This article was originally published in January 2022 but was updated on July, 25th, 2022.
Internal linking has been highly regarded by SEO experts for many years because of the immense value it can provide to a website and its site visitors. But it often gets placed on the backburner due to other strategies that require more immediate attention like content creation and link building. As a result, many websites underutilize internal links because people do not understand how to utilize them to their full advantage. Do internal links help SEO? This article sheds light on internal linking, its importance, and how it helps SEO. Let’s get started!
What are Internal Links in SEO?
An internal link refers to when a website creates a link from one page to another on the same website. Don’t confuse this for a backlink or an external link. A backlink is when a third-party website links back to another website. And an external link is when your website references and links to another third-party site (a backlink but on the opposite spectrum).
It is invaluable to both users and search engines in creating a hierarchy of importance for web pages, thereby providing the context of the content and improving navigation on the website. Internal links pass valuable link juice throughout the site, and when implemented strategically help search engines understand which pages on a website are the most valuable. In addition to this, the anchor text (text shown on the link) of an internal link can help provide contextual and keyword value for the page it’s internally linking to. Thus, it can help improve rankings.
Internal Links vs External Links
As mentioned above, internal links are links between pages on the same website. External links refers to links on your website that link to other websites. Internal and external links can help your on-page SEO efforts. In this article, we focus mainly on internal links and how they impact SEO. For more information on external links and backlinks, check out why link building is crucial to the SEO process.
How Important are Internal Links to SEO?
Search engines have massively evolved in the past couple of years. For instance, Google has notably advanced from simple keyword matching to utilizing natural language processing (NLP) to understand English search queries better. Nevertheless, the algorithms employed by these search engines have not yet been perfected. Context is needed to recognize what a web page entails, how it relates to other pages, and its importance on the website. This is where internal links come in. Among several other things, they influence the architecture of a website, convey meaning, and funnel authority. Internal links are essential to SEO in the following ways:
Structure a Website
Internal links help categorize related pages together. In this sense, they can be viewed as the organizational chart for your website. Internal links ensure the related sections of your website are grouped in the same way as functional departments in an organization. In doing so, the depth of coverage of a topic, relevance, and context is reinforced. In addition, integration of URL structure, website navigation, and internal linking strategy results in your website architecture being SEO-friendly.
Picture walking up to a receptionist and saying, “manager.” They would have no idea what you are wanting. The receptionist would perhaps suggest the finance manager, general manager, HR manager, or ask if you want a position as a manager. This is because you did not provide enough context.
Similarly, search engines need enough context to acknowledge search queries and web pages. URLs, H1 tags, page titles, keywords, images, subheadings, and other on-site SEO recommendations are critical in providing search engines with the context they need to understand them.
Internal links also provide context. Interestingly, the context provided by internal links is not limited to anchor text as on-page SEO elements. Therefore, the context incorporated into the internal link’s paragraph, subheading, or sentence of the referenced page is invaluable in providing clues on what is included on the other end of the link.
As established earlier in the article, internal links are vital in creating a hierarchy of importance for web pages. As a result, Google and other search engines can understand the most important pages on your website. When you link other pages on your website, it tells the search engines that it is important for users and search engines to find and prioritize those pages. Incorporating keywords into your anchor text can also help search engines better understand which keywords to associate and rank for certain pages.
Note: It’s important to diversify your anchor text to provide more contextual value to search engines and users. They should be able to gather what the topic of the linked page is based on the anchor text, not just “click here.”
Function as Wires
A classic metaphor that exemplifies the importance of internal links to SEO are the wires from a power plant to a house. Lights will not work in a home if it is not connected to a power grid, regardless of the extent of wiring done to the house. Also, if you construct an exterior garage and fail to wire it, you will not have power despite the rest of the home having power.
Similarly, internal links serve as wires from the circuit to the outlets. The metaphorical example above stresses the importance of internal links in terms of page ranks or link equity. For instance, a user may not access referenced pages on a website if internal links are not provided. However, internal links serving as wires do not make them significantly important to SEOs.
How Does Internal Linking Help SEO?
1. Premium User Experience and Conversions
Internal linking is designed to ensure a superior user experience. At the same time, it allows website owners to move potential customers deeper into their conversion funnel. Users typically have more questions when consuming content from a website. Through an SEO-oriented internal linking strategy, the website can anticipate such questions, guide the users’ thought process, and prompt action. In other words, internal links help websites serve their visitors what they want, causing them to remain on the site. Consequently, this enhances brand awareness, amplifies brand loyalty, vamps sales, and builds trust.
