Internal Linking for Beginners

While browsing a website, you may notice links within the content. Though links are nothing new, they play a larger role than just taking you to a different page.
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These internal links are crucial for increasing website relevance, authority, and improving a site’s search engine optimization (SEO).
From navigational links to anchor texts, each link introduces you to new content, boosting the site’s rankings.
However, internal linking cannot be done haphazardly. Context, purpose, and placement are essential elements for internal links.
This internal linking guide tackles what you’ll need to know, how it helps your site, and ways to improve its quality for enhanced optimization.

Understanding Internal Linking

To understand internal linking, let us first look back to its past.
In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee, known for creating the World Wide Web, introduced Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). He created “hyperlinks,” which connected different documents within a site.
Through HTML, he popularized navigational external links that took users to a different, related site. As the internet modernized, internal links boosted visibility within other site pages, increasing SEO.
Internal linking is a powerful tool that can significantly boost a site’s ranking if done well. The following section will better define the concept.
Definition of Internal Linking
Internal linking refers to links strategically placed within a site that connect one web page with another. Think of each internal link as a portal, transporting you to a related page within seconds.
For example, let’s say you’re reading a recipe on a cooking website. Within the recipe’s article, you notice that the text “double chocolate brownies” is highlighted in blue.
When you click the text, your browser will open a different webpage about a double chocolate brownie recipe.
By inserting another recipe page into the initial recipe, the second page’s visibility increases while introducing you to new content.
Internal links are necessary for any website’s relevancy. Without internal linking, users cannot naturally discover other pages or “crawl” through the site, leaving many pages unseen.
Internal Links vs External Links
While internal links are focused on the website’s content, external links take users to other websites.
External links can either act as a reference or show content related to what you’re currently viewing. You can think of external links as a source for specific information, like news or medical websites.
Adding external links boosts authority and relevance, showing that your content is accurate and verified.
To check if the external link has good authority, check its Domain Rating (DR). It’s generally good practice to only link out to websites with a high DR. The domain rating shows a site’s authority score determined by the number of sites linking to it.
NOTE: While adding external links ensures accuracy, you may need permission from the other site’s owner before linking to their content.
Role of Internal Links in SEO
Internal links are a necessary part of any website’s optimization strategy.
Internal links are a big part of the greater umbrella of search engine optimization (SEO) in that they bridge pages together so that each link interaction increases website relevancy simultaneously.
Search engines can better understand your site’s context and structure by signaling that one page is related to another through links.
The higher the quality and relevance of each link, the more its ranking can increase on a search engine result page (SERP).

