Here’s a quick fact:
Not everyone is familiar with an internal link structure and why it matters for SEO.
To me, that just makes the rewards of learning it even sweeter.
Since most of your competitors aren’t doing it, internal linking should definitely give you a competitive edge.
That said, I decided to discuss the importance of an internal linking strategy and how it can help you attain higher search engine rankings.
Everything you need to know — wrapped up in this post.
Let’s hop right in.
Ultimate Guide to Internal Linking:
What Are Internal Links?
For those who are unfamiliar with internal linking, don’t worry — it’s exactly what it sounds like.
Internal links connect related pieces of content across your website.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’m guilty of adding at least one internal link to my posts.
As a matter of fact, I’ll create one right now.
In that article, you can also see that I inserted a link to another post.
And yes, that linked post also points to another piece of content.
Why do I keep doing this?
One of the reasons is to show you — the reader — more of my blog.
It’s a simple yet effective way to maximize the value I get from my traffic.
Of course, I make sure it benefits you as well by only showing you content that can benefit your reading experience.
What I’m going for is a chain of links that connects as many of my posts as possible.
You can and should do it, too.
It should not be hard for you to form contextual relevance between two or more posts, which leads to opportunities to create new internal links.
Now that you know what internal links mean, it’s time to talk about what it means for your blog.
The 5 Benefits of Internal Linking
Adding internal links to your blog has plenty of benefits.
We’ve already briefly discussed some of its benefits for your audience. This time, let’s take a gander at what it can do for your search engine rankings.
In the SEO landscape, internal links count as one of the known on-page ranking factors.
These pertain to the qualities found on a site that help it rank better, such as keyword optimization, high-quality content, and so forth.
How exactly can internal linking boost rankings?
Let’s break the benefits down one by one.
1. Increase Audience Dwell Time
Aside from enabling readers to easily explore more of your site, guiding your readers through a number of posts will also increase their average dwell time.
This is a key metric that search engines can use to determine the rank worthiness of a site.
Here are a few dwell time examples and how they may be interpreted:
- 2 second dwell time: I didn’t find what I wanted/expected on your site. So, I quickly went back to the SERP to find something better.
- 2 minute dwell time: I found your content pretty useful and stuck around a couple of minutes to read it.
- 15 minute dwell time: I found your content super‐useful and was heavily‐invested in what you had to say.
Dwell time measures the duration a user stays on a website before returning to the search engine results. And with internal links that can immerse visitors deeper and deeper into your blog, they’ll consequently spend more time on your site.
2. Improve User Experience
When done right, internal links can significantly improve user experience by making navigation a lot easier.
Internal links eliminate the need for them to use a search bar or menu to look for related content. Rather, they only have to click an anchor text and BAM — they already got the extra content they want.
That said, be sure you use anchor texts that also give readers an idea of what the linked page will talk about.
John Mueller of Google recently verified the importance of user-friendly anchor texts in a recent Google Webmasters Hangout video.
He also warned against embedding internal links into images, which can easily be taken advantage of to deceive users into thinking they’re going to an important page.
You wouldn’t embed a link to a sales page into an image of a puppy, right? That’s just cheating.
3. Bring Traffic to Older Posts
A lot of bloggers have mastered the ability to create evergreen posts.
These are articles about topics that are highly likely to remain for a long time.
For instance, I can write a post called “The Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing” and expect it to generate traffic for months or even years to come. That’s the beauty of it.
But let’s face it, not all evergreen content can maintain the attention they deserve weeks or months after being published. The good news is, you can always use internal links to funnel traffic from newer posts to the older ones.
Of course, your new post should be about a topic wherein it makes sense to mention your evergreen content.
If you have the creative block and can’t come up with anything, a workaround is to create a weekly or monthly roundup post that includes internal links to your older content. In which case, you only need to think of a theme and title for your roundup.
On the top of my head, here are a few ideas that could give you inspiration:
- Revisiting This Month’s Top Marketing Posts
- Top 10 Marketing Guides Beginners Should Check Out
- Roundup Fridays: Things You May Have Missed Last Week
4. Reduce Bounce Rate
Never forget that it’s a search engine’s job to answer questions and provide solutions.
