Backlinks vs. internal links vs. external links

What are internal links and how do I use them?

Website architecture is the planning and design of a site's information architecture (IA) to provide structure and increase usability.

We all know how important backlinks are as SEOs. Internal links, on the other hand, can be much more valuable.

Shocked? You're not the only one who feels this way. In fact, without a clear internal linking strategy, most SEO managers and directors overinvest in backlinks when they already have a lot of authority.

And that is a major blunder.

Focus on internal linking rather than more backlinks if your website currently has a lot of authority.

For years, I've been working on SEO methods. I learnt a lot about which levers to pull, how hard to pull them, and in what order to produce the best outcomes during that period. Internal links, believe me, are a very powerful lever if used strategically.

I'll expose everything I've learnt about internal links in this detailed internal linking SEO tutorial. If you already have a strong SEO kung fu and use the ideas in this piece, your SEO performance will improve.

Best of all, maintaining this method just takes around one hour per week!

Key Points

  •  In some circumstances, internal linkages are more significant than backlinks.
  • Internal links are like the wires from your circuit breaker to your outlets, while backlinks are like the cables from a power plant to your residence.
  • Although some sorts of internal connections are more valuable than others, they all function together to convey meaning, hierarchy, and authority to search engines, allowing them to better comprehend your site.

What are internal links and how do I use them?

The term "internal link" refers to a link that connects two pages on the same website. Through anchor text and surrounding material, they transfer PageRank (or SEO value) as well as context.

Instead of using the term website, most definitions of internal linking use the term domain. However, because of subdomains, this becomes a little risky. Because you own those sites, links between them should be deemed internal if your website has numerous subdomains. An internal link, for example, is one that points to our careers subdomain.

What about subdomains that are owned by various people on WordPress and Blogspot? Each of those subdomains is a separate website with a distinct proprietor. As a result, links between them should be treated as external.

Simply put, internal links exist when you have the capacity to add links between web pages A and B that are on the same parent domain.

Backlinks vs. internal links vs. external links

Because they're both forms of hyperlinks, internal linking in HTML looks just like a backlink. They all have a href attribute, anchor text, and sometimes a rel attribute as well. Here's how they both appear:

Each, however, serves a distinct role and adds value in different ways.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links that connect two pages on different websites. They boost your website's authority, which helps you rank higher in Google's search results. People frequently compare them to website votes.

You might be able to get these links organically, or you could have to work hard to get them through intentional outreach. Backlinks are one of the top three Google ranking factors, thus they're critical to your SEO performance.

Internal connections

Internal links, on the other hand, do not increase the authority of your website because they can be added by you. It's like to voting for yourself or putting wind in your own sail.

Instead, current authority and relevance from your backlinks are funnelled across your website.

Links to other websites

Finally, external links are just hyperlinks that lead to a different domain than your own. If you wish to cite a source or link to a more in-depth piece of information on a topic you don't touch, they are useful.

Some SEO experts believe that linking to high-authority sites will benefit your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. If you want to read more studies, there are plenty available. However, I'm not convinced because it's too easily gamed. On the one hand, when mentioning facts and sources — especially for sensitive information — you should link out. Adding a random link to Time, on the other hand, isn't beneficial to users or SEO.

But, if you don't believe me, have a look at what Google has to say.

In the end, I believe that external connections aren't a ranking indication, but they can help to establish credibility if done correctly. If you mention a statistic or quote from another piece, you should surely include a link to it.

How crucial are internal links for SEO?

Since the early days of simple keyword matching, Google search has come a long way. Natural language processing (NLP) is now used by Google to better understand one out of every ten English search requests.

Algorithms, on the other hand, are far from flawless. They require context to comprehend what a page is about, how it relates to other pages, and how significant it is on your website.

Internal linkages' genuine worth is revealed in this way. They provide structure to your site, express meaning, funnel authority, and much more.

Internal links are similar to cables.

As an example, consider your own home.

Internal links are like the wires from your circuit breaker to your outlets, while backlinks are like the cables from a power plant to your residence. If you don't link your house to the grid, no matter how many wires you have, your lights will not work.

Similarly, if you add an extra bedroom to your house but forget to wire it, even though the rest of the house is wired, that room will be without power. Broken links are similar to wires in this regard. Power will not flow to the outlets on the other end if a wire is broken or a circuit breaker is triggered.

