Why Internal linking is Crucial for Search Engine Optimization

Why Internal linking is Crucial for Search Engine Optimization

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internal linkingInternal linking is CRUCIAL for search engine optimization.

It’s a big statement to make, but through my years of experience I have learned how true it is.

Let’s think about it this way…

Your website visitor is the blood in your blog’s veins and the visitor needs to travel through your blog without hitting roadblocks.

I believe that neglecting internal linking within your website could be cutting the blood supply that runs throughout your blog. Imagine the blood pumping through the veins of your blog and then coming to a dead end? Where can it go now?

4 Reasons Internal Linking Is Critical for SEO

1.   Tells Google that you think your own page is valuable

If you are not endorsing your own content, then why should other people do it?

This is the first place that your content should be getting the tick of approval from.

Internal linking shows search engines you mean business.

2.   Enhances your visitors experience on your website

As I mentioned earlier, website visitors can be compared to the blood pumping through the veins of your website.

You need to lead them to other related content to keep the blood flowing.

Having internal links to additional information can fill in the blanks for some website visitors.

3.   Reduces your bounce rate

When people read a particular article on your website, giving them other options and extra links leading to more information definitely lowers your bounce rate.

4.   Helps with Indexing

Internal linking not only lets your visitor navigate your website freely, it also lets search engine bots travel from one page to the next.

This can contribute to a page being indexed quicker than normal.

Read more on how Google works here.

Internal linking on your website

To become great at internal linking, we must first realize that every page and post is a living and breathing entity of its own.

In the SEO world this means that each page and post have their own keywords that tell the search engines about them.

The next thing we must acknowledge is that there are two main types of internal links:

  1. In-content links: the links that are within your post content that lead to other related posts on your blog.
  2. Navigation links: these are often overlooked as a means of internal linking and are a very important part of search engine optimization.

Setting up an effective navigation system

After you have done your keyword research and found your main keywords, your next goal would be to make a list of related keywords. This list could be used for your category names.

The most effective navigation system I have used is where 5 to 15 categories are created using LSI (related keywords).

Now if every post published on your website can fall into one of your categories, then you have a tight niche that is very targeted. If you cannot figure out which category to place an article, then it might not belong on your website.

We can get technical and talk about the tiers of a blog, but I’d like to avoid techie stuff as much is possible.

The navigation system that I mentioned above is a clear two-tier system. I like to have access to the categories either through the top navigation system or in the sidebar.

Make a list of keywords

For each post or page on your website, make a list of keywords that can be used as your anchor text.

Using the example above, I have an article about search engine optimization and here are some possible keywords that I would use. Let say the actual article is called “what is search engine optimization”:

  • what is search engine optimization
  • search engine optimization basics
  • learn search engine optimization
  • search engine optimization for beginners
  • search engine optimization explained

To find the best keywords to use, I would use the Google keyword tool or Market Samurai, do an exact match search, and find the keywords with the most searches.

Please note that these keywords will be used as anchor text to point to the same post and as you can see they all really mean the same thing.

I like to vary my anchor text, as the same words do not always fit into the content of a post.

Of course I do not what my links to be classed as spam either.

Do internal linking from the start

This means that as soon as a post is published, you need to build at least two internal links coming in to it. Doing so “joins” your new post to your blog.

After I have built these two internal links, I will add more links to the new post, but only if I have an article that is related and requires it.

This works for me, but others might have a different method.

Can Too Many Internal links Hurt?

Too much of anything can hurt you, there is no denying that.

Therefore having no internal links is not good and having too many is not good either. So where is the balance?

Here is how I create balance with internal linking

  • Three links per 500 words with one being the minimum. So if a post has 1500 words, I build 9 links.
  • Reduce Footer links and sidebar links to only what is needed. For example, there’s no reason to show recent posts in the sidebar on the homepage when all the recent posts are listed there anyway. This means you are linking to the same post twice from your homepage. What is the point in that?

The absolute best tip I can give you when it comes down to internal linking is to stick to your routine. If you like to add a certain amount of links for each page or post and it is working for you, then keep doing it.

Final thoughts

I am a huge fan of internal deep linking and I am very glad that something that holds so much importance is entirely under our control – no link hunting, no link baiting techniques; just a few minutes of your time.

I am definitely interested in how other webmasters perform internal linking within their websites: let me know what your strategies are in the comments below.

