Internal linking for SEO: Why and how?

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 a hierarchy on your site, allowing 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!

Table of contents

Did you get a red bullet for internal links in Yoast SEO? Jump straight ahead and read how this assessment works in Yoast SEO and how to improve your internal linking.

An internal link is any link from one page on your website to another page on your website. Both your users and search engines use links to find content on your website. Your users use links to navigate through your site and to find the content they want to find. Search engines also use links to navigate your site. They won’t find a page if there are no links to it.

There are several types of internal links. In addition to links on your homepage, menu, post feed, etc, you can also add links within your content. We call those contextual links. Contextual links point your users to interesting and related content. Moreover, they allow search engines to find out what content on your site is related and to determine the value of that content. The more links an important page receives, the more important it will seem to search engines. Therefore, good internal links are crucial to 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 pages to other websites. In this post, we 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.

Internal linking is an important factor for Google and other search engines. But why? And where do you start?

As Marieke explains in the video, Google follows links to discover content on websites and to rank this content in the search results. If a post or page gets a lot of links this is a signal to Google that it’s an important or high-value article. This counts for internal as well as external links.

Internal linking is something you control as a site owner. With the right internal links, you’ll guide your visitors and Google to your most important pages. Our internal linking tool can help you by suggesting related posts to link to!

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 can work out the relationship between the various pages, posts and other content. This way Google finds out which pages on your site cover similar subject matter.

On top of this post, for example, you’ll see links to the ‘Content SEO’, ‘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 web page. Often, the homepage of a website has the greatest link value because it has the most backlinks. That link value will be shared between all the links found on that homepage. The link value passed to the 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.

When you get the concept that links pass their 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. 

Setting up an internal linking strategy

It’s crucial for your site’s 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.

To set up your internal linking strategy, there are several things to take into account. How you go about it exactly, of course, depends on your site and your goals, but the following steps are a good rule of thumb.

1. Determine the ideal structure for your site

We always advise website owners to imagine their website as a pyramid. On top of it is your homepage, below that there are some sections or categories, and further down there are individual posts and pages (possibly with subcategories in between).

ideal site structure pyramid

If you do it well, your website’s menu should reflect this structure. In our Ultimate guide to site structure you can read how to create the best site structure for your site.

2. Decide what your most important content is

Then, you should determine what your most important content is. If you’re not sure, please read our article on cornerstone content. In short, it’s your best and most complete content; it’s about the core of your business. It’s the content you want people to find when they’re searching for a topics or products that you specialize in.

Because you want to let Google know that this is your most essential content, you need to add many links to it. There are various spots from where you can link to your cornerstone content. Here, we’ll give the most common options, from your post’s copy to your navigation.

3. Add contextual links

When you’ve written various articles about a certain topic you should link them with each other. This will show Google – and users! – that those articles are topically related. You can link directly from sentences in your copy or add links at the end of your post.

Moreover, you want to show Google which of those articles is your cornerstone: your most complete article on this topic. To do so, you have to add a link to the cornerstone in all of the articles on this topic. And don’t forget to link back from the cornerstone to the individual posts.

Contextual linking: an example

On our blog, there’s 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.

So we’ve added links from other relevant articles, such as ‘7 keyword research mistakes to avoid‘, ‘ What is keyword research‘ or ‘Focus on long tail keywords‘ to the main article. And we link back from the main article to these posts. In doing so, Google will understand that the ultimate guide contains most information about [keyword research]. So in the end, Google will rank the ultimate guide above the other, shorter posts about keyword research.

4. Link hierarchical pages

If you have hierarchical pages on your website, link parent pages to its child pages and vice versa. Also, don’t forget to link sibling pages to each other. On a well-organised site these pages should be related and linking them like this will make perfect sense.

Read all about linking parent and child pages for SEO.

5. Consider adding a related post section

There are many plugins and modules that add complete related posts sections to your posts. If you use one, we recommend testing whether the related posts actually are related posts. If you’re not sure, linking to posts manually is probably best. That’s what we do on Yoast.com – we select a related post manually (or with a little help from our internal linking tool – more on that later) and place a link to that post at the bottom of the article.

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

6. Try adding navigational links

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. You should do this with the posts and pages that are most important to your business. This will give these posts or pages a lot of link value and makes them stronger in Google’s eyes.

7. Add links to your taxonomies

Taxonomies, like categories and tags, help you organize your site and help users and Google to understand what your content is about. If you have 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.

8. Consider adding links to popular or recent posts

The last option to mention is creating internal links to the most popular or newest posts on your website. Preferably create these sections in the sidebar or the footer of your website to have them appear on all pages and posts.