In terms of PageRank or link equity, that metaphor highlights the concept of internal linking. However, it fails to include all of the other advantages of internal links that make them such an important component of your SEO strategy.

Returning to my original point about why I believe internal links are more essential than backlinks,

The structure of the website

Internal links are similar to a website's organisational chart. They combine relevant pages and parts together, much like a company's departments. This emphasises context and relevance, as well as the breadth of your coverage on a subject.

To promote an SEO-friendly website architecture, your html internal linking strategy works in tandem with your website navigation and URL structure.

hierarchy of content

Internal links assist Google in determining which pages on your site are the most important. Pages having a lot of internal links are deemed more important by search engines than pages with fewer links. This is especially true if you link to such pages from your navigation, as it signals to Google that you want people to locate them.

Context

Imagine approaching your local library's reference desk and saying, "kitchen counters." You wouldn't be able to tell the librarian what you were looking for. As a result, she might provide you a list of local retailers, a book of countertop styles, or a link to DIY countertop installation videos on YouTube.

Both search queries and site pages require context for Google to understand them. Page titles, H1 tags, URLs, and subheadings are all on-page SEO features that give search engines more information about a page.

Internal linkages, on the other hand, have the same effect. It's also not just the anchor text that provides context. The context of the link within the referring page's sentence, paragraph, and subtitle also provides useful information about what's on the other side of the link.

Authority

Authority is the final element of the puzzle. The concept is the same whether you call the measure link juice, PageRank, Page Authority, or URL Rating. Pages on your site with the most backlinks from reputable websites have the most value to pass on to other URLs.

Simply said, if a page has a lot of high-quality inbound links, look for ways to disperse that authority to other pages on your website by adding relevant internal links.

The Advantages of Internal Linking

A well-executed internal linking structure has several other major benefits in addition to the SEO indications we just covered.

Internal links enhance the user experience and increase conversions.

Internal link development is a great approach to provide a premium user experience while also bringing visitors deeper into your conversion funnel. Users will have more inquiries as they read your material. You can direct their cognitive process if you anticipate their queries. Then, by strategically placing internal links throughout your content, you can encourage them to take action.

Users are more likely to stay on your website if you give them what they want rather than going back to Google for answers if you give them what they want. This raises brand awareness, establishes trust, encourages brand loyalty, and boosts sales.

Search engines crawl your site via links.

The most effective approach for Google to discover fresh information is through links. If a URL lacks any internal or external links, Google may take much longer to find it.

Googlebot and other web crawlers traverse the internet from one link to the next. The more links a new page or post has, the more likely it is to be discovered by Google.

Orphaned pages are internal pages that don't have any links. It's usually a good idea to double-check your website for internal links on every page that matters to you.

Each sort of internal link transmits data in a unique way.

Internal links are similar to backlinks in that some are more useful than others. In truth, Google has filed patents that determine how PageRank is calculated based on the chance of a user hitting a link. Bill Slawski's piece The Reasonable Surfer Model has more information.

I'll go over the different sorts in order of MOST to LEAST valuable, as well as how each one benefits your website.

Content links in the body

Internal links of this sort are the most crucial for SEO since they transmit context and authority to the destination page. Because they carry so much data, think of them as fibre optic cables of links.

Remember that Google's algorithm is still evolving to better recognise meaning and context. It no longer merely looks at anchor text. The words that surround links are also mined by Google for information. The more meaning, intent, and context you offer in the text surrounding your link, the better Google understands the website to which you connect.

Finally, whether to reference a source, encourage a click, or simply provide extra information, we purposefully include body links in our material. As a result, when compared to navigation links that show on every page of your website, these types of internal links convey greater page authority from the linking page to the destination page.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs aren't required on every webpage. Because our architecture is quite straightforward, you'll see that we don't use them. They should, however, be used by ecommerce companies with tens of thousands of product pages.

Breadcrumbs are a simple navigational feature on websites towards the top of a page that shows where you are in the website hierarchy, for those who are scratching their heads. Here's an example of how they could appear:

Breadcrumbs are a great approach to improve user experience since they allow users to quickly return to any point in the content hierarchy. They also create a clear path for search engines to follow, indicating how your information is organised and assisting them in finding relevant portions of your website.

