Did you ever focus on something in the distance so much that you didn’t pay attention to what is happening right before your eyes? This is how internal links would feel…if they weren’t just pieces of code, of course.
What I am trying to say is that when it comes to SEO, people focus so much on external links that they forget about the importance of internal ones.
Well today, we will give them the attention they need! So, without further ado, let’s go!
What are Internal Links? External vs Internal
Internal backlinks are links placed within your content that link to another part of your website, always within the same domain. For example, another page or a blog post.
They are often compared to external links, which are really just links within your content that point to a third-party website. In other words, outside of your domain.
The importance of external links for SEO is indisputable. In fact, people invest a lot of time and effort into building backlink strategies that will help them generate site backlinks.
However, not everyone is aware of all the benefits of a good internal link building strategy. Let´s see them:
1. They help Google find your content
Before your content can even rank on Google and other search engines, they need to find it first. But what exactly does that mean?
When you are searching for something on Google, you are not actually searching on the Internet.
You are searching on Google´s index – or copy – of the Internet. This means that not everything that is on the Internet is also on Google.
Some websites will never appear on Google, while others will barely show up in the last pages. And others will appear, but maybe not at the exact moment that you are searching.
Google uses bots called “spiders” that crawl billions of webpages every day.
Once they find a page, they will make a copy of it for the search engine. And after this whole process has finished, they will finally be able to compete for showing up on Google.
In 99% of the cases, websites want their content to be found. And they want it as soon as possible.
The thing is, it takes some time for Google to find you and index your page. Especially if it’s brand new! In fact, it can take up to 4 weeks before people could be able to find you on search engines.
We just explained that every once in a while, Google’s spiders come and visit your website in order to index it pages. This process is called crawling.
However, spiders do not visit websites with the same frequency. They way they decide each individual frequency is very simple:
- They come to your website once;
- After a while, they will return (as we mentioned, in an average time of up to 4 weeks);
- Let’s say that they return in a week. If they find new content, the next time they will come a bit earlier than a week;
- If they find new content on their earlier visit, they will come even earlier next time;
- In other words, they are adjusting to the frequency of how often you publish new content. Or make significant changes to your website.
The final result is that they will try to visit your website as frequent as they think that they will discover new information to index. So, the most often you publish blog posts, for example, the more often that they will come.
If they return and they don’t find new information, they will come a bit later next time, and so on until adjusting.
Of course, it is not that simple either. There are other factors that will an impact on your crawling frequency, such as popularity and domain authority.
Finding new content
However, all this is not a guarantee that Google will find your content quickly. Or that it will even find it!
Search engines find new content by crawling your website. However, if you neglect to link internally to a page that you want to be found and indexed, they might not be able to find it at all.
For this reason, an easy solution and a huge benefit of using internal links is making it easy for Google to actually follow the trace of your posts and pages. For example, you could go to a post that is already indexed and often visited by search engines, and link internally to your latest blog post.
The reason why is because search engines are most likely to recrawl such pages much faster than a completely new, or a less important one.
So, if a website has strong internal linking, Google’s crawler (aka spiders) will be able to find your content quickly.
So, unless you specifically tell Google to not index your page because you don´t want it to show up in search results, internal linking is highly beneficial for getting you discovered faster.
2. They benefit SEO by passing link juice
We already know that external backlinks are great for Search Engine Optimization.
However, so are internal backlinks.
They can significantly benefit your SEO strategy by passing on link juice.
Link juice is a term that describes the value or equity that one page (or site) passes to another via hyperlinks.
This means that if a page within your website receives a link from another page, it received some of the value from that link.
Of course, the concept of link juice is the exact same for external backlinks. But today, we will focus on explaining how it works for internal ones.
To simplify the example and have fun with something silly, let’s say that you have a cornerstone blog post on how to make the best salad ever. However, you also have 3 smaller posts, each one focused on how to prepare every single vegetable for the salad:
In this case, linking internally your cornerstone content with the three smaller ones will pass its link juice on to them. And vice versa – they will also pass value on to the bigger content! Of course, the same is also true for pages, and not only blog posts.
