Internal Linking: 9 Best Practices for SEO and Internal Links
Web pages rank because they are credible. Credibility comes from links. Inbound links from authoritative websites are the most valuable, but links from within a website are also important.
They’re called internal links.
Of course, the website navigation is one example, but we’re also talking about links in the content, on the pages. These links help visitors get around, but they are also a way to pass credibility from one page to another. This is how pages can help each other rank in search engines.
Some of your pages have more “link popularity” than others, and so they have more credibility to pass on through internal links. This credibility is sometimes called “link juice.”
Yes, that may be the weirdest lingo in web marketing, but it’s important. If you know which of your pages is the juiciest, you can be deliberate in your internal linking and help important pages rank higher.
Internal Linking Best Practices
Here are nine best practices for internal linking. What do these links look like? How many do you add? And where do you add them?
What should these links look like?
1. Make the text within the links descriptive, using the target keyword of the page you’re linking to in the anchor text. When the link text includes the target keyphrase, it helps indicate the relevance of the page to Google. You may need to get creative to find ways to use longer phrases as links. Here’s an example: “Learning how to find content is an important part of web marketing.”
2. If you’re creating links to a page from several pages, use some variety in the linking text.
3. If you can’t find ways to use keywords within the body text, you can always add them as “Related Links” at the bottom of the page or post.
How many links should I add?
4. Anything more than six internal links in the body text is too many. Don’t overdo it.
5. The total number of links on any page, including the navigation, should never be more than 75-100. Anything beyond that is too much. Fewer links means more link juice will be passed through each of the links. Use a link juice calculator to quickly show you the number of links and buttons on any page.
Where should I put these links?
6. Add links whenever it would be helpful to readers. If the pages don’t have related content, don’t link!
7. Link between pages and posts in the body of the article. The context of each link is important. Many SEOs believe that links within the body copy are weighted more heavily than links within the navigation.
8. Link from new to old and from old to new. Got a new post that relates to an older, high-value post or page? Add a link. Got an older post that’s still getting traffic from search engines or social sharing? Add a link. Remember, you’re not finished optimizing a page for search engines until you’ve created some internal links to it!
Tip: Use Google to search your own site for related pages: “site:www.yoursite.com [keyword].” This is a way to quickly see all the mentions of the target phrase on all the pages of your site. Each of these pages are candidates for internal linking.
For example, if I wrote an article about creating content for the Orbit website, I can search Google for site:orbitmedia.com “content creation” to see every mention of that phrase on our site. Each of these instances of the phrase could be a link to the new page.
9. Link from pages with lots of link juice to pages that almost rank high. This is a little more advanced, but it can make a big difference without a ton of work.
Link from the most credible to the almost visible
Here’s how to find out which of your pages are the most credible and how to pass that credibility along through internal linking to pages that need it most. This is a bit tricky, so let’s walk through the steps.
Step 1: Find pages to link FROM.
Check Google Webmaster Tools to see which of your pages are linked to most from other websites. Go to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site to see the pages that are linked to from the most domains. Your homepage will likely be at the top, but scan down to interior pages. See any older blog posts? These are the pages from which you want to link.
Step 2: Find pages to link TO.
The pages that need link juice the most are the ones that are almost ranking high. We recently showed how to find almost-high-ranking pages in a post about blog optimization. At the time, we were recommending on-page SEO changes. Now we’ll use the same process, but for internal linking reasons.
We should start calling this the “Low Hanging SEO Fruit Report.” Here’s how it works:
1. Go to Analytics, and set the date range for three months (this report doesn’t include data older than 90 days).
2. View Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries.
3. Sort by Average Position (rank).
4. Set an Advanced Filter so you only see queries that have a rank of more than 10.
Now you’re looking at a list of phrases for which your site ranks on page two or lower. You can use a filter to remove your company name and irrelevant terms, then scroll down. You’re looking for phrases related to pages and blog posts.
Make sure to actually search for these phrases in Google to confirm which page or post is ranking. Hopefully, you find a few great pages ranking at the top of page two, ready for more credibility and more visibility.
Step 3: Add a link!
Follow the internal linking best practices listed above, using the target keyphrase as the text within the link, right there in the body copy of the post.
Tip: Find broken links! Bad links are bad for SEO. Use a broken link checker to find these and fix them ASAP. Be careful when changing the URL of any page. This is usually how links are broken.
Internal Linking is a Zero Sum Game
Of course, links from other websites will add to the credibility of your page. Internal links don’t. Internal linking is really just moving your existing credibility around. Nothing is gained and you quickly reach the point of diminishing returns.
So, don’t obsess over this. People who micromanage link juice are called “PageRank sculptors,” and they’re the worst kind of SEO dorks.
But since you have total control over your website, these are the easiest links to manage. You’d be crazy not to pay attention to this.
So do some work with internal links, then move on. Don’t spend days thinking about internal links. Give your site a check-up a few times per year, then go back to the activities that increase your total credibility:
- Guest blogging
- Networking with bloggers and content producers
- Staying active with social media and email marketing
- Producing and promoting great content!