We’ve all heard it. It gets whispered around on the r/SEO subreddit like a mythical secret.
Internal links work.
They help you rank higher.
It’s not a maybe or might work type situation. They are one of the few SEO “tips” that guarantees results. 10/10 times.
To understand why internal links work, you need to know why backlinks work.
Internal links work like self-backlinks.
I’m going to expand on this below, but before I do, it’s important you know how backlinks boost your ranking.
To be honest, backlinks probably move the needle more than any other ranking factor.
When other websites link to your site, those links act as votes of confidence for the quality and relevance of your content. Google considers these links to be endorsements of your website’s authority and trustworthiness.
However, not all backlinks are created equal.
The quality and relevance of the linking site, as well as the context and placement of your backlink determines how much “link juice” gets passed on to your site.
A link from a highly authoritative and relevant website in your industry will carry far more weight than a link from a low-quality or irrelevant site. Additionally, if they link to you from the body of the page rather than the header or footer, and the anchor text is keyword-rich, you’ll receive more authority.
This is not to say, you can just buy a PBN and go bananas. Black hat backlinks will get you penalized.
Google leverages backlinks to determine the relevance and authority of your site’s content.
The more high-quality backlinks you have pointing to your site, the more likely you are to rank well in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) for relevant queries.
Now with your backlink crash course over, let’s discuss how internal links work.
Internal links are a loophole.
If you have tried internal linking and rapidly seen results, why do you think that is?
It’s a loophole.
It’s super simple. Your own website is already relevant and the network of internal links between webpages is just sharing the link-juice all around.
Here’s an example to understand this better.
Let’s say you have a high-ranking post on your blog. By way of ranking well, this post has accumulated a certain amount of “link juice”.
Now, let’s say within that post, you link to another post on your blog whose rankings you want to boost.
When you include this internal link, you’re essentially passing on some of the link juice from the original post to the new post.
So, let’s say the original post has 100 units of link juice, and you include a link to the new post. By doing so, you pass on 20 units of link juice from the original post to the new post.
As a result, the new post now has 20 units of link juice, in addition to whatever link juice it already had from its own backlinks. This can help the new post rank higher, as it now has more link authority to signal its relevance and importance to Google.
Now imagine, you link to it from 5 other high-ranking blog posts. That can seriously help put your new post on Google’s radar right out the gate.
Of course, the unit analogy is just an example to better understand how internal linking and backlinks work, but you get the point.
Now that you know how and why internal links work, I’m going to give you some best practices to use them.
1. Link relevant pages together.
If you read what I wrote above, this should go without saying. Linking relevant pages together will help you pass more units of link juice between your pages.
For example, if you have a high-ranking post about running shoes, you should link to other blog posts on your site that discuss related topics, like running socks, or a review of a specific brand of shoes, etc.
However, if you have an article about “The Benefits of Eating Vegetables” and you’re linking to a post about “The Top 10 Best Restaurants in Your City” you’re not going to pass a lot of link juice.
Also, when Google crawls your site and sees that all your content is related to one topic and it all has some baseline level of authority, it will raise your domain authority as a whole.
And I don’t mean the vanity DR and DA on SEMrush/Ahrefs. It will raise your website’s credibility as a whole in the eyes of Google.
The higher your domain authority, the more likely and rapidly, your articles will rank.
Finally, link from high authority pages to lower authority pages that you want to rank. Don’t mess around linking between a bunch of low authority pages. That’s going to do nothing for your link juice.
2. Use descriptive anchor tags.
“tHaT’s bLaCk hAt”.
I know, I know, I’m a very bad man for suggesting you use descriptive anchor text. However, linking within your own website with keyword rich text is not black hat in the least.
If you’re doing this at scale with external backlinks then you’ll be flagged because it looks artificial.
Google is not stupid. It recognizes that a website will contain links that describe what the visitor is clicking on, even editorial ones.
Descriptive anchor text helps you two-fold.
1. It signals to Google what your linked page is about through keywords.
2. It drives more referral traffic to your linked page than “read more” or “click here.”
Just don’t go overboard with it and start stuffing 10 different keywords in your anchor tag to create a keyword rich link.
Link to your other pages through your post’s body text, but keep it organic. Add it where it naturally fits in. The surrounding context helps Google determine more about the link than the anchor tag anyway.
3. Don't overdo it.
Linking out to a bunch low-quality or low authority pages will negatively impact the authority of your linking page. So instead of sending link juice to your low authority pages, you’ll merely end up draining the authority of your high authority page.
Keep the number of links per page between 5 – 10.
Anything more, and you’ll end up diluting the link juice you’re sending to your linking pages.
Also, worth noting is that if you’ve got a large a number of links on a page (internal or external) you’re signaling to Google that the page is not as relevant or valuable because you’re sending visitors away to other pages/sites.
I believe a decent mix of high authority external links (1-2) and internal links (3-4) is most natural and helps preserve authority. That’s what I’ve always done and seen great results for both myself and my clients’ websites.
4. Link from high-authority pages.
I know I touched upon this in the first point, but I want to discuss what qualifies as a high-authority page, so you’re aware of which pages to choose as your “high authority” pages.
If your website is less than a year old and you don’t have a lot of traffic coming in, choose your skyscraper/cornerstone/pillar posts to link to your other posts. Super long-form posts are generally more prone to acquiring backlinks since they have a lot more information for other blog posts to pull.
If your website is more than a year old and you’ve been posting regularly, high authority posts would be, posts with a:
1. Strong backlink profile compared to other posts.
2. Relatively high number of visitors.
3. Posts that are relevant to the other posts in your blog.
If you just interlink a bunch of low-authority pages, you will not reap the rewards.
Like all things content and SEO, the best way to interlink is to do it naturally. They tend to work like self-backlinks. Which is why, interlinking has a 100% success rate.
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