Finally, breadcrumbs help you build meaningful backlinks. What's more, the best thing is that it's completely free. They're fully automated after you've integrated them into your website. As a result, unlike body links, you won't have to add them every time you publish a new page.

Links to the main navigation

Navigation connections, to continue with the wire analogy, are more like broadband wires. They convey a great deal about the site's hierarchy and structure, but they don't pass PageRank or context as body links do.

In addition, navigation links are the most common way for users to find your most significant material. So, while they're less beneficial in terms of authority, they're still an important part of your internal link network.

CTAs and links in the sidebar

Because sidebar links are usually more navigational in nature, such as a list of categories or related content, and CTA modules are more commercial in nature, they pass very little PageRank.

You can, however, use them wisely to improve both the user experience and the crawlability of your site.

Create a sidebar module with comparable content related connections. You might pick the top 5 pages with the same tag or category, or URLs from a topic cluster that you manually select (more on that later). In sidebar modules, you can also link to deep pages that don't fit easily into your body content or navigation.

It'd be similar to an old telephone wire (remember those?)

Links in the footer

Footer links are at the bottom of the list, which is appropriate. These don't do anything for you in terms of authority. Fat footers with an excessive number of links appear spammy. Instead, direct them to your Contact, Privacy, Disclaimers, and About Us pages.

Footer links resemble two tin cans joined by a string rather than a data-transfer line. They're basically there to help you find your way around.

Best practises for internal linking

We can now go on to the how of internal linking now that we've covered the why. The SEO approach for this website is based on the best practices listed below.

Incorporate search engine optimization (SEO) into your content strategy.

When you construct your content strategy with SEO in mind, you'll naturally create content that's great for internal linking. Consider your buyer personas, their pain issues, and the path they follow to conversion.

What are your consumers' perspectives on their challenges and potential solutions? In Google, what terms do they look up? What is the meaning behind those keywords, and how should you display your content?

Publish content that addresses your audience's immediate requirements, and anticipate their changing inquiries as they move down the funnel. Then, strategically place internal links to pique their curiosity just as they're considering the next inquiry.

Use pillar pages and subject clusters.

Using topic clusters, we may take the aforementioned concept a step further. You're not sure how they work? I describe subject clusters and why they're important to our internal linking approach.

In a nutshell, subject clusters are collections of content that cover a large range of topics. There is one pillar page for each group and multiple supporting cluster pages. You're right if you imagine anything along the lines of a Ferris wheel.

Because they form hubs of relevant content, subject clusters are extremely effective in internal linking strategies.

Each pillar page introduces many subtopics and provides an overview of a high-level issue. Then, from appropriate subheadings, pillar pages link out to more thorough blog entries about specific subtopics. Cluster pages are the name for these blog entries, and they link back to the main pillar page. Cluster pages can also link to each other and even to other pillar pages if necessary.

An example of a topic cluster

EXAMPLE

  • What is Content Marketing? Pillar Page
  • Content Marketing Benefits - Cluster Page
  • Amazing Content Marketing Examples - Cluster Page
  • Cluster Page - Insurance Content Marketing 

Topic clusters assist in demonstrating knowledge and coverage breadth to Google. They also structure your material into bite-sized subtopics and sections, which is exactly what Google is focusing on right now.

Google recently unveiled a ranking breakthrough that enables them to better comprehend the relevance of certain portions from your sites and even index them separately.

Create a link from a reputable page.

Some people make things more difficult than they need to be. You may measure the relative authority of your website's pages based on the strength of their backlink profile if you have access to a service like Moz or Ahrefs.

PageRank does not need to be sculpted or algorithms used. Just make sure to include internal links to relevant pages that have a lot of high-quality backlinks. The higher the number of backlinks, the more links you can add without diminishing their worth.

Internal connection is not difficult. There's no need for formulas or algorithms. Don't give it too much thought.

PRO HINT: What is your website's most authoritative page? This is your home page! If possible, link to a few of your most important URLs from your homepage. Add a section near the bottom of the page for your top blog content if those are blog entries. If they're service pages, include a link to them on your homepage's services section.

Use keywords in the anchor text of internal links.

