Internal Linking Strategies to Improve Rankings

Written By Fraser McCulloch

Traditional marketer specialising in keyword research, SEO content plans, and content briefs. Has-been Scottish golfer. 

This is your guide to SEO internal link strategies to help you improve your organic rankings and guide users to other important pages.

What is an internal link?

An internal link is where you link from one page to another on the same website.

Navigational links, breadcrumb trail links and body copy links are the 3 main types of internal links.

What are the benefits of internal links?

Internal links are similar to signposts that direct visitors to different parts of a website.

For example, when I visit nike.com, there are internal links to the men’s and women’s sections in the main navigation.

I see links to the men’s section’s main product categories and subcategories.

There’s also breadcrumb navigation so I can see exactly where I am on the website.

On each product page, related products have internal text links to other products.

In addition to guiding and directing users through a website, internal links are also helpful for SEO purposes.

If you publish a brand new article and no other page is linked to it, it is harder for Google to find and crawl your page.

Look at Nike.com; they have links to the men’s and women’s collections on every website page because those pages are really important.

However, they regularly change the featured products shown on the home page as they are seasonal and only crucial at certain times of the year.

Placing internal links on specific pages with carefully chosen anchor text can boost your keyword rankings on the search engines.

Internal links spread link juice.

Typically your home page attracts the most backlinks and has the most link authority.

Press articles, citations, directories or even social websites will link to your home page.

This gives the home page lots of link juice.

Link juice runs from internal links on the home page to, for example, products or services pages.

Another example of link juice.

Say you have a page about statistics in your industry, like a salary guide, and it attracts backlinks from other websites in your industry.

If you link your stats page to specific pages or keywords you want to rank higher, you can pass link juice from the stats page to these other pages, boosting that page’s keyword rankings.

Internal links can increase the time spent on a website

Halfway down this checklist page is an internal link to a page with more detailed information about the item.

The link to this other page can help increase visitors’ time on my website by learning more about this related subject.

Internal link vs backlink vs outbound link

An internal link is from one page to another page on the same website.

An outbound link is where there is a link from one website to another website.

And a backlink is where another website links “back” to your website.

Avoid orphan pages

Orphan pages are pages with no parents; or where no other pages link to this page.

Anytime you write and publish a new article, you run the risk of creating an orphan page.

To avoid this situation, after you’ve published the page, type the following search operator into Google :

site:domain.com keyword your new page is targeting

e.g., site:platonik.co.uk internal links

Google will then bold text on pages that you could and should link from to this page.

To retrospectively find orphan pages go into the links report within Google Search Console and sort by descending order; these are your orphan pages.

Internal link structure

As I mentioned above, the 3 main types of internal links are navigational links, breadcrumb trail links and body copy links.

Navigation links

You can have an internal linking structure with navigational links at the pages’ top, bottom, or sidebar.

Typically these are sitewide links, and I’d recommend you keep those links to a minimum; avoid confusing the user and only link to your most important pages.

Category pages

You categorise products, services, and content through category pages on e-commerce sites and even content-based websites.

Ideally, you want your web developer to code breadcrumb trail links in the site so that product category pages can link to product pages or service category pages link to service pages.

Topic cluster or Content Hub

Another type of link structure is a topic cluster or content hub.

This is an area or section of a website about a specific topic, e.g., keywords or SEO.

For example; this page is part of an SEO hub:

  • SEO Tips
  • SEO campaigns
  • SEO meta title
  • SEO meta description
  • Shopify SEO and so on

Each page will have internal links to other pages in that hub or cluster.

You can create other content hubs when you have decided to produce content and resources about another topic.

And of course, I link from my home page to this section to pass on link strength.

Internal Linking Best Practices

Here are some best practice guidelines for internal linking.

First link priority

The first link priority rule is that when a page links more than once to another page, Google will ignore all other links apart from the first one.

Top of Body Content

Next, if you want to prioritise internal links to boost a keyword ranking, place the link toward the top of your body copy, not in the sidebar or footer of the page. 

Relevant Anchor text

When using internal links, don’t just add links for the sake of it; use internal links to connect relevant content.

So if I’m reading about internal links on another page, then in a sentence with “internal links”, use that text within the anchor to link to this page.

Internal Linking Strategy with link opportunities

As well as doing an internal link audit, there’s a fantastic link opportunities feature within the Ahrefs site audit tool; it’s like artificial intelligence for internal linking.

Use this tool, but whatever you do, don’t use a WordPress plugin to create internal links automatically.

Most SEO experts tell you internal links can boost your rankings, but I can’t prove that on projects I’ve worked on.

Categories SEO