Internal linking for SEO: How Does It Work?

To rank, your content must have links. It’s best for Google to find your posts and pages when they’re linked elsewhere. In addition to connecting your content, internal links indicate the structure of your website to Google. 

By creating a hierarchy on your site, you will be able to give the most valuable posts and pages more link value than the less important ones. The right internal linking strategy can help you increase your search engine rankings!

What are Internal Links?

The word domain is often used instead of the word website when defining internal linking. However, subdomains make that a little tricky. In the case of a website with several subdomains, the links between them should be regarded as internal links since you own those sites. An example of an internal link would be a link to our careers subdomain.

In contrast, what about subdomains owned by different people on WordPress and Blogspot? Technically, each of those subdomains is a separate website. They should instead be treated as external links.

When two web pages A and B live on the same root domain, and you can add links between them, those are internal links.

Internal Links vs External Links vs Backlinks

Both internal hyperlinks and backlinks are types of hyperlinks in HTML. Every link has an href attribute, anchor text, and sometimes a rel attribute as well. In spite of this, they all serve different purposes and provide value in different ways.

Backlinks

Backlinks connect two pages on different websites. As a result, they boost your website’s authority, which helps you rank higher on Google. They can be compared to votes for your website.

Depending on your strategy, you might be able to earn these links naturally or through outreach. You must have backlinks to succeed in SEO because they are among the top 3 ranking factors on Google.

Internal links

On the other hand, internal links have no effect on the authority of your website since they are easily added by you. Voting for yourself would be similar to blowing wind into your own sails.

Your backlinks funnel existing authority and relevance throughout your website instead.

External links

In conclusion, external links have simply hyperlinked that point to another domain from yours. These are useful if you want to cite a source or link to a more detailed piece of content you don’t cover.

There are some people in the SEO world who believe linking out to high-authority websites will help your search engine optimization (SEO). Many studies have been done on the subject. However, it is too gameable to fully convince me. Having said that, citing sources when citing facts is important, especially if sensitive information is involved. But it does not benefit users or SEO to add random links to Time.

In the end, I believe external links don’t function as a ranking signal, but they can be used to boost credibility. You should certainly link out to any stat you mention or anything you borrow from an article.

Why are internal links important to Google?

Search engines such as Google and Bing rely heavily on internal linking. Why exactly is that? And how should you go about it?

In order to rank content in search results, Google follows links on websites to discover new content. Linking to a post or page indicates to Google that it is an essential or high-value article. Both internal and external links count.

As the site owner, you control internal links. Using the correct internal links, you can guide visitors and search engines to your most important pages. 

Relationships between content

In Googlebot, a bot used to crawl sites, Google follows links from within and outside the website. When the bot arrives at the site’s homepage, it renders the page and follows the first link. Google is able to determine the relationship between pages, posts, and other content by following links. Search engines identify your website’s pages that cover similar subjects in this way.

Link value

Besides understanding the relationship between content and links, Google divides link value across all links on a web page. Homepages of websites have the highest link value because they typically have the most backlinks. This value is shared between all links on the homepage. This value will be split between the links on the following page, and so on.

Therefore, linking to your newest blog posts from the homepage will give them more link value than just linking to them from the category pages. Links from the homepage will help Google find recent posts faster.

Once you understand how links pass their link value on, you’ll realize that more links mean more value for a post. You will increase the chances of your page ranking if your page receives lots of helpful links because Google considers pages with a lot of valuable links to be more important.

How to Audit Your Site’s Existing Internal Links

The chances are that there is already some degree of internal linking in place, even if it isn’t strategic unless you are working on a completely new website.

Before making important decisions about your new internal linking strategy, you need to know where you stand.

You can do this by visiting the Semrush Site Audit tool and entering your domain.

The Internal Linking Report is one of the Thematic Reports available through the Site Audit tool.

Before you plan your full strategy, you will have the insights needed to quickly and easily audit your internal linking status. 

It is divided into five main sections:

  • Pages Crawl Depth: Your site’s crawl depth can be found here (Note: your site’s most important pages should be reachable within three clicks from the home page).
  • Internal Links: Here you can see how many internal links there are, as well as how many internal links there are to other pages. Orphan pages can also be spotted.
  • Internal Link Distribution: The pages that have a low Internal LinkRank (ILR) can be identified here so you can investigate why.
  • Internal Link Issues: On this page, you can see any issues relating to internal links (divided into errors, warnings, and notices).
  • Pages passing most Internal LinkRank: You can quickly see a list of pages that are most influential (ILR). Knowing which pages are most authoritative can help you improve your site. 

This report will give you insight into your current internal linking structure so that you can plan a robust strategy.

Setting up an internal linking strategy

For your site’s SEO, it’s important to evaluate and improve its internal linking strategy periodically. A good internal linking strategy will make your site fitter. If you include the right internal links, Google will be able to:

  • Relevance of pages;
  • Page-to-page relationships;
  • The value of pages.

You need to take several things into consideration when setting up your internal linking strategy. The exact steps you take will depend on your site and your goals, but the following steps are a good starting point.

1. Develop a site structure that will work for you

It is always a good idea to think of your website as a pyramid. It consists of a homepage, some sections or categories, and below that, individual posts and pages (possibly separated by subcategories).