2. Strengthens Crawling and Indexing
Internal linking helps search engines find more pages on a website. Internal links enable Google and the likes to rank pages according to their importance. As such, the search engines will show only the best-searched contents in a hierarchical structure. Internal links send signals to Google on what pages on the website are more important, allowing the search engine’s algorithms to pick what to feature in the search results naturally.
3. Boost Engagement Metrics
Using internal links to reward users with what they want is beneficial to a website. Internal linking allows websites to funnel users to other pages, thereby improving engagement metrics. Internal links boost engagement metrics in two key ways.
Firstly, incorporating contextual internal links throughout a page can help increase the average session duration and pages per session, encouraging people to stay on your website for longer. Users will explore more of the content as they visit the website. As a result, you will be building a more loyal following as you solidify your brand among this group of curious visitors.
Secondly, a well-thought out internal linking structure can help reduce your website’s bounce rates. The bounce rate is a satisfying metric that relates to the metrics above. This is in the sense that the more time people spend on a website, the more they are likely to visit other pages on the website. Consequently, the bounce rates will be minimized—a reduced bounce rate is an indicator of the relevance of a website to visitors.
4. Help Support an Argument
The best way to use internal links throughout the content is to back up claims stated. For instance, suppose an individual creates a resource with statistics relevant to their industry. They can use internal links to support their arguments from other blogs they posted. This also helps contextualize arguments.
One of the most significant benefits of internal links is their potential benefits compared to their costs. Internal links are essentially free and require fewer resources and time to create compared to link building (which is still critical for SEO and should be prioritized).
So, do internal links help SEO? Definitely – the 5 points outlined above show the importance of internal links and how they can benefit your site. Next, let’s go over broken links, and how to fix them using 301 redirects.
Broken Internal Links
A broken internal link mainly refers to when a link goes to a page on your website that is either broken or taken down. On rare occasions, the inserted link may have been inputted incorrectly. Broken internal links can hurt your SEO efforts – make sure to track them down and fix them as soon as possible. You can use a free tool like Siteliner to find any broken links on your website. Next, let’s talk about how to fix broken links to keep your website running smooth and SEO friendly.
How to Fix Broken Links
Luckily, broken internal links are fairly easy to locate and fix. With the proper use of a 301 redirect, you can make sure each page and URL of your website is working properly. Check out our guide on 301 redirects and how they should be used. 301 redirects are quite simple and should resolve most situations where you encounter broken links. In the event that the link was added incorrectly (but the target link page is live and working), simply copy and paste the proper link into the hyperlink section of your site editor page.
Do Internal Links Help SEO? More FAQ
How do you find ways to use internal links?
As you create content, using internal links should feel natural and easy. When you write about certain topics, link to other articles if the topic or sentence you write applies to the linked article. If your website is fairly new, finding ways to internally link could be tricky but don’t forget you can link to pages like your “Home”, “Services” or “About Us”. If you build your site through WordPress, you could download the Yoast plugin to make internal linking even easier. It provides suggestions of related pages you can link with. Over time, building internal links should feel natural and easy as you build out your content.
How many Internal Links is Best?
Although Google and other search engines have not provided a specific answer on this topic, they have indicated their ability to crawl 100s of links per page. Obviously, too many links could cause a poor user experience as the content should flow naturally. The general idea: make sure to use internal links within your content. You don’t need to overload your content with too many links.
Does Anchor Text Matter for SEO?
Yes, anchor text significantly matters for SEO, as it indicates to Google and other search engines what the linked page is about. When you’re inserting internal links, find the target keyword for the content you are linking to. Once you determine the keyword or phrase, use that keyword as the anchor text on the page. Create a document with all of your cornerstone content pieces listed out with the best anchor text options. This will help your overall internal link strategy.
Partnering with SEO Experts
As we’ve learned in this article, internal linking is crucial to improving and advancing your SEO. Whether you might not know where to start or how to move forward, there are digital marketing opportunities out there for your business to take advantage of. And a white label SEO agency can help take the workload off your plate and implement a comprehensive SEO strategy for both you and your clients!Our white label SEO program enables you to take the credit for a data-driven and strategic SEO campaign while we work as an extension of your team behind-the-scenes. See more details or get connected with one of our Partner Success Team members to learn more about our white label SEO partner program!