It is also important to note that link juice is distributed equally per link. So, the higher the number of links, the less juice it will be passed to a single link.
And, there is one more thing to spice things up. You guessed it – the concept of passing on link juice is not that simple! Let’s see why.
Let’s say that a page or a post links to three other ones. In regular conditions, each one of them would receive 33% of the link juice.
However, this is a little bit different when it comes to nofollow links.
Nofollow links have a tag that tells Google to ignore them.
This means that they are not going to position in search results, and they will probably not be indexed by search engines. You could tag as “nofollow” a post or a page that you don’t consider valuable enough to contribute to your SEO efforts.
Or maybe private content that is just for your clients information, and you don’t want everyone to access it publicly.
In this case, the algorithm that determines how value flows through the website gets a little bit more complex:
Which means that if your page is pointing to three other internal pages, the value will be distributed equally across all of them. However, the one with the “nofollow” tag will not receive the link juice.
Wrapping it up
As a conclusion, a strong internal linking structure benefits SEO by moving link juice (aka, value) across your whole site. This way, Google will be able to find your content faster. However, it will also understand it better because of the way you’ve connected related content to one another.
Additionally, internal links allow you to establish a a site hierarchy, so you can give more value to more important pages, which will benefit your SEO efforts in return.
3. Internal Links can help with Keyword Ranking
Having a good internal linking strategy is also a great way to improve your ranking for certain keywords.
Let’s take an example from my own site. I have various articles related to Google Ads, and they are all written for beginners:
- Search Engine Marketing for Beginners – cornerstone content;
- 13 tips to improve your Quality Score in Google Ads;
- What is Google Ads Quality Score?
- The Complete Guide to Google Ads Extensions;
- 10 ways to do free keyword research without tools
So, let’s say that I want to position my cornerstone article for the longtail keyword “Search Engine Marketing for Beginners”. Which, in this case, coincides with the name of the article. 🙂
In this case, I can go to all the rest of my articles, and link to my flagship article with a relevant anchor text. Anchor texts are the blue clickable links that take users to another piece of internal or external content. We will see them in detail in a second.
Linking these articles to my flagship content will send a clear signal to search engines that this post is relevant for a specific search query.
When you place a link within your content, you will need to connect it to an anchor text. Of course, you can always place the URL directly, but it will not look good, and you will still need to make it clickable. So, in this case, the anchor text will be the URL address, which is usually not the best practice.
Anchor texts are the clickable texts within your content that are designed to take the user to another page. Either internal or external. They usually look something like this:
For example, in this case, the anchor text are the words “not index your page“, which take users to another, external source.
Google looks at anchor texts to understand the context of pages, and how they relate to one another.
The choice of anchor text is really important for giving a boost to your keyword ranking when linking internally. For example, if I wanted to link to my article “Search Engine Marketing for beginners” from another article, I could use relevant keywords as a part of my anchor text such as:
- “search engine marketing”;
- “sem for beginners”;
- “google ads for beginners”;
And so on.
Anchors texts – best practices
However, there are some best practices that you need to follow to make sure that you are doing it right:
- Don’t use anchors that are the exact URL of the destination. For example, having the URL “mktoolboxsuite.com/internal-links-seo” as my anchor text while linking internally to the same post is not recommended. It not only doesn’t look good, but it doesn’t bring any keyword value either.
- Avoid using the exact keyword as an anchor text. It is important to make it naturally looking, and not too obvious in a way that it looks like keyword stuffing just for the SEO benefits. Doing so is considered over-optimizing, and it’s definitely not a good practice.
- Instead, try to spread the anchor text across a whole sentence (if it’s short), or across a part of a longer sentence, like this:
Overusing keyword-rich anchor texts might have a negative impact on your link profile.
By using your link with a longer anchor, you can still include keywords without making it in a way that’s too dense.
