You’ve probably heard about internal linking a lot, because everyone is talking about it. But what’s all the buzz about? Should you really bother doing it? Is it really that effective? If yes, why? There are many questions to be answered.
We’ve been doing internal linking for years, we’ve been talking about it here and there, but nowhere have we stated step by step how to do proper internal link building. But all that changes today.
If you’re looking for an SEO that can quickly boost the position of your website, then keep reading…
1. What is internal linking and why does it help SEO
To put it plain, internal links are hyperlinks between two pages of the same website.
Internal links work just like backlinks. Okay, let us first understand the meaning of these nuances.
Backlinks are hyperlinks between two different websites. When you link to another website from your own website, you call that link an external link. When you link within your own website, you call those links internal links.
A proper internal linking strategy can really boost your ranking power because it does two things:
#1: Helps search engines understand the structure of your website, how different pages interact with one another and which pages are truly important within the structure of your website.
#2: Helps users navigate the website and it keeps users on the website by providing relevant content through links that can be followed. This ultimately sends search engines another signal that your website is great, because it provides a good user experience.
Google boosts websites that take internal linking seriously. It’s not just a matter of adding ranking factors to Google’s algorithm, but it actually helps users have a better experience with your website. They’re both considered ranking factors.
Of course, this is just the surface. There are a lot of things that you should take into account when interlinking between your own pages. However, although it might appear difficult, in the end you’ll learn that internal linking is actually very simple.
2. Duplicate content
Another factor to consider is duplicate content.
To understand duplicate content, let us first understand the meaning of unique content. Unique content is basically the actual content of a page. It’s what lies between the header, footer and sidebars. Now sometimes, this can get duplicated on multiple URLs, but Google doesn’t recommend it and large quantities of duplicate content can greatly harm your website and rankings.
Unique content can hold any links. They are very important, as the links can be relevant in terms of topic and anchor texts. But what you need to consider is, However, they should always be more relevant to the user than to the search engines. Simply stuffing links here and there won’t help you much.
3. Internal page performance
The more backlinks a page has, the more valuable it is for that website and also the more value it can pass onward to another page, through a link of its own. This SEO signal is very important for Google and it will be for a long time.
Here’s a video of Matt Cutts (former Head of Spam @ Google) explaining link value and link juice for ranking on Google. It’s still important to have a good link building strategy in place to get top positions, especially in highly competitive niches.
Internal links work in a similar way. As with regular external links, the more internal links pointing to one page of your website, the greater the value of that page within the website. If you have a page with 30 internal links pointing to it, it will hold a greater value in the site than the pages with only 10 internal links. If you link to another page from that page with 30 internal links, it will pass greater value than linking from the ones that only have 10 links.
Backlinks (from other websites) are also very useful. For example, if you have 10 backlinks to one page but 0 backlinks to another, you can link from the first page to the second to pass some of that link equity, within your own site.
You obviously want backlinks more than you want internal links, but that’s just because backlinks are our of your reach and we all know the nature of humans. Start with what you have control over, and build your way up. A combination of backlinks and internal links is the true key to success.
4. Number of Internal Links
As any other SEO strategy, method or category, things can and will be abused by some. Google penalizes such abuses, internal links included. There isn’t a general rule of thumb when it comes to how many links you can have on a page, but it can come down to the size of the website. As long as you keep things relevant, you shouldn’t be pouring in too many links.
Generally, a normal ratio would be 10-15 links for every 1,000 words written. However, by adding the boilerplate content links to the count, the number can grow pretty fast. I guess that even 200-250 links per page can be a decent amount on a very large website, but anything over that might look suspicious, to users and search engines as well.
However, you do want to consider that the value a page passes is divided between the number of links it has on it. So, if you had a hypothetical value of 10 and you had 5 links on that page, each link would carry a value of 2.
The more links you have on a page, the less value gets passed through each of those links.
5. Use & Risks of Anchor Texts
Anchor texts are the phrases that users see when they click on a hyperlink. It’s the phrase that’s highlighted usually with blue, but it can be another color, depending on a website’s design (in our case it’s purple).
Example: <a href=”http:/site.com/page/”>This is the anchor text</a>
As with regular backlinks, anchor texts should use keywords, because they say what that link is about and help pages rank higher for those keywords. However, trying to abuse this will get you in trouble. It’s the exact same thing with internal links.
6. Importance of Relevancy
Google has recently put a lot of emphasis on user experience. So, please just don’t fill up your pages with useless links, just for the sake of having them. If they clearly serve no purpose for the reader, you’re better off without them.
For example, you might use 3 variations of a keyword within 100-150 words. If you use all 3 of them to link to the same piece of content, what will that tell the user? Absolutely nothing. They might, at most, wonder why you would commit such a dreadful act. However, Google will clearly know you’re trying to manipulate it and it will penalize you for it.
