Internal linking why and how

Internal linking for SEO
Why and how

Internal linking for SEO: why and how

May 11th, 2017 – 32 Comments

Before your content can rank, it needs links. Google finds your posts and pages best when they’re linked to from somewhere on the web. Internal links also connect your content and give Google an idea of the structure of your website. They can establish hierarchy on your site, which enables you to give the most important pages and posts more link value than other, less valuable, pages. So using the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO!

Internal links vs external links

Every website consists of internal and external links. Internal links connect pages and posts on your own website and external links connect your page to other websites. In this post, we’ll focus on internal links and what they mean for SEO. If you want to get more external links pointing to your site, see our posts on link building.

Why are links important to Google?

Googles uses links to find out what content on your site is related and what the value of that content is.

Relationships between content

Google crawls websites by following links, internal and external, using a bot called Google bot. This bot arrives at the homepage of a website, starts to render the page and follows the first link. By following links Google determines the relationship between the various pages, posts and other content. This way Google finds out which pages on your site cover similar subject matter.

In the sidebar of this post, for example, you’ll see links to the category ‘Content SEO’ and to the ‘Internal linking’ and ‘Site structure’ tags. We make sure Google understands that the content on those pages is related to the content of this post by adding these links.

Link value

In addition to understanding the relationship between content, Google divides link value between all links on a website. Often, the homepage of a website has the greatest link value because it has the most backlinks. This link value will be shared between all the links found on that homepage. Link value passed to a following page will be divided between the links on that page, and so on.

Therefore, your newest blog posts will get more link value if you link to them from the homepage, instead of only on the category page. And Google will find new posts quicker if they’re linked to from the homepage.

If you understand that links pass link value on, you’ll understand that more links to a post mean more value. Because Google deems a page that gets lots of valuable links as more important, you’ll increase the chance of that page ranking. 

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Setting up an internal linking strategy

It’s crucial for your SEO to evaluate and improve internal linking strategy on a regular basis. By adding the right internal links you make sure Google understands the relevance of pages, the relationship between pages and the value of pages.

The ideal structure

We always advise website owners to imagine their website to be a pyramid with the most important content on top. We call those articles cornerstone content. There should be lots of links to that most essential content from topically-related pages in the pyramid, which passes most link value on to those pages. However, you should also link from those top pages to subpages about related topics. Linking internally to related content shows Google what pages hold information about similar topics.

The ideal site looks like a pyramid

Linking your cornerstone content: an example

On our website we have a cornerstone content article called ‘The ultimate guide to keyword research’. We want this post to rank for all related search queries about [keyword research] in Google search results. By adding internal links from other relevant articles, such as ‘How to start with keyword research’ and ‘7 keyword research mistakes to avoid‘ to the main article, Google will understand that the cornerstone content article contains most information about this particular keyword. So ultimately, Google will rank the cornerstone content above other, smaller posts about keyword research.

Don’t forget to link from the top too

Besides linking from topically related posts and pages, it’s possible to make your cornerstone content more authoritative by adding links to it from the homepage or the top navigation. This will give the most important posts or pages a lot of link value and makes them stronger in Google’s eyes.

Linking to taxonomies

If you run a blog it could be beneficial to add internal links to the taxonomies the post belongs to. Adding links to the category and tags helps Google to understand the structure of your blog and helps visitors to more easily navigate to related posts. At Yoast we always link to the matching categories and tags in the sidebar of each post:

taxonomies for internal linking

Linking to taxonomies helps Google and users to understand your site

Linking to related posts

We’ve already seen that linking to related posts helps Google to understand your site structure, but it also helps to link to one or more related posts at the end of your article. There are many available plugins and modules that add complete related posts sections to your posts. If you use one we recommend testing whether the related posts are actually the best related posts. If you’re not sure, linking to posts manually (or using our internal linking tool – more on that later) is probably best. That’s what we do on Yoast.com – we select a related post manually (with a little help from Yoast SEO Premium) and place a link to that post at the bottom of the article:

linking to related posts below your article

On yoast.com we manually add a link to a related post at the end of an article.

Michiel explains this fully in this post about linking to related posts.

Linking to popular or recent posts

The last option to mention is creating internal links to the most popular or newest posts on your website. This section could be added to the sidebar of your blog or the footer of your website to show it on all pages and posts.

Creating a popular or recent posts section benefits you because link value passes to the linked posts from many different pages and posts. Also, the posts will be easier for visitors to access, which will increase traffic – and more traffic is a positive sign to Google too.

More on internal links

No-follow links

You also probably have links that aren’t important for SEO on your website. If you have a login link for your clients on the homepage, for example, you don’t want to leak link value to your login page – that page doesn’t need to rank high in the search results.