Significance of Internal Linking

While internal linking boosts SEO, it also highlights link hierarchy. Through proper linking, your users and a search engine understand which links have more relevance than others or which are meant to be the “main pages.”
For example, say that you are on the homepage of a blog. You notice that some links are more general than others or serve as connecting links rather than informational ones.
By clearly showing how each link connects to another, users and search engines will instantly know which links to view or return to when necessary.
Building Relationships Between Content
These are the important reasons why internal linking enhances the connections between content pages:
  • Continuity Between Content: Internal links give a connected, seamless feel between each page by bringing the user to related content, increasing information while lengthening user retention.
  • Added Relevance: Internal links add context to various content types. If you link out to a detailed guide about one topic on another page, the user can view the detailed guide for added context.
  • Further Depth: If you want to delve deeper into a topic that deserves a separate, deeper discussion, then adding links to a specific topic lets you discuss it further without sacrificing user interest.
  • Cross-Promotion: Internal links promote other related pages while simultaneously providing added context.
  • User Engagement: High-quality internal links catch users’ attention, enticing them to view the linked pages and spend more time on the site.
Users will better appreciate a site if they can easily access other pages and gain context.
Assisting Crawlers in Content Discovery
Enhancing your internal linking strategy helps in optimizing for web crawlers. A web crawler is a computer program that searches and indexes website content.
When a web crawler goes through a site, the internal links act like a path. The links show how each page connects to another, ensuring no page is ignored during the crawl.
Web crawlers systematically explore every page by following the links, noting all the information, changes, and updates.
The optimized content indexing enhances website visibility and accessibility, improving its SERP ranking.
Boosting Backlink Potential of Deep Pages
Some pages are more specific than others and may be completely ignored without internal linking.
These are “deep pages,” usually filled with vital yet extremely detailed content about certain topics.
Proper linking ensures that users and search engines can still find deep pages, boosting their relevance.
Once the deep pages are noticed by web crawlers and search engines, people searching for specific information are more likely to access it.
Internal linking can boost organic traffic pointing to the deep pages, and the increased relevance means more external sites could discover it and link back to it.
Backlinks typically lead to other websites and can also help enhance a site’s authority. More backlinks mean more visibility, which can potentially increase page rankings.
Distributing Page Authority Internally
Good internal linking promotes link equity. Link equity is the value or authority passed from one page to another. The value is determined by the authority of the initial page and how it connects and enhances the second page.
A common example of link equity is website homepages. These homepages are the site’s main landing hub, hosting major internal links and content.
Usually, these homepages have the highest authority compared to other internal pages, with more backlinks and relevance.
The homepage has several internal links, including category, topic, and product pages.
When web crawlers go through the homepage and follow the internal links within the homepage to these secondary pages, the homepage’s authority is passed down to them.
With proper linking, the secondary or linked pages will receive more relevance than pages without any internal link from a page of higher authority.
Enhancing User Experience
Good internal linking enhances user experience, affecting SEO greatly by giving users a clear path to relevant pages.
If you want additional information on a topic, then relevant interlinks within one article page will instantly and seamlessly provide the necessary details.
A website’s bounce rate, or the percentage of users who leave the site after accessing it, is a crucial detail to monitor for SEO.
Internal linking can reduce bounce rates by ensuring all the information needed is within the site, encouraging users to view more pages.

Categorizing Internal Links

While all internal links have a beneficial purpose, certain link categories work differently than others.
Common internal link categories include navigational, contextual, and breadcrumb links. By understanding how to properly utilize them, these links work together to boost relevancy.
Navigational Links
A navigational link is the most common, and often the first, link you will see on a website. These links direct you to another internal page rather than having content within itself.
The most common navigational links are “About Us,” “Contact”, or “Terms of Service” pages. They are usually found at the top of each page and help direct users to specific information.
For example, if you are browsing a travel site, the navigational links could be called “Travel Guides.” Clicking the link takes you to another page that hosts all the travel guide articles.
Categorizing links as navigational helps users immediately access them and separates them from other links.

Footer Links and Their Purpose

Footer links outline the site’s main structure for greater accessibility and convenience. Unlike most navigational links at the top of the site, footer links are found by scrolling to the bottom of the page.
However, this placement does not mean the links are irrelevant. Rather, it can be a design choice to place essential links at the bottom to provide more content or design space.
Common footer links include “About Us” or “Contact Pages,” but they may also have supplementary information. For example, a footer link could have information on a business’s address or a snippet of its Terms of Service.

Role of Sidebar Links

Sidebar links are automatically seen once the website is opened. They detail important pages to view and highlight key information instantly.
As navigational links, a sidebar link makes going through the site easier and smoother, potentially increasing user engagement and retention.
Contextual Links and Their Importance
While reading an article or page, you might see some words highlighted in blue. These are called contextual links or “in-text links.”
Contextual links bring you to a related article, providing more context and references for a specific topic without overloading the reader with text.
These links are also called hyperlinks or anchor texts. Anchor texts are the words you see in a blue font, signifying that it is a link.
The anchor text is often a few words long, summarizing the linked article or directing you to click it.
Contextual links play a large role in relating various pages to each other, spreading link equity, and boosting relevance to linked pages.
Understanding Breadcrumb Links
Returning to a specific page you viewed earlier may be difficult when browsing deeper pages.
Breadcrumb links remove this problem by acting as a marker, showing links to related pages that direct you to a current page. These links are at the top of a web page in a “branching out” linear design.
For example, say you are viewing a page about US states. The main home page then links to a “United States” page. This page is then added to the breadcrumb link path.
You then decide to view a state page, like California. The path then goes from the homepage to “United States” and “California.”
With the breadcrumb links at the top, you can instantly go back to the homepage or country page without manually pressing your browser’s “back” button.
Because Google treats breadcrumb links like regular links, they guide users to specific related pages while boosting relevancy.