As link value passes to these most popular/recent posts from many different pages and posts they really get a boost. Besides that, the posts will be easier for visitors to access, which will increase traffic – and more traffic is a positive sign to Google.

Nofollow 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 nofollow tag. A nofollow tag asks Google not to follow the link: so no link value is lost. Now you might think: “I’m going to nofollow 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 those nofollow links doesn’t automatically flow to the other links on the page. The nofollow link will be counted as a link and the link value for that link will be lost. Therefore it makes more sense to have fewer links on a page instead of nofollowing some of the links.

Note that adding a nofollow 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 noindex tag as well. The noindex 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.

Read more: Why noindex a page or nofollow a link? »

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 every link’s anchor text. 

Keep reading: The context of internal links »

Internal linking in Yoast SEO

The free version of Yoast SEO includes several checks and features to help you improve your internal linking.

On a post level, the Yoast plugin helps make sure you give internal links some thought. In the plugin’s metabox, the internal link assessment of Yoast SEO checks whether you’ve created links to other pages on your own website in your text. It also checks if these links are followed or nofollowed.

Internal link check

To get a green bullet for this check, add contextual internal links to relevant content on your site.

Text link counter

If you have Yoast SEO installed, you’ll also get a handy tool in your post overview, 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 should receive more links. This will all help you work purposely on your site structure.

Easy internal linking with Yoast SEO Premium

Related posts suggestions

Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin makes it much easier to 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. You’ll see the suggestions in the Yoast SEO sidebar on the right-hand side of your screen:

Child and sibling block

In the WordPress block editor, you can also easily link child and sibling pages with Yoast SEO premium. If you want to make sure you link all child and sibling pages, just select the sibling or subpages block, add it to your post, and you’re done. Of course, this only works for hierarchical post types.

Orphaned content filter

To make it even easier to find posts that aren’t linked to, Yoast SEO Premium has the orphaned content filter. This feature allows you to see which posts and pages aren’t linked to at all, by other posts and pages on your website. Using the filter, finding important posts that need more inbound internal links is a piece of cake!

Did you know you can get a monthly or yearly subscription to all Yoast SEO plugins and courses? This way you can get the internal linking tool and access to the site structure training, for as long as you need. Learn more about the best deal for Yoast fans.

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 on: Site structure: the ultimate guide »


30 Responses to Internal linking for SEO: Why and how?

  1. Leticia Alleyne
    Leticia Alleyne  • 1 month ago

    Thanks for such a detailed article on internal links. I did not understand the rationale and importance of them before but you have truly explained everything in a detailed manner where I understand how important they are.

  2. Theresa
    Theresa  • 1 month ago

    I’m struggling to activate the internal linking feature on Yoast SEO Premium. I keep getting a “Something went wrong while calculating the internal linking suggestions of your site. Please try again later” error.

    Thoughts?

  3. Aman
    Aman  • 1 month ago

    This is very useful. I think that link building is very important if anyone wants to promote their business online, and everyone wants to rank on search engines and if you want to rank then link building is very helpful.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 1 month ago

      Hi Aman! Thanks for your comment :) if you want to read more on outbound links, this article might be interesting: https://yoast.com/outbound-links/

  4. Will Sanio
    Will Sanio  • 1 month ago

    Re: Linking Orphaned pages & what about an index page ?

    I have a significant # of orphaned pages. Using the described linking strategy, I could end up linking some orphaned pages, only to each other.
    Even though they would then be linked, won’t many still really be not improved in that they will still hardly be “seen” by the spiders? Kind of like 2 linked tunnels inside an ant hill that still can’t be gotten to, or seen from the outside ??

    Would it be better to also add links to orphaned pages from internal pages that have had incoming links of their own for a while.

    Also, would it be valuable, or detrimental to creating a separate A-Z index page of internal links to viable internal pages (or all pages), as a stand alone page & name it, for example: “Product Index page” ?

    Possibly even on the navigation top section ? After all, books, manuals, magazines have indexes…….and evidently the sitemap doesn’t help this enough……..?

    Why, wouldn’t that complement and further organize an organic but scattered linking approach?

    Your idea of the homepage having the most recent 4 articles seems to solve this, but I am still curious about why I don’t recall reading much about having an index / glossary page to help the link issue.

    If the engines would look down on this, please indicate so. Thank you!!!

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 1 month ago

      Hi there, Will! And thanks for your questions :)

      I think it’s important to keep in mind that your site should be optimized for visitors, not just for the search engines. So, with internal linking try to do so in a way that feels natural (contextual) in your content and for the reader. You will probably find that a lot of your orphaned content will naturally be linked to from other articles on your site!

