How to Use Internal Links to Boost SEO and the User Experience

Author's avatar Marketing Jul 2, 2019 43 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Developing an internal linking strategy is one of the simplest ways to increase your rankings and improve your user experience.

    Like backlinks, internal links—links from one page of your site to another—also pass authority. With nothing more than an internal linking strategy, you can get your pages to rank higher in search results.

    Beyond that, internal links also help users navigate your site and find the exact information they’re looking for, guiding themselves deeper into your funnel.

    But how should you approach internal links? How many should you include, what pages should you link to, and what are some unique internal linking strategies?

    To find out, we asked more than 100 marketers to tell us how they use internal links.

    SEO Performance Dashboard Template by Databox

    Here’s what we learned.

    Table of Contents:

    1. What Are Internal Links?
    2. Where to Include Internal Links
    3. How Do Internal Links Help SEO?
    4. How to Find Internal Content To Link To
    5. Best Practices for Internal Links
    6. Internal Linking Strategies
    7. How to Use Internal Links to Boost Search Rankings
    8. How Many Internal Links Should a Page Have?

    What Are Internal Links?

    Internal links are hyperlinks on a website that point to other pages on the same website. 

    A simple example of internal links is a site’s navigation menu. For example, Databox’s navigation menu links to several product landing pages, our blog, partner directory, template directory, knowledge base, and more. Each of these links is an internal link.

    But internal links can be—and should be—used throughout a site.

    Where to Include Internal Links

    “Every page you publish should have at least one relevant link to another page on your website,” says Loclweb’s Jorge Sheffy. “If you don’t think a page can have a link to another page on your site—if it doesn’t connect somehow to the bigger picture of your website—then the page may not be essential.”

    Holly Ozanne of Venta Marketing agrees: “The best way to show off your related content is by linking pages and blog posts to and from each other, including the homepage. Your homepage will have the most influence in ranking content, while your contextual links will show search engine bots what content is most important.”

    Here are several places where you should consider adding internal links.

    Landing Pages

    “I like to make sure that our priority landing pages link to a compatible blog category page so that users can read more on the topic if they’re interested,” says Tammy Smith of Page 1 Solutions. “For example, near the bottom of this page, we link to our dental crowns blog category page.”

    Roger West’s Natalie Lane recommends “mapping out how you can relate your pages to one another. For example, if you have a main services page and individual service-specific pages, link to the main page—and vice versa—within that section of your website.”

    And Alex Membrillo of Cardinal SEO Company says that “a pro tip for increasing your site’s internal linking value is to look for opportunities to expand internal linking on your homepage.” 

    “I always recommend having a feed that showcases your newest blog posts on the homepage of the website. By doing this, Google will find your new blog posts quicker, and they’re more likely to rank in the search results,” Membrillo says.

    Blog Posts

    “Blog posts are optimal for internal linking,” says Rio Rocket of Rio Rocket SEO Services.

    “Internal linking on your main pages may not only be distracting to your visitors but may also lead them to places you don’t want them to go. Plus, most people already expect blog posts to have a large number of links.”

    Portent’s Kyle Freeman agrees: “If you’ve written multiple articles about a particular topic, you should have them linked to each other. Internally linking to similar articles will tell search engines and users that these articles are related.” 

    “An internal link can be implemented within a sentence of the article itself or as additional links at the end of the article,” Freeman says.

    Here’s an example.?

    Related: Blog SEO: 21-Point Checklist for Optimizing Every Blog Post for Search

    New Content

    “When you publish new content, link to other content you’ve already published,” says Steve Gipson of Recruiters Websites. “It creates a great internal link and also provides more information that will likely interest your audience.”

    Old Content

    “Whenever you publish new content, take a few minutes and add links to it from some of the older content on your site,” says Marc Andre of Vital Dollar.

    Our respondents say this delivers several benefits.

    “Marketers often overlook the task of linking old content to new content,” says CodeCrew’s Alexandra Marin. “But your older content will always be more authoritative than your newer content, so it can absolutely help new content rank better.”

    Jesse Ringer of Method and Metric SEO Agency agrees: “Linking from relevant posts that are already ranking and generating traffic helps speed up indexing and get some initial eyeballs on the new article.”

    And The Blogsmith’s Maddy Osman says that “creating a connection from both sides is important for helping Google understand the relationship between various content pieces on your website.”

    How Do Internal Links Help SEO?

    “Internal links are a must-have when it comes to SEO,” says Albacross’ Oksana Chyketa. “Adding internal links from old content to your recently published articles helps them get indexed faster, and what’s more, it helps push them up in the rankings.”

    Tracy Iseminger of Crimson Vine Marketing agrees: “Internal links increase the time users spend on your website and improves the user experience by providing more information. This boosts SEO by signaling to search engines that you have engaging content.”

    Other respondents provided several more examples of how internal links help SEO.

    Internal Links Increase Dwell Time and Reduce Bounce Rates

    “A couple of the most overlooked search ranking factors are bounce rate and dwell time,” says David Leonhardt of THGM Writing Services. “Both of these related factors can be improved by providing users with good internal links that they will want to click.”