Do you have a lifejacket on? This is where the boat starts to get a little shaky. Some SEO experts advise that you avoid using exact match anchor text if you don't want to be punished by Google. I completely disagree with you.

It's hard to believe that Google would ever penalise an excellent website for linking to its own content from its own domain with keyword-driven anchor text.

It's your website, after all. You have complete freedom to do whatever you choose. If you're creating backlinks from other websites, don't stuff keywords in unnaturally, and don't overuse them. Don't worry about it as long as your internal links and anchor text make sense in context and are designed to assist users.

The following is what Google has to say about anchor text:

So, why is there so much ambiguity? Because, in addition to the preceding advice, Google advises against employing "excessively keyword-filled or extensive anchor text solely for search engines." Some people perceive that phrase as a warning to stay away from exact match terms.

However, I believe that indicates you should use anchor in the following way:

  • Strategy for SEO
  • Create an SEO strategy that works.
  • What is the best way to come up with an SEO strategy?
  • create an SEO plan
  • Strategy for Search Engine Optimization

Also, avoid using anchors like this: SEO strategy plan search engine optimization.

Do you see the distinction? Without employing exact match keywords on a regular basis, it would be difficult to fulfil Google's guidelines and use brief, descriptive anchor text. If you mention SEO strategy and have a website dedicated to it, include a link to it. To avoid precise match anchor, don't try to cram in other words. You'll end up lowering the quality of the user experience.

Be creative with your anchor wording.

Anchor text is quite important. It helps Google figure out what's on the other side of a link. Why not take advantage of the fact that anchor text has an impact on your rankings?

I'm willing to wager that when you create content, you want it to rank for more than just the main keyword. You'd think the page would rank for hundreds, if not thousands, of long-tail keywords, all of which would attract a lot of traffic.

Using those lower volume terms in your internal links is a terrific strategy to influence your results for those terms.

Mix things up if a page has a lot of internal links with exact match anchor text. Use broad match variations if they help express the context or search intent of your target term. Here's an example of the anchor I use to connect back to this article:

Prioritise relevance over geographic location.

Have you heard that internal links above the fold, high on the page, or in the opening paragraph are more useful than external links?

These views are divisive since they go against Google's position on relevancy and user experience. Unnaturally cramming links as high as you can into your content degrades usability and undermines confidence. Would Google utilise a ranking indicator that is detrimental to users? It's really unlikely.

However, anecdotal data suggests that, if all other factors are equal, link placement may be a weak ranking indication.

  • Google frowns on information and links stuffed at the bottom of product pages for the express purpose of SEO.
  • The content at the top of a page has a higher SEO value

Of course, if that signal exists at all, it could be quite feeble. It may also differ depending on the type of website or sector. So, what are your options?

Consider your audience. Include connections to the most relevant and helpful areas of your page. Skim through this post if you want a clear illustration. Several subheadings, such as "subject clusters" or "content approach," contain a keyword. Then, using broad match anchor text, I connected to the respective pages inside those parts.

Those subheadings are jam-packed with useful information about the topics surrounding the links. Keep in mind that context is everything. If you have a section dedicated to the importance of SEO, this is the greatest spot to link to a blog post regarding SEO ROI.

If you don't have one, you can still cram something in, like I did, as long as the sentence is pertinent to the link.

Integrate outdated content's internal linkages

Everyone talks about it, but only a few people are disciplined enough to accomplish it. To be honest, the more content we produce, the longer it takes to build internal links.

There aren't many opportunities to add relevant links while I'm just starting to develop a topic cluster. However, what about our 5,000+ word digital marketing guide? I had to connect to almost every blog article on our website.

The bottom line is that you owe it to yourself to devote an hour or two every week to adding valuable internal links when you invest in developing 10x content.

Repair any internal links that are broken.

Let's be honest. In SEO, broken links are unavoidable. You'll have more if your site is larger. Redirects will also be included in this area, as some older sites have several redirect chains or loops that aren't much better than broken links.

Broken links degrade PageRank, disrupt user experience, and waste crawl budget, as you already know. What about redirects, though?

If you answered no, consider how crucial anchor text is. If you redirect pages to a new URL but don't change the anchor text, those links may be sending Google mixed signals about the new destination page's content.