      But at the risk of repeating myself, keep in mind that search engines are getting smarter and want you to optimize your site for visitors. And a navigation menu with all your products in it (assuming you have more than 3) is probably not the best experience for site visitors. To really get an idea of how to create a great site structure, both for users and the search engines I recommend reading this article:
      https://yoast.com/site-structure-the-ultimate-guide/

      Good luck!

  5. Dipika
    Dipika  • 2 months ago

    Great tips for building internal links on the website. Thanks for this.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      You’re very welcome!

  6. Malcolm O'Reilly
    Malcolm O'Reilly  • 2 months ago

    I’m trying to decide between linking to child pages within the text body and using the Yoast Child Pages block. Is there much difference in terms of SEO, or is it all down to user experience? I presume it would be a bad idea to use both for the same links in one article…

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      Hi there, Malcolm! Thanks for your question. This definitely comes down to user experience, so I would recommend deciding this while you’re (re)writing your post! Yes, the Child Pages block is an easy way to link internally and makes navigating your site easier for users and Google, but contextual links can do the same. It just depends on what fits :)

      And using the Child Page block doesn’t mean you can’t add any contextual links, just make sure not to overdo it. Keep an eye on whether your content still feels readable for your visitors!

  7. manviii
    manviii  • 2 months ago

    This turns out to be helpful. Yoast SEO plugin is amazing too. Gosh! I missed out on something important already.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      Hi Manvii, thanks for your kind words :) And don’t worry, it’s never too late to start linking internally to boost your site structure. Good luck!

  8. Vinod P J
    Vinod P J  • 2 months ago

    Thanks for this article! I am going to add contextual links to my website right away.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      Awesome Vinod! Good luck :)

  9. Reza
    Reza  • 2 months ago

    how many internal links should use in one page ?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      Hi Reza! To be honest, there isn’t one set number of internal links you should use. I think a good rule of thumb here is making sure you use them in a way that is useful for your site visitors. So for one article, this might mean using no more than two internal links, but for another, this could mean that you have a lot more internal pages to link to!

  10. Zola
    Zola  • 2 months ago

    This is very useful. I didn’t notice I was missing out on some important steps and keys to properly link my content. I will go ahead and take this into account when auditing my posts link structure. Thanks for sharing this thorough guide.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      You’re very welcome, Zola! We’re glad you find it useful :)

  11. jonathan chartrand
    jonathan chartrand  • 2 months ago

    Poorly written, confusing. She talks about linking to posts from the homepage. My God that could put hundreds or thousands of links on the homepage. Talk about clutter.
    Yoast needs writers, people who can communicate information to the ordinary business person, not someone to communicate to other SEO experts where other experts can figure it out.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      Hi Jonathan, sorry to hear that you found this article confusing. That’s definitely not our intention, so we’ll keep your feedback in mind.

      In regards to linking from your homepage: you’re right that you should not do this with every article, as this will become too much very quickly. That’s why we advise to link to your most important articles from the homepage or top navigation. And to your latest posts, but this can be done in a way that the homepage shows the latest posts (not all of them). To give an example, on our own home page we show our latest 4 blog posts, which are updated automatically: https://yoast.com/

  12. Jaime
    Jaime  • 2 months ago

    Me encantó este artículo. Muy didáctico y creo que completo. Hay mucho por aprender. Gracias.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      De nada, Jaime :)

  13. Aquinde
    Aquinde  • 2 months ago

    Very thorough and understandable post on internal linking. Thanks.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      Thank you, Aquinde! :)

  14. Illia Kyselov
    Illia Kyselov  • 2 months ago

    I have noticed that internal and external links work very well. As you have written in the advice at the end of the article. When I put 3-5 links to relevant articles, this page ranks better))

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      That’s great to hear, Illia! Keep up the good work :)

  15. Vinod Jose
    Vinod Jose  • 2 months ago

    Nice post-Meike, Do internal links from the footer carry any SEO weight?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 2 months ago

      Hi Vinod! As they are internal links, footer links can help users and Google navigate your site. But we believe that links embedded in a meaningful context will help rank your site more than links in your footer. You can read more about contextual links here: https://yoast.com/the-context-of-internal-links/

      • nadia
        nadia  • 1 month ago

        bagus artikelnya, alangkah baiknya lagi ditambahkan tutorial step by step untuk melakukan internal linking tersebut. terimakasih

        • Camille Cunningham
          Camille Cunningham  • 1 month ago

          Hi Nadia, there are different ways to add internal links to your site: adding them to your menu, using tags and categories, or linking to your latest posts from your homepage.

          But if you’re talking about adding contextual links in your content, which means linking to another page within this text, this article might be able to help you out: https://yoast.com/what-is-anchor-text/