Internal links play a critical role for your website, carving pathways so users and search engines can discover your content. But their role goes deeper than that.
External links—the links from other websites pointing to yours—tend to get a lot of attention when it comes to SEO. But internal linking best practices also deserve attention because they can benefit your website in the following ways:
- They can help your site gain higher rankings for relevant searches.
- They help your visitors enjoy a better experience on your site.
- They let you direct visitors to your revenue-generating pages.
Let’s clear up what we are talking about when we say internal links. Hint: it includes way more than just linking from one blog post to another.
What are Internal Links?
An internal link is a link from one page on your website to another. (External links, often called backlinks, are when another website links to yours, as we mentioned above.)
If you work in content marketing, you’re probably familiar with linking from one article to another on your blog. But internal links can be found in many spots on a typical web page. Aside from links in editorial, internal links include navigation links, image links, call-to-action buttons, links in banner ads — basically any link that points to another page on your site.
How to Use Internal Links to Build Organic Traffic
How you link among the pages of your site creates its website architecture. This is an important factor in search engine optimization. Search engine bots (called crawlers) rely on your internal links to find pages on your website. It also helps search engines index your content by topic. They look at the anchor text on the links to figure out what pages are about and how they’re related to each other.
If search engines like Google can’t find your pages easily, they can’t index your pages. And if search engines can’t index your pages, they can’t show them in search results. (Learn more about how search engines work.)
Internal links also help people spend more time on your site. When someone lands on your website and then follows an internal link, it boosts certain metrics that search engines use to evaluate how helpful your page is. Engagement by readers, like when they click to another page on your site, shows search engines that your site is valuable to visitors. These positive signals, like higher page views and lower bounce rates, can help your page show higher in search results.
What is “link equity”?
Often referred to colloquially as “link juice,” link equity is what SEO practitioners call the value passed from one page to another via a link.
Individual pages on your site can build up equity, just like your site can build up authority as a whole. A page can gain value primarily through backlinks pointing to it from other websites. The page can then pass this value to other pages (internally and externally) through its own use of links.
Many SEO pros used to think that this equity had to be “sculpted” carefully to make sure it passed the optimal amount of equity to certain pages. While sculpting is no longer used this way, thanks to an update by Google that made it less attractive to manipulate link equity, it’s still important to consider how link juice can help your pages.
How to use link equity to help your own pages rank better
Once you understand that link equity helps pass value from one page to another, you can start to see ways to optimize your pages with SEO.
For instance, if you have a page that you think needs a boost, you can link to it from relevant pages that have more link equity. You can also link new or important content from your home page, which typically holds the most value of all your pages. Many companies do this through a feed of their newest blog content, for example, which you can usually automate using a widget with your content management system.
See how medical device company Greenlight Guru includes links to its recent resources at the bottom of its home page.
Source: Greenlight Guru
But how do you know which pages have more link equity? You have three options:
- Take a look at the backlink profile for your different pages. The pages with more, higher-quality sites linking to them will have the most equity.
- Use Chrome extensions to view the value of individual pages. You can get started with the Link Research Tools free LRT Power*Trust™ Extension.
- Reference your website analytics to learn which pages are driving the most traffic to your site.
It’s not a stretch to assume that pages with more traffic have more equity to share. They certainly can provide an opportunity to increase visibility for pages you want to boost.
Use internal linking to show relevancy
Because relevancy is so important, linking up all the relevant content into clusters or hubs can be a useful strategy. This means creating a central page for each topic and then linking from it to all the related pages on your site for that page. You can see this in the popular content architectures of the hub-and-spoke or content-clusters models.
Building a strong internal-linking SEO framework can help your pages rank better individually, and your site overall.
Just as important, internal links can help you improve conversions and revenue for your site.
How to Use Internal Links to Drive Revenue
Internal linking done right can raise the visibility of pages that play important roles in conversion. Links can guide readers to your most valuable pages and help them get to know you as a brand.
Guide readers to the pages that are MOST valuable for them
Linking to other pages from your content will show readers you’ve got more to offer than just the page they landed on. Link to content that lets them explore concepts more deeply or answers questions regarding the topic they’re reading about.
