Understanding how to build internal links for SEO is one of the Google ranking factors you need to pay attention to if you want to optimize how Google and your users navigate your site. Internal links play a vital role in everything from how Google indexes and interprets your site to how your users navigate and experience your site to how you pass link juice between pages on your site. Being strategic about it, therefore, is of the utmost importance.
They below are features the most important considerations to keep in mind when building internal links for SEO. They are:
- Keyword-rich Anchor Text
- Make Sure You Are Linking to Your Important Pages
- Avoid Using the Same Anchor Text for Different Internal Pages
- Audit All Internal Links in Google Search Console
- Internal Links Should Be High on Your Page
- Make Sure Internal Links are Dofollow
- Use Your Internal Linking to Improve Indexing
- Use Your Home Page Strategically
- Try Not to Automate Too Much
- Internal Links Improve Site Architecture
- Update Old Pages With New Internal Links
- Be Judicious
- Pay Attention to the Mobile Version of Your Link Structure
- The Concept of “First Link Priority”
The Difference Between Internal and External Links
The long and short of it is that external links are those pointing away from your site (to other domains) and internal links are those linking to pages on the same domain. Other sites control how and when they link back to yours, and these links are ultimately the most powerful for SEO purposes, but you have complete control over how you build internal links for SEO.
dofollow.io provides a bespoke strategic link building service for B2B companies looking to dramatically improve their external (backlink) profile.
We take care of all of the strategy and heavy lifting to land you authoritative, high-quality backlinks that increase page rank and organic traffic. We do this in a way that works in concert with your internal linking strategy so that link juice is passed on in the most effective way possible.
Why Internal Links Matter
In a nutshell, your internal links are how Google finds, indexes and understands your site’s pages, particularly how pages relate to one another. Used strategically, your internal links help create a holistic picture of your site and even help spread authority among your pages.
Internal links are also important because they help your users better navigate and experience your site. Not only does this increase the likelihood that visitors to your site will spend longer on it, which sends important user experience-related information to Google (another ranking consideration), but it helps to direct them to where you actually want them to go.
This is what Google has to say about Internal links:
Google must constantly search for new pages and add them to its list of known pages. Some pages are known because Google has already crawled them before. Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page.
So there you have it, internal links are virtual prerequisites for good SEO and traffic.
How to Build Internal Links for SEO: Best Practices
Simply having internal links on your pages isn’t enough. You need to execute your internal linking strategy in ways that make it easy for both Google and your visitors to navigate and understand your site. Below are some of the important do’s and don’ts of good internal linking.
Keyword-rich Anchor Text
If you are at all familiar with external links, this might be sounding some red flags. You likely know that Google doens’t like exact match anchor text in external links because it regards them as spammy.
You can, however, use exact match or keyword-rich anchor text in your internal linking strategy. If you ask any SEO or link building specialist how to build internal links for SEO, they will almost certainly recommend careful keyword use in this manner.
More importantly, Google recommends that you utilize keywords in your internal link anchor text.
For instance, let’s say a web design business has published an article (A) on its blog about “Why Responsive Design is Absolutely Crucial in 2022.” They have already published an article (B) called “Best Responsive WordPress Templates,” the keyword being “responsive WordPress templates.”
An appropriate way to include a link to article B in article A would be to encourage readers to “check out this guide to responsive WordPress templates we put together.” It lets both Google and readers know exactly what the internally linked article is about in a way that is contextual, keyword optimized and highly accurate.
Make Sure You Are Linking to Your Important Pages
Perhaps the most important thinking to keep in mind when pondering how to build internal links for SEO purposes is that your internal links pass on authority to the destination page. This can help the destination page rank better on Google, which likely means more organic traffic for that page.
They aren’t going to be as authoritative or effective as that page’s external links (i.e., the ones it gets from other sites), but they are undoubtedly useful.
This is why good SEO includes careful attention to internal links and forethought about the pages they point to.
Here is a short 2-step guide for determining where your internal link relationships should be:
- Use your search engine analytics tool (Ahrefs, Semrush) to sort your best-performing pages (those that get the most traffic/engagement).
- Include internal links on those pages to the pages that you want to rank the most
This is an especially helpful tactic when you have a brand new piece of content that you want to drive traffic/páss authority onto. As previously mentioned, make sure you are using keyword-rich anchor text to let Google and readers know what the linked page is about.
Avoid Using the Same Anchor Text for Different Internal Pages
Another important thing to know about how to build internal links for SEO is that you should avoid utilizing the same anchor text for different internal pages. This really confuses Google and makes it harder to navigate/rank your pages.
For instance, let’s say you are an employee recognition software business and you have two pages on your site: 1) “X Reasons Employee Recognition Boost Productivity” and 2) “Why Employees Work Better When Social Capital is the Reward.” You wouldn’t want to link to those two pages using the anchor text “benefits of employee recognition” in the same article. Google would think both articles are exactly the same and it would make it more difficult for it to attribute relevancy and pass on link juice.
