An internal link is a link from one page to another page on the same website. Here "website" is usually referring to the same domain - including subdomains.
In essence, the internal linking describes the structure and a relation of pages to each other and, if done properly, Google will give more priority to these pages and rank them accordingly.
It's a very important concept to understand as it is one of the best free techniques you can use to rank higher on Google.
As mentioned above, internal links are a powerful SEO tool. They help Google to prioritize certain pages for higher ranking.
Google has mentioned internal links as an important signal to it's ranking algorithm. It pointed out that the number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal about the relative importance of that webpage. The more relevant links pointing to it, the more important a page is considered. The classic PageRank approach.
An example would be your homepage: It usually received a link from each page of the website. This way, the internal links will point to the homepage and give that the highest importance and with it relevancy for the topics covered on the homepage as well as the rest of the website. If, for example, your homepage is about chocolate flavor and it will more likely rank for a user searching for chocolate flavor will come up.
There are different ways you can build a habit around defining internal links. Below are some proven methods to either retrospectively or pro-actively enhance your internal linking.
The first one is using a Google Sheets and filter out the same focus keyword. Start by keeping a Google Sheet of all pages with their focus keyword and title. Over time you build your own custom internal linking cheat sheet, which can help you find related pages to link. This is a simple yet effective approach to link pages with similar topics to each other and create a strong internal linking structure. In essence, you are building content hubs naturally. More on this later.
For example, a page about "Hot Chocolate" can have an internal link pointing to another page for "Best Hot Chocolate Recipes". This creates an internal linking and works in your favor.
While this sounds very simple, you shouldn't go overboard and link to only remotely relevant pages. Overdoing the internal linking can sometimes make for a spammy site with lower authority and will hurt your SEO rankings. Link only, if the pages are relevant and provides a benefit to the user.
Before we get into tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush, we want to let you know a quick trick so you can place your internal links much easier. This can be used well in combination with the above mentioned "internal linking cheat sheet".
The approach is using Google itself to tell you where to place the internal links:
Start with a search for
site:Yourdomain.com -Targeted_URL relevant keyword
For example, if we would link to find places to link our keyword cannibalization article, we could build a query such as this:
site:rankletter.com -https://rankletter.com/blog/keyword-cannibalization/ duplicate content
This would return any pages which mention "duplicate content" (our example keyword).
Google will point to an article and label the keyword.
Insert your internal link.
By searching your domain name in combination with a target keyword (excluding the page itself using "-" with the URL), Google will bring up relevant pages and highlight the most relevant section for this keyword.
This manual process might mean some work, but is giving you full control as it doesn't use any tools or plugins.
Tip: While this article is focusing on internal linking it doesn't mean you can't apply some ideas across multiple websites. If you have multiple websites, make use of them. Internal linking is great, but you don't need to limit these methods to one of your sites.
There is no hard and fast answer to how many internal links are too much. The number strongly depends on the word count and nature of the article.
Generally you want to rather keep the number lower as each additional link reduces the "link juice" for all pages linked. This waters down the effect to a point where it doesn't help Google anymore to identify you strongest pages.
Nofollow links are links with a rel="nofollow" attribute applied to them. This tells the search engine to not consider the link for ranking purposes. Generally this isn't used for internal linking. If you want to avoid a page showing up on Google, set a robots meta tag with noindex instead.
If you want to boost the process of internal linking, you can use Ahrefs. You will find the most important pages of your website based on backlinks using Ahrefs. Step by step is as process follows:
Access Ahrefs and select your domain
Click on best by links to view a list of the most powerful pages of your website ordered by the external referring domains.
Identify pages with similar topics and add links to those.
As these are linked to already, they are stronger and provide more benefit from internal linking.
SEMrush makes it easy for you. Audit your internal linking with SEMrush by using the Internal Linking Report tool. The report contains a section with instructions on errors found and remedies to fix the internal linking issues.
Below you can find five winning tactics to use internal linking for your website. Let's jump straight into it:
We mentioned it above already: It's important to avoid diluting the page rank unnessercery.
Building up so-called "content hubs" can help move the needle for particular pages. A content hub is a set of pages around one topic. Usually your website consists of a number of topics. Each topic should be converted into one content hub.
To create a content hub, you will need to remove all non-relevant links from the main content (the page excluding sidebars, navigation, footers, etc.). Make sure to only link to closely related topics. Secondly, choose one page to push forward for a competitive keyword. This page should be contextually linked from all pages. Having a number of pages on similar topics can lead to cannibalization issues. Make sure to read that up to understand where to draw the line.
The anchor text of the link helps the algorithm to better understand what the linked page is about. Make sure to vary your anchor text widely by using synonyms, various adjectives, etc.
Best are contextual anchor texts that are read over naturally. An example for this is the keyword cannibalization article link in the previous section on content hubs.
Tip: Avoid "Read more", "Further information", "here" or anything thereof as anchor text. It's a wasted opportunity to have a descriptive anchor text supporting the linked page.
No one likes spam, neither does Google. Spamming links will devalue the individually passed page score.
If you push the internal linking way more than it should be the page will be full of links which might get the visitors (and Google) to see your website as spam.
If there is a good place to add a link to a page go for it, but if this would break your content hubs or is only little relevant leave it.
The goal of visitors is usually to solve a problem. But sometimes they cannot find the exact information they were searching for. This might be due the article not covering a topic or the information being outdated.
Writing a comprehensive article and keeping it up to date is important to help visitors solve their problems. Plan for regular content reviews and ensure your article remains relevant.
Internal links should help the users to navigate easily to your site to other contextual information. Therefore, your end goal should be to improve the user experience first and foremost.
Internal linking is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Regular revisiting your internal links will help boost your search traffic and overall site authority. Content hubs can work magic, if done properly. Overall, it's a win-win case for both your website and the visitor having an improved user experience throughout the website.