 

traffic generation cafe comment below

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70 Comments (click here to leave a comment)

  1. Mitz, thanks for the great insight. I love deeplinking and do it on a regular basis whenever I write new posts, I link to 3 other posts. But then what you said about linking new posts to old posts is what I rarely do. Gotta get my feet in that too. Thanks again.

  2. Hi Ana,

    I usually have all my posts in the sidebar (my sites are considerably smaller than yours!) and maybe have a couple in the text as different anchor text. Is this a good idea as I have read elsewhere on your site that Google will ignore the second link going to the same url? Which one would the bots crawl first?

    As you can tell, i’m pretty new to this!
    Thanks

    • Ana Hoffman

      Usually, sidebar follows the post content, Jay.

      However, you need to check your own blog. In your browser, go to View => Page Source or, if you are using the latest Firefox, Tools => Web Developer => View Source; this will pull up your html code. Just scroll down to make sure that sidebar links are placed after the content.

  3. Hi Ana,

    I have always been worried about putting too many internal links on a page. Thanks for giving some guidance in terms of what you think is reasonable.

    Cheers
    Neil

    • Hi Neil
      You can still go overboard but as long as the link is relevant and is required to fulfill a purpose then it is ok. People still seem to do everything to the extreme.

      I will not publish a post unless it has at least 2 internal links to other pages. That is my absolute minimum.

  4. Totally agree. On page SEO and internal linking on sites we own is one of the few aspects of online marketing over which we each have total control. In posts on my niche sites I link to the home page in first para and then add 1-2 links to other related posts. This has definitely reduced the bounce rate and extended visitor stays. The “LinkWithin” plugin is also a useful addition for WP sites.

    • Hi Johnathon
      I agree that internal link building really does reduce your bounce rate. It is nice to see those stats drop after trying to get them down.

      Also linkwithin is good but I am developing another plugin like that as linkwithin redirects all your visitors to their blog first… Therefore linkwithin shows up as a referring site when it actually is not???

  5. That’s one thing I am glad I started doing from beginning (even though I didn’t knwo about its effect in SEO, since I was clueless about SEO when I started my blog).

    And now I can say that internal link building truly has helped me (as one of the main factors) to rank for some of the most competitive keywords in my niche.

    • Yes I did the same thing Satrap! I didn’t know I was doing SEO when I made internal links.. Then I noticed that it did help me rank in the search engines. I do not think many people realized this back in the old days..

  6. I like your advice of inserting 3 links for every 500 words; I don’t think I’ve ever heard that rule before! I always forgot to drop in-content links, but from what I’ve read, these are the most powerful links of all!

    For nav links, I usually widget: popular posts, recent posts, and recent comments. This helps to build internal links automatically, but it’s obviously limited to whatever happens to make it on the list.

    • I will not publish a post with internal linking..This is how important it is to me and my rankings… I like to make the post feel at home and sew it into my blog as part of the family. :)

  7. Great post Mitz,

    thanks for sharing !

    I always try to include in my posts 1 or 2 internal links.

    I also use “SEO Smart Links” Plugin : interior linking will help with the overall crawling of your website, along with keeping readers engaged in your content.

    • Hi Erik
      I like to be in control of my links.. I have tried SEO smart links and it does a good job but really does not pick the right anchor text for me. If you look at it, all the anchor text is short one or two words and sometimes does not fit into the context.

  8. I think I’m gonna try this Ana, Mitz. I never thought that internal linking is also good for our sites. This is also another link that can be permanent to our sites. Is that true? Thanks for sharing.

    • Ana Hoffman

      I’ve tried some of them in the past, Jason, like Smart Links by Vladimir Prelovac, but had a few glitches and had to disable them.

      Result? All the links generated in the past were wiped out.

      That’s the problem with using such plugins: if anything every goes wrong with them, your internal linking strategy goes down the drain.

  9. I’m a big fan of internal linking, especially on blogs such as WordPress. There are even a few great plugins to help you do this with little effort, picking up keywords automatically as you write them.

    • Hi Darren
      I am also a big fan of internal linking but I am one of those with OCD and have to do it manually. If someone could show me a plugin that does it like I do then I would definitely use it! :)

  10. Excellent article. The content was very understandable even for a novice like me. Thank you. I think I do a good j0b wit categories, keywords and tags on my site, but I think I need to do more internal linking within the blog posts themselves. Stuff to think about for building traffic to my site.

