Internal Linking For SEO: Best Strategies

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Last updated on December 12, 2023

Internal links: They’re not glamorous, but neither are traffic signs.

Without traffic signs, navigating would be a nightmare. With nothing to indicate direction and flow, streets would devolve into chaos.

The same is true about websites that lack internal links.

Despite that fact, most new SEOs only have eyes for backlink-building strategies.

Can you really blame them?

There’s no denying that building these campaigns can be super fun. And scoring that first high-DA backlink is beyond thrilling.

But it’s not enough to sustain you forever.

When the inbound link juice dries up (and it inevitably will from time to time), you’ll need another way to show Google which pages and posts deserve to rank highly.

That’s exactly the type of signage that an internal linking strategy provides.

Sold on internal links but still confused? Rest assured, we’ll get you there. The rest of this article will explain exactly what internal links are, why they’re important and how to create them.

Learn more about our On-Page SEO Service.
Internal Linking For SEO: Best Strategies

Why Do Internal Links Matter?

Before starting any new project, this is the most important question:

“Why should this matter to me?”

If you don’t understand why you’re doing something, the chances of doing it well are slim. In the world of link building, understanding the mechanisms behind the strategy is essential to success.

Luckily, there are clear, measurable benefits to upping your internal link game:

  • Better user experience, which a lower bounce rate can measure
  • Fewer orphan pages that Google doesn’t index
  • A way to share link juice between site pages
  • A way to guide traffic to your most important pages
  • A way to distribute link juice from the backlinks you’ve built across your site

The benefits don’t end there. SEOs who are willing to commit time to internal linking (the right way) will gain the edge over the competition they’re looking for. I promise.

If that sounds good to you, there are a few things you should know:

3 Laws to (Internally) Link By

They don’t call it a web for nothing. The internet is a web of websites and individual webpages. And they’re all connected by links.

Yes, that includes the internal links that connect the various pages of your website to one another.

You can leverage those connections. Google “crawls” the internet, discovers your content, indexes it and, eventually, ranks it by following links.

You’re in control of the internal links on your site. That means you can play a part in how Google sees your site and its content.

To take full advantage of that opportunity, keep the following rules in mind:

  1. Play favorites. Determine the most important pages on your website and feed them the larger share of internal links.
  2. Redirect link juice. Make sure that pages with lots of backlinks are passing that authority on to your most important pages via well-placed internal links.
  3. Drop anchors. You also control the anchor text you use with each internal link you build. And the anchors you choose affect how Google interprets and ranks your content. Use keyword-rich anchor text wherever possible.

Share the Link Juice

You know the deal with backlinks. You’re trying to get “votes” from other websites so Google will rank you for your target keywords.

Each backlink brings a certain amount of “link juice” (power) to your domain and the individual page it’s pointed at.

That link juice translates to authority in Google’s eyes.

Now, you need to spread that link juice around. How do you do that?

You guessed it. With internal links.

To figure out where you should place strategic internal links to spread that link juice, you need to know which of your pages are getting the most backlinks.

Online tools like Ahrefs and Semrush make it easy:

4 Rules for Sharing Link Juice

Once you know which pages are getting all the backlinks, you’re ready to add strategic internal links.

Simply add an internal link from a highly linked page to an under-linked yet important page.

Bonus points for working the internal link into the first couple of paragraphs.

For the best results, link according to these rules:

  1. Use aggressive anchor texts (exact match).
  2. Link more often to pages that you want prioritized.
  3. Make sure your internal links are relevant.
  4. Regularly update old content with internal links pointing to new, relevant content.

Remember — Google ranks on a page-by-page basis. Even with an extremely authoritative domain, you need internal links.

Authoritative pages are most valuable when they’re structured to pass link juice to your most important pages.

Count Your Click Depth

Your website is like an onion. Or an indie film. Or a layer cake.

It has layers.

The homepage is the first layer. Every subsequent click to reach a particular page represents a deeper layer.

The number of clicks it takes you to reach a particular page on your website from the homepage is a metric called click depth.

For example, imagine you run a personal injury law firm website. One of the site’s pages — “San Francisco Car Accident Lawyers” — is really important to you.

However, visitors have to take several steps to find it:

  1. Visit your homepage.
  2. Navigate to Practice Areas in your top menu.
  3. Find “Personal Injury” on the Practice Areas page.
  4. Locate “San Francisco” on the Personal Injury service page.
  5. Find and click on “San Francisco Car Accident Lawyers.”

This page would have a click depth of five, which isn’t ideal. That’s because Google assumes your most important pages will be closer to the top.

So, what do you do?

You decrease the page’s click depth by moving it closer to the homepage. Cut a few layers, in other words.

To do that, you just need a well-placed internal link. Pop it onto your homepage for best results. You can do that in the menu or in the homepage copy.

In either case, you’ve cut three layers off of that click depth. And that gives it a better chance of ranking well in Google.

Stay on Topic

Internal links are an excellent way to tie together related pages, which is part of structuring your website.

An intuitive topic flow — bolstered by solid internal linking — will ensure a good user experience. UX affects SEO.

And then you have Google itself, which loves to see a relevant internal link scheme on your website.

Here are some ways to connect topics on your website in a way Google will love:

Topic Clusters

One of the easiest ways to organize web content is through topic clusters.

Through internal links, you can connect related pages. Each page will explore a different aspect of the same broad subject.

Unlike content silos, topic clusters don’t require a lot of planning but are still an effective way to organize content. They use a hub-and-spoke structure to branch out from a central theme.

Here’s what a typical topic cluster might look like:
Topic Clusters for SEO - internal linking

*Note: If you get too liberal with your linking inside (and outside) your clusters, you might dilute topic relevance.

Content Silos

For the neat freaks and type-As out there, you may want to use the mighty content silo.

Content silos use a parent-child architecture to build off of separate “parent” topics.

Each parent topic will have their own off-shoots. And unrelated off-shoots will not link to each other.

In addition to creating a highly organized site, content silos help ensure that topic relevance stays strong.

Here’s a visual representation:
SILO structure-for-SEO

Typically, parent silos (the yellow boxes) will link to their children, and the children will link back to the parent. Children pages can link to siblings but should avoid linking to cousins.

Why does topic organization matter?

Simply put, topic organization should matter to you because it matters to Google. Google really cares about whether linked pages are topically related. As a result, relevance affects SEO.

Whether you’re building external links, internal links or backlinks, you should always consider topic relevance.

Key Takeaways

SEO is complex. You can’t learn it in a day. If you made it through this article, you’re off to a great start.

Here’s what you should take away:

  • The most important pages should have more internal links.
  • Important pages should have lower click depths.
  • Adding internal links can improve click depth.
  • Organize content by topic (and internal links) to improve relevance.
  • Be aggressive with internal anchor text.
  • Internal links can help you divert link juice from highly backlinked pages to your most important pages.
  • Orphan pages (pages without internal links connecting them to the homepage) are not likely to rank.

Get this right, and your investment in backlinks will go much, much further. Good luck.

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