In the SEO industry, when you hear the term “link building,” you probably assume the person is talking about external links or backlinks.
This makes sense. After all, backlinks from other websites are a strong signal to search engines and a driving force behind organic search rankings.
But there is another type of link building that is also important: internal link building.
These are the links you build on your website that point to other relevant pages on your site.
While internal links aren’t necessarily what we think of first when we discuss link building, they are an integral part of successful SEO. They even play an important role in deliver-ing ROI from external link acquisition.
Directing Link Equity with Internal Links
The most significant benefit of internal links – in terms of SEO – is their ability to direct link equity throughout your website.
External links bring equity and trust to your website, and specifically, to the page they point to.
The page that is directly linked will benefit the most from a backlink, but through internal linking, you can pass along some of that equity to other pages.
While the SEO value is slightly diminished the further you get away from the externally linked page, internal links can provide an option for growing the authority and trust of your lower-funnel, less linkable pages.
While not impossible, it’s typically difficult to secure links to converting or “money pages” because these pages usually offer little value and cater to a small audience (those who are ready to buy your product).
However, you can overcome this challenge and support organic visibility for these pages through internal links from your link-worthy pages.
The best part of this strategy is you only need to build the one internal link and your converting page will continuously, and progressively, benefit from each new backlink you earn to your linkable asset.
Just remember that internal links still need to be relevant. Your internal link should make sense contextually on the page you place it.
Internal links are a great way to support new pages as well. Before you launch an external link acquisition campaign for a new page, search your site for other relevant pages and build some internal links to give your page an initial boost.
Use Internal Linking to Signal Your Most Important Pages
Internal links can also be leveraged to highlight your important pages.
Site structure plays a key role in how search crawlers navigate and understand your website and they use internal links to measure which pages are the most important and most closely tied to your brand.
The more internal links you point to a page, the more important search engine bots will think that page is.
This can influence which keywords and phrases they will associate with your pages – when there are multiple pages that cover a similar topic, search engines will use internal links to decide which page is most important and should show in their search results.
You want to make it easy for search crawlers to understand your site and which pages are most important to you, and internal link building can help them better identify your key pages.
Internal Links Help Visitors Navigate Your Site
Spiders aren’t the only ones trying to navigate your site – you can use internal link building to make it easier for human visitors to find the right pages.
Not only will internal links boost the organic visibility of your converting pages, but they can also get actual people to those pages to convert.
SEO benefits aside, internal link building is critical to ensuring you’re providing a solid UX and keeping visitors on your site.
Consider the various entry points people have to your site and use internal links to map out a journey that moves them through your site.
There should always be a next step or desired action for users – at least until they purchase or convert – and optimized internal linking will help them reach the next destination.
Internal Link Building Best Practices
There are many benefits of internal links, but what does internal link building look like in practice?
To help you implement a successful internal link building campaign on your site, let’s walk through some of the best practices and common strategies for internal linking.
Use Link Tools
You may want to invest in some tools to help you assess your internal linking structure and guide future internal link building.
Screaming Frog is a great tool for getting a better understanding of your top internally linked pages. Using Screaming Frog to crawl your website, you can filter by “Inlinks” to organize URLs by those with the most internal links.
You can also use Screaming Frog to filter by pages that include a specific term, which is extremely useful for identifying internal link building opportunities.
For example, if you are trying to build links to your page about internal link building, you can use Screaming Frog to find all pages that mention “internal links”. To do this, you would click Configuration, Custom, and then Search.
This will bring up the Custom Search menu where you could enter your term (e.g., “internal links”).
Then you just re-crawl your site and navigate over to the sidebar and scroll down to Custom, where you’ll see how many pages include your selected term.
Clicking on ‘Custom’ will take you to a list of URLs that include the term, which can be easily exported to Excel. And voila, you now have a curated list of internal link building targets!
Link tools (e.g., Majestic, Moz, Ahrefs) can also be useful as you plan internal link building. These tools will tell you which pages on your site have the most external backlinks, so you’ll know theoretically where your most powerful internal links could be built.
You can also manually review pages on your site, as well as internally link based on customer journeys, without tools. However, investing in these tools can help you optimize your internal link structure to receive maximum benefit from your internal link building efforts.
Optimize Your Anchor Text
Another aspect of internal link building that should be considered is the anchor text.
Traditionally, SEO professionals shun exact match anchor text because it can have a negative, manipulative effect with external link building.
However, with internal links you want to be as clear and specific as possible about the page you’re linking to, making exact match anchor text ideal (with natural variation included).
Furthermore, these links help search crawlers understand your site, so you want to use anchor text that is directly related to the content of the page being linked.
Optimize internal link anchor text to ensure humans and bots understand where the link is pointing.
Don’t Overdo it with Internal Link Building
Internal links are valuable for multiple reasons, but that doesn’t mean you should internally link every page to one another.
While there is no set number for the appropriate number of internal links on a given page, simply use your best judgment for what would be beneficial to someone reading the page.
If there is an opportunity to place a relevant internal link that would benefit the reader by providing more information or leads them to a page that is the next logical step in their journey on your site, then place that link!
Depending on the length of the given page, somewhere between five to 10 internal links typically makes sense – again, use your discretion and do what aligns with the best user experience.
Most people think of external links when they hear the term “link building.”
However, internal link building is an integral part of successful SEO as well.
Optimizing your internal link structure will help your site in terms of improved navigation, clearer content hierarchy, and boosted authority for pages that struggle to earn backlinks.
Timeframe: Monthly/ongoing – as new content is published; you need to account for internal links.
Results detected: For fresh content, you could see results within a few days or weeks with internal links from your most popular pages.
Average links sent per month: This number depends on how frequently you publish new pages.
- Screaming Frog (Optional)
- Majestic (Optional)
- Moz (Optional)
- Ahrefs (Optional)
Benefits of internal link building:
- What it is: Internal link building is the process of linking internally from one page on your website to another. Internal link building is a critical function of SEO and managing a high-functioning website.
- Why it’s valuable: Internal links provide a number of benefits, including:
- Directing link equity throughout your site to support pages that can’t earn links otherwise.
- Helping search engines better understand which pages are most important and which keywords are associated with them.
- Guiding visitors through your site to help them reach a desired destination or action.
Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita