We all know that link building is vital for SEO and ranking on Google, but we tend to focus solely on backlinks and overlook the power of internal linking.
Optimising an internal linking strategy should be high on your priority list. We’ve improved many of our clients’ link architecture to boost SEO scores with success. Here, we lay out a beginner’s guide on how to improve your SEO using internal links.
As far as SEO terms go, internal links are pretty self-explanatory. An internal link is a clickable word or phrase (also known as anchor text) on a website page that directs you to another page on the same site.
External links, by comparison, are another type of hyperlink that directs users to another page on a different website with a separate URL. Although using outbound links are good practice for SEO, it won’t help spread link authority within your own site—one of the main reasons to use internal linking.
Here are four key reasons why internal linking is important for your SEO.
Including an internal linking structure will help Google and other search engines find and index pages on your website. Google bots can better crawl your website via internal links, which also helps index new pages faster.
Using internal links correctly also helps weave relevant content together and will position you as an authoritative and trustworthy source that Google is likely to feature in the SERPs.
When you include an internal link, you direct both users and Google bots to another relevant page. Using descriptive anchor text provides information to users and Google about what the linked page is about.
For this reason, you should describe the page you are linking to with a relevant keyword rather than something generic like “click here”, for example:
The words “clicking here” do not tell bots what content will be on the page you are linking to, whereas “blue hats”, for example, reveal this.
Using interlinking on your site also helps build topic clusters within your content.
Topic clusters comprise of:
One high-priority page (a pillar page)
Other posts that contain content on the same theme but at a more granular level (cluster posts)
Links from the pillar page to each cluster and vice versa to create SEO interlinking.
Creating cluster content is valuable as Google will understand that you cover the topic in detail, establishing yourself as an authority on the subject. You can then rank higher for related keywords you may target.
A huge benefit of internal linking is that it improves user experience by guiding visitors through and around your site.
By including internal links, users will be able to find more relevant, interesting and useful content. This increases user time spent on-site and guides potential buyers towards making a purchase.
You should aim to optimise your content and internal links to cover all associated topics and questions your visitors may have. By providing more relevant content you will appeal to the user intent, helping your site to become a one-stop-shop for users, keeping them on your site for longer and even guiding them through the buyer’s journey.
Link juice—aka link equity—refers to the idea that links can pass on value and authority from one page to another. By using strategic internal linking you can help spread the power of your main page through to your inner pages too.
To help spread your own link juice, it’s good practice to check the pages or blog posts on your site that has the most backlinks. You can then try and find opportunities to link internally from these pages to make sure you spread link value throughout your site.
Not sure which of your pages has the highest amount of backlinks? You can use Google Search Console (GSC)—a great tool to use to find out which of your pages has the highest amount of backlinks.
To get started, simply create a user and log in to GSC. Once logged in, click on ‘links’ at the bottom of the left-hand side to see which sites that link to you most and which of your pages are the most linked to.
You can also see which pages have the most internal links and use this to run an internal link audit—more on this later.
Use these powerful pages to link internally to your high-priority pages and spread that all-important link juice.
There are some instances where you should always link internally. The more you practice this the more you will recognise when an internal link would fit appropriately on a page.
Here are some instances when you should use internal links:
This goes back to our pillar and cluster structure. Internally linking to contextually relevant posts helps to reduce user bounce rate by giving readers access to all information they might need, preventing them from bouncing back to the search pages to find what they need elsewhere.
Linking from subcategories back to parent categories using descriptive anchor text helps Google understand the connection between your pages. For example, an e-commerce site may have a general product page about laptops that will link back to pages that display specific brands, such as Apple, Dell and Lenovo.
This type of internal linking can also be beneficial to users and in turn great for your site by potentially increasing user engagement signals such as time spent on site and lower bounce rates.
When writing multiple articles on the same theme or topic, it is likely that you will share some of the keywords across posts. This puts thematically linked site pages at risk of ranking against each other for the same terms, which is bad news for SEO.
To avoid internal competition, you can use internal links to direct all pages back to your main page on the topic. Google will then identify the link source as the main page and will know to rank this above the other pages.
Likewise, if you have pages that are ranking for key terms that are better suited to another page you can redirect Google to that page using internal links.
You can strengthen a page by using the focus keyword as the anchor text for all internal links on other pages. By internally linking to the main page using the main page’s focus keyword, you will be boosting your chances of appearing higher in Google’s SERPs.
It’s always good practice after creating a new page to go into other pages and use internal links to help strengthen that new page. This helps a page that needs to build backlinks and earn some authority on Google.
Having conducted many SEO audits, we have identified certain mistakes when trying to use internal links.
Here are some internal linking problems to avoid:
Don’t link target keywords or variations to another page
Don’t use parts of a page’s keyword to link elsewhere
Don’t use the same anchor text to link to two different pages (your pages will compete with one another and ultimately fail to rank on Google)
Avoid using the same keyword to go to one page (this is known as over-optimising and looks spammy).
Here is an example of internal linking in HTML:
You can use the HTML tag <a href> to insert an internal link into your content. You also need to add descriptive anchor text to inform Google and users what the link is about. It’s worthwhile learning these tags and other HTML coding basics to help improve the structure of your content.
Ensure your anchor text is keyword rich (but vary it) to strengthen rankings. If you’re unsure of which words are suitable for anchor text on a certain page, you can use an SEO tool, such as Ahrefs.
Internally link the first mention of the word or phrase (that way internal links will appear higher on the page)
Avoid using too many internal links on one page as it looks spammy (Google Webmaster Guidelines advise no more than 100 links on a page).
If you aren’t sure how best to identify opportunities for internal linking, here are a few tips we share with our content writers:
When writing a new post, use Google’s “site:” search command to find mentions of relevant phrases within your own content. Then you can internally link to relevant content using descriptive anchor text.
For example, if we wanted to find mentions of internal links on Reboot’s website, we would type into Google: site:rebootonline.com internal links.
The results will display all pages on Reboot’s website that contain the phrase “internal links”, ranked in order of relevance—helping you identify the best page to link to.
This is also a good way to find opportunities to link to a page you have just created. By finding all mentions of the key term across your site, you can use that as anchor text to link to your new page.
As previously mentioned, you can use Google Search Console to find out which pages are getting tons of internal links, and which aren’t. You can use this to structure your internal linking strategy moving forward and make sure you aren’t over-linking to lower priority pages.
You should be doing an internal linking audit a few times a year to make sure you are on top of internal linking, as it is easy to neglect going back into old pages to update internal links to new posts or landing pages you have created.
Occasionally, you may need to add content to your site to create the opportunity to link internally to an important page. Just make sure that the content you add is relevant and useful to the page—users will notice if you’re adding empty content just for the sake of it.
Including internal links on your website is vital for boosting Google ranking, improving user experience and establishing authority on your chosen topics. By following the best practices for link building described in this article, you will be improving your overall SEO strategy.
Orignally written by Abby Chinery in 2019, and updated for 2021 by Charlotte Osborn.