The only notable exception is using anchors whose text is exactly the same as the root domain URL. For example, I could have linked the article above with Quicksprout as an anchor text. Instead of linking to this source by saying “negative impact on your link profile”.
4. Internal Links can lower your Bounce Rate
Using proper anchor texts can be a great way to not only increase page views, but to also lower your bounce rate.
Put simply, bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who landed on your website, and left it without having any further interaction. In other words, they came, they scrolled quickly through your content, and left because they didn’t find what they were looking for.
As a result, they didn’t look at another page on your website.
Bounce rate can be monitored with Google Analytics and other analytics tools.
However, there is one very important issue with the way Bounce rate is measured that not many people know about. (That internal links can help with!)
Let’s see that someone typed “best chicken soup recipe”, landed on your blog post, and spend 10 minutes reading it. That’s a great session duration, and it’s clear that the user found what he was looking for! Which means that you did a great job, so you would expect a low bounce rate.
Now here comes the problem. If the user spent 10 minutes on your website but didn’t visit a second page, the visit will be counted as “bounce”, and the session duration as 0.
Yes, that’s right. This isn’t because Google thinks that the user left right away. In reality, it happens because the way that the search engine measures this metric is by calculating the time from one page to another.
So, if the user didn’t visit a second page, Google has no way of knowing how much time the person actually spent on that page. You can read the full explanation here, it is actually very interesting.
How internal links help
Internal linking can be a great way to add value for your readers by offering related content that they could be interested in.
So, if the user has finished reading your article on the best chicken soup, you could offer them other soup recipes. Or maybe other chicken recipes! The point is, if they liked your content, they could continue digging in your site.
You can facilitate this process by providing other related or commended content, and make them move easily from one page to another.
This way, you will not only increase your page views, but you will also lower your bounce rate. After the second page visit, Google will actually be able to measure bounce rate and time spent on page correctly. And you will have better and more precise data to work with!
5. Keep readers on your site for longer
Apart from improving bounce rate and page views, internal links are also a great way to keep readers on your site for longer. This will help you improve multiple site metrics on Google Analytics, such as Session Duration, Average time spend on page, and of course, Bounce Rate.
The more time readers spend on your website, the better. For you, this not only means improved metrics, but also engaged users who are actually enjoying your content.
For this reason, it is important that you use your internal linking strategy the right way. Instead of offering mediocre content whose sole purpose is to generate traffic, try to offer valuable and useful information. After all, you want to keep your readers interested in the long term.
6. Internal Links can help you build your Website Architecture
Another huge benefit of having a good internal linking strategy is that you establish a strong on-page SEO foundation for your website.
Internal links are a great way to build your website architecture. And of course, to help users and search engines navigate through it easily in a structured, logical manner.
Website architecture refers to the way that you structure the content of your website, in a way that it delivers excellent user experience to your audience.
Instead of falling into the trap of hierarchical architecture, try to establish your internal linking strategy in a way that answers and fulfils your user intent.
7. Drive more traffic to old posts
Another awesome benefit of using internal links is driving more traffic to old posts.
If you have an older blog with hundreds of articles, it is quite possible that some of them are dropping in views after a certain period of time.
Internal linking not only provides your audience with further reading options, but it also helps you promote older posts. Of course, you should only do that when it makes sense, and the content is actually related and helpful. Don’t link to older posts just to link to older posts!
By linking to older posts, the newer ones that are getting traffic will pass some of it to older ones, helping them improve their ranking as well.
Internal Links for SEO: Conclusion
Now that we’ve seen some of the biggest benefits of using an internal linking strategy for SEO, it is time to put it in practice. Besides from my tips, I highly recommend that you also do your own research to make sure that your strategy will be correctly aligned with your business goals.
And now, it’s your turn! Are you already using internal linking within your SEO efforts? What are your biggest challenges with it? Let me know in the comments down below!
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my article! I will see you in the next one!