You used to be able to prevent losing link value to unimportant links by giving them a ‘no-follow’ tag. A ‘no-follow’ tag asks Google not to follow the link: so no link value is lost. Now you might think: “I’m going to ‘no-follow’ less important links to give the most important links more link value.” While this worked in the past, Google has become smarter. Now it seems that the link value for the whole page completely disappears when you add a ‘no-follow’ tag to a link on it. Therefore it makes more sense to have fewer links on a page instead of ‘no-following’ some of the links.

Please note that adding a ‘no-follow’ tag doesn’t mean that those target pages can’t be found in Google’s search results. If you don’t want pages or posts to show up in the search results you should give them a ‘no-index’ tag as well. The ‘no-index’ tag means that Google shouldn’t render the page and shouldn’t give the content a place in the Google index to show up in the search results.

Anchor texts

Once you have decided which links should be on a page and which pages should get link value, it’s important to use the right anchor text. The anchor text is the clickable text that visitors see. For example, the anchor text of the two internal links in the example below are ‘link schemes’ and ‘paid links’:

Anchor texts

You can see the anchor text containing the link in this image.

 

If you over-optimize anchor text you might hurt your website. And by over-optimizing, we mean keyword stuffing. Previously, you could give all anchor texts the same keyword and Google made your website rank higher for that keyword. Nowadays, Google is smart enough to understand that the content around the anchor text says more about the relevancy of a keyword than the anchor text itself. So make sure the anchor text looks natural in your copy: it’s fine to use keywords but don’t add the exact same keywords to each and every one of your anchor texts. 

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Easy internal linking with Yoast SEO Premium

Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin helps improve your internal link structure with its internal linking suggestion tool which helps you to find related posts to link to. When you’re writing a post, you can immediately link to a related post by dragging the link into the editor. The plugin also includes an option to mark your most important articles as cornerstone content, which allows the suggestion tool to show those cornerstone content articles at the top of the list, so you’ll never forget to link to them!

In the free version of Yoast SEO, you’ll also find a handy tool called the text link counter. This tool counts the internal links in a post and the internal links pointing to a post. This visualizes which posts could use a few more links or which ones should receive more links. This will all help you work purposely on your site structure.

Go link your content

Without links, your content can’t rank! With a solid internal linking strategy, you can show which content is related and which of your articles are most informative and valuable. If you follow the guidelines in this post both Google and your users will understand your site better, which will in turn increase your chance of ranking.

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »


32 Responses to Internal linking for SEO: why and how

  1. Maria
    By Maria on 25 May, 2017

    Congratulations, your articles are great, thank you.

  2. Thomas
    By Thomas on 21 May, 2017

    Great article as always. I have purchased several of your courses including the Content SEO Ebook and Site Structure Training. Great material.

    I have always thought most sites don’t spend near enough time on internal linking. For some reason, the importance of relevance and user experience beyond the navigation bar is ignored.

    I did a study of how Wordstream targeted the keyword “Link Building” using internal links. You can find the study here: https://structuredseo.com/why-is-internal-linking-important/.

    What I found to be significant is that they went beyond just internal linking. They seemed to systematically target the keyword using on-page SEO factors such as anchor text, placement of the link, keyword in URL, etc.

    In your material, I haven’t seen any suggestions regarding on-page SEO playing an import role. I was wondering if you don’t place a lot of significance in the on-page SEO or if you figured that is a given.

    Thanks again for all the great material you share.

  3. Myseo
    By Myseo on 17 May, 2017

    Hi,
    Thanks for the great post!
    What do you think about silo structure and present-day seo? Is it still working in 2017? Can you please share your experience.
    Thanks!

  4. Blogger Dashboard
    By Blogger Dashboard on 17 May, 2017

    wow It is a amazing content.

  5. seo services
    By seo services on 16 May, 2017

    Very well explained, as a seo executive I know how important it is to have internal links. Thanks for explaining how to use internal links to get most of them.

  6. AFL Sports News
    By AFL Sports News on 16 May, 2017

    This blog is realy helpful..

  7. roz
    By roz on 15 May, 2017

    so useful for me thank you .

  8. Chloe Johnson
    By Chloe Johnson on 15 May, 2017

    I must admit, I haven’t had a clue about most of these facts. You really helped me clear the ‘fog’ surrounding the mystical nofollow tag.

    Great article,
    Regards

  9. Sam
    By Sam on 15 May, 2017

    This amazing article helped clear all my doubts about how google interprets internal linking. Thanks for explaining everything in simple words. It was very helpful.

  10. Will Dolphin
    By Will Dolphin on 15 May, 2017

    Brilliant article and very helpful. Thank you.