    “The deeper into your site that people go, the more your bounce rate is reduced. And the more people click internally, the more time they spend on your website,” Leonhardt says.

    “Google says that RankBrain is their third most important ranking factor,” says David Bailey-Lauring of Blu Mint Digital. “RankBrain focuses on two factors: how long someone spends on a page (dwell time) and the percentage of people that click on a result (CTR).”

    “Therefore, we pay attention to internal linking because we not only hope visitors stay on the page, but we also want to encourage them to stay on the website longer and read more,” Bailey-Lauring says.

    9Sail’s Kyle Kasharian agrees: “With internal links that supplement the reading, you will encourage a positive SEO response in the form of more page views and increased session time.”

    Internal Links Get Your Content Indexed and Ranked Faster

    “If you link old content that’s already indexed to newly created content, the new article will be indexed quicker,” says Techjackie’s Jackie Owen. “And if the old content already has authority (via backlinks from other sites), the new page won’t require as many backlinks to rank.”

    “Whenever I create a new article, I make sure I have 1-3 previously indexed articles (usually two months old or older) link to this new article. Then I submit the URL using Google Search Console. Within 2-3 days, the page gets indexed and takes less time to climb up the rankings.”

    “Before I started doing this, it usually took about a week to even get the new content indexed,” Owen says.

    Chhavi Agarwal of Mrs Daaku Studio agrees: “As soon as you publish a new post, link it from (at least) two of your top-performing posts. Whenever I do this, I’ve noticed that I get ranked in the first three pages of Google’s search results within a couple of hours.”

    Internal Links Keep Content from Getting Buried

    “A lot of websites publish lots of great blog content, but over time, the blog posts end up buried within the blog archives,” says Will King of Eastside Co. “This means they don’t receive enough link equity to have a chance of ranking.”

    “If you link to a blog post from multiple pages when it’s first published, this widens its visibility, ensures it receives more PageRank, and gives it a greater chance of ranking.”

    Internal Links Help Search Engines Crawl Your Site and Understand Its Structure

    “We have 50-60 posts on our site, and we make sure we connect them all with internal links to create a network of posts,” says Tamas Torok of Coding Sans. “This makes it easier for search engine spiders to crawl our website.”

    And in addition to helping search engines crawl your site, Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray says internal links also “help search engines understand the structure of your website.”

    “For a successful internal linking strategy, you want to add internal links between posts talking about the same topic. Let’s say you wrote three blog posts about lead generation. You want to add links inside each post that point to the other posts,” Aufray says.

    Internal Links Show Search Engines the Breadth of Your Topic Coverage

    Having lots of content on a specific topic can help boost your authority in the eyes of search engines, and as Joe Hughes of Village Bakery says, “internal links show Google that you have extensive information on the subject matter.”

    Internal Links Give Users Options for How They Engage

    “I have been writing content for the automotive industry for just over five years, and in that time, I have written countless articles that relate to one another in some way,” says Samantha Kohn of Mobials Inc. “Adding internal links within this content that links to other, related pieces has been key to my content marketing success.” 

    “Not only does it bring traffic from one page to another—rejuvenating older content and driving traffic to other sections of your site—it also adds value to the original piece of content because it gives readers an opportunity to keep it short or dig deeper into the topic by clicking the link in the article.”

    Which Are More Important for SEO: Internal Links or Backlinks?

    So we’ve looked at how internal links help SEO—and everyone knows that backlinks are also important for SEO—but which is more important? Based on how our respondents report spending their time, internal and external links are equally important:

    The largest percentage of people (42%) spend an equal amount of time on both internal and external links. Another 34% spend more time acquiring external links, and nearly one-fourth (24%) spend more time building internal links.

    How to Find Internal Content To Link To

    “Internal linking starts with identifying link opportunities,” says Steven Macdonald of AutoClipping. “This always begins with a Google search.”

    “Using Google’s search operators, I type in [ “keyword”], and then Google will then return a list of webpages from my entire website that include the keyword I’m targeting.”

    “If you include the target phrase in quotes, Google will only return pages that contain that exact phrase,” says Zack Reboletti of Web Focused. “Without including the keyword in quotes, the pages returned will be contextually relevant but may or may not contain that specific phrase.”

    You can use this method to find existing content to link new content to—as well as old content to update with links to the new piece you’re writing.

    “Google will show you the strongest page on a topic at the top of the search results,” says Joe Robison of Green Flag Digital

    “This is important because if you’ve written about a topic five times, it can be hard to decide where to point your internal links. Choosing your strongest page helps with the keyword cannibalization problem and provides a better user experience by sending users to your best content on the topic,” Robison says.

    Another option is to use a tool that helps you easily discover related content on your site. Eric Melillo of COFORGE recommends “Yoast SEO Premium for WordPress sites. It scans your content, makes link suggestions, and allows you to indicate your core topic.”

    “For HubSpot users, we use the HubSpot SEO tool to create a visual topic cluster that allows us to see our link relationships. The tool also checks the continuity of anchor links and will tell us if the link exists or is broken.”