If a user leaves your site without clicking anywhere else, chances are they didn’t find what they’re looking for or they simply weren’t engaged enough to interact with your site.
That, my friend, is when a bounce occurs.
Long story short, bounce rate is a metric that reflects the percentage of your visitors who bounce off of your site.
According to SEMrush, bounce rate is among the most important SEO ranking factors.
Internal links can effectively reduce bounce rate by showing users more information. Naturally, you should also pay attention to the overall quality of your posts and try spice things up with visual content to captivate your audience.
5. Spread Link Equity
Internal linking is also a great way to distribute link juice across your site.
Link juice, also known as “link equity,” can help multiple pages on your blog get better rankings.
It also helps search engines determine the relevance of a linked page via the anchor text used, which is basically the string of text where the link is embedded.
For example, if I write a general article about dogs and would like to help readers learn more about huskies, a simple anchor text like “Siberian Huskies” should do.
In most cases, you should be able to add more context to internal links by including other keywords in the anchor text.
Suppose I want to link to a guide on how to make money with your blog. Some of the anchor text variations I can use are:
- Start a profitable blog
- Make money blogging
- Monetizing your blog
- Make money with your blog
By doing so, you’re telling readers as well as search engines what the next post will be about.
Just a quick reminder: you need to be consistent with the keywords you use as anchor texts when building internal links.
Avoid using unrelated anchor texts such as “SEO services UK” or “how to repurpose content” if you’re trying to promote a post about monetizing a blog.
This will enable RankBrain — a machine learning system used by Google — to interpret the essence of your content and serve it to relevant searches.
Speaking of optimizing internal link anchor texts for search engines, let’s talk about the importance of targeting the right keywords.
Keyword Research for Internal Link Anchor Texts
I recommend you use a keyword research tool like SEMrush to find relevant, long-tail variations that you can use for internal links. You just need to enter any relevant keyword that matches the content’s topic.
Within seconds, the tool should pull up an adequate list of potential anchor texts.
Why use a keyword research tool when you can come up with anchor text variations on your own?
With a keyword research tool, you can determine the competitiveness of certain keyword suggestions.
It’s not rocket science: the higher the competition, the more difficult it is to rank for a keyword.
SEMrush measures the average keyword competitiveness on a scale of 1-100. For smaller sites, it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid going over keyword competitiveness of 30.
That’s it, a concise explanation of what internal links are and what they do for SEO.
You just need multiple posts with related topics, insert links that connect these posts and use the right anchor texts to signal relevance.
I could end the post right here and call it a day.
Unfortunately, nothing in SEO is THAT simple.
To make the most out of internal links, you need to pay close attention to the overall structure that these links create.
There are also different ways to create internal links that can affect how search engines index your content. Certain attributes like nofollow and dofollow, for example, definitely deserve your attention.
Nofollow vs. Dofollow Internal Links
Not all internal links are made equal.
Sure, all of them does the job of sending readers to a different section of a site. But for search engines, they are defined either as a dofollow link or a nofollow link.
A nofollow link tells search engines that a link shouldn’t pass on link juice to the destination page.
You can also use the nofollow links when linking to internal pages that don’t have to rank in search engines. This could be a login page or a “website under construction” page.
To create a nofollow link, you simply need to use the rel=”nofollow” attribute. This is inserted into the <a href=” “> HTML tag, which is used when inserting hyperlinks into content.
If you use WordPress 5.0, you can access the HTML document of a post by clicking the ‘Show more tools & options button’ and then ‘Code Editor.’
From there, you just have to search for the tag for the specific link you want to edit and insert the nofollow attribute.
For internal links that lead to other blog posts, feel free to leave them as is.
By default, all hyperlinks created within your content are set with the dofollow attribute, which means they’re allowed to pass on link juice. This is important if you’re creating internal links for SEO purposes.
Building Your Internal Link Structure
Once you have a firm grasp on how to use nofollow and dofollow links, the next order of business is to build an optimized internal link architecture for your website.
Suppose you have a post about basic SEO.
Within it, you may insert internal links to your posts about keyword research tools, competitor research, and other related topics that won’t be included in your main article.
Congratulations — you just created a link silo.
Put simply, silos are content categories that group similar pages together on your website.
Remember, in the world of blogging, silos are used mainly for grouping related content through internal links.