  11. Oh boy, this post makes me realize things that I had on my to-do list need to be incorporated NOW! I do use commentluv and am happy about that. But I had in mind the other points you mentions. Note: I had it in mind. Now, It is time to take action! Thanks for reminding me how important these things are that I am procrastinating with. You have been a great help.
    Donna Merrill

    • Hi Donna
      Glad you are not going to procrastinate about this any longer. The longer you put this off the longer it takes to get in order! :)

  12. Cori

    Great post! I always thought if I linked to a old post within a new post that was internal linking. I didn’t even think to link to the NEW one from old ones!

    Q.- are the linkwithin plugin links to related posts considered internal links do you know? I’m soooo not an seo expert! LOL

    • Ana Hoffman

      Hi, Cori:

      So good to see you here.

      Any related posts plugins are a form of internal linking, but they are not as targeted as in-content links are. They are more for your readers than SEO.

      PS: Every time I try to comment on your blog, it eats my comments and they never show up! Your blog doesn’t like me…

      • Aw darn it.. I don’t know why my blog eats your comments! :( Good to know about the plugins, I learn something new every day! Will respond to your email shortly. :) XoXo!

  13. Thanks, Mitz. I began experimenting with internal links to give readers something to click on so they wouldn’t register as a “bounce.” That and pointing readers to something I had already written (so I wouldn’t have to explain everything). Lately I read that Google has begun distinguishing between internal and eternal (incoming) links. I have 75% internal links and 25% external (from leaving comments) so figure it won’t be very good for my site. Wondering if you had heard the new Google criterion and whether that will affect the strategy you present here?

    • I have heard that they will distinguish between links and presumed they would, however I am not sure that this is bad news.
      I do not follow everything I hear so I will still have to go with my gut feeling for my blog and say that internal linking will always enhance a readers experience… and you cannot or should not be penalized for that. :)

  14. I’ve found that LinkWithin is a great way to drop your bounce rate and keep circulating older posts. It’s an awesome tool for internal linking, and although some people prefer to make their own plugins, I do like LinkWithin :)

    • Hi Lauren
      Did you know that the linkwithin plugin redirects your visitors to their website and then back to yours…So this is possibly counted as a new visit???

      When you hover over a linkwithin picture the url says your website but when you push the link you will notice a redirect.

  15. Hi Mitz, while reading your article it occurred to me that CommentLuv can actually help our internal linking as well but now I’m wondering if selecting the latest post on every comment reply isn’t a mistake (within our own blogs). On popular posts I eventually stop using that option for my own comments but that’s mainly to keep the site clean and spare the readers from seeing them over and over. I really hadn’t considered the idea that CommentLuv might be adding too many internal links in an SEO respect. We have other posts/options to select from, especially with CLP, so I guess we should mix it up a bit more.

    • I do use Commentluv for internal linking too.. But you have to reply to comments from the outside the dashboard and sometimes this is a hassle.
      I am not worried though as Commentluv is already doing more than enough for me! :)

      You are right about mixing it up a bit too.. I am glad Commentluv gives us a choice!

    • Hi Chad
      Yes I hang out in all the cool places..:)
      I do not recommend any plugins for this as I like to limit my plugins and I like to be in complete control when directing my visitors from page to page.

      Performing the link building yourself ensures you have built a great foundation for your blog…Solid as a rock.

      There are plugins like SEO links that will choose the keyword for you cut I do not like that…There is also keyword link where you can set the keyword but you have not control about where that link shows up…

      • Hmmm,

        Very interesting if I do say so. I’ve been using a plugin to handle the internal linking, I appreciate your feedback. Now I am heading over to your blog. See you there ;)
        Chad

  16. Hi Mitz
    I am always trying to link back to one of my old post whenever it is suitable. That helps making my posts link together as a big spider net. I also use a plugin that automatically link my pages together using post tags.

  17. Mitz, thanks for the great insight. I love deeplinking a lot and do it on a regular basis whenever I write new posts, I link to 2-4 other posts. But then what you said about linking new posts to old posts is what I rarely do. Gotta get my feet in that too. Thanks again.

  18. Very nice post, Mitz.

    Internal linking is something I have not been applying as much as I should have been, lately.