    One final option, recommended by James Green of Offer To Close, is to “create a list of target keywords and their corresponding pages. Then, on the first mention of those keywords in any content, link those terms to the respective pages.”

    Best Practices for Internal Links

    Before we dive into some of the more unique internal linking strategies, let’s take a look at some of the overall best practices for internal links that our respondents recommended.

    Start with Quality Content

    Creating quality content is essential,” says Nick Galov of Hosting Tribunal. “The last thing you want is to have lots of linked pages with bad content.” 

    “Instead of randomly linking pages, you need to devote time to producing original content.”

    “For instance, one of the IT websites that I have contributed to had a great design and new posts on a daily basis. However, the content varied greatly: some of the posts were incredibly well written, while others were just put together for the sake of publishing.” 

    “Overall, we did manage to link our pages, but the result wasn’t as good as we hoped for.”

    Link Related Pages to Each Other

    “Use relevant links,” says Fisher Unitech’s Jackie Tihanyi. “Before linking two pages together, look at the type of content those pages focus on. If, and only if, the two directly relate, then link them to one another.”

    Fundera’s Lizzie Dunn agrees: “Best practice is to link keywords via anchor text to content that directly relates to or covers that specific keyword.”

    “Internally linking pages based on topical relevance—as opposed to random internal links—helps indicate to the search engines that these pages are related and thus strengthens the topical relevance of that category within the site,” says Craig De Borba of Ooma Small Business.

    And Best Company’s Rochelle Burnside recommends “linking to related content that will keep readers on your site longer, such as engaging blog posts and long-form content. This will increase dwell time and therefore improve SERP rankings.” You can track the effectiveness of your internal linking efforts using this SEO dashboard.

    Link For Users, Not Just for SEO

    “Make sure your internal links are natural and will make sense to your readers,” says Colin Mosier of JSL Marketing & Web Design. “Often, content marketers will insert a link simply because they believe they have to for SEO. Unfortunately, this does not help your efforts.”

    “We think about the user first and ask ourselves: ‘Does it make sense to do this, or are we just doing it for SEO?” says Jason Martinez of Redefine Marketing Group.

    “You links must provide relevant information,” says Andrea Loubier of Mailbird. “Linking merely for the sake of linking is not a good practice, and search engines will take notice.”

    HashtagJeff’s Max Pond agrees: “It’s easy to get caught up making a science out of internal linking: measuring keyword anchor density, linking from your most authoritative pages, balancing partial- and exact-match, etc. Put the science on the back burner and think about how internal links are going to solve visitors’ problems.”

    So how do you do this?

    “Consider what resources your readers would want to see next that will help them continue their journey towards conversion,” says Matt Benevento of Geek Powered Studios.

    “Ensure that your links match the flow of the overall content, and make your links so compelling that the readers can’t resist clicking on them,” says Nathan Sebastian of GoodFirms.

    As Lauren Petermeyer of Summit Life Media says, “A link for SEO’s sake on which no one clicks does very little good in the long-term health of the site.”

    Avoid Only Linking to Landing Pages

    “Stop linking to your homepage or contact page when linking internally,” says Jason Yao of CanvasPeople. “Make an effort to link to unique blog, category, or product pages that are relevant to the anchor text being used.”

    Katherine Rowland of YourParkingSpace agrees: “Make the internal links on your site varied and thorough. Most sites have far too many links simply to the homepage. Make each different page link to multiple other, preferably deeper-level, pages on your site. This creates as many ties between pages as possible.”

    “Linking to pages that will be useful for visitors is better than linking to pages like ‘get a quote’ or ‘contact us,’” says Ishan Makkar of MakkPress Technologies. “Once visitors understand you better, they will find the ‘contact’ button themselves.”

    “Linking to general pages just to add some internal links—when it’s easy for people to navigate to these pages—is a mistake,” says CertaHosting’s Jeremy Rose.

    Use Keywords as Anchor Text

    “Anchor text is text to which a link is added,” says Rahul Singh of HubsAdda. “In other words, anchor text is a short description of the linked page. If the anchor text is ‘sunglasses,’ when a user clicks the link it should take him/her to a page about sunglasses.”

    “One of the most important parts of internal linking is making sure that you’re using strong anchors,” says Ben Johnston of Sagefrog Marketing Group. “Search engines can glean some intent from the text that you use to link to your pages, so do some keyword research to find a great keyword to use for your anchor.”

    “Your own website is the only place that you have full control over anchor text, so take advantage of it,” says Tony DeGennaro of Dragon Social. “Using your target keywords as anchor text for internal links can help you drastically increase your rankings for those keywords.”

    “I recently changed the internal links to one of our blogs throughout our website, and without any keyword stuffing, I was able to get the blog to rank #3 on the first page of Google with only about an hour of work. This really taught me that anchor text does matter,” DeGennaro says.

    “Many people think a hyperlink can be plopped down over any relevant text, and for some, that may be adequate,” says Nextiva’s Yaniv Masjedi. However, if you’re serious about SEO, you need to get into SEO keyword research.” 

