Internal Links: How to Upgrade Your Site’s SEO and Usability This Year

There are benefits for using internal links. But why do they matter? Discover how they can help your site get found easier by search engines.

Marc Andre by Marc Andre | Last Updated: July 19, 2021

One of the most overlooked ways to improve a website’s usability and search engine optimization is through effective internal linking. Of all the topics related to growing traffic or monetizing a website, internal linking is not the sexiest, but you shouldn’t ignore it. And thankfully, internal linking can produce excellent results for any website owner who’s willing to put in a little bit of effort.

This article will cover the details to use internal links efficiently with your websites and blogs.

What Are Internal Links?

An internal link is when a page on a website links to another page on the same site. When a link leads to a page on a different website, it is considered an external link.

There are several different types of internal links, including navigation menus (header and footer), contextual links (links within the body of a page), automatically generated links to related posts or product pages, sidebar links, and more. We’ll be looking primarily at contextual links in this article.

Why Do Internal Links Matter?

When we talk about links or link building, getting inbound links from other websites is usually the primary focus. While having quality backlinks is undoubtedly vital for search engine optimization, using internal links effectively is also important for a few different reasons.

1. You Have Full Control

Building backlinks from other websites is challenging because you have to rely on other people to create external links leading to your site. Regardless of your strategy or approach to link building, some elements are outside of your control.

However, you do have complete control over your internal linking strategy.

You can easily add new links, control the number of links to any page, establish your internal link structure, and determine the hyperlink’s anchor text at any time.

2. Effective Internal Linking Improves Usability

Even if SEO is your primary focus, it’s critical that your site functions well and offers an excellent user experience. And with Google’s desire to provide searchers with a positive user experience, what’s good for usability will usually be good for SEO as well.

Effective internal linking is key to helping visitors find the content that’s relevant to them.

Without good internal links, your site may have a lot of additional content that would be of interest to your visitors, but they might not know about it or be able to find it.

Think about Wikipedia. When you’re reading a page on Wikipedia, there are plenty of internal links directing you to other pages related to the one you’re reading.

This approach helps readers find more content on the site and reduces bounce rate, which is also one of the metrics that can impact search rankings.

3. Helps to Increase Exposure for Important Content

Since you have total control over your site’s internal links, you can link to the most important pages and direct visitors to them.

That content could be a sales page, a landing page for email opt-ins, a web page with details of services you offer, a blog post monetized with affiliate links, or any other type of content.

4. They Make Search Engines’ Jobs Easier

Search engines rely on links to find new content, so internal links can make your content easier to access by crawlers and help it to get indexed.

On top of indexing, the way your pages link to each other allows search engines to understand your site structure, how different pages relate to each other, and which pages are most important (based on how frequently you link to them).

It’s never a bad idea to help Google.

Further Reading:

5. Establishing Authority With Search Engines

Different pages on your site will have differing levels of authority from the perspective of search engines. The pages with the most robust amount of inbound links or backlinks from other websites are likely to have the highest authority, including the homepage.

It’s possible to use this to your advantage (for SEO) by adding links from your highest authority pages to the essential pages on your site, giving the Google algorithm what it wants to get your content onto the SERPs.

It can send some of the link juice, link equity, or PageRank from your highest-authority pages to the internal pages you’re trying to rank in Google.

Common Challenges With Internal Links

There are a few common challenges and problems that you need to be aware of.

Orphan Pages

An orphan page has no internal links coming from other pages on your site. This is a problem because search engines may not find orphan pages, which means they may not be indexed.

Note: Even if the search engines manage to find and index orphan pages, the complete lack of internal links sends the message that the content isn’t very important, which will hurt its chances of ranking and attracting search traffic.

Besides SEO, orphan pages are also tough for your visitors to find because they can’t simply click through and arrive at the page.

Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix. First, you need to identify the orphan pages on your site. You can do that with a tool like the Screaming Frog SEO Spider or the free site audit from Ahrefs (shown below).

ahrefs orphan pages report for internal links

 

Once your orphan pages have been identified, you need to add links to these pages from other relevant pages on your site.

Adding Internal Links to New Content

For sites that publish high volumes of content, like blogs, one constant challenge is adding internal links to new pages. As you’re writing new posts or creating content for your site, it’s easy to add links to existing content that’s already on the site.

But most people don’t think about going into other existing pages and adding links to a new page. There are a few ways you can overcome this problem.

The first option is to get in the habit of immediately identifying opportunities and adding a few internal links every time you publish new content. The second option is to go back and add links as needed.

For example, at the end of the month, you might take some time to go back and add internal links to all of the new blog posts you published throughout the month.

Redirect Issues

Bigger sites often have several pages that have been redirected to another page on the site at some point.

At times, these redirects may cause issues with your internal links that make it harder for search engine spiders to crawl or for human visitors to use your site.

Again, the free site audit from Ahrefs can be beneficial for identifying issues like redirect chains (where there are multiple redirects linked together instead of one redirect) and loops (an infinite cycle or redirects).

