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A Brief Guide to Your Website's Internal Links (and Why They Matter)

Your website's internal links are something you may take for granted.  Internal links play a big part in your website's overall performance, but there's a good chance they don't cross your mind at all. If you do take the time to consider them, however, it's easy to harness the power of internal links for user experience, search engine rankings, and much more. 

If you had all the time in the world, you could easily spend half of that time perfecting and fine tuning your website. No one has even half of all the time in the world. Luckily, there are a few components of your website that you can tune with relative speed and ease. Your website’s internal links are one of those components. 

Links are important. We click them every day. They take us where we want to go, provide us with the knowledge we seek, and take us to the goods we want to consume. They’re basically the skeletal structure of the world wide web. 

From a digital marketing perspective, links can impact your bottom line, too. 

If you’re looking at the “big picture,” or links as a concept, it’s downright daunting. But we can focus on some smaller-picture items, like your website’s internal links. 

Internal links can improve user experience, help search engines crawl your site, boost your search engine rankings, and even help you meet conversion goals. 

Unlike external links, your website’s internal links are totally under your control. 

Internal Links Definition 

Explained simply, an internal link is any hyperlink on your website that points to another page on your site. 

Here’s a slightly more technical definition from Moz:

Internal Links are hyperlinks that point at (target) the same domain as the domain that the link exists on (source). In layman's terms, an internal link is one that points to another page on the same website.

Your website already uses many internal links in its main navigation. More likely than not, you already have plenty of solid, sensible internal links throughout your website. 

Internal Links Best Practices  

When it comes to best practices for internal links, the concepts are just a matter of common sense. Unless you already have a huge, tangled web of links cluttering up your site, following this advice should be easy for you. 

These to-do items aren’t something you need to act on right away, either. You can just chip away at them when you have time or keep them in mind moving forward.

After you finish this guide, take a look at your own site. Examine your main pages, blog posts, category pages, product pages, and anything else that might benefit from some solid internal links. 

Think of the User: Keep your internal links helpful for the user. Point them to other useful content on your website-- the stuff they might actually be interested in. 

For example, if you owned a fish tank retailer, you might write a blog post about your current fish tank set up. In that post, you mention filtration equipment, but it’s not the main topic. You’d want to link to your main filter page within the blog post because your reader might want to know more about fish tank filters. 

Keep it simple, logical, and straightforward. 

Use Anchor Text: In our previous example, we mentioned linking to your hypothetical “filtration equipment” page. 

In this example, you’d hyperlink the word filter and direct it to the relevant webpage. The text part of the link (in this case, “filter”) is known as its anchor text

As for what kind of anchor text to use, follow Neil Patel’s advice, “Just use natural, unoptimized sentence fragments as anchor text, and you’ll do just fine. No cute tricks. No overthinking it. Just highlight, link it, and be done.”

Build “Content Hubs:” A “content hub” refers to one large, content-heavy page that covers a particular key topic on your website. You’d also have smaller satellite pages covering related topics, which you’d want to link from the content hub. 

For example, your fish tank retail website would have a “content hub” page for filtration systems. Individual satellite pages for that hub would cover mechanical, biological, and chemical components for filtration systems. You’d want to link them all from your main filter page (thinking of the user), and possibly link to different types of equipment, such as sponge and under-gravel filters-- you could even link to your product pages, as long as it’s a natural fit. 

Here’s how OnCrawl describes content hubs in a piece for MarketingLand:

A content hub: Consists of multiple pages of content on your website on closely related topics or keywords. Is structured around a pillar page, an authoritative page on your website that covers a subject your site would like to be seen as an expert on, and that links out to other pages in the content hub on your website. Uses internal links between its pages to reinforce the relationships between the pages. These links should, when reasonable, use words related to the content hub’s theme in their anchor text.

Open Links in a New Tab: This one is pretty simple-- you just want to set your internal links to open in a new tab whenever your reader clicks on them. This keeps them from abandoning the page they’re already reading, but allows them to browse other pages that interest them. 

Here’s a quick and easy guide on how to set links to open in a new tab. 

Avoid Extraneous Internal Links: How many internal links is too many for one page? It’s hard to say. 

SEO old timers might warn against more than just a handful per page, but more modern wisdom says even 200-250 links per page is reasonable. 

Remember, your navigation links, sidebar links, footer links, and header links all count towards your total internal links per page. 

Again, it’s best to just think of the user. If it’s a useful link, add it. If it’s extraneous, then leave it out. It’s usually that simple. 

Internal Links for User Experience

As we mentioned in the last section, internal links are essential for user experience (UX). If a user can’t find what they want in your site’s main navigation, they’ll be on to your competitor’s website in no time. And if something in your content piques their interest but they can’t find more info about that topic (through a link, naturally), then it’s back to your competitor again. 

Corey Morris sums it up nicely:

No matter how great your value proposition is for your site visitor, if they can’t discover it then you won’t meet the bottom line goals – or why you wanted them to come to your site in the first place.

Internal links can help your users learn, research, and complete the customer journey with a conversion. But, if they can’t find what they’re looking for, then they’re sure to turn somewhere else. 

Internal Links Help Search Engines Crawl Your Site

Imagine you have a page that lives alone on your website. It’s a page you’re proud of, but it’s not one you thought to connect to the rest of the site. There’s no link to it in your website’s navigation, or even a single link to it in any related content across the site. 

That page living alone is a problem because Google’s web spiders will have difficulty crawling and, ultimately, indexing that page. So it might never show up in Google’s search results. 

Make sure every public page (this usually doesn’t include landing pages for ad or inbound marketing campaigns) on your website is linked somewhere-- whether it’s in navigation, within a content hub, or someplace else. 

Internal Links Can Improve Search Engine Rankings 

When Google ranks a website, it considers many factors. It considers your on-site SEO, your backlinks (or external links), the quality of your content, your site’s speed, how long users stay on your website, and even your internal links. Seriously. 

Adrian Cojocariu explains:

[Helping search engines understand and helping users navigate your website] can account for why Google boosts websites that take internal linking seriously. It’s not just a matter of adding ranking factors to Google’s algorithm, but it actually helps users have a better experience with your website. They’re both considered ranking factors.

Internal links won’t take you from page four to page one of Google by themselves, but they can help more than you might think. Since the search engine landscape is highly competitive, you want all the SEO help you can get. 

Internal Links can Help with Conversions

Earlier, we mentioned that you might link to one of your product pages within a piece of content, as long as it makes sense. 

As it turns out, internal links can help lead your customers through the sales funnel on their purchasing journey. For example, you can place an internal link on one of your higher-traffic pages that prompts users to click on one of your conversion pages (product, service, newsletter sign up, etc.)

Here’s Corey Morris again:

... it’s important to align your content with your conversion goals. If you have valuable content that naturally leads through the customer journey and sales cycle, you’re setting yourself up for the opportunity to keep the visitors you land on your site.

This type of internal linking is something of an art, since you may turn potential customers off by being too aggressive or promotional. Always keep it natural, and make sure each link is something useful the customer might actually want to click. 

In Conclusion

There’s more to internal linking than we can cover in a 1500 word blog post. The links and resources sprinkled throughout this guide can help you learn more, learn the specifics, and put them into action. 

As you build and grow your website, just keep internal links in mind. They’re easy to set up, and they’re more powerful than you might think. 

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