  11. Igor Buyseech - SEOPRO.si
    By Igor Buyseech - SEOPRO.si on 14 May, 2017

    Hey there,
    I am wondering if there is such a thing as too many inner links? Is there a ratio we should be aware of (1 link per 200 words etc.) or is it strictly a logical inner linking play?

    Thanks in advance.

    Igor

    • Meike Hendriks
      By Meike Hendriks on 15 May, 2017

      Hi Igor,

      In this Ask Yoast: https://yoast.com/ask-yoast-internal-links/ Joost explains that there’s no fixed number of internal links that you should add to your website. If the links are relevant, add them. Make sure all links look natural on your pages.

  12. Rahul Digital
    By Rahul Digital on 14 May, 2017

    This is great. I think I need to dig through all your posts and then go work on my site. ?

  13. Fathi Arfaoui
    By Fathi Arfaoui on 14 May, 2017

    Well explained Meike, there is one more tip for beginners, using an automatic internal liking plugin or tool can hurt the site or may work but with some risk. So, adding the links manually is better and user-friendly.
    For Yoast premium, the internal link suggestion tool showed wrong posts many times, even irrelevant pages like “contact us”, “terms of service” or privacy pages. So, it can work much better if your team adds relevance by category. That way, it works better. Good Luck.

    • Meike Hendriks
      By Meike Hendriks on 15 May, 2017

      Hi Fathi,

      Thank you for your comment. We will definitely take your feedback into consideration. If you face such problems again in the future you can always contact our support team for help.

  14. Doug Smith
    By Doug Smith on 13 May, 2017

    Internal linking is certainly an area where many websites could do better. Very helpful read – thanks for sharing!

  15. shashi
    By shashi on 13 May, 2017

    this article clear my doubt of no-follow link . Really a nice and informatic article.

  16. Swapnil Kharche
    By Swapnil Kharche on 13 May, 2017

    The best practice is to link to relevant pages within your site and using text that best describes the linked page.

  17. Tec Crowd
    By Tec Crowd on 13 May, 2017

    Internal Linking is very importance for seo. Good and helpful article. Thank you so much.

  18. Mourin
    By Mourin on 13 May, 2017

    Internal Linking can have that much importance, it was out of my idea. I will surely apply those rules while writing blog. Thank you Meike Hendriks…

  19. Lelo
    By Lelo on 13 May, 2017

    Goed artikel, weer veel wijzer geworden. Bedankt!

  20. Jasper Verelst
    By Jasper Verelst on 13 May, 2017

    Useful post, thanks!

  21. Open Mind
    By Open Mind on 12 May, 2017

    Hey yoast team,
    I’m lost and i’ll be glad if you can give me a helping hand here.

    How can I make a link do follow or no follow. cause the yoast plugin on my blog automatically no follows every link on a page.

    Any help from you will be deeply appreciated

    • Meike Hendriks
      By Meike Hendriks on 15 May, 2017

      Hi,

      If you have the Yoast SEO Premium plugin and there are problems with your internal links, you can contact our support team for help.

      If you want a certain page or post to have a no follow tag, you can change the meta robots in the advanced tab below the content of a post or page. Within this KB article, you can find a screenshot of this advanced tab: https://kb.yoast.com/kb/dont-see-index-follow-in-meta-robots-tag/.

  22. Sup
    By Sup on 12 May, 2017

    My premuim is working very well : boost my ranking !

  23. David
    By David on 12 May, 2017

    A good read, but unfortunately the Anchor text image doesn’t load :(

  24. Lrers
    By Lrers on 12 May, 2017

    Amazing guide to internal link and thanks for sharing.

  25. Pamela Alvarez
    By Pamela Alvarez on 12 May, 2017

    This article actually helped me a lot because I wasn’t sure of how to go about internal linking for SEO on my site. So thank you! ^^

  26. John Chartrand
    By John Chartrand on 11 May, 2017

    This article wasn’t written very well, no examples. I’m now confused about internal links on my homepage. I’m now afraid to use them.

    As a technical writer myself, it’s important to have someone who doesn’t know anything about what your writing about, proof the article and have that person go through the instructions.

    • Meike Hendriks
      By Meike Hendriks on 12 May, 2017

      Hi John,

      Thank you for your comment! We’ve added some more examples to the post so it will probably be clearer for you now.

      Regarding your note about using internal links on the homepage, you don’t have to be afraid using them. Make sure the links look natural and you link the most important content of your website. Doing this, nothing can go wrong:)

  27. Abdul
    By Abdul on 11 May, 2017

    Excellent..

    I used this method since years ago.

  28. Erika Bentley
    By Erika Bentley on 11 May, 2017

    Great article! I just started my internal linking on all posts and have seen better results.


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