Link between relevant posts, with relevant topics to one another and avoid using exact match anchor texts too often. If you’ve mentioned a topic that is required for the better understanding of the phrase, you may use exact match anchor texts. You don’t really want to expand on that topic and explain what it means there, because most of your readers already know it. But for those that might be new and don’t know what it is, you provide that link to an explanation.
It’s useful to have anchor texts that fit the keywords you’re trying to rank for, but don’t overdo it. To get away with it, you can write things like “To find out more, check out this article about Keyword Phrase“, where the bold part represents the actual anchor text of the hyperlink.
7. Dofollow & Nofollow
When you interlink between your pages, you want to make sure that those links are dofollow. There’s actually no such thing as a dofollow tag. A dofollow link is just a regular link, lacking the nofollow tag. A normal HTML text link passes equity/value.
This was often used in practices such as PageRank sculpting, where you would nofollow some links in order to maximize the equity of others. If we take the same example as above, if you have a hypothetical value of 10 and you have 5 links on your page but 3 of them have the nofollow tag, then the other two would each get a value of 5.
However, this doesn’t really work anymore, as Google countered this with splitting the value regardless of whether the nofollow tag is applied or not. So now, nofollowing a link in order to ‘pagerank sculpt’ will actually put the value of that link to waste.
However, there are places where you do want to use internal nofollow links. This is when you are linking to a page within your site that has the noindex meta tag. A good example would be login pages. Why bother to nofollow them? Wouldn’t that equity go to waste? Well, if it’s not going to be indexed, then nothing actually goes to waste. And it’s not like that page is going to pass anything forward. Google won’t even look at that content to see what other links that page has.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty pissed if someone said to me “Hey, yo Google, check out this awesome link!” and then go “HA HA, just kidding! Don’t index it, tinhead!”
Step by Step Internal Linking Guide
Considering you now know the basics mentioned above and you won’t use a bad structure or abuse exact match anchors when you interlink, you can start an internal linking strategy on your own website.
Step 1. Mapping Everything
If you haven’t done this on a regular basis before, you really need to plan it out, especially if you have a big website. To do this, you’ll need a Excel File or a Google Spreadsheet.
You can add any other headers you think would be relevant, but most importantly, you should iinclude these: Page Title, URL, Main Keyword, Other Keywords, Pages to link from, Anchor Text
Step 2. Keyword Research
I’ll just pull out the keywords from the title itself. You can also pull keywords out from the headings and even content. Another option would be Google’s Keyword Planner.
The key here, however, is to think of keywords that will help you find content to which that particular article will be relevant. Look at how I added ‘monitoring’ as a relevant keyword for the Google Analytics article. You can also use variations, such as ‘monitor’ or ‘monitor your traffic’.
Step 3. Searching Your Website
It’s now time to use those keywords to find relevant, older articles that we can link to our most recent 5 articles. There are two ways you can do this:
The first one is to use your site’s search feature:
After you identify the articles you want to link from, skim through them to find the relevant section and map them down, with their corresponding anchor text:
If your site doesn’t have a search feature, you can use Google to search your website, considering your pages are indexed. Use the search operator site:yourdomain.com followed by the keyword you’re searching for.
After you finish mapping, you can start adding the links. I won’t cover how to actually do that, because you can take help from Google.
Step 4. Interlink from & to New Pages
Every time you post something new, link to other older articles that are relevant to the topic. It’s better if you do it on the spot, as you write. That way, you won’t forget what you wanted to link to. Always remember to double check at the end to see if you can add some more relevant links.
Step 5. Fetch and Render
After each internal linking session, be it a bigger one or for a new post, remember to send your pages for crawling. This will tell Google to take another look at your pages, so it can see the modifications you’ve made and better understand your website. You can do this via the Google Search Console, in the Crawl section.
Quick tip: If you’re just starting a website, follow the last three steps as a rule of thumb every time you’re posting new content and you can bypass the rest of the steps.
Measuring the results is the final step of correctly implementing an internal linking strategy. You can’t say anything really works until you’ve measured its results. In order to do this, you’ll have to benchmark your site’s positions before and after implementing the strategy. You can use Google analytics to monitor your traffic.
You can only really do this well if you implement a more massive internal linking to your website and if you isolate it from other SEO strategies. If you interlink all the time and you’ve been doing it since the beginning, you probably won’t see much of a difference. Also, publishing an article that gets 100 external links (while your average is usually 1-2) might boycott your internal linking strategy measurement.
Internal linking isn’t hard to implement. Sure, it might bring up a headache if you have a million web pages, but it is definitely worth it.
What are your experiences with internal linking? Have you had success with it? Have you seen any difference whatsoever? I’m eager to find out your opinion. Start typing in the comments section below and let’s get a conversation started. I’ll gladly answer any questions.