Leverage Internal Links To Improve Your Site’s Search Engine Optimization

Learn how internal links affect SEO and how they help people and search engines discover more of your content and understand what your site is about.

strong connecting dots for internal linking

Unlike external links, which link away from your website to another website, internal links connect different pieces of content and URLs on the same domain. Internal links are how visitors and search engines travel through your website and discover more of your content.

Basic examples of internal links include:

  • Navigation Links: Navigation links, most often found in the header of a website, link to the most important pages on the same website. These internal links help visitors access critical content and find information quickly.
  • Footer Links: Many website footers are viewed as an afterthought and contain nothing more than social media links and copyright information. The footer, however, is valuable digital real estate that can be used to help direct visitors to the content they’re looking for. Footer links appear on nearly every page of a website, which means it’s a great place to link to important content — especially pages that may not belong in the header navigation but are still very important.
  • Contextual Links: Contextual links are links found within the body copy of a web page or post. Including links in your copy to related pages/posts on your site improves user experience by meeting visitors where they’re at with easy access to more information.

According to Google, “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 once Google indexes your site and knows it exists, internal links can help the search engine discover and index new pages added to your site.

When internal links are used correctly, they signal that the current page is related to the linked page. This helps search engines better understand your website and how to rank your content. It also helps connect visitors with more valuable information, which increases the average time-on-site per visitor.

Internal links also can send page authority (also known as PageRank) to important pages. If your site has a breadth of quality content that is related to a specific topic and linked together, it can reinforce expertise and build site authority. This increases your chances of showing up in search engine results page listings and getting found online.

Tips For Successfully Leveraging Internal Links For SEO

When talking about search engine optimization (SEO), most conversations focus on building backlinks or inbound links, but external links and internal links also play an important role in the overall quality of your site, its user experience, and its search engine rankings. If you’re focusing on organic SEO, internal links need to be a part of your SEO strategy.

Listed below are tips to help you use internal links to help search engines and people find more of your content, improve user experience, keep people on your site longer, and guide visitors to a conversion.

Use Smart Anchor Text

Anchor text refers to the visible words that hyperlinks display when linking to another location on the web — it’s what people see and read when they view a link on a web page.

Anchor text — also called link text, a link title, and a link label — communicates what the page you’re linking to is about. The better your anchor text, the easier it is for search engines and people to understand the context of the page. Google recommends that the anchor text is useful, descriptive, and relevant.

Moz also shares that there are a few different types of anchor text:

  • Exact-match anchor text matches the primary keyword for the page it links to. Example: Using “freelance business” as the text linking to a page about freelance business.
  • Partial-match anchor text is a variation of the keyword for the page it links to. Example: Using “freelance business contracts” as the text linking to a page about freelance business.
  • Branded anchor text uses a brand name as the text for the link. Example: Using “Jennifer Bourn” to link to a page or post on this site.
  • Naked anchor text uses the actual URL, like https://jenniferbourn.com, as the text for the link rather than words.
  • Generic anchor text refers to links that use a generic word or phase like “Click Here” or “Learn More.”
  • Images have anchor text too! If an image is linked, Google uses the Alt text assigned to the image as the anchor text.

Don’t Rely On Your Navigation Menu Alone

Links are like roads on a map — the more interconnected roads there are, the easier it is to get around. People and search engines use links to travel through websites and across the internet, so help them out and give them more than one way to reach a page.

Rather than relying on your website’s primary navigation menu to do all of the work, include contextual links in the body copy of your pages to the same pages displayed in your navigation — and be sure to use keyword-rich anchor text.

The goal is to give visitors lots of opportunities to discover more of your content and make it easy for them to travel through your site. This is why you’ll often see websites duplicate the primary navigation menu in the footer of the website. When you do that, visitors don’t have to scroll back to the top of the page just to visit another page.

Use New Blog Posts To Shine A Light On Old Blog Posts

If you’ve been blogging regularly for a while, you have built up an archive of blog posts — blogging just once a week for a year, adds 52 new blog posts and indexable URLs to your website. The problem is that as new posts are published, older posts get buried in your archives. This often means valuable, evergreen posts that are just as relevant and useful today as they were the day you published them are getting harder to find.

The easiest way to keep your “oldies but goodies” still visible and easily accessible is to link to them with keyword-rich anchor text in the new blog posts published. These internal links signal to search engines that the old content is still relevant and help people continue to interact with the older blog posts.

Drop A Link In That Author Box

If you’re the spokesperson for your brand or you’re actively building your personal brand, people may search for you by your name and not your business name. Including an author box or author bio with each blog post can help more people find the content you have created. Including an internal link to your about page in your author bio, and using your name as the anchor text, can help ensure that when someone searches your name, they find your about page and content you’ve created.

Give People More Of What They Like

When you share a new blog post on LinkedIn, people in your network will see it in their feed, and if they’re interested in the topic, they’ll click the inbound link and visit your site to check it out. Once they reach your site, the goal needs to be to keep them on your site for as long as possible. The longer a visitor stays, the more likely it is that they will subscribe, sign up, enroll, register, click, join, contact, or buy.

The fact that they clicked the inbound link and are checking out your post tells you that they’re interested in the subject matter of the post. At this point, it’s safe to assume they’ll also be interested in other content you have created on the same topic. So add internal links throughout your post to related, relevant, helpful content, and of course, use descriptive link text.

Match Link Text To The Destination Page

When considering the anchor text for a link, relevancy matters. Make sure the keyword or phrase used for the link text is directly related to the topic of the linked page. The text you use for a link sets expectations with visitors about what they’ll find when they click the link. Skip icky bait-and-switch tactics and keep your promise by providing what visitors expect to find.

It can be tempting to fill your blog posts with exact match keywords and adjust the way you naturally write to squeeze in one more keyphrase. But don’t do it. Search engines aren’t stupid and neither are people. They both know what you’re doing.

What works in your favor is that search engines reward sites for the same things people want:

  • High-quality content centered around a specific topic: It’s better to deep on a subject than go wide and cover lots of different subjects. Again, a plethora of interlinked, related content helps establish expertise and brand authority for your site.
  • Easy to read, natural language: I’m not a robot and you’re not a robot, so when speaking or writing about a topic, we naturally reference that topic in a variety of ways, using different combinations of words and different phrases. That’s what Google wants from your content!

If every single link to a page, uses the exact same link text, it doesn’t sound or feel natural; it feels robotic, unnatural, and architected specifically for search engines. That diminishes the user experience, which can in turn, negatively affect search engine rankings.

When adding internal links and crafting the anchor text, it’s okay to use exact match and partial match link text, as long as you also mix it up and use whatever variations of those that naturally present themselves in your content.

The Bottom Line On Internal Links

A search engine’s main goal is to provide the best, most relevant search results. With that in mind, creating an exceptional user experience and helping people find the information they need quickly and easily will get you farther than trying to game the system.

When crafting content and links, stick with natural helpful language and consider search intent — the why behind a search someone performs.

When you understand why someone performs a search query, what they are trying to do, what they need help with, or what information they are trying to find, you can create content that matches their intent and use contextual internal links with strategic anchor text to help them find exactly what they are searching for.