    “Identify not only the article’s primary keywords, but also secondary, tertiary, and numerous related search terms. While secondary keywords are great for headers, tertiary and related terms make fantastic anchor text for internal links,” Masjedi says.

    But Don’t Overuse Keyword Anchors

    “When internally linking, it can be tempting to link pages with the same word over and over for the sake of simplicity,” says Sam Williamson of Guardian Removals Edinburgh. “Instead, opt for variations of your chosen keyword and make sure the links always feel natural within the page content.”

    To avoid keyword overuse, Mazepress’ David Alexander recommends “keeping a spreadsheet to record the number of internal links each article has and the anchor text variations being used.”

    “Most people tend to get pretty aggressive with the anchor text ratios because representatives from Google have suggested there’s no penalty for internal link anchors,” says CollectiveRay’s David Attard. “But we’ve found out that our internal links are actually more effective when we vary our anchor text ratios in this way:”

    • “50% target keyword(s) – note that we try to vary the anchor text to a number of the higher-volume keywords”
    • “25% brand or URL – similar to your external links’ anchor text”
    • “25% generic or topic – once again similar to external links’ anchor text”

    “Make sure you’re only using keyword-rich anchor text where it feels natural and organic,” says Sam Orchard of Edge of the Web. “If you’re trying to crowbar keywords into your sentences, it’s going to sound like you’re just writing for the SEO value, which is very off-putting for users.”

    And Don’t Confuse Google with Mismatched Anchors

    “While too much anchor text optimization isn’t natural and can have a detrimental effect, it is still very important to ensure that you aren’t sending mixed signals to Google by using the same anchor text in multiple links pointing to different pages,” says Ruti Dadash of Panthera Plus.

    “I was working on a website recently where one blog post used the anchor text ‘visual support’ to link to another blog post which contained a link to a third blog post again using ‘visual support’ as the anchor text. And that blog post had —you guessed it—a link to yet a fourth blog post with the same anchor text!”

    “How are search engines supposed to know which of these blog posts is the one that should rank for ‘visual support’?”

    “To avoid this issue, I highly recommend some form of keyword mapping. It’s essential to have a strong idea of which blog posts you want to rank for which keywords and ensure that your internal linking strategy supports this plan.”

    Use Internal Links to Make Sure Important Pages Aren’t Buried

    “The structure of your internal links should be indicative of the hierarchy on your website,” says Pulno’s Julia Cieślak. “This hierarchy helps Google understand the relevancy of pages and the relationships between them.”

    “My best tip is to establish your linking structure on the basis of the pyramid model. According to this model, the top of the pyramid is your homepage—the most important page on your website. The closer you get to the bottom of the pyramid, the less important the pages should be,” Cieślak says.

    Fitness Savvy’s Robin Young offered an example of how this helps: “We run a price comparison website, and we had lots of categories on our mega menu. After some work, we cut the category pages in half and concentrated the link juice to the ones we were prioritizing.”

    “While doing this, we made sure that product pages were still no more than three clicks away from the homepage. We achieved this by restructuring categories more efficiently and including more popular subcategories in menus.”

    “The results were impressive, with traffic increasing significantly within just a few weeks of making the changes,” Young says.

    Link to Your Most Important Pages Most Often

    “Make sure that you have plenty of links going from informational pages to money pages,” says Hrayr Shahbazyan of AIST Global. “It’s your resource pages that attract external links and drive organic traffic, but this traffic is likely to bounce or be non-commercial. Internal links send some of their equity to money pages.”

    So what are your money pages? 9Sail’s Bryan Pattman explains: “Your money pages are simply the pages that are going to be the most valuable for you.”

    “The pages on your own site also pass PageRank—not just external links—so link to your most important pages as often as possible,” says John Locke of Lockedown Design & SEO. “Passing internal PageRank from most pages on a site helps important pages rank a bit higher and tells Google that these pages are important.”

    Dennis Sievers of Webiteers agrees: “If a page is important for your business, then show it. If you make your user click three times to get to a certain page, why would Google need to show that page on its first result page? If you don’t feel it’s important, then Google doesn’t feel it’s important.”

    One way to do this, as recommended by Kathryn Roberts of Quest for $47, is to “create a blurb about a piece of content and add it to the bottom of every single blog post.”

    Make Sure Your Links Are Coded Properly

    “Make sure all of your internal links are anchor tags with HREF attributes,” says Luke Budka of TopLine Comms. “Other types of internal links (like JavaScript on-click links without ‘a href=’) do not pass link equity to their destination pages.”

    And Alexander Kesler of INFUSEmedia also says to “make sure you use ‘dofollow’ links,” which usually just means making sure that your CMS isn’t automatically adding “nofollow” attributes to the links in your content.

    Internal Linking Strategies

    Now that you know what internal links are, where you should include them, and how many to include, it’s time to take a look at some of the specific internal linking strategies our respondents recommend.

    Plan for Internal Links While Planning Content

    “Effective internal link building starts before you have any content to link to,” says John Donnachie of Clydebank Media. “When planning your content and your site layout, inject an internal link building strategy into every decision you make.”

