SEO Best Practices for Internal Linking

Internal links are links that point from one page on a website to a different page on the same website. For internal links, the source domain and target domain are the same. They are commonly used in the site’s navigation, and help users to navigate from one area of the site to another. In addition, internal links help to establish information hierarchy and help search engines find all of the pages on a website. Internal links also help distribute page authority throughout the site.

Imagine that you ran an e-commerce site that sold kitchen supplies. In preparation for the holiday season, you create two buying guides, Gifts for the Professional Chef and Gifts for the Beginner Cook. You use a new page template that does not include your website’s navigation or link to other buying guides, and you did not add this page to your site’s XML or HTML sitemaps. Without direct, crawlable links pointing to these pages, search engine spiders have a much harder time finding and indexing these pages and following how these pages fit into your overall website.

Now, imagine that you had created a page for all of your holiday buying guides last year and you update it to link to these two new pages. In addition, you linked the Gifts for the Beginner Cook from a blog post about simple recipes for recent college grads, one of your most popular blog posts for new visitors. As a result, users spend more time on your site, moving easily between the buying guides and blog posts, discovering new products and information that they couldn’t have accessed before. In addition, the buying guides were automatically added to the website’s XML and HTML sitemaps, owing to your site configuration. In this example, a search engine spider can access the buying guides from multiple touch points, increasing the speed and likelihood that these pages will be indexed quickly and appropriately in organic search results.

Contextual Link – Link Within Your Content

Contextual links are internal links within your web content. Whenever possible, you want to provide links that are valuable to the reader. For this reason, you want to link relevant and related topic pages.

As a general rule, you want to avoid linking to top level pages on your site, particularly the home page. Instead, aim to include “deep links,” or links to pages that users may easily miss when they first visit your site.

When it comes to contextual linking, there is no magic number for maximum SEO benefit. Google Webmaster Guidelines state that webmasters should “Limit the number of links on a page to a reasonable number (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en).” Keep in mind that a search engine spider will crawl all the links on a page, including links in the header, footer, navigation bar, etc. Aim to link to the most useful pages for the user first. A helpful guideline for articles and blog posts is to include three to four internal links per every 1,500 words.

You should also strive to use relevant, useful anchor text when linking internally. Review the two link examples below:

<a href=”http://www.kitchen-store.com/beginner-buying-guide”>article</a>

<a href=”http://www.kitchen-store.com/buying-guide”>beginner cook buying guide</a>

The second example uses anchor text (“beginner cook buying guide”) is clearer for the user and search engine spiders than the more general “article” link. Anchor text should be succinct and indicate why a user may want to explore your site further.

Reviewing Internal Links

Internal links can negatively impact your website’s SEO and the user experience of your site. It is important to regularly review your internal links, and update links that point to out-of-date or removed content. If you plan to delete or rename pages on your site, check your internal links first to help identify and prevent potential broken links.

To review your site’s internal links, follow these steps:

  • Visit Google Search Console.
  • Go to Search Traffic>Internal Links.
  • Click the Download this table

If you find that important articles are not linked, make a plan to contextually link these articles. If you find pages that are linked but are no longer relevant, aim to update the links to point to the website pages that you want to best highlight to your site visitors and search engines. If this report is blank, check the Crawl Errors report to see if Google had any issues crawling your site.

View our blog post with suggestions on internal linking for e-commerce.