Audit All Internal Links in Google Search Console
Every webmaster and site owner should become as familiar with Google search console as they can. If you really want to know how to build internal links for SEO, Google search console will break it down for you. This is because Google Search Console has a wonderful feature called “links” which allows you to examine how your site’s internal links are structured.
You should do an internal link audit on your site a few times a year to see exactly where your internal links are pointing. You often find that low priority pages (i.e., those that are not generating revenue or moving people through a sales funnel) are getting more link juice than you want or intended. The good news is that it is quite easy to change that.
Internal Links Should Be High on Your Page
You want to put internal links high up on a page. Doing this decreases bounce and improves dwell time. The reason why this is is quite simple: people have short attention spans.
Some people will read your entire blog article word for word. A lot of people won’t. But, if they are exposed to links to other useful or interesting pages on your site within the first couple paragraphs, even if they weren’t going to read the entire article in the first place, they might be tempted to keep clicking, which sends good page experience metrics to Google that in turn can determine your ranking.
Make Sure Internal Links are Dofollow
If you want to distribute link juice and authority, you need to use rel=dofollow internal links. It is always a good idea to go through your articles before publishing to ensure they are not set to nofollow. Also, it is advisable to have any new pages open in a new tab. This allows visitors to continue navigating the page they’re currently on while still being able to access new information/content.
Use Your Internal Linking to Improve Indexing
As mentioned at the outset of this article, one of the many important purposes of internal links is to help Google better index your site.
Google is pretty good at finding all of a site’s most important pages. However, if you have a lot of pages, Google may miss some.
This can be a minor inconvenience or a major business issue, depending on the pages that it fails to index.
Here is where you can lean on your internal links to help hedge your bets. You can do this by linking directly to pages you wants indexed from your site’s navigation, as well as using internal pages to link to other internal pages.
Whether it’s links between two blog articles, or a link from a commercial page to a blog page, or a link from a hub page to a pricing page, there are plenty of ways to direct Google’s attention so that all of your pages get indexed.
Use Your Home Page Strategically
Your homepage is usually the most authoritative page on your entire site. This is why it is so important to use your homepage to disburse authority and link juice. Linking from your homepage to your blog, for example, is especially important, particularly if you are linking from your blog to various commercial pages.
Try Not to Automate Too Much
If WordPress is your content management platform, there are several popular plugins you can download which purport to automate your internal linking (i.e., so you don’t have to). There are a few reasons it can be risky/ill advised to rely on these kinds of plugins:
- Building internal links for SEO requires strategy and that means human insight and value judgements. You are way better at understanding which pages need link juice and which pages provide the most of it.
- You run the risk of anchor text spam. If you have a large site with a lot of pages, these plugins can end up creating a lot of exact match anchor text. Some exact match anchor text is good when doing internal linking, but too much can raise red flags for Google.
- Robots aren’t human, so they don’t create links with humans in mind. You don’t want to create links just to make it easier for Google to crawl your site and pass on link juice; you want visitors to use them to navigate your site in an intuitive, enjoyable way.
Internal Links Improve Site Architecture
Your internal links are your site’s architecture. Without internal links, what you have are a bunch of orphaned pages with no entry or exit.
It’s like a house with a ton of rooms but no doors, stairs, or hallways. Use your internal links to link between related pages (e.g., product or service categories) and related information.
Update Old Pages With New Internal Links
As part of a quarterly SEO audit (always a good idea), it is worthwhile to search for older articles (those published over a year ago), and then scan those older articles for opportunities to insert links to newer content.
Not only does this help you strengthen your internal link structure, but it also counts as freshening up old content, and Google always prefers fresh to stale content when making ranking decisions.
Internal links are a necessary part of good site architecture, user experience and SEO, but you should only use them where they make sense.
Well-placed, strategic links are a great way to pass on link juice and give a boost to other pages on your site. After a certain point, however, (around 100 links on a page), they cease to provide much authority.
Pay Attention to the Mobile Version of Your Link Structure
Google has indicated that it’s fine to have a different internal link structure for the mobile and desktop versions of your site. But it is usually best to keep both versions as close to identical as possible.
You might have some pages whose layout and media formats are cumbersome on mobile, but which you would prefer keeping as is (for the sake of visual experience, for example) and perhaps it makes sense to exclude internal links to these pages from your mobile version. These are usually rare cases, though.
The Concept of “First Link Priority”
You may occasionally find that you use the same internal link twice on the same page. It’s pretty common and it tends to happen if you have a lot of links in your site’s navigation (header and footer).
There is an anchor text-related consideration here, however. Google counts the first instance of anchor text on a page, which if it’s in your navigation, will likely be in your header. Your navigation link anchor text is, therefore, going to be dominant and result in a lot of links.
Internal Links and Good SEO Go Hand-in-Hand
Your internal links are an important component of user experience and, importantly, your SEO. They help Google better index your site (ensuring your pages are actually visible on the search engine) and they allow you to disburse link juice throughout your site, allowing you a measure of control over which pages receive the authority they need to rank and convert visitors.
Your internal links are one aspect of SEO that you have complete control over (as opposed to your external links), so it makes sense to spend time optimizing this part of your strategy.
Why Trust Us On SEO
Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.
Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.
While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.