    “For each keyword I select to target, I also assign two other related keywords or pull out a more focused topic from the overall content to ensure that I am generating helpful, valuable content and creating easy internal linking opportunities,” Donnachie says.

    Hubneo’s Illya Polokhin agrees: “Conduct research to find all of the different topics that someone will be searching for based on user intent.” 

    “For example, if you’re targeting the keyword ‘lead generation,’ you will need to create pages for related topics and questions like ‘what is lead generation,’ ‘lead generation strategies,’ ‘lead generation examples,’ etc.”

    “Once the content is created, then it’s a simple matter of linking internally to those articles to help users easily navigate to other relevant pages,” Polokhin says.

    “If you write multiple posts/pages about a similar topic, it will be very easy to identify pages that you can link to when creating new content,” says Chelsea Vaal of FUSIONWRX.

    Related: 20 Ways to Fill Your Editorial Calendar with Highly Relevant Topics

    Create Content Groupings

    If you follow the advice above and create multiple pieces of content on a single topic that you plan to link together, many respondents recommend creating content groupings as a next step. 

    Content groupings are referred to by many names—cornerstone, hub and spoke, clusters, and pillar pages—but they all essentially refer to the same thing: grouping related content together and linking to them individually as well as from an overarching topic landing page.

    “Start with a cornerstone content page, then write supporting and related blogs that each link back to the cornerstone page,” says Robert Donnell of P5 Marketing. “Next, link each blog post together. And finally, link from the cornerstone page to all related blogs.”

    Cornerstone content visual via P5Marketing

    “Create a cluster of articles,” says Lisamarie Monaco of PinnacleQuote Life Insurance Specialists. “Your main article is in the middle, and you create additional posts on topics related to the main article. All articles link back to the main article and to each other.

    “If your pillar clusters are organized correctly with your main topic in the center and the subtopics branching out, you will sufficiently spread your link equity throughout your website and positively affect your SEO efforts,” says Omar Fonseca of Medicare Plan Finder.

    “We have one pillar page that’s over 17,000 words, and all related blog posts, landing pages, thank you pages, and website pages link back to this pillar page,” says Uku Inbound’s Emma-Jane Shaw.

    For your main topic page, Ironpaper’s Brian Casey recommends targeting a high-volume keyword: “Identify one keyword with a search volume of over 1,000/month that’s highly relevant to your product/service to become the focal point of your internal linking efforts.”

    “For one of my clients, we created an awareness-level pillar page and wrote supporting content, and we were ranking on the first page in three months. This was for a term with a 2,400/month search volume with a lower competition score,” Casey says.

    “The key is to use semantically related anchor text when linking each piece of content together,” says MarketMuse’s Stephen Jeske.

    “The internal links connecting all of that content is essentially proof that the content is related,” says Elijah Masek-Kelly of PowerfulOutreach. “Not only will this will help your readers find more relevant content, but it will also let Google know that you are an expert on a similar topic across multiple pages on your website.”

    Link to the Main Content Grouping Page from Your Homepage

    Once you’ve created the main page for your cornerstone/pillar/cluster content, Chas Cooper of Rising Star Reviews says to “link to it from the body of your homepage.”

    “Your homepage typically has far more authority than any other page on your website, so when you link to content from your homepage, you give that content a super-charged boost in authority.”

    “But don’t just link to your content from a menu or the footer. Link from directly within the body content of your homepage. Google knows that links from the main body content carry more weight than navigational links.”

    “Also, make sure you only link to ‘cornerstone content.’ Every link on your homepage that goes to a page with low value or low competition is a wasted resource. These links dilute the authority that your homepage passes to your cornerstone content.”

    “One tasteful way of adding links on your homepage to cornerstone content is simply to have a section on the homepage with a subheading like ‘Resources’ or ‘Learn More.’ Subheadings like this give you a nice segue from the usual homepage messaging about who you are and what you do.”

    Build Internal Link Silos

    Silos are similar to cornerstone/pillar/hub-and-spoke content, but instead of starting with a topic and creating content from there, silos start with a piece of content that’s already driving a lot of traffic.

    “First, identify what pages are getting the most organic traffic site-wide in Google Analytics,” says Dresean Ryan of Dresean Consulting. “Once you’ve identified those pages, you want to add internal links to other pages of your website from those highly trafficked pages.”

    “Because those pages get the most traffic, it increases your chances of people actually seeing your internal links and engaging with them, therefore boosting your dwell time,” Ryan says.

    Silos also work well for ecommerce sites with lots of category and/or product pages.

    However, Authority Hacker’s Balazs Hajde cautions against over-siloing: “Approach site structure with a measured siloing mindset. There are instances when breaking down a category into subcategories will make your content too thin.”

    “Make sure to do extensive keyword research and analyze how segmented a topic has to be before constructing a silo. Some topics might need several subpages, while others are best handled as one single resource.”

    Review Your Entire Content Library

    If you already have lots of content on your site, Nextiny’s Bryan Gorman recommends “going backward before going forward.”