If your website has hundreds of thousands of pages, this may give you the chills. But don't get too worked up. From your blog material, you probably only have a few hundred custom made internal links connecting to those pages. Any other connections will almost certainly be navigational, so don't bother about them.

Make use of dofollow links.

PageRank sculpting is definitely something you're familiar with if you've been in the industry for a while. Internal links were once nofollowed by webmasters to prevent PageRank from flowing to undesirable URLs. This would efficiently focus the flow of link juice to money pages while preserving the functionality of links for users.

That isn't the case now. Nofollow links cause PageRank to "evaporate." It is not sent on to the destination website, nor is it redistributed to other links on the page. It simply vanishes.

In summary, unless you have millions of low-value sites you don't want Google to find, employ dofollow internal links.

Strategies to avoid internal linking

There's a significant possibility your website is afflicted with the following typical internal linking problems, regardless of how long you've been doing SEO. Maybe you got stuck with someone else's mess. Alternatively, if you're anything like me, you've learnt a lot since you first started performing SEO.

Be careful not to overdo it.

Ok, I’ll be the first to say that I’m guilty of this one. It's very easy to fall into this trap. We all want to minimise our bounce rates, enhance conversions and send as much link value around as we can. And the more content you have, the more possibilities you’ll find to add links.

However, you must exercise restraint. If you have too many internal links, you’ll dilute your PageRank and your content will look spammy. Moreover, users will have too many choices to click, and probably won’t click on anything.

Unfortunately, when it comes to how many links to include in a post, there is no magic number. Again, some experts link to a very old video of Matt Cutts who suggested 100 is a decent figure to shoot for.

But I disagree with concrete figures.

Rather than counting, simply place links where you believe they are most relevant and will bring value to users.

It's also a good idea to go back through past postings when you may have gotten a little too enthusiastic. I'm confident that I can break some of my previous negative behaviours.

Silo approaches should be avoided.

Again, there are some well-known SEO experts that advocate siloing, or connecting just within a specific category or topic group. This strategy is supposed to focus thematic importance within a group of URLs.

What is the issue? That is simply not the way issues function. Consider the concept of six degrees of separation (also known as Bacon's Law). Something is connected to something else, which is connected to something else, and so on.

The Google SERP has nothing to do with content marketing. That isn't to say you can't mention it in passing, or that you shouldn't link to a page on it if you chance to mention it on the page.

For example, we highlight how a search-focused content marketing strategy is more aligned with user behaviour and hence more likely to acquire backlinks in our essay about the benefits of content marketing. As a result, the Google SERP rankings improve. I thought this would be a good place to put a link to our piece regarding search engine results pages, so I did.

The argument is that you shouldn't force links that aren't relevant, but you also shouldn't think in silos.

However, when it comes to navigation links and website architecture, siloing makes sense.

Don't overcrowd your menu and footer with links.

Although this is more about improving user experience than rankings, UX and SEO are becoming increasingly intertwined these days. Customers will not be able to find what they came for if you cram hundreds of subcategories into your navigation. Furthermore, Google will have difficulty determining the purpose of your website.

Rather, keep your primary navigation simple and internal links to your most critical pages to a minimum. Link to your top category pages, as well as a few of your most valued subcategories or product pages, if you manage a large ecommerce firm.

Increasing the number of transactional links in your main navigation is a good idea. Your footer, on the other hand, should be designated for company-related links such as your "About Us," "Privacy Policy," and "Disclaimer" pages.

Avoid complicated internal linking formulas.

I've seen some insanely complicated PageRank-sculpting algorithms. Those are outdated models based on out-of-date Google ranking concepts. I'd mistrust someone's methods if they claim to have tested their hypothesis and can demonstrate that it works.

I can tell you that those models don't take context, relevance, or user experience into account. They're not in line with Google's suggestions, which implies they're unsustainable.

When creating internal links, avoid using PageRank sculpting methods. They don't take context, relevance, or user experience into account, and they don't align with Google's goals.To Tweet, simply click here.

Internal linking strategies for SEO should not be based on formulas. Make the best decision for your users.

Don't use the same anchor text to link to various pages.

This is a more prevalent problem than you might believe. People are sometimes scared to include exact match keywords in their anchor text, therefore this happens. As a result, they fall back on phrases like "click here" or "in this post."