Why pay attention to content categories when internal linking?
In the past, SEO experts made it a point to strictly consolidate similar content within their own categories.
Content under Category A, for instance, can only link to posts in the same category. The same goes for posts under categories B and C.
This makes sense since you want to help readers focus on the specific topic they came for. That’s why showing them the doors to an entirely new content category might seem unintuitive.
On paper, the strict link silo structure does appear logical:
Today, however, website owners are encouraged to focus more on the user experience instead of silos when adding internal links.
If another piece of content can help enforce a point or explain a concept in the original post, then by all means link to it. As long as it can improve the experience of users, it should also be beneficial for SEO as well.
Internal Link Practices You Should Avoid
Phew — I think we covered a lot of ground when it comes to internal links.
Before you get to building internal links on your blog, here’s a quick rundown of the bad practices you ought to remember:
1. Avoid Too Many Internal Links in One Post
Unless you’re creating a roundup post, you should avoid inserting too many internal links in one article.
Inserting an internal link into every single paragraph is a surefire way to disrupt the user experience. Just take it easy with your internal linking and only connect pages and content that are absolutely related — never force internal links for the sake of internal links.
I’m not saying there should be a hard cap on the total number of internal links in your post.
There used to be a rule where 100 links should be the maximum on any site. However, this rule has since been removed — allowing certain types of pages to have way over 100 internal links to attain high rankings.
Wikipedia is the perfect example of this:
Luckily for them, having as many internal links as necessary is something their readers actually need and enjoy.
The keyword here is user experience. And for most website owners and bloggers, too many internal links usually ruins it.
2. Not Setting Internal Links to Open a New Tab
Speaking of disrupting the user experience, you can also break a reader’s engagement by creating links that open in the same tab.
It doesn’t matter if you’re sending them to another related and useful page. If you want them to finish reading your posts, every link you add to your content — internal or external — must open a new tab when clicked.
This can easily be done by adding the target=”_blank” attribute to internal links.
Most content management systems and blog publishing platforms also have a built-in “open link in new tab” option. WordPress, for example, features a convenient ‘Open in New Tab’ switch on the ‘Link Settings’ window.
3. Don’t Use Exact Keyword Matches for 100% of Anchor Texts
Want to be red flagged for keyword over-optimization?
That’s easy — you just have to use exact keyword matches for all of your internal link anchor texts!
Creating internal links with that exact same keyword as your anchor text is a big no-no.
Let’s say you have a list post of email marketing tools, which you’ve optimized for the keyword “email marketing software.” If you have multiple links to that list post from your homepage and other posts, each of them should use different keyword variations.
Some examples are:
- Email marketing platforms
- Email marketing software for free
- Best email marketing software
- Email marketing tools list
Good thing we already covered how to perform keyword research earlier, right?
You can also add additional terms to your anchor texts to make them appear more natural.
For instance, rather than using “buy a lawnmower” as your anchor text, you could try something like “buy a lawnmower for less” or “looking for places to buy a lawnmower.”
4. Burying Links Deep Into Your Website Architecture
It may not a problem for new bloggers, but once you have amassed hundreds or thousands of posts on your blog, it may be hard for readers to find posts you’ve published years or months ago.
Rand Fishkin of Moz states that, in order to improve the user experience, no page should be further than three “link hops” away.
Link hops refer to the number of times a user should click links to get to where they want. Fewer link hops also improve the efficiency of search engine crawlers since it will be easier for them to find more content.
To make sure posts are within three clicks away or less from each other, a simple strategy is to create well-organized content categories that are accessible via a sidebar.
You can also create a “Popular Posts” section that mentions posts with internal links to various content categories. I use this technique on my blog and it has paid off well thus far.
Building an internal link structure on your website may sound intimidating, but it actually boils down to being helpful to your audience.
It’s all about providing them an engaging learning experience through your content.
You don’t have to overthink your internal linking strategy. If you think it could help readers have a better grasp of concepts and ideas, feel free to show them a different post.
“Internal linking is the process of weaving together related pieces of content that can make a user’s experience more cohesive and enriching.”
If you have any questions regarding internal linking or would like to share suggestions on what I should cover next, don’t forget to join my private Facebook group — it’s totally free.