Internal linking best practices for SEO

Internal links maintain the nervous system of your website.

They are signals pointing visitors where to go alongside, connecting your domain’s multitude of web pages within a coherent, functional framework.

Imagine the little tear of your liver or the searing stub of your toe: Every part of your body is instantly alerted as pain is transmitted throughout your network of nerves.

While a broken, misdirected or missing link on your website doesn’t conjure a commensurate, intrinsic bodily response, it hurts your domain’s ability to do its job completely, and it certainly invites subsequent and perhaps more severe difficulties in the future.

What is an internal link?

An internal link is a web hyperlink that binds two pages on the same site. By linking together pages, users can seamlessly operate through a website by clicking a hyperlink with the proper anchor text. Internal links are important for several reasons, primarily because they provide users with navigational and contextual opportunities. If someone wants to be guided to another page on your site (that’s related to the one they’re already on), they can click the hyperlink. Similarly, if someone needs clarity on a specific keyword or key phrase that’s hyperlinked, they can click to find out more.

There’s also another key advantage to internal links: They accrue and pass along link equity to associated pages.

Existing pages that previously generate a decent amount of traffic can be leveraged in this way: funneling some of that high-intent traffic to other pages on your site, those that are more prone to convert. As such, there’s a straight pathway for a site visitor to not only “visit” your site but to purchase from you as well – all through your helpful link infrastructure.

Internal vs. external links

An internal link varies from an external link in their intent, although their function is similar.

An internal link exists as a mechanism for intra-domain communication also navigation. An external link means an inter-domain relationship.

External links connect pages of different domains, and they add authority and credibility to the pages to which they’re linked off.

Users still click on a hyperlink to obtain more information and context, except they’re directed to an external page.

What’s interesting is that so full of today’s marketing discussions revolve around external link building: the production and accrual of back links from other websites. It makes insight, too. High-quality incoming links imply a top-three Google ranking factor.

But a linking strategy is incomplete without analyzing the internal component, which is the optimization to be made on your site that doesn’t involve reaching out to external publishers and requesting back links or link swaps.

Mapping link structure to marketing goals

Internal link structure is a foundational SEO task. It’s part of having a high-caliber website, of running an online business, of working in a digital-first climate.

However, under the parasol of an internal linking tactics are the specific purposes you may have and the tactics you plan to use to accomplish said purposes. That’s why not all link structures are built equally: Some websites are also complex than others, and their site hierarchies accommodate additional user navigating.

For instance, if you run an e-commerce firm, you need a relatively flat and user-friendly link structure. You require site visitors to immediately land on product pages so they can append items to online shopping carts and checkout – ideally very quickly.

So your site doesn’t require extra categories, sub pages and tiers that include a large quantity of internal links. All the information about that product should live on that single product page. If a user clicks a link and navigates away from the page, you’re less inclined to get them to return to actually complete a purchase.

Conversely, a company that sells building software might require a more intricate and in-depth site regime, complete with several navigation opportunities. Sales may not be reasonable online; a user may need to speak with a sales rep first or set up a meeting or draw up a contract. So you would need additional information and pages that outline those elements – it’s not a one-click process.

In this example of our home page, you can understand that the top nav bar drops down into several tiers when flown over. Each of these solutions is a clickable internal link that directs users to a dedicated page, and each of these pages has following pages to which they’re linked.

This isn’t because we prefer talking about ourselves. It’s because our site visitors need this level of data to make their own decisions.

Can you imagine how long and powerful that would be?

Broadly talking, a link structure should follow the following pattern:

Beyond providing up the clarity to search engines and users, internal links should fuel your core marketing purposes too. In content marketing, these goals are often:

  • More traffic.

  • Better leads.

  • Higher organic rankings in SERPs.

SEO internal link building

There are a some fundamentals to SEO link building, which have been around for more than a decade and nevertheless hold today. Those are:

  • Anchor text: The page the link leads to. Placing a hyperlink over the optimized anchor text guarantees users know exactly what they are clicking on and where they’re doing directed to. Anchor text doesn’t have to be precise match, but it should be as relevant as possible and ideally be restricted to a keyword.

  • XML sitemap: A roadmap of how Google drags your site. A sitemap is a navigation operating building that breaks down your site into logical relationships, i.e., parent and child pages, categories and subcategories, etc.

  • txt: Code that instructs search generators to interpret a page in a certain way. On the other hand, you need to guarantee the content you create can reach the masses, which Robots.txt helps with – it shows search engines which pages are allowed/disallowed.