Crafting an Effective Internal Linking Strategy

By first identifying main themes and topics to adding more contextual links, you can arm your site with an optimized interlinking strategy to boost its SEO ranking and improve your users’ experience.
A good strategy makes your site stand out; more users will view it as a trustworthy reference.
Identifying Pillar Pages on Your Site
Pillar pages are your site’s foundational pages and serve as hubs for all related content underneath a specific topic.
For example, a travel website’s pillar page could be focused on travel guides within Europe.
If a user clicks on the pillar page link, they will be directed to a page detailing all the articles related to traveling in Europe, such as travel tips in Germany or France.
These pillar pages demonstrate a clear hierarchy in the site, showing the user which links are the main links versus contextual ones.
When identifying your site’s pillar pages, consider the site’s main topics and content. You may group content under categories or more general topics.
Pillar pages help maintain an organized design on your site, ensuring all users viewing various pillar pages can return to the main page anytime.
Building Topic Clusters Through Internal Links
Creating topic clusters effectively groups content topics under a pillar page. Topic clusters are multiple articles or content that share a common topic.
Using our earlier example, grouping all Europe-related travel guides could be under a “Europe Travel Guides” topic cluster. This topic cluster name may then be the name of the pillar page.
Following the above example, website owners can follow these steps when creating topic clusters.
1. Create a pillar page entitled “Europe Travel Guides.”
2. Include related articles about traveling in Europe:
a. European city guides
b. Historical sights per European capital city
c. Travel tips for specific European cities
3. Include an internal link to the pillar page within each topic page and relevant links to other topic cluster pages.
Topic clusters simplify grouping different content while maintaining a logical flow of information.
Selecting Appropriate Anchor Text
An appropriate anchor text effectively summarizes a linked page’s content and shows its relevance.
To select an appropriate anchor text, think of a summarizing keyword. Keywords must only be a few straightforward words. Once a keyword is selected, insert the link into the text.
With our earlier example, a keyword for a European city guide could be “Paris city guide.” When inserting the anchor text and link, ensure a Paris city guide is relevant to the initial page.
With the correct anchor texts, readers will immediately know its context and how it’s relevant to the connecting page.
Recognizing Your Site’s Authority Pages
Authority pages carry the most significance and relevance.
These pages contain related subtopics or links and gain the most authority because they are considered the main hub of specific content.
The following are common examples of authority pages:
  • About Us pages
  • Product category pages
  • Featured product pages
  • Portfolio pages
  • Testimonials or customer review pages
  • Resource or reference pages
One way to identify authority pages is to look at the metrics. Study the number of clicks, views, and visitors major pages get.
If a certain page gets the most backlinks or visitors, it is considered an authority page.
Identifying it allows you to focus more on optimizing that page, increasing its backlinks and engagement.
Supporting New Pages with Strategic Internal Links
When you create a new page, your readers might ignore it without internal linking.
However, once you have identified your site’s pillar pages, placing the new page’s link into existing, related content on the pillar page passes down authority and link equity.
For example, an e-commerce site has a new page about the “top 10 best steam cleaners.” The site owner can link this article about cleaning products on a related pillar page. They can also insert it through anchor texts in related, high-authority blog posts.
By strategically inserting the new link, website visitors can find new content without manually searching. The new page gets more relevancy, boosting the site’s overall SEO.