2. Determine what your most important content is

Then, you need to determine which content is most important. It is the best and most complete content you have; it focuses on your core business. When someone searches for a topic or product you specialize in, this is the content you want them to find.

Adding many links to your most important content will let Google know that it’s important. Your cornerstone content can be linked from many places. 

3. Add contextual links

Link the articles you write about the same topic when you have written several about it. Users and Google will be able to see it! Users and Google will see that those articles are related to the topic. Links can be directly included in your copy or added at the end of your post.

Furthermore, you want to show Google what articles are your cornerstones: your most comprehensive articles on this topic. In order to accomplish this, you must include a link to the cornerstone in every article on the topic. Make sure you link back to the individual posts from the cornerstone.

4. Link hierarchical pages

Links between parent pages and their child pages are important if your website has hierarchical pages. You should also link siblings together. Having these pages connected in this way on a well-organized site would make perfect sense.

5. Create a section for related posts

You can add complete related posts sections to your posts with a variety of plugins and modules. It’s a good idea to test whether related posts are truly related if you use one. Links to related posts manually may be the best option if you’re not sure.

6. Try adding navigational links

In addition to linking from posts and pages related to your cornerstone content, you can link to it from the homepage or top navigation to make it more authoritative. This should be done with your most important posts and pages. Links to these posts or pages will have a great deal of value and will make them stronger in Google’s eyes.

7. Add links to your taxonomies

As with categories and tags, taxonomies help you organize your site and provide useful information to users and Google. Adding internal links to the taxonomies you belong to could be beneficial if you have a blog. Linking your categories and tags helps Google understand the structure of your blog and helps visitors discover related posts more easily.

8. Add links to popular or recent posts

Another option is to link to your newest or most popular posts within your website. Make sure these sections appear on all pages and posts of your website by adding them to the sidebar or footer.

The most popular/recent posts gain more visibility as many different pages link to them. Apart from that, the posts will be easier to access, increasing traffic – and more traffic is a positive sign for Google.

Common Internal Link Building Mistakes

1. Over Optimizing Anchor Texts

When it comes to anchor text, internal and external links have the same value. Each of them plays an important role in how Google sees and categorizes the linked pages. In the end, it all boils down to one mistake that is called over-optimized anchor text. When you want a particular page to rank for an exact keyword in the SERPs, it’s easy to make this error. 

Overdoing it, however, can cause more harm than good. This is still a mistake you should avoid. Google can still detect spam within internal links.

2. Too many links

The mistake of adding too many links to a website is common among web owners and businesses. People tend to link to every relevant page on the site. Too many links can negatively impact your page. Too many links will result in your content being spammed. Your page may lose ranking on search engines as a result.

A page with more links will receive less PageRank because the value will be split evenly between the links on the page.

3. Not enough links

You are missing critical opportunities for your website by not having enough links. Too many links can harm your website, but not enough links can hurt it too. You can increase your crawl budget by planning the structure of your internal links. Your website will be able to direct Google to the most important pages and ensure all pages are readable by Googlebot as well as visitors.

4. Let pages turn into orphan-page

Orphaned pages are those that don’t have any links pointing to them. Search engines are unable to crawl orphaned pages because they are hard to find. All pages must have links pointing at them. 

It may already be necessary to revise orphaned pages in some cases. Orphan pages refer to products, blogs, service pages, and tag pages that don’t have any content. 

5. The same anchor text can be used on different pages

There are two related pages, whether it’s a blog or service page, or even two products that are the same. Both of the pages target similar keywords. Make sure internal linking does not lead to keyword cannibalization. 

6. Check for Broken Links

In the absence of fixed broken links, your website could appear low quality or damage the flow of link equity through your website. There are several reasons why this might occur. The links to a deleted blog or page have been left without a destination, the URL has been altered without proper redirects, or the blog or page has been deleted. Additionally, it can negatively impact the user experience, resulting in a lower ranking in SERPs.

7. Making your Site Bloat

Bleating in SEO indicates extra pages on your website that are not necessary. Typically, most websites have at least two extra pages. However, long blogs and regular content can present more problems. 

As a result, link equity can be wasted across the site, and the crawl budget can also be wasted. It is common for sites that have additional category and tag pages to cause bloating, but it can be resolved with just a bit of effort.

8. Think of navigation as internal linking

An effective navigation bar is an integral part of a website and provides internal links. It is one of the most important elements. You can use your navigation to show Google where the important pages on your website are, and where the silo structure continues past the homepage. 

Using your navigation, however, you should only link to the most essential pages, such as services and contact pages, and you should avoid using the parent-child or category-subcategory navigation styles.

9. Making use of Long Redirect Chains

When done correctly, redirects can be a valuable tool for bringing users to the right pages. It can, however, damage not only the user experience but also your ranking if it is not done accurately. Using redirect loops slows down your website and confuses Google bots. As Google won’t follow the redirect directly, it can also devour crawl budgets. 

10. Incorrect Use of Redirect Codes

Check whether you are using the exact redirect codes that were kept here. A 301 or 302 redirect is needed for the redirect page. Only pages that have been permanently redirected can use 301 redirect codes. Temporarily redirected pages should use 302 redirects. Whenever a page is being updated or redesigned.

Whenever you use a 302 redirect, it should be permanently redirected, otherwise your link equity and crawl budget will be wasted. If the redirect is not removed or changed, Google will continue crawling both URLs.

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