The report shows how the different types of redirect issues were found on your site, and if you click on the number, you’ll see the specific URLs with problems that need to be fixed.

If you’re using WordPress, you may handle the redirects with a plugin, so it could be quick and easy for a webmaster to address these issues once you’re aware of them.

ahrefs site audit report for internal links

Tips for Effective Internal Linking

Here are a few ways that you can get the most out of your effort.

Find Your Strongest Pages and Link Strategically to Other Pages on Your Site

The pages on your site with the most and highest-quality inbound links are likely to have the most authority from Google’s perspective. These are essentially the strongest pages.

You can strategically pass some of the authority and link equity from these pages to other pages on your site that you’re trying to boost in the search rankings.

To identify your site’s top pages, use the Site Explorer from Ahrefs and click on Pages > Best by Links.

ahrefs pages best by links report

 

Now that you have a list of your strongest pages, you can compare these pages’ topics to any pages that you want to give a boost. When you find overlap areas, add a link from one of your strong pages to a page that you’re looking to boost.

Vary the Anchor Text

Although you’re unlikely to get a penalty from Google for using the same anchor text repeatedly for internal links, it’s still a good practice to mix things up a bit.

Takeaway: The most crucial factor is that your anchor text should be natural and not force the text into something awkward that hurts readability.

Try to use variations of your primary keyword at times or different but related keywords.

Use Internal Links Liberally, But Don’t Go Overboard

Your pages should link to each other when it makes sense to do so. If you’re writing an article and you mention a topic you’ve covered in-depth in another, include a link to that other article.

Because internal links can be valuable for SEO and can help readers, you should use them frequently.

However, you don’t want to go overboard and include too many links in your content. There is no set rule on the number of links you should include, but if there are so many links that negatively impact the readability of the content and feels spammy, you’ve gone too far.

Plus, you want to be sure to only direct visitors towards relevant content based on the page they’re already reading.

Content Clusters or Silos

The most effective way to use internal links is to create content clusters or silos of related content with a strong internal linking structure.

Typically, this involves creating hub or category pages on broad topics and linking out to other pages that include content with subcategories related to that hub.

For example, if you have a general photography website covering a variety of different topics, you could create hub pages for different types or genres of photography.

These hubs would link to articles on specific topics related to the hub, and each article would link back to the hub page. 

Takeaway: As you add more content on landscape photography or portrait photography, you could add a link from the hub to that new content. The individual articles within the hub can also be linked to each other when appropriate and relevant.

And, of course, the clusters will expand as the site grows.

Making use of content clusters or silos can be effective for several reasons:

Consider Using “nofollow” Tags

You can use nofollow tags to create an internal link pointing towards a page you don’t want to rank. An example would be a link to your site’s login page.

While the vast majority of your internal links will be dofollow, there may be some situations where it makes sense to use nofollow links.

For example, when using Lasso displays to promote your links, you can set them to “nofollow” in the product dashboard. This signals to Google they’re affiliate links and require no indexing.

Ways to Find Existing Internal Link Opportunities

If you’ve decided you want to make internal linking more of a priority, you may be wondering how you can efficiently find opportunities for links within your existing content. Here are two options.

Use the “site:” Search Operator

The first method is free and can work very well, although it may be time-consuming. It involves using the search operator “site:” to see pages in Google’s index on your site that include a particular keyword or phrase.

Let’s say I wanted to find other pages that would be ideal for building internal links to this article, I could search Google for site:getlasso.co internal links.

Of course, you’ll use your site’s address and the relevant keyword that you want to search for.

This simple search quickly shows pages on the site that include the keyword, which is likely to uncover some excellent options for linking with ideal anchor text.

In this case, 20 pages on the site that mention internal links and the blog posts outlined in red below would be great places to add a link to this article.

using site search operator in a google search

Remember to change up your search a little bit to try a few different keywords to find more opportunities.

This approach is very effective, but if you’re working on improving the existing content on a large site with many pages, it may take a lot of time since you’ll need to do many searches.

Arhefs Internal Link Opportunies Tool

The free site audit from Ahrefs also includes a convenient report with suggested internal link opportunities. It works by analyzing your page’s text and finding spots where you could be linking to another page on your site.

Based on my own experience with the tool, the results are pretty good.

ahrefs internal linking opportunities using webmaster tool

While this tool won’t find every opportunity to add a link, it gives you a way to add many relevant links quickly.

Conclusion

Although it is an overlooked aspect of link building, there are some very significant benefits of optimizing internal links, including better usability and improved SEO.

With a little bit of effort, anyone can improve the internal linking of a website or blog. Using the tips and tools covered in this article, arm you with everything you need to improve the internal links on your own site.

Marc Andre
Marc Andre has been building blogs and online businesses since 2007. He’s built websites in several different industries including web design, photography, travel, and personal finance. His current project is a personal finance blog, Vital Dollar.

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