    Going by what I have seen in My Google Analytics, Linking Internally to relevant content(When done properly) does have a positive effect on your sites performance.

    Will agree that it is better to ad internal links as the posts is being written, rather than after.

    Though, often I have found myself adding internal links to posts at a later time, after realizing how the content matches up nicely with earlier posts.

    The other thing I have to watch our for, is broken links from very old posts.

    As far as too many links is concerned, If I am on a Blog(Website) where I have become fully engaged, I will probably have no problem continually hitting the links as I read further related articles.

    Though, in some cases, there are blogs(sites) that are soaked in links, and they just have you going around in circles.

    • Hi Daniel
      You have hit on something there that I might not have stressed! I did say that the link needs to be relevant but sometimes they do send visitors around in circles. You are so right there! :)
      You really have to use your own initiative to decide if the link is needed, relevant, and adds value to the page. That’s even before considering the SEO factors because after all we are writing for the readers first.

  19. Hi Mark
    Yes this is true, you can use a plugin and WP Keyword Link is very easy to use. Nice for lazy people! :)

    Personally I do not use a plugin for internal linking.

    Why I do not use a plugin

    –I like to be in control and know where the links are made.
    –Without the plugin all your SEO is gone.
    –The plugin must stay active and up to date.
    –I am an SEO freak and I actually like the challenge.

    • Bruce

      I’d add that my blog’s performance seems to be better with the least plugins I can get away with, plus when I rely on plugins, I never seem to learn much myself.
      ~Bruce

  20. Hi Mitz,

    Internal linking is a must for bloggers and even webmasters in general. In my case I need to improve my internal navigation with better anchor-long tail keywords.

    I think that it can be automated a little with plugins, like the SEO smart links to have beforehand some keywords that will be linked when you post your article.

    I believe that having links on homepage and sidebar are duplicate links in terms of Google, but depending of the type of links.
    Ana has Popular Posts (not necessarily to new posts and it’s OK) and it is better than having Recent Posts on sidebar (this case, yes can be a duplicate) Hope the last phrase make sense ;)

    Cheers,

    Gera

    • Yes we understand you Gera!
      Great tips thank you.
      You reminded me that I probably should have mentioned leaving long tail anchor text!! Oh well, I will have to write a book about it!! :)

  21. Hi Mitz,

    I did not realize how important internal linking is. I would always add a link to a relevant post or external link but never really knew how important it is.

    I might just have to go back and look at the structure of my blog and see where I can add more internal links.

    I suppose it is a good idea to start with checking keywords as this will also give you ideas for more content and make it easier to right relevant content hence making the internal linking a whole easier process!

    Thanks

    Craig

    • I had to go back and fix an old website I had and it took forever! Now it is beautiful and the bounce rate is great! When I add a new post now it is so easy to find links to put in and now I am happy the website is almost perfect.

      Being up to date is a big load off my mind.. :)

  22. It might be a little tough to link to another post or page if your site is new and you don’t have that much content published yet. But, once you get some built up it becomes much easier. Sometimes simply rewriting a sentence or maybe adding one so you can link to another is all it takes. Do try to use keyworded anchor text though.

    • Hi Ray
      Yes I agree that it is hard to do internal linking when your site is new. I use a spreadsheet that shows the url and the keywords for a post so I can easily choose one to link to.

  23. Hey Mitz, I am not great at it myself, but I do some. I just don’t necessarily do it in every post. However, one thing I do for more internal linking is instead of recommending people directly to a product from a post, I will recommend they check out my reviews, and link to that review page, giving me a chance to presell, plus building internal links to those often neglected pages.

    • I tried to ignore it for a while but saw Google showing these backlinks as valuable so I started doing them as part of my routine. Back in those days I didn’t know SEO existed. :)

      As for linking to review pages. Yes that’s another good idea to take note of. Internal linking really can help conversions too.

  24. And I have just published a post without any links :)

    I’m still not entirely comfortable with internal linking. It’s a problem I’m having, because I understand the importance of it, but writing a blog post and thinking of creating internal links sort of changes the blog post for me (and sometimes it becomes unnatural to add sentences or words just because I want a few links).

    And, because I didn’t start doing this a long time ago, I’m going to have a very hard time going through my blog and adding links (and make everything right). But I probbably should.

