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The Importance of Internal Links to SEO

by | Jun 5, 2024

Why Are Internal Links Essential?

While external links pointing to a site (backlinks) often get the most attention, internal links are just as vital for optimizing your website for search engines. These links connect different pages on your site, enhancing user experience, improving your SEO efforts, and enhancing your site’s overall performance. Internal links serve a purpose for SEO and they are also beneficial for users navigating your website.

Internal Links Explained

Internal links are hyperlinks that point from one page on your website to another page on the same site. Unlike external links, which connect your site to others, internal links keep users within your domain. They come in various forms, such as navigational links, contextual links within the content, and sitewide links in the header, footer or other global widgets.

Types of Internal Links

Navigational Links

These are the main links in your website’s navigation menu, helping users find the main sections of your site, such as the Home, About, Services, and Contact pages. In terms of SEO, Google considers the header as a boilerplate area, meaning these links are important, but don’t carry the same weight as other website areas.

Contextual Links

Embedded within the body content of your web pages and blog posts, these links guide users to related content or additional resources, enhancing their understanding of a topic.

Internal Link Example

Footer Links

Located at the bottom of web pages in a sitewide section, these links often direct users to important legal information, privacy policies, site maps and other key pages of the site.

Enhancing User Experience

One of the most significant benefits of internal links is how they improve user experience. Visitors who visit your site want valuable information that’s easy to find and navigate.

Internal links help by:

Increasing Engagement Rates

By guiding users to relevant content, internal links keep them engaged and encourage them to explore more pages on your site.

Improving Navigation

A well-structured internal linking system helps users find what they’re looking for without getting lost. This ease of navigation increases the likelihood that visitors will stay longer on your site. For e-commerce websites, internal links help users discover more products and lend themselves to more purchases.

Example of E-Commerce Navigation Links

Creating a Logical Flow

Internal links create a logical flow of information, making it easier for users to follow and understand the content. This seamless experience can significantly improve user satisfaction and retention.

Enhancing SEO Efforts

Internal links are a vital part of SEO strategy and content development. They help search engines understand your website’s structure and hierarchy, which can improve your search rankings.

Here’s how internal links contribute to SEO:

Distributing Page Equity

Search engines use links to discover and rank web pages. Using internal links, you pass signals from one page to another. This process helps distribute ranking potential across your site. Pages with more internal links pointing to them are seen as more critical and are likely to be ranked higher in search results.

Improving Crawlability

Search engine bots crawl websites to index content. Internal links act as pathways for these bots, guiding them through your site. Providing clear and logical internal links ensures that all pages are accessible and indexed. This comprehensive indexing improves your chances of appearing in relevant search queries.

Enhancing Keyword Relevance

Internal links with keyword-rich anchor text can signal to search engines what the linked page is about. This relevance helps improve the ranking of the linked page for those specific keywords. Unlike external linking strategies, you have more freedom with internal links and their anchors. However, using varied and natural anchor text is important to avoid appearing spammy.

Increasing Page Views & Engagement

Internal links encourage users to explore more of your content, leading to increased page views and higher engagement. When users find valuable and related content through internal links, they are more likely to stay on your site longer, which can lead to:

Better Conversion Rates

Engaged users are more likely to convert into customers or subscribers. By guiding them through a well-planned internal linking structure, you can lead them to conversion pages more effectively.

Improved Content Discovery

Users often visit your site with a specific purpose in mind. Internal links help them discover additional content they might not have found otherwise, adding value to their visit. This is the case for resource pages, FAQs, blogs, etc.

Increased Social Sharing

When users find valuable content, they are more likely to share it on social media. Internal links can lead them to more share-worthy content, amplifying your reach and engagement.

Building a Strong Site Architecture

A well-structured site architecture is essential for both user experience and SEO. Internal links play a key role in building this structure by creating a hierarchy of content that is easy to navigate and understand. Here’s how to create a strong site architecture with internal links:

Organize Content Into Categories

Group related content into categories and subcategories. Use internal links to connect these groups, helping users and search engines understand the relationships between different pages.

Use a Consistent Linking Strategy

Develop a consistent internal linking strategy that aligns with your site’s goals. Regularly review and update your internal links to ensure they are relevant and supportive of your SEO strategy.

Prioritize High-Value Pages

Identify high-value pages on your site, such as cornerstone content or evergreen landing pages, and prioritize linking to them. This could include service pages for small businesses, category pages for e-commerce stores and often the homepage. Pointing internal links to these pages will help them rank better.

Best Practices for Internal Linking

To get the most out of internal links, follow these best practices:

Use Descriptive Anchor Text

Ensure that the anchor text clearly describes the linked page. This practice helps users and search engines understand the context and relevance of the link. Avoid anchors like “click here” or “learn more” when it makes sense to use more descriptive text.

Avoid Over-Linking

Too many internal links can overwhelm users and dilute each link’s value. Aim for a balance that enhances navigation without cluttering the content. While there is not a perfect number of links to aim for, consider how sites like Wikipedia and Investopedia use internal links to connect users and search engines from one page to another.

Regularly Audit Links

Links can become broken when pages are removed or altered over time. Conduct regular audits of your internal links to identify and fix broken links, update outdated links, implement 301 redirects, and remove unnecessary links. Work with your SEO agency for this process or use tools like Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, or SEMRush to identify problem links.

Maximizing Internal Linking Benefits

Internal links are a powerful tool in your SEO arsenal. By enhancing user experience, improving site navigation, and enhancing your SEO efforts, they contribute significantly to your website’s overall success. Implementing a thoughtful and strategic internal linking structure can lead to higher search rankings, increased engagement, and, ultimately, better business outcomes. Embrace the power of internal links to create a more navigable, discoverable, and successful website.

Do you have questions about developing an internal linking strategy? Schedule a consult and we’ll review your current linking structure.

About the Author

Jeff Romero

Founder of Octiv Digital, University of Utah alumni, drummer and digital marketer for local businesses, e-commerce organizations and more. I write on the Octiv Digital blog about SEO, paid search, web development and analytics.

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