Evaluating Your Site’s Current Internal Links

While having many relevant links on your site is good, information or contextual updates may make some links irrelevant.
If there are too many links within your site, there may not be enough balance between them, or some links might stop responding.
Maintaining link performance and ensuring they are properly connected to one another is crucial in optimizing your site.
Addressing Common Internal Link Issues
Many common internal link issues are caused by an error within the interlinking process.
The following are common internal link issues:
  • Broken Links: These links have issues within the URL or coding, causing 404 errors and making the content inaccessible.
  • Irrelevant Anchor Text: Anchor texts that are too general, do not properly summarize the linked page, or link to an unrelated page negatively affect user experience.
  • Orphaned Pages: These pages are not linked to any other page within the site, causing them to be ignored.
  • Forgotten Deep Pages: If a site is full of different kinds of content, some deep pages without proper interlinking to pillar pages may receive less visibility.
  • Excessive Interlinking: Overloading the site with various links may overwhelm users and discourage them from exploring the site further.
  • JavaScript-Based Links: If you code with JavaScript, not all web crawlers may understand your website, which may cause different pages to either be incorrectly indexed or ignored.
  • Poor Navigation Hierarchy: If users cannot immediately tell which pages are pillar pages, they may get confused about the relationship between each page, affecting their experience.
If your site deals with any of these issues, it’s best to sit down and start optimizing the broken links to avoid long-term SEO problems.

Repairing Broken Internal Links

Broken links are a common issue many website owners face. They may be caused by the following factors:
  • Moved or deleted content
  • Website URL or domain name changes
  • Server or hosting issues
  • Spelling mistakes in the URL
  • Renamed files within the page
Manually searching your site for broken links is a time-consuming, but necessary, process. One way to avoid this problem is by performing an internal linking audit.
An internal linking audit systematically examines your site’s internal linking structure to assess each link’s overall impact on users and SEO. It can help identify the causes of broken links.
These are the steps to take for an internal linking audit:
1. Use website crawling tools (Ahrefs Site Audit, SEMrush Site Audit, etc.) to generate a complete list of all the internal links.
2. Export the internal linking list into a spreadsheet.
3. Review status codes with each internal link to identify broken ones. These are common negative status codes:
a. 404 Not Found
b. 403 Forbidden
c. 400 Bad Request
d. 500 Internal Server Error
e. 503 Service Unavailable
f. 504 Gateway Timeout
4. Filter the spreadsheet to separate internal links with status codes away from working links.
5. Determine if each broken link is still necessary for the site.
6. Update the URLs with correct spelling or new locations.
After auditing and editing the internal links, monitor the site and navigate through it to check if there are any extra possibly overlooked broken links.

Dealing with Orphaned Pages

“Orphaned pages” refers to content that isn’t linked to any relevant pillar or existing page. They exist because they were published before any site optimization, were forgotten due to human error, or contain outdated information.
You can spot orphaned pages with an internal linking audit. Read through the orphaned pages during the audit analysis and see if they are still worth updating.
If they are, update their content immediately or add appropriate links to them on a high-authority page. However, if they’re irrelevant, consider deleting the link to avoid overloading web crawlers.

Pages with Limited Incoming Internal Links

Pages with limited internal links may be easily forgotten because they lack proper linking to authority pages. These are examples of pages that have limited internal links:
  • New blog pages
  • Deep pages
  • Archived or older content pages
  • Resource pages
An internal linking audit lets you see which links receive the least visibility. Decide whether they are relevant enough to keep or if it’s better to delete them.
After deciding, link these pages strategically and naturally into existing pillar pages to boost their visibility.

Solving Internal Redirects and Chains

Internal redirects and chains occur when pages link out continuously, overloading the server or slowing load times.
If continuous redirects are happening on the site, users with slower internet speeds may get frustrated and stop viewing the site.
A site audit helps highlight redirect chains. Filter the status codes and search for links indicating 301, 302, 303, or 307 codes. These codes show that there is a redirecting chain between them.
Update the URL and internal code to direct the page to its final destination. This process eliminates confusion for the user and lessens the load on the site’s server.

Handling HTTPS to HTTP Page Links

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) links differ in security level.
HTTP links are less secure, as the data within the page is not encrypted. Criminals may easily steal any sensitive data or information.
HTTPS is an extension of HTTP and has higher security levels. Its internal protocols encrypt data between the browser and the server, protecting sensitive data.
The link is secured if a site has a padlock icon next to its URL. Updating HTTP links to HTTPS is crucial if your site deals with private data.
Remember to update all changed URLs since any mistakes in interlinking may cause broken pages. Using the same spreadsheet from the site audit can help outline important links to edit.

