Internal Links are hyperlinks that point at (target) the same domain as the domain that the link exists on (source). In layman’s terms, an internal link is one that points to another page on the same website.
<a href=”http://www.domain.com/PageTitle” title=”Keyword Text”>Keyword Text</a>
Internal Link Format
Add relevant keywords in anchor text that elaborate essence of topic and reader easily understand.
What is an Internal Link?
Internal links are links that go from one page on a domain to a different page on the same domain. They are commonly used in main navigation.
These type of links are useful for three reasons:
- They allow users to navigate a website.
- They help establish information hierarchy for the given website.
- They help spread link juice (ranking power) around websites.
SEO Best Practice
Internal links are most useful for establishing site architecture and spreading link juice (URLs are also essential). For this reason, this section is about building an SEO-friendly site architecture with internal links.
On an individual page, search engines need to see content in order to list pages in their massive keyword–based indices. They also need to have access to a crawl-able link structure—a structure that lets spiders browse the pathways of a website—in order to find all of the pages on a website. Hundreds of thousands of sites make the critical mistake of hiding or burying their main link navigation in ways that search engines cannot access. This hinders their ability to get pages listed in the search engines’ indices. Below is an illustration of how this problem can happen:
In the example above, Google’s colorful spider has reached page “A” and sees internal links to pages “B” and “E.” However important pages C and D might be to the site, the spider has no way to reach them—or even know they exist—because no direct, crawl able links point to those pages. As far as Google is concerned, these pages basically don’t exist–great content, good keyword targeting, and smart marketing don’t make any difference at all if the spiders can’t reach those pages in the first place.
This structure has the minimum amount of links possible between the homepage and any given page. This is helpful because it allows link juice (ranking power) to flow throughout the entire site, thus increasing the ranking potential for each page. This structure is common on many high-performing websites (like Amazon.com) in the form of category and subcategory systems.
But how is this accomplished? The best way to do this is with internal links and supplementary URL structures. For example, they internally link to a page located at http://www.example.com/mammals/cats.html with the anchor text “cats.” Below is the format for a correctly formatted internal link.
In the above illustration, the “a” tag indicates the start of a link. Link tags can contain images, text, or other objects, all of which provide a “clickable” area on the page that users can engage to move to another page. This is the original concept of the Internet: “hyperlinks.”
This is the most basic format of a link—and it is eminently understandable to the search engines. The search engine spiders know that they should add this link to the engine’s link graph of the web, use it to calculate query-independent variables (like MozRank), and follow it to index the contents of the referenced page.
Below are some common reasons why pages might not be reachable, and thus, may not be indexed.
Links in Submission-Required Forms
Forms can include elements as basic as a drop–down menu or elements as complex as a full–blown survey. In either case, search spiders will not attempt to “submit” forms and thus, any content or links that would be accessible via a form are invisible to the engines.
Links Only Accessible Through Internal Search Boxes
Spiders will not attempt to perform searches to find content, and thus, it’s estimated that millions of pages are hidden behind completely inaccessible internal search box walls.
Links in Flash, Java, or Other Plug-Ins
Any links embedded inside Flash, Java applets, and other plug-ins are usually inaccessible to search engines.
Links Pointing to Pages Blocked by the Meta Robots Tag or Robots.txt
The Meta Robots tag and the robots.txt file both allow a site owner to restrict spider access to a page.
Links on pages with Hundreds or Thousands of Links
The search engines all have a rough crawl limit of 150 links per page before they may stop spidering additional pages linked to from the original page. This limit is somewhat flexible, and particularly important pages may have upwards of 200 or even 250 links followed, but in general practice, it’s wise to limit the number of links on any given page to 150 or risk losing the ability to have additional pages crawled.
Links in Frames or I-Frames
Technically, links in both frames and I-Frames are crawlable, but both present structural issues for the engines in terms of organization and following. Only advanced users with a good technical understanding of how search engines index and follow links in frames should use these elements in combination with internal linking.
By avoiding these pitfalls, a webmaster can have clean, spiderable HTML links that will allow the spiders easy access to their content pages. Links can have additional attributes applied to them, but the engines ignore nearly all of these, with the important exception of the rel=”nofollow” tag.
Rel=”nofollow” can be used with the following syntax:
<a href=”/” rel=”nofollow”>nofollow this link</a>
In this example, by adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute to the link tag, the webmaster is telling the search engines that they do not want this link to be interpreted as a normal, juice passing, “editorial vote.” Nofollow came about as a method to help stop automated blog comment, guestbook, and link injection spam, but has morphed over time into a way of telling the engines to discount any link value that would ordinarily be passed. Links tagged with nofollow are interpreted slightly differently by each of the engines.
The 7 best Ways of Internal Linking To Boost Site Traffic
1. Create lots of content.
In order to create lots of internal links, you have to have lots of internal pages. The first step to a killer internal linking strategy is to have a killer content marketing strategy. You can’t have one without the other.
When you create lots of content, you’ll have lots of linkable content. The more links to the more places, the better your internal linking strategy will be.
Some internal linking strategies propose extremely complex layers of pages, silos of content, and a mathematically-balanced formula for number of links to levels of pages. I say it doesn’t really matter. Internal linking doesn’t require organizational spreadsheets and trigonometric derivative charts.
An internal linking strategy with lots of content looks less like an org chart, and more like this:
There are no “cycles.” There are no “silos.” There are no “tiers.” There are no structured flow diagrams. There’s just plenty of happy links going to helpful places.
