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Why are internal links so important?

Many website owners invest a great deal to create high-quality content for their sites. Most understand that receiving backlinks from other websites plays a critical role in getting those pieces of content to rank. However, including appropriate links to your own content within your site (i.e. internal links) is just as important! In this article, we’ll explain why and review some best practices for internal links.

Internal links pass page authority to other pages on the site

Each page on your site contains a certain amount of page authority (a score developed on a 100-point logarithmic scale by Moz). A higher score means a page is more likely to rank highly. Page authority is calculated by looking at the number and quality of links that point to a single page. That page authority can then be passed along to other pages by linking to them. Let’s say page A, with a page authority of 90, contains internal links to three other pages. In this case, each of the recipient pages receives 33.3% of page A’s page authority.
TIP: If you have pages that you want to rank well, include links to them on pages that have high page authority.

Internal links make it easier for Google to crawl your site

To get your pages indexed, Google must crawl your site. The way it does this is it crawls the links to get from point A (for example, the home page) to point B (for example, a product page or blog post).
Pages that do not have internal links pointed towards them are known as orphan pages. It’s much more difficult for Google to find orphan pages.
You can see in this example that the nutrition page exists on its own island. There is no way to access it through the homepage or through other inner pages, rendering it relatively nonexistent in Google’s eyes. 

Internal links help users find more of your content

No matter how complex certain aspects of SEO may seem, the ultimate aim of the algorithm is to deliver the best results to users (or in SEO terms: to satisfy search intent). Therefore, it’s worthwhile to spend some time thinking through the user experience as you develop an internal linking strategy for your website.  Internal links play a critical part in helping users find the information they need as they navigate your site. If your page does not contain any internal links, once the user has finished reading the page, they will most likely leave your site. However, if your page does contain links to other helpful resources, they’re more likely to stay on your site, which typically increases the likelihood of conversion.  There’s an SEO benefit to this, too–Google tracks the lengths of time users spend on your site. The longer time they spend, Google is likely to recognize your site as authoritative, which helps with rankings. 

Editorial links vs. header/footer links

It’s important to make a distinction between editorial links and links that can be found in headers and footers. In simple terms, editorial links are links that can be found within the content of the page. On the other hand, header and footer links are typically found at the top and bottom of the page, respectively.  Currently, Google finds editorial links more valuable because they are most relevant to the user’s journey and users are more likely to click on them.  

How many internal links should your page have?

There is no set number of internal links your content should have. While ex-Googler Matt Cutts recommends keeping it under 100, many blog posts would do fine with just a handful (3-4).  Remember: Each additional link reduces the amount of page authority that gets passed along to recipient pages.  If you’re having a hard time determining how many internal links to include in your content, prioritize the links that would be most helpful to the user as they navigate your site. 

More internal linking strategies

  • Use keyword rich anchor text. Try to use anchor text that incorporates the keywords people search. For example, let’s say you have an article about “the benefits of keto diet pills” and the keyword you really want it to rank for is “keto diet pills.” Later on, you produce an article on “weight loss strategies” and want to link to the keto diet pill article within it. The ideal anchor text for this link would be “keto diet pills”.
Warning: There is such a thing as over-optimization when it comes to anchor text. Using a other types of anchor text will ensure your link profile appears naturally developed. 
  • Develop an optimized site structure. Your site should be organized in a way that makes your categories and subcategories clear to both users and search engines. 
Let’s take a look at an example of a commonly used approach to organizing an e-commerce site. This structure makes logical sense but let’s take a look at another approach. Which of the two is more intuitive? Most users would prefer the second design. Additionally, there are more internal linking opportunities within subcategories for this structure.

Final thoughts

It’s easy to get lost in the technical weeds when developing an internal linking strategy for your site. By prioritizing the user experience, you’ll put your site in a position to succeed with Google’s algorithm.