    “At this point, you might have content going back 10 years that is still performing well for you. Internal linking wasn’t as crucial a factor then as it is today, so chances are that there’s an opportunity to leverage that to help your current and future content.”

    “At Nextiny, we went through each of our client accounts as well as our own, exported lists of all blog posts, recategorized them by keyword/topics that we already had pillar pages for, and documented new opportunities for pillar content.” 

    “Once we had the articles categorized, we then went in and found/created linking opportunities from each article and linked each directly to our existing pillar pages.”

    “We are finding that our pillar pages are performing extremely well for competitive keywords, and our supporting content is also seeing a lift.” 

    “HubSpot’s Topic Cluster/SEO tool has been great for measuring the success of these efforts and to keep our content organized moving forward.”

    Consider the Buyer’s Journey to Insert the Right Links

    “When creating an internal linking strategy, you want to consider where users are in the buyer’s journey when landing on a specific page of your website,” says Annalee Jarrett of 97th Floor.

    “Are they at the top of the funnel in awareness where you’ll likely need to give them more information before handing out a strong call-to-action, or are they starting towards the middle or bottom where it would make the most sense for you to link them directly to a product or service page?” Jarrett asks.

    Steve de Niese of Assemblo agrees: “Build internal links to drive users towards a conversion.” 

    “A great example of this would be having a high-level informative article on a niche topic that doesn’t necessarily translate to direct sales, and then using internal links to move qualified readers towards articles that are more likely to attract the right kinds of customers for direct conversion.”

    “As an added bonus, this focused approach can help pass along some of the link juice to more sales-focused pages.”

    Use Internal Links to Maximize Geographic Relevance

    “One of the most effective internal linking methods pertains to businesses with multiple locations,” says Michal Rutkowski of Active Business Growth. “We are strong proponents of building location landing pages to maximize geographic relevance across the different markets that a given business covers.” 

    “Within these pages, we typically develop long-form text content describing the various products and/or services the business offers. The keywords within this text are then linked to internal pages that cover the products/services in depth.” 

    “We’ve observed that when these landing pages get indexed and begin to rank, our clients start to rank better for specific keywords across the different geographic markets.”

    Link Ecommerce Content to Product and Category Pages

    “For ecommerce sites, internally linking content pieces like blog posts, research guides, and articles to relevant category and product pages is an excellent strategy for increasing the organic rankings of your category and product pages,” says Jim Milan of Auto Accessories Garage.

    “If you sell car brakes, for example, you could create a blog post on a topic like “when to replace your brakes.” When you mention specific brakes in the post, you could link to those brake product pages on your site. You could also link to your brakes category page where appropriate.”

    “This strategy has multiple benefits. By writing the post on a topic with some product research intent behind it, like “when to replace your brakes,” the post will have the opportunity to rank for keywords that will attract people who are ready to purchase new brakes.”

    “The people who land on this post may click through on your internal links to make a purchase on your product pages. Internally linking to the product and category pages will also pass link authority to these pages, which boosts them in search engines for their relevant keyword searches.”

    Add Internal Links to Dead-End Pages

    “Add internal links to every page of a website,” says Jae Lee of Optimized Webmedia Marketing. “This reduces the number of pages with dead ends, which provides search engines with better access to all pages of a website.” 

    “We commonly see dead ends at the ‘Thank You’ page upon completing an ecommerce check out or the ‘404-Page Not Found’ page. Offer website visitors additional content instead of a dead end, such as links to popular pages on a site that are still relevant to their needs.”

    Consider the Links in Your Site’s Main Navigation Element

    “One of the most underutilized internal linking strategies is your navigation,” says Scott Fish of Off Road Marketing Agency. “The navigation naming conventions for a website are where the technical SEO strategy comes head-to-head with the user experience strategy.” 

    “They don’t always agree, but if SEO is a priority, the case should be made for a strong naming of the navigation items on your website. Not only can this help Google understand what topics the pages are about, but this helps your sitelinks show up correctly in a search result.” 

    “The sitelinks are the subpage links under your main page listing. Often, you’ll find 4-6 links that drive a visitor deeper into your site—to the higher converting pages,” Fish says.

    Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles says to “ensure your site structure is built in pyramid form with your site navigation containing your most important keyword targets. These pages are linked to from every other page of your site, so you want to ensure you are displaying their importance loud and clear.” 

    “Try to ensure only the most important pages are in that navigation and that they are all fully keyword-optimized with a serious amount of content that fully explains and answers the topic you are targeting,” Dodds says.

    Echo-Factory’s John McCarthy recommends “starting the global navigation off with fresh content like ‘Blog’ or ‘News’ instead of evergreen pages like ‘About’ and ‘Contact.’ This gives the search engines links to newer content and may aid in transferring links from those pages to other internal pages.”

    And Conversiono’s Stacy Caprio says to “choose a high-value page on your site that you want to rank higher in search and move it to your main navigation menu. You’ll see a boost in search results since moving the page to your main menu will pass it some of your homepage’s authority.”

    Include Internal Links in Your Site’s Footer/Sidebar

    “Consider adding keywords to your site’s sidebar and linking those to blog posts,” says Pedro Campos of PedroConverts.