Consider, too, where they may be in their purchase journey. Generally, readers will want to consume several pieces of content at each level before they progress to the next level. It’s helpful to view this in terms of a sales funnel. The farther down the funnel a prospect is, the closer they are to purchasing.Consider where the reader may be in the purchase journey and link to the content that will help answer their next questions. Click To Tweet
If someone enters your site via a top-of-funnel piece, you can link to other articles that satisfy top-of-funnel needs and also to some that let the reader move on to mid-funnel concerns.
Likewise, if they land on one of your mid-funnel pieces, it might be a good idea to link to more at that level, plus some that will help the reader move on to their next natural questions.
If you’re not sure which types of content your buyer will want to access at the different stages, read up on the content that appeals at the different stages of the funnel, and find out how to use content mapping and customer lifecycle marketing concepts.
Give readers options to take action
One type of internal link can have an especially big impact on conversions: call-to-action (CTA) links.
A call to action can be anything from reading more to signing up for a demo or purchasing a product. Making sure readers can easily see how to take the most common actions will greatly increase the chances of their doing so. Including a CTA on every page is an important part of writing content for a website.
What are some of the most common call-to-action links you might want to include? Think of not only what you might want people to do but also what they might want to do. User testing can come in handy here, but a few common actions include:
- Contact you
- Schedule a demo
- Sign up for blog updates
- Follow on social media
- Download a document
Help your visitors get to know you as a brand
Many site visitors are searching for information, and they want to know that you’re a reputable source. Additionally, as they get closer to evaluating vendors and are looking at competing options, they’ll want to know why your business is the better choice. Keep it simple for them by making your About page easy to find, so they can read the story of your brand and see what you stand for as an organization. Site visitors will often look for this important page in your site navigation.
7 Internal Linking Best Practices
Below, we’ve collected a few more resources and best practices to help you on your way to optimizing your internal linking strategy. Make sure your internal linking is working as hard for you as it can with the following tips and tools.
1. Include internal links on every page.
Make sure all your pages include internal links so visitors won’t become stranded on dead-end pages. Alexa’s Site Audit tool produces regular comprehensive reports that show how your site can improve its technical SEO, including addressing issues of dead-end pages.
2. Make sure all your pages are reachable in fewer than five clicks.
Make sure all your pages are reachable with fewer than five clicks from a user’s entry point to your site. The Site Audit tool can help here too—it shows you which pages are difficult for search engines to access, so you can improve how you link to them.
3. Make sure pages you want to be crawled are crawlable.
Make sure search engine bots can crawl all of your pages that you want to rank. Check your robots.txt file to make sure you’re not instructing crawlers to ignore a page that you would want to show in search results.
4. Use a site map.
Create a site map and link it in your robots.txt file. This file helps direct search engines to pages on your site.
5. Nofollow internal links that may waste your crawling budget.
Use the nofollow attribute for internal links that you do not wish to show in search engine results pages. This helps conserve the resources of search engine bots and increase the chances they’ll find and index your SEO content, since they dedicate finite resources to crawling sites. A good example of this might be your contact page, which is often linked from every page on your site. If you nofollow it, then bots will not need to use their resources to follow it.
6. Fix broken links regularly.
Scan for and address your broken links regularly. Broken links can stop crawlers in their tracks, preventing them from finding and indexing pages. Our Site Audit tool can show you how many links are broken on your site. This includes internal and external links. The tool even shows you which pages have broken links, so you can find and fix them easily.
7. Pay attention to anchor text.
Pay attention to the anchor text you use. This helps users decide whether they want to click, and it helps search engines understand the topic of content. Learn more about anchor text best practices.
Can You Have Too Many Internal Links?
A good rule of thumb when it comes to the number of internal links on a page is that all of your links should be useful to your readers. There’s no longer a cap to the number of internal links you should have on a page, but your links should create a good user experience.
Internal Links Are Important for SEO and Customers
While external links seem to get all the attention in search engine optimization and brand awareness efforts, your internal linking strategies can help boost your efforts, too.
Internal links can help distribute the effects of your hard-earned external links to pages that need a nudge to do better in search engines. In addition, mindfully linking to pages that are important to your users can also help you build revenue with more conversions.