In other cases, it's the result of a bloated content strategy that resulted in dozens of identical blog entries aimed towards the same keyword. As a result, none of your pages will be ranked for the desired keyword.

Don't squander your energy

Are you aware of which of your website's URLs have the greatest PA or UR? Even if you're actively constructing connections to specific target pages, you could be astonished to find that other pages have accumulated a large number of excellent links on their own.

It's a good idea to check your top connected pages at least once a quarter. The Ahrefs Top Pages by Links Report is one of my favourites. Not only will you be able to recognise content that is organically garnering fantastic connections and emulate their success, but you'll also be able to collect that value and funnel it more efficiently throughout your site.

Plugins and internal connecting tools

There are a plethora of excellent tools available to assist you in creating internal links. I try to avoid using automatic link insertion tools because they violate all of the standards we just discussed.

Here's a list of my personal favourites, which I use on a daily basis.

Search Console by Google

Using Google Search Console is one of the simplest ways to see which of your landing pages has the most internal links. Simply go to the Links report and scroll down to the Top Linked Pages section. You may also quickly export the data to a Google Sheet.

Yoast SEO Premium is a premium version of Yoast SEO.

Our blog is powered by WordPress, and the Yoast plugin is one of my favourites. It's fantastic in general, but it's particularly beneficial for internal connections. The tool suggests pages to link to depending on how important they are to your domain and how relevant their content is to the page's content.

Yoast's internal linking tool looks for more than just keyword matches on a page. In fact, it frequently recommends adding links to pages even if the goal phrase isn't included. This is due to the fact that it examines content overlap rather than just matching target keywords.

However, the instrument isn't without flaws. You might get some noise if you utilise specific CTA phrases frequently. As a result, utilise your best judgement.

A helpful internal link counter is also included in the application, so you can see how many relationships a page has. Unfortunately, you cannot click the number to see the actual linked URLs, which would be quite useful.

ContentKing

The potency of this weapon never ceases to surprise me. ContentKing is a comprehensive real-time website diagnostic tool. To put it another way, you never have to schedule crawls because it is constantly crawling your website.

The data is vast, and you have a great deal of control over how you filter and view issues. The dashboard, for example, displays every URL on your site as well as the amount of internal links. When you look at a URL report, you can see how many internal, external, inbound, and outbound links a certain URL has.

Broken links and redirected links are also flagged by ContentKing, and you will be notified if any of them have a high impact (such as site-wide links). The Importance score of a page is heavily influenced by the site's internal link structure. You may utilise the data to immediately spot shifts in your internal link structure because the software logs all changes, including the Importance score.

Unlike Yoast, ContentKing's software displays every single URL, not simply the total number of links.

Ahrefs

For keyword research and backlink analysis, Ahrefs has become my go-to SEO tool. It's also fantastic for analysing internal links. It's something I use to evaluate not only my own top pages for link opportunities, but also competitor pages and link-building targets.

Sort the list by highest UR in the Top Pages by Links report (URL Rating). If you want to identify a page that mentions a keyword, you can search for specific terms.

Sitemaps

Another technique to ensure that Google crawls your material is to include it in your sitemap. This is a list of all of your site's pages and files, as well as their relationships. Make sure any URL you want Google to know about appears in your sitemap, even if it isn't essential for indexing.

Summary

So, are internal links beneficial to SEO? Absolutely.

SEO entails a lot more than just tweaking title tags, adding keywords, and constructing a few backlinks. It's all about giving your users the best experience possible, being there throughout the funnel, and ensuring that search engines appreciate you as much as your users do.

Internal connecting done strategically can help you achieve those goals while increasing efficiencies and improving your performance.

If you found this helpful, please send us a link and share it with your friends, as they say on YouTube.

FAQs

What are internal linkages, and how do they work?

The term "internal link" refers to a link that connects two pages on the same website. Through anchor text and surrounding material, they transfer PageRank (or SEO value) as well as context.

What are the benefits of internal links?

Internal links assist Google in determining which pages on your site are the most important. Pages having a lot of internal links are deemed more important by search engines than pages with fewer links. They also assist Google in learning more about the relationships between your website's pages. Internal links also improve the user experience by making it easier for visitors to find your information.