Adopting Best Practices for Internal Linking

If you manage all your site’s internal links correctly, maintain consistency while interlinking, and ensure all pages connect properly, the average user experience and SEO rankings will flourish.
Users like websites where there is no confusion between how one page relates to the other. A site that accurately conveys a clear, understandable link hierarchy and accessibility performs better than others.
Adopting effective interlinking practices into your SEO strategy helps improve organic search rankings and user experience.
Linking Between Content-Rich Pages
Link equity is important for a site to increase in SEO rankings, and one way to spread link equity is to link content from one content-rich page to another.
A content-rich page stores the most relevant information. Common examples include in-depth guides, informational articles, or more general topics.
If you link a subtopic page to a content-rich page, the authority from the content-rich page spreads to the subtopic page. Hence, each page benefits from increased user engagement and retention.
For example, you have a content-rich article on “The Benefits of Eating Fruits” and a subtopic article on “Best Fruit Smoothies Recipes.”
By inserting an anchor text about the second page to the content-rich page, you add supplementary information while ensuring the subtopic page is not ignored.
Determining Optimal Number of Links Per Page
Though including various internal links within a page is good, balancing relevant and irrelevant links is crucial.
Regarding SEO, a page with too many internal links can appear overwhelming to a user. They may be confused about how each link relates to another, especially if the anchor texts are irrelevant.
Though there is no limit to the number of links on a page, include at least five internal links for every 2,000 words within an article.
Remember to only include relevant supplementary links and not overload the reader.
Refreshing Old Articles with Updated Internal Links
Revisit older articles and pages and check for any updated internal links. Without optimizing these pages, they can suffer low visibility, negatively impacting your site’s SEO rankings.
If necessary, consider updating the content within the article and including current links and anchor texts.
Ensure they are linked to an appropriate pillar page and have accurate information.
Inserting Links Where They Add Value
You may have multiple internal links, but they do not add value if you insert them into irrelevant pages.
A web crawler may flag pages with too many internal links as signs of spammy behavior, which causes these pages to have low authority. Only insert links when it is necessary to link out to other pages.
If you have a page on a specific topic, check that any interlinks in the page point to relevant content. Doing so increases each linked page’s value while adding beneficial information to the reader.
Directing Links to High-Converting Pages
Directing links to pages with the most authority and conversions increases link equity and ensures each page receives attention.
High-converting pages are typically the same as pillar pages. These pages receive the most user engagement because they offer many ways for users to interact with them. Common examples are filling out forms.
Once you have identified your site’s high-converting pages, ensure that all relevant subtopic content related to each page is appropriately linked.
Considering Site Navigation and Information Architecture
A cohesive site navigation and information architecture shows a clear hierarchy between each link, helping users move between pages without confusion.
You optimize your site’s structure by improving the flow of information between pages. This ensures users have an easier time going through the site, which encourages them to spend more time on it.
Use relevant anchor texts within articles that properly convey a summary of the linked article. Remember to include a link for the content’s pillar page, and ensure it is appropriately placed and not forced.
Continuously Creating Quality Content
Quality content refers to informative pages relevant to a certain industry or topic. These pages are optimized for SEO rankings and follow a clear formatting that encourages user retention.
By knowing your site’s main purpose, service, or website type, you can continuously create good quality content that adds further insight for the reader.
Research various topics related to your site and see how to incorporate them into original articles. Remember to add a navigational or anchor text link to a pillar page if you make a new page.
Maintain a consistent posting schedule and ensure the content is optimized and search engine friendly.
Overloading the user with interlinks is not a good practice, so only use links that point to relevant, good-quality content.

