use an exact match phrase on any page (Other) than my landing page. Obviously, using an exact match anchor would require this. Example.. “Dental Implants in Chicago” would need to be placed on a pg other than our Implants landing page. Have you experienced any cannibalization issues using this?

    1. Casey,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, I’ve always tried to avoid keyword cannibalization. There’s a lot of debate on the topic right now because some people think Google is at the stage where it can determine which page is most important. Personally, I don’t like taking the risk so I only target one keyword per page and avoid reusing it.

  12. Another great post! I have been reviewing quite a few top ranking websites for kw’d seo city, and notice on numerous occasions they no follow the links in the navigation bar to the various inner pages. I currently have a website with numerous drop downs and dofollow links, in addition to links out to various governing bodies. Just really wondering if I’m loosing too much juice with all these links from the home page, should I no follow them all? Reducing the number of outbound links would probably decrease the user experience, so not keen on doing that.

    1. Aaron,

      Thanks for the comment! NoFollowing links on your site is known as PageRank sculpting and is generally not a good practice. It really depends on how many outbound links you have. If there are 20 +, then you’re going to be leaking authority from that page. But keep in mind, if the links are there to help and inform the user, then you should keep them.

  13. Thanks for this post Nathan. There’s not many good posts on internal link building out there. This is most likely due to the fact that most people are focused on external links and therefore overlook getting the internal linking structure right.

    Thanks again and keep the valuable posts coming.

    1. Hi Ash,

      Because if you start using the “NoFollow” tag on internal links it looks like PageRank sculpting and an attempt to manipulate Google. It also disrupts the natural flow of authority through your site.

  14. Thanks a bunch for the post! Best part is you outline not to overdue it, which I’m starting to see more and more authority sites do now-a-day. Makes reading their content a pain.

    Thanks as always..

  15. Thank you for such a clear and easy to understand guide to internal linking. This will really come in hand for me in the weeks to come.

  16. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for a great article. I’ve been updating an SEO article today and I found lots of valuable info here. In particular it’s nice to see someone pointing out the good practice of having links “open links in a new window”. It’s a point I also made in a recent article and I find it amazing that large reputable sites still fail to do this all the time.

    Today I’ve been revising that 8600 word SEO post and added your piece as a resource link, I hope that’s cool.

    Your included here in “Part 7 Internal Links” if you’d like to check it out; http://larrygmaguire.com/small-business-seo-best-practices/#7

    Regards & Thanks,
    – Larry

  17. Hi. I’m just strating out with my first website. Your site is a great resource to me. I’m trying to figure out this: Since i have a lot of pages and posts in my header plus a button to the homepage will this have a bad influence on my internal linking strategy and ranking? for example I have 92 pages on my site so this means I have 92 internal links to my homepage.

    regards
    Thomas

  18. Thanks so much for your explanation. I was about to use a plugin until I read your post.

    Nathan, short question. Would you link to a menu page where you want to rank for specific keywords or a category or a post?

    I have similar keywords in the menu bar, post. categories and tags. Which do I link to within each page?

  19. Hi Nathan Gotch
    Thank you for your valuable information which help me lot,
    I have a job portal website I am giving internal linking in each job post, I have around 5000+ jobs posted, in each job i am giving internal linking to other job. But still my visitors or going down my website getting up to 200 visiter’s per day
    Could you please give me idea what i have to do better

    Note: my domain having 20+ external linking only
    my domain name is https://www.reqsbook.com/

    1. Internal links are only a small piece of the equation. 20 linking root domains isn’t enough links to make an impact in a competitive vertical

  20. Hi Gotch,

    I am completely new to this SEO and linking stuff. I created my first blog last month and was struggling really hard. Couple of people advised me to start Linking properly but never told me exact steps to follow.

    I cannot thank you enough for each of the well explained posts,and you made it very newbie friendly as well. I am reading everything you have. I am 100% sure it will help me get better and improve my blog.

  21. I have read your other post as well about Anchor Text.
    Exact match anchor text + keyword-rich optimization = Penguin penalty
    So I’m very careful by using keyword rich anchor text links to other pages on my website ? Is it still ok to use a keyword rich anchor text ?

  22. Thank you for the great article,
    I have a question I can’t seem to get an answer on;
    When creating a silo- I created a parent page as my silo landing page- then I created child pages under that parent page as the supporting articles- I’m planning to add a sidebar to all these pages so the user can click on any given silo landing page and it’s supporting articles.
    My question is;
    Should all child pages (supporting silo articles) link to one another contextually like a chain or should they all contextually link back to the parent silo page or both. Since I will have a sidebar do I even need to link supporting articles contextually? Please advise, I can’t find a solid answer to this question any where.

    1. In general, I would avoid site-wide keyword rich internal links. Although they may work, it’s usually not worth the risk. Internal links within content are best because they won’t lead to over-optimization and usually have more contextually relevancy

  23. Just when I thought it was safe to venture out into the Deep Blue Internet Waters, An SEO Internet Guru like you comes along to remind me to wear a life vest and stay in the kiddie pool. Seriously, I appreciate Your Article.

  24. Your article is super useful- I searched on google how to find user intent when internal linking 🙂 – I manually internal link but sometimes there are zero clicks on some links- even if topic is related- seems user do not have any intent there – do you have any piece of advice on that- how to identify the user intent when internal linking and anticipate it so put internal links on which people will click?

    1. Hey Cristina,

      That’s a tough question to answer. You should just add internal links where it makes sense and avoid going overboard. Too many internal links = decreased CTR.

  25. Hi Nathan Sir,
    You are my ideal in the field of seo, i always follow you. I learned many things from your articles. I have some confusion that which is the good manner for internal linking.
    1) When i do internal linking with exact keyword as a anchor tag.
    2) When i do the internal linking with the variation of the keywords of other pages.
    Thanks a lot sir for sharing the very adorable post here.
    I am waiting your reply

  26. Great article.
    One question though. When building external links, does the power of an external link pass through to the linked page? For example, if I had a cool blog post which linked to a product page, would it benefit the product page if the blog post received some external backlinks or is it better to try and build links direct to the product page? I just know it will be easier and more natural to build links to a cool blog post rather than a product page but wondering if it will still benefit.

    1. Thanks Dan! Yes it does. In fact, that’s exactly what you want to happen (for link equity to flow through your entire site)

  27. Do you still think this is true statement “You CAN use exact match and keyword-rich anchors when linking internally. ” I got hit this week on some posts and trying to understand why. Do you ever use exact match or the main keywords in your internal links like if keyword is weight loss would you just say ” read our guide to weight loss” and link to the whole phrase or just have a “click here”

  28. Amazing tips. I feel like I am wiser than I was. I did not even know about deep linking prior to visiting your blog. I will definitely bookmark this. Thank 🙂

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