    Shotkit‘s Mark Condon agrees: “Add whatever post you’re trying to rank quickly as some kind of text link in the sidebar of your site (e.g. ‘Trending Posts’). This will ensure it gets a bit of extra attention since sidebars usually appear on most—if not all—of your site’s pages.”

    “An additional tip would be to use some keyword-rich anchor text there—and elsewhere—when you internally link to that post,” Condon says.

    Return on Now’s Tommy Landry also recommends adding internal links to your site’s footer: “A simple but very effective way to add internal links is to have a site-wide widget in the footer or sidebar that links to your main product/services pages.”

    “With this, Google will see a link to your primary money pages on every single URL it crawls. This will clearly indicate to the crawler that the money pages are the highest priority for findability.” 

    “This is how we’ve managed to get our services pages showing up higher in the local market as we build out the overall domain authority of the website over time,” Landry says.

    Add a Further Reading Section at the End of Blog Posts

    “We’ve had a great deal of success adding a ‘further reading’ section at the ends of our blog posts,” says Andrew McLoughlin of Colibri Digital Marketing.

    “For instance, a post on SEO fundamentals might link to posts on link building or improving user experience. Those pages, in turn, link off to others, and maybe back to the SEO fundamentals post.” 

    “Since we’ve added that section to our posts, we’ve seen a clear increase in our click-through rate and our average time on page, among other metrics,” McLoughlin says.

    Use Multiple CTAs to Create Multiple Paths

    “Every content marketer has probably run into the following problem: your team has created numerous good and relevant articles adjacent to a particular topic, but you are stuck choosing between them for a single call-to-action (CTA),” says Greg Bullock of TheraSpecs.

    “But who says you have to limit yourself? Creating internal linking paths that allow visitors to choose the content they access next—particularly where several of your blog posts or landing pages might be relevant—can be a winning approach for you and your audience.”

    “These thoughtfully-placed links enable you to better match your content with a specific user’s needs so that you can capture and retain more of them over time, whether they are in a transactional or information-gathering stage of the customer journey.” 

    “You may choose to display these internal links as multiple CTAs at the end of an article or as callout links scattered throughout your post after particularly applicable sections; you could also add them as related or additional reading.” 

    “In fact, I’ve personally seen these links (without any special markup) indexed as rich snippets in Google search results,” Bullock says.

    Include a Table of Contents

    “One effective internal linking trick for boosting your SEO efforts is creating a table of contents at the beginning of your longer posts that consists of anchor links,” says Trickle’s Chris Davis. “Each section should be an anchor link that takes users directly to that section of your post.” 

    “This is great because it can give you at least five or six internal links (which are great for boosting SEO anyway), and also makes it easier to find out which sections of your content are performing the best.” 

    “You can see which anchor links were clicked the most and then shift your focus to optimizing those sections even more to help your entire post rank higher.”

    Use Breadcrumbs

    “Breadcrumbs are insanely helpful,” says G2’s Alan Santillan. “They help your website display structure to both search engines and human users while accomplishing the internal linking structure in an automated fashion.” 

    “Just make sure not to add too many levels because then crawl depth for larger sites starts to become an issue.”

    Compose Enticing Anchor Text

    “Many SEOs and SEMs optimize their site aggressively for search engines, but I’ve found with internal linking the best results come from linking for humans,” says Jennifer Chen of Team Building NYC. “Write your copy and anchor text in such a way that visitors want to click on it, and you should see exceptional results.”

    Several other respondents agree:

    • “Make sure that your internal links are descriptive to help a user understand what they’re about to view or read. In return, you’ll see increased user engagement, lower bounce rates, and ideally, higher conversion rates.” (Jake Lane, Press Cleaners)
    • “Make sure the anchor text is relevant to where you’re linking your traffic too. You want to ensure your internal linking provides client usability and gets them interested in what comes next.” (William Chan, Inbound Law Marketing)

    “When I’m writing an article and I mention a related concept—but don’t want to spend time within the article explaining it—I’ll drop a line like ‘If you want to learn more about X, check out this other article,” Duncan Pacey says. “And I’ll always use the article title, not just ‘read this article.’” 

    “Why? ‘How to use PPC in an effective content marketing strategy’ is a better anchor than ‘this article’ in terms of SEO.”

    “If I don’t want to interrupt the flow of an article with a throwaway ‘more reading’ line, I’ll naturally weave the same thing into the paragraph so it’s obvious that clicking will yield more important info,” Pacey says.

    Link to the Content People Are Most Likely to Click

    “It’s very hard to keep people going down the chain of links, so it’s best to choose your most valuable and relevant content,” says Amanda Foushee of Marsden Marketing

    “For example, if we have both a blog post and a case study about the same subject, we’ll link to the case study since it serves as a better proof-point than a blog that speaks in generals.”

    Include Text in the Alt Element

    “When I make any link, I always include a title element and an alt element,” says Shawn DeWolfe of Shawn DeWolfe Consulting. “I will have them say similar—but different—things.”

