What Is an Internal Link? The #1 Strategy You’re Overlooking

Brody Hall
Mar 29, 2024
what is internal link

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A well-planned internal linking structure—also known as link architecture—is powerful for supercharging your SEO strategy and driving your website’s performance to new heights.

Skeptical? Let’s talk numbers.

NinjaOutreach conducted a case study that saw a jaw-dropping 40 percent boost in organic traffic in just a few months, thanks to a well-thought-out internal linking strategy. By December, that increase soared to nearly 50 percent. The kicker? All these gains came exclusively from optimizing internal links with no other SEO optimizations to speak of.

To help you wrap your head around internal linking, here, we’ll

  1. answer the question, “What is an internal link?”,
  2. uncover why it’s a linchpin for SEO success,
  3. and dive deep into real-world data, like the NinjaOutreach case study, to highlight the importance of a robust internal linking structure.

What Is an Internal Link?

An internal link is a specific type of hyperlink embedded in HTML code. They connect one web page to another within the same website. Conversely, an external link links from one website’s web page to a third party’s web page. Essentially, internal links act as a roadmap for not only website visitors looking to explore related content but also for search engine crawlers like Googlebot, which use these links to crawl and index a site’s web pages.

For those who like to get under the hood, an internal link’s source code looks something like this:

<a href=”example-target-page”>Example Target Page</a>

In this example, the <a> tag defines the link, while the href attribute specifies the URL of the page you’re linking to. The text “Example Target Page” serves as the anchor text, which is the clickable, often blue underlined, text that users see on a web page.

Learn more: Interested in broadening your SEO knowledge even further? Check out our SEO glossary, where we’ve explained over 250+ terms.

Why Are Internal Links Important?

Internal links are important for three key reasons: search engine optimization (SEO), user experience (UX), and alignment with Google’s algorithmic preferences.

SEO Importance

Ninja Outreach, the case study we touched on earlier, isn’t the only outfit to find success with internal linking. An InLinks case study showed that an auto sales website experienced a jaw-dropping increase in organic traffic from 25K to 60K within a month after implementing an internal linking strategy. That’s a 139 percent increase, a traffic value of over USD $50,000 per month with minimal ongoing costs.

But how do these internal links work their magic?

  1. Understanding website hierarchy: Internal links help search engines like Google understand the hierarchy and relationship between web pages on your website. Google emphasizes that link architecture—the method of internal linking on your site—is a crucial step if you want your site indexed by search engines.
  2. Guiding crawlers: By strategically placing internal links, you guide Googlebot through your most important pages, ensuring they are crawled and indexed. Google advises keeping important pages within several clicks from the home page for easy discoverability by Googlebot.
  3. Improving site visibility: As revealed by the InLinks case study, a well-implemented internal linking strategy can significantly boost your site’s visibility and ranking in search engine results.

User Experience

Beyond SEO, internal links significantly enhance the user experience. They act as signposts that guide visitors through a journey on your website, leading them from general content to more specific information they might be interested in. This not only keeps your audience engaged but also increases the time they spend on your site, which can be a positive signal to search engines.

Don’t just take our word for it, though. As revealed in a case study by Seer Interactive, internal links can dramatically improve various metrics related to user experience. For instance, adding 80+ internal links from various pages like FAQs and blogs led to a 192 percent increase in conversion rates, a 76 percent increase in transactions, and a 116 percent increase in revenue. The study also found that internal links lowered the percentage of visitors not viewing product pages by 58 percent.

Authority and PageRank

Internal links also contribute to distributing PageRank, Google’s original algorithm for ranking web pages. When you link from a high-authority page on your site to a lower-authority one, you’re essentially passing on some of that authority—a concept known as passing on link juice, link authority, or link equity. By doing so, you help elevate lesser-known pages in Google’s eyes, boost their chances of ranking in search results, and make your entire website more competitive in search rankings.


Types of Internal Links

Understanding the different types of internal links will help you optimize your website more effectively. Here’s a quick rundown:

Navigational Links

Navigational links come in various forms to guide users through your website:

  1. Horizontal navigation links are usually found at the top of a webpage, providing quick access to key sections.
  2. Dropdown navigation links appear within these horizontal bars, offering a more detailed breakdown of your site’s content.
  3. Sidebar navigation links are commonly placed on the side of your web pages and can feature popular or recent posts, as well as related content.
  4. Footer navigation links are situated at the bottom and often include essential information like terms of service, privacy policies, and sitemaps.
  5. Hamburger navigational menus, usually represented by three horizontal lines, are often used in mobile layouts to provide a condensed menu for easier navigation.

Contextual Links

Contextual links are embedded within your articles or blog posts, directing readers to related content. When adding contextual links, be sure to use descriptive anchor text that gives an idea of the linked page’s content. Avoid generic terms like “click here.”

FAQs for SEOs and Webmasters

Q1: What Is the Difference Between Internal and External Linking?

Internal linking refers to hyperlinks that connect one page to another within the same website. These links help both users and search engines navigate the site and understand its structure. External linking, on the other hand, involves hyperlinks that point to a different domain altogether. While internal links help improve site navigation and SEO, external links are often used to provide additional information or to cite sources.

Q2: How Do You Use Internal Links?

A good internal link structure is one of the most important factors in getting a website’s search engine ranking higher.

In order to achieve this, you’ll need to think about how people are going to navigate around your website and use your navigation links. The navigation links could be either text links or images, but ideally, the navigation menu would contain text and image versions of each page title so that pages can have both a text and image link from the navigation menu.

Q3: When Should I Use Nofollow Internal Links?

Using nofollow on internal links can be a way to avoid increasing the PageRank of your own pages if you find your site has an over-optimization problem. This is because Google will see the nofollow attribute as a signal that this link is not important, so its PageRank will not be transferred to the page in question.

However, this practice is not recommended, and you should only use nofollow if it’s absolutely necessary.

Q4: How Many Internal Links Are Too Many?

Google’s John Mueller provides clarity on this topic, especially for e-commerce sites with potentially millions of pages. According to Mueller, there’s no “optimal number” of internal links per page. The key is maintaining a recognizable site structure that allows Google to understand the context of individual pages. Mueller cautions against linking every page to every other page, as it makes it difficult for search engines to discern the site’s structure.

Q5: Are Internal Links Backlinks?

Yes, technically, they are. However, internally linking to your own content is not the same as going to someone else’s website and linking from there, which is what people typically consider to be a backlink.

Q6: How Do You Find Internal Linking Opportunities?

Start by conducting a site audit to identify high-performing pages and those that need a boost. Use tools like Google Analytics or SEMrush to analyze user behavior and page metrics. Once you’ve identified target pages, look for contextual opportunities within your content to insert internal links. The goal is to guide users to relevant information while also helping search engines understand the hierarchy and importance of your web pages.

Conclusion and Next Steps

How do you know if your internal linking strategy is up to par? That’s where we come in.

Allow our team of experts to provide you with a thorough SEO audit that covers all aspects of your website’s performance, including your internal linking structure. We’ll give you actionable insights and tailored recommendations to ensure you get the most out of your internal links.

Ready to supercharge your SEO strategy? Get started with Loganix’s SEO audit services today.

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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Written by Brody Hall on March 29, 2024

Content Marketer and Writer at Loganix. Deeply passionate about creating and curating content that truly resonates with our audience. Always striving to deliver powerful insights that both empower and educate. Flying the Loganix flag high from Down Under on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.