2. Use anchor text.
In keeping with the content theme of internal linking, your internal links should use anchor text as opposed to linked images. Image links are fine, provided that images are not the main source of links, and assuming the image is properly alt-tagged.
The proper use of anchor text, of course, opens a new can of worms. Obviously, you don’t want optimized anchors. Just use natural, unoptimized sentence fragments as anchor text, and you’ll do just fine. No cute tricks. No overthinking it. Just highlight, link it, and be done.
Check out this discussion of linkbuilding for a complete discussion on strategic anchors.
3. Link deep.
The deeper your links go, the better.
There are two types of links you should avoid using in your content:
Homepage. Most sites have too many links to the homepage as it is. You would rather strengthen internal pages to boost the overall SEO of your site, rather than simply point more links at the homepage.
Contact us. This is a common mistake of many who are starting out in content marketing. As part of their obligatory call to action at the end of a post, they may write something like, “Give us a call to find out more about our awesome services!” Then, they link to the “contact us” page using the anchor “give us a call.” Don’t link to the contact us page unless absolutely necessary.
In general, you want to avoid links to the top level pages on a site — pages to which the main navigation menu already has links.
The best links — and the most natural links in a content marketing strategy — are deep within the structure of a site.
4. Use links that are natural for the reader.
Internal linking requires a user-focused approach to adding value and information. The link value that gets distributed throughout the site is secondary to this key point — providing value to the reader.
One of the corollary benefits of internal linking is that it improves user engagement on your site. When a user sees an informative link that truly matches the context of the content, they are likely to click on that link. It can be an external link, as long as it’s something that the reader will be interested in. If that link is an internal one, the site visitor stays longer and becomes more involved in your website experience.
Dave Davies, in his Search Engine Watch article, made a good point when he wrote the following:
When you link in your content you’re telling the engine that the target of your link is so relevant and important that you want your visitor to simply be able to click a link and go straight there. Basically, that what you’re linking to is potentially so relevant that the visitor may want to stop what they’re reading and go to the next page.
Content links are a strong signal to both the search engine and the user that the content you’re linking to is really good. Readers want that. Thus, internal linking is helping the reader. But you’re also helping your SEO.
5. Use relevant links.
Internal linking, as I’ve made clear, is less rigorous and scientific than some might think. But you still have to be intentional. Don’t merely link for the sake of linking. Instead, link to content that is relevant to the source context.
In other words, let’s say I have a page on my site about dog food. And, I have a page on my site about the nesting habits of parakeets. (I have neither.)
Should I link the two pages?
There is not a strong connection between dog food and parakeet nests, especially on a superficial level. These two pages probably won’t provide mutual enhancement from internal crosslinking.
But, if I have a page on parakeet food, then it might make a great internal link for my parakeet nest article. Chances are, information about “parakeets” is going to be on both of the pages. Because of this content overlap, the link is relevant.
As much as possible, link to relevant content in your internal linking.
6. Use follow links.
Follow links are the best way to build out the internal link architecture of your content marketing.
One theoretical internal linking strategy of the past was to nofollow most of the links on a page, in order to increase the link juice to a single page. This type of pagerank sculpting doesn’t work as an SEO strategy.
Back in 2005, the search engines came up with the nofollow, known by the attribute rel=nofollow. The idea behind nofollow was that the link “should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index.” As Wikipedia stated, such links would “reduce the effectiveness of certain types of internet advertising because their search algorithm depends heavily on the number of links to a website.”
Despite the uproar and confusion in the wake of the nofollow link, most people now agree that it’s a good idea. As Danny Sullivan explained, nofollow links can help sites “avoid problems with search engines believing they are selling influence or are somehow involved in schemes deemed as unacceptable SEO practices.”
In spite of its value, however, using nofollow links is not a strategy you should be using as part of your internal content links. The link value needs to flow freely to and from internal pages, rather than get stopped up by a nofollow. Keep things free and fluid.
7. Use a reasonable number of internal links.
You don’t need tons of links in your internal content. Google’s instructions are simple: “Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.”
Question: What the heck is a reasonable number?
Answer: Nobody knows.
Smart people have tried to answer the question, but not even Matt Cutts has provided a definitive statement. He wrote, “It seemed about right to recommend 100 links or so,” and “in some cases, it might make sense to have more than a hundred links.”
So, should you go for 100 links? Maybe, but that 100-total links includes all the links on a page — footers, headers, nav bars, ads, everything. 100 links isn’t as hard as it sounds, once you calculate the total number of HREFs on an entire page.
When it comes to internal linking, I suggest around three to four, depending on the length of your post. I usually write articles that exceed 1,500 words, and I don’t have a link-heavy navigation bar. So, I wouldn’t feel bad about throwing in ten or twenty internal links if I needed to.
There’s no magic number. There is however, the all-important user. Add as many links as would be helpful for the user.
Do not create massive blocks of site-wide footer links!
This was a really common practice on travel and real estate websites a couple of years ago. These websites would include their most prized keyword rich internal links near the footer. It wasn’t uncommon to see upwards of 50 of these types of links near the footer. The problem is when you have a website with thousands of webpages; this quickly multiplies into tens of thousands of “spamtastic” links that the search engines will quickly penalize your site for. In 2013, many of these sites were hit with an algorithmic penalty for such practices.
Internal linking when undertaken with these seven commandments in mind, is a cinch. It’s not overwhelming, complicated, or difficult. The great thing is, you’ll experience a stronger link profile and better SEO by consistent internal linking. It’s even worth it to go back and audit your old content to make sure it has sufficient internal linking.