    “By packing in text to associate with HREF, it gives search engines a chance to consider the context of the link. I also make sure that I don’t misrepresent the destination link.” 

    “If the page title is ‘WordPress Developers in Victoria,’ the title element may read ‘Victoria WordPress Developers,’ and the alt element may read ‘WordPress for Victoria.’ Both of those are similar to the destination page.”

    Check for Broken Links Regularly

    “If you’ve added internal links to hundreds of blog posts, it’s crucial to perform a link audit at least once a month,” says Muhammad Roohan of Resume Writers. “You can use Screaming Frog to identify any broken links that are linking to internal pages.”

    Blue Bamboo’s Liz Hughes agrees: “If you want to boost your SEO, you need to check that all of your internal links work. If you don’t resolve broken links, search engines are likely to put your website in the ‘uncrawlable’ category, which will affect your ranking. So for best results, put a link-audit on your monthly to-do list.”

    And Dan Young of Loud Digital recommends checking for links that are going to redirected pages: “Find broken internal links pointing to unimportant pages—or internal links pointing to redirected pages—and redirect them to a new page for a quick SEO win.”

    How to Use Internal Links to Boost Search Rankings

    “Effective internal link building requires a thoughtful and balanced approach that considers the following,” says Inflow’s Tory Gray.

    • “Understanding which pages need greater SEO support: growing links to this page should increase rankings for key terms that convert well.”
    • “Understanding which pages can share support most effectively: which pages have contextually relevant page equity to share via a link.”

    “Focus on page-two performers—those pages that are ranking on page two or three for their target keywords—wherein a little extra support via internal linking might be enough to push them onto page one,” Gray says.”

    Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina puts it another way: “Link from your high authority pages to your almost-high-ranking pages. You can find the high authority pages in Moz (or any SEO tool) and the almost-high-ranking pages in Google Analytics (Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages).”

    “This will pass ranking potential from the pages that have the most to the pages that need the most. It’s fast, effective, and free,” Crestodina says.

    Our other respondents offered two additional approaches.

    Factor in Backlinks

    “Factor backlinks in when looking at internal links,” says G2’s Kevin Indig. “Checking internal PageRank is great, but it’s not reflective of reality without backlinks.”

    “If you truly want to know which of your pages are the strongest ones, you need to combine both. It’s what I call TIPR (True Internal PageRank):”

    1. Pull backlinks
    2. Pull internal links
    3. Rank each URL for both metrics, and sort the list after the average value
    4. Look for patterns at the top and at the bottom of the list

    “If you find pages at the bottom of the list that are important for your business, add more internal links from pages at the top of the list.”

    Editor’s note: Pull your internal and external links reports into a single dashboard and compare top-performing pages at one glance by using SEO reporting software like Databox.

    Use SEMrush and Google Analytics

    “I use SEMrush and Google Analytics for internal linking,” says Dipen Visavadiya of Zestard. “Here’s the process:”

    1. “Identify the pages and keywords for which you want to build links. Use SEMrush and download all the existing ranking keywords and pages. Download only the keywords which are ranking between 6-25 and that have a search value of more than 50.”
    2. “Identify pages from where you can get a link for these related keywords and pages. For this, go to Google Analytics and download ‘Top 50 Organic Landing Pages.’ The duration should be six months.”
    3. “Now open each of these pages and manually look for keywords for which you want to build links—the keywords you found in step one.”
    4. “Update the links manually and cross-verify if it is working properly.”

    How Many Internal Links Should a Page Have?

    In a recent survey we conducted about blog post SEO, we asked marketers to weigh in on how many internal links a page should have. 51% of marketers said blog posts should include between 2-3 internal links, and 36% said to aim for 3-5 internal links:

    Ampjar’s Quincy Smith agrees that 2-3 is the right number to aim for: “Whenever we publish a piece of content, we have a checklist we go through, and one of the steps is to ensure that it includes 2-3 links to other internal content, as well as 2-3 links from other content pointing to it.” 

    But Willie Jiang of SolarMetric recommends 2-3 times that amount: “For the sites that I helped grew organic traffic by 10 times in a year, we added around 8-10 internal links per blog post.”

    Others recommend a more measured approach.

    “Put your internal links where it makes sense,” says Nathan Piccini of Data Science Dojo. “If you add too many internal links—especially at the beginning of your post—visitors may think your site is spammy.”

    LeadCrunch’s Emma Valentiner agrees: “Don’t throw in links just because you need to include X number of links. Add links that make sense in context. Aim to provide your users with the best experience. If an internal link doesn’t help them get closer to meeting their goals, then it doesn’t have much value for them.”

    “There is no magic number of links to include, so use your best judgment,” says Katie White of Audi Bellevue. “Ask yourself questions like, ‘Does this look too spammy?’ ‘Are these internal links relevant?’ ‘Does the placement make sense to add a link here?’ You simply cannot add a link just for the sake of adding a link!”

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    Jessica Greene

    writes about marketing, business, and technology for B2B SaaS companies. A former writing instructor and corporate marketer, she uses her subject-matter expertise and desire to educate others as motivation for developing actionable, in-depth, user-focused content.

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