    I’m bookmarking this post and I’m going to save it for a rainy day :)

    • OMG Jens
      I just looked at your website and it is great! (but not the internal linking)
      Start doing it now. You will notice more people staying, more conversations, more interactions.

      Start with your highest traffic page and link out to other posts. Note what the bounce rate is so you can see the difference.

      • Thanks a lot for your kind words. I’m going to start doing it this weekend, and like you said, I’m going to start doing it post by post, starting with the highest traffic pages.

        Can’t wait to see the results :)

  25. Mitz,

    Internal linking is like drinking a lot of water. Many people “know” they should do it; many people want to do more of it; but very few actually do enough of it.

    These are all great reasons to get out there and get it done. I would even add that it helps from a marketing perspective.

    (if you have a product/service or even a freebie offer for a list)

    Many people need to see an offer quite a few times before they make a “purchase” decision. (Yes, even freebies) Internal linking will keep them on YOUR pages longer and give that much better of a chance for them to do it on YOUR pages.

    -Steve

  26. Aarti

    Hi Mitz,

    I understand your point but I want to say that you said that we can use 2 anchor texts for internal linking for same page… but my question is, I don’t have any blog but I’ve a site so in normal sites we usually use footer for internal linking and anchor texts are same on all pages…. So does it consider as Spam by Google or how I can make changes for better SEO? Please correct me if I’m wrong at any point and waiting for your suggestion.

    • Hi Aarti
      The first thing I have to say is that the line between a website and a blog is blurred now. A blog is not what it used to be so there really is no difference. A website needs fresh content rolling through just like a blog.

      You question depends on the size of your website. If you have a small business website and have about 10 links in the footer then this is fine.

      If you have 600 links in the footer and growing then this is not good. Even 0ver 50 is a bit spammy.

      A lot of this comes down to common sense too.
      Do you think it looks good?
      Are people going to your footer to click the links or would you be better with a top navigation bar?
      Do you think people can navigate around your website easily?

  27. Lionel

    Great walk-through on how to utilize internal linking. I agree with #2 completely, internal linking enhances visitor experience. A lot of people get wrapped up in thinking about SEO and they forget that search engine spiders are not the only visitors to their site. Google has said they are looking for quality sites that provide a good visitor experience. Pointing your visitors to more information can only improve their experience, therefore, you are doing what Google likes.

  28. Michael Robinson

    Internal links are seriously underused. Pages where I link internally have some of the lowest bounce rates. Landing pages that tie categories together with links to content are close to 0.

    You can also make posts for the purpose of linking later. This one reminded me to write one on the same subject. :)

    • Hi Michael
      Yes the internal linking definitely brings the bounce rate down. I recently dropped 10% bounce rate by revamping old posts and making sure they had relevant links both in and out.

  29. Hi Mitz,
    The best evidence that internal linking is so important for SEO is the Wikipedia, they have first place on almost everything in Google. Their site is built on internal linking.

    • I know that is a perfect example but it suits the purpose. We could not get away with that many links. I think it would annoy our readers..But yes Wikipedia is great because you do have the terms defined simply by pressing the link..

      I see there is a Wiki for websites now. Wonder how they are going to inter link to other website names.

  30. When I started out, some pages of my blog were not getting indexed by the search engine. I used internal links to those pages from other pages that did. It worked.

    The filling up of information, as you say, is another important reason to have internal links. Readers would definitely be interested in related content and also to know about new terms used in the article.

  31. Hi Mitz, what a great way of describing the importance of internal linking. I hadn’t thought about the navigation piece, thanks for the advice.

    As you know, I use SEOPressor to be sure that me and my guest bloggers are reminded to deep link every post. WordPress makes it a little easier for us to do it now too.

    Thanks Mitz.

    • Thanks Ileanne
      I love SEO and internal linking..I think I am crazy sometimes because I dream about links!
      Instead of counting sheep I count links. :)

  32. I think of internal linking as a kind of roadmap through my blog. Though you had a really great tip that I didn’t think of that is to create your internal links to your new blog post right from the start. I more often work backwards and create links to my older posts, but I can see how it would be effective to build up the PR from the very beginning.

    • Hi Richard
      Building internal links to a post as soon as it is posted weaves it into the veins of your blog. This also guarantees that you will not forget and leave the post alone and unlinked.
      It also helps with indexing your post fast! :)