“Internal linking is super critical for SEO. It’s one of the biggest things you can do on a website to guide Google and guide visitors to the pages you think are important. And what you think is important is totally up to you.”
— John Mueller, March 2022
We’ve been optimizing clients’ internal linking structures at IMN for the better part of a decade. While many of the tactics we’ve implemented are now becoming more mainstream, there is still hesitancy among many webmasters who fear being aggressive (read: optimized) with their internal linking could lead to issues with Google. We haven’t seen that be the case, and recent comments from John Mueller at Google are supportive of our liberal approach to linking within your own website.
Below are our “Do” & “Don’t” recommendations when it comes to internal linking in 2022. These guidelines apply in nearly all circumstances we come across with webmasters, so if you’re a publisher, affiliate, or run an e-commerce site, here are some takeaways that can quickly improve your keyword visibility in the SERPs.
5 Internal Linking “Do’s”
- Do vary internal linking placement on your pages. While site-wide links which appear in your header, sidebar, and footer may indicate to Google what your most important pages are, they remain static and don’t change from page to page, carrying less weight as your site grows. Incorporating in-content links provides variety to Google and can help users more easily find what they’re looking for while navigating your content, bringing them further in your site and conversion funnel.
- Do vary internal link text when linking to pages within your own website. A common mistake webmasters make is using the same internal link text to link to their pages every single time (or a majority of the time). While there is no hard & fast rule here, varied anchor text (revisit your keyword research on a URL-level to find the best opportunities) can make an immediate impact on your mid & long-tail keyword rankings and is one of the tactics we use to provide quick wins to clients during their first 30-60 days with us.
- Do be more aggressive with your internal linking from pages within your website that have a lot of strong backlinks to them. A “top pages by links” report from Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic, or your favorite link reporting tool is a good place to start. Perhaps you developed a link bait piece which earned hundreds of backlinks or a guide that was cited by dozens of trusted resources? Harnessing the link equity these pages have can spread the love to the pages you monetize and care about the most. Remember: YOU get to decide which pages are most important!
- Do link like-minded pages together within your website, both commercial and non-commercial in nature. Sell mattresses? In addition to your category and product pages, you likely also have content about choosing a mattress, cleaning a mattress, and so on. Linking these types of pages together can boost their rankings in Google as these on-page “link circles” provide structure and relevance to Google & added value for your end users as well.
- Do conduct regular crawls making sure your internal links are kept up-to-date and don’t lead to 404 pages or go through unnecessary redirects. We often find new clients with internal links to their top pages pointing to outdated URLs which are either broken or lose value through a redirect. A bit of basic housekeeping & maintenance here can prevent issues down the road.
5 Internal Linking “Don’ts”
- Don’t unnecessarily limit your internal links on a page. Still following the old “no more than X number of links on a page” recommendation? Go to the homepage of any large retailer or publisher and you’ll quickly find this advice is not only outdated, but limits your ability to push link equity deeper into your site. If you have a 10,000-page website and 9,500 of those pages have little to no internal links, you’re telling Google that 95% of your website is comparatively unimportant and it will be more difficult for those pages to rank. Increasing the percentage of pages on your site that have good amounts of internal links to them (remember: with varied anchor text!) can provide an immediate boost to the number of keywords you rank for in Google and their average ranking as a whole, often within weeks.
- Don’t rely on sitewide headers, footers, or HTML sitemaps to be “good enough” when it comes to internal linking strategy. As noted above, these elements can be filtered via block-level analysis and don’t allow for variation & customization to your internal linking plan.
- Don’t try and automate internal linking throughout your site. There are a variety of plug-ins and software solutions that offer this but there’s really no substitution to executing your internal linking strategy by hand, ensuring you’re able to extract maximum results from your efforts. Even worse, we’ve seen some automated solutions undo existing internal linking structures and override them with their version, leading to disastrous results.
- Don’t try to hide internal links. Their placement should be an extension of a page’s main content and not “stuffed” into a hidden area on a page. While adding in-content links is an easy way to improve your internal linking, you may also consider implementing a static internal linking area or “block” (generally in the body below your main content, but above your standard footer) to your page templates in order to accommodate additional internal linking opportunities. This also allows for categorization of internal links on a page and ensures they are displayed in a way which follows your site’s design & CSS needs as well.
- Don’t forget about external linking. A big part of your link neighborhood is not only who links to you but who you choose to link out to as well. External links to primary resources can help users find more information on a topic and improve the trust of your link neighborhood with Google. Sell appliances? Link out to the manufacturer’s product registration and warranty page where appropriate. Writing an article about health? Link out to data provided by agencies such as the CDC and NIH with more information about the topic.
To sum things up, John Mueller notes:
“You should really have normal HTML links between the different parts of your website. And ideally you should not just have a basic set of links; rather you should look at it in a strategic way and think about what you care about the most, and how you can highlight (those pages) with your internal links.”
Need help with your internal linking structure, external link earning, or overall SEO strategy? Internet Marketing Ninjas has been helping clients grow their SEO visibility for 23 years. New clients nearly double their organic search traffic within 1 year of working with us (average SEO traffic gain at 12 months). Contact us today and we’ll help you reach new heights this year!