The Impact of Internal Linking on SEO Metrics

A good SEO ranking means that your site is more likely to appear first on search engines, and an effective internal linking strategy boosts both pillar and subtopic pages.
If every page is properly connected, then the likelihood that non-pillar pages will rise in SERPs increases. If this happens, there is a stronger link equity and authority balance.
No page is ignored, and the site rankings and user experience improve overall.
Influence on Bounce Rate
The bounce rate is the frequency of users leaving a site or page after viewing it. A high bounce rate negatively impacts SEO, signaling that the content is either not optimized or not user-friendly.
However, good internal linking encourages the user to continue exploring the site, allowing the links to show them additional information.
If there is enough interest within these pages, the bounce rate decreases, and your SEO ranking increases.
Besides adding relevant links and anchor texts within content, ensure that these added links give supplementary information rather than repeated details.
The bounce rate may increase if a user notices the linked content is repetitive or irrelevant.
Impact on Page Authority and Ranking
Good internal linking spreads authority and relevance from one page to another. Many sites struggle with users only noticing pillar pages, while subtopic or deep pages get ignored.
Check that all relevant subtopics or deep pages are included underneath a pillar page, such as a sidebar or footer link. Using breadcrumb links is helpful for users so they do not forget the main page.
This method positively impacts the site’s SEO ranking as every page has more chances to rank high on SERPs, even if they are not pillar pages.
Role in Site Indexing and Crawlability
As each internal link acts as a pathway for web crawlers, properly interlinking each related page makes search engine indexing easier.
The links have a clear hierarchy if the web crawler can accurately distinguish pillar pages and include the rest of the site within its database.
If every page is included, SEO rankings increase as search engines know which pages receive the most visibility.
The crawl budget is the time and resources web crawlers spend reviewing and indexing your site. If pages are not crawled, they do not appear on search engines.
To avoid this, you can try to increase your crawl budget to boost each page’s discoverability.
Contribution to User Navigation and Experience
Effective internal links ensure the user does not get lost or overwhelmed while navigating the website.
If users can see which links are navigational or contextual, they’ll know which to click for specific purposes. It will also be easier for them to understand the site’s structure, increasing retention.
Effect on Conversion Rate
The conversion rate indicates how many users have completed a desired action, such as filling out a form or purchasing a product.
With good internal linking, users can quickly interact with products and forms. Including links to these pages within existing pages shows the user that they may choose to interact with them.
High conversion rates increase authority and relevance, benefiting both you and the user.

Frequently Asked Questions

Each small aspect of internal linking can greatly impact how your site ranks positively or negatively in SEO.
Learn more about some of the details with these questions.

Though there is no limit for every website, adding at least five internal links every 2,000 words is a good benchmark if it is a blog page. If you’re adding internal links to a shorter article, consider only adding a few relevant links.

Note that Google does not crawl pages with more than 150 links, so avoid including too many.

Add internal links to pages with less traffic to boost visibility and authority. Ensure that you link it to a related higher authority page so that relevancy passes down and more users view the initial page.

Conversely, adding links to pages with more traffic is also beneficial in introducing users to lesser-known content.

Since these high authority pages may act as a main information hub, including all subtopic pages gives users a better experience.

Internal links redirect you to pages within the site, while external links direct you to other sites with related content.

Internal linking affects SEO by optimizing the site’s infrastructure and showing which pages have higher authority.

It improves website crawlability by placing a clear path between each page, allowing for faster indexing and database storage.

Good internal linking enhances each page’s relevancy, giving deeper pages visibility and boosting the site’s SEO ranking.

The following are common internal linking problems:

  • Broken internal links
    Orphaned pages
  • Pages with limited incoming internal links
  • Internal redirects and chains
  • Unsecured HTTP pages

Conduct a site audit, which collects all internal links, using audit tools. Place the links within a spreadsheet and isolate links with negative status codes.

Identify irrelevant links, edit URLs, and update outdated content. Check that all links are HTTPS, which improves web security.


Internal linking increases each page’s visibility and encourages users to spend more time on your site.
Though adding multiple internal links is helpful, ensure you only include necessary links. Check that each anchor text is relevant within specific pages, and perform site audits to ensure all links work smoothly.
Maintaining a consistent internal linking process increases your site’s relevancy, and no page is left behind.