Did you know that internal linking can have a major impact on your SEO performance?
Internal linking is one of the most overlooked, yet important components within a strong SEO strategy.
Although ‘tiny’, they are essential for Google crawlers to discover content on your site. This means that your content will appear in the search results, and let’s be honest we all aim to be right at the top of the pile.
But, let’s start from the definition of internal links…
What are internal links?
Internal links are essentially bridges from one page to another, within the same domain. Their purpose is to guide users through your website and create a logical path for them to follow when exploring it. Additionally, they help improve your user experience (UX) by helping your visitors find interesting and relevant content.
Internal links also help Google crawlers find new and updated pages on your site, so they can (re)index them to display in search results.
Because the web and content are constantly changing, the crawling process is always running to gather new and refreshing content and provide the best possible results for the users.
Are Internal Links a Ranking Factor?
Google’s sole purpose is to quickly display relevant information to a search query. For example, the query ‘vegan ice cream recipe’ brings highly relevant results, allowing you to find the best recipes to try at home.
When we change the query to ‘vegan ice cream london’ the results show parlours with vegan ice cream options, all location-specific:
Those results wouldn’t be visible without those sites being crawled and indexed. Therefore, ensuring that your pages are easily discoverable by crawlers is key for your website to appear in the search results. Otherwise, the crawlers will be unable to appropriately rank your website’s content in search results.
What’s more, Google explains:
Create a naturally flowing hierarchy
Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages when it makes sense and effectively work these into your internal link structure. Make sure all of the pages on your site are reachable through links, and that they don’t require an internal search functionality to be found. Link to related pages, where appropriate, to allow users to discover similar content.
This confirms that internal links are indeed a ranking factor, and when implemented correctly can significantly boost your website’s performance.
Two Types of Crawling
There are two types of crawling:
- Discover crawl where Google is looking for newly published pages
- Refresh crawl which allows Google to find updated content
According to John Muller, Google’s Search Advocate, this is how the process looks typically:
“We would refresh crawl the homepage, I don’t know, once a day, or every couple of hours, or something like that.
And if we find new links on their home page then we’ll go off and crawl those with the discovery crawl as well. And because of that you will always see a mix of discover and refresh happening with regard to crawling.”
When the crawl happens, Google learns the frequency of new or updated content on your site and adjusts how often your website is recrawled accordingly.
If you notice that your changes are not visible in the search results, you can ask Google to recrawl your site. You can do it via your Search Console property by:
- Using the URL Inspection tool
- Submitting a sitemap
How to Check your Internal Links
- Site search.
The easiest way to check whether all your content has been indexed is to do a site search by typing the below using your web url:
This should return all the pages on your site that have been indexed. If you’re looking for a particular page, try the below.
site:yourdomain.com “keyword or phrase related to page”
- Audit tools.
If you have a bigger site, there are tools that can help you check the status of your internal linking strategy, including Screaming Frog or Ahrefs.
Internal Linking: Actionable Steps
- Plan your content using topic clusters – When creating content, topic clusters can help you organise it to ensure users can easily navigate across the pages revolving around a particular subject matter. How does it work? Choose a topic, and review your existing content to group them together using internal linking. Best practice is to create a pillar page with additional content naturally linking to the main page.
- Link to high converting pages – If you have pages that drive a lot of traffic, link to these pages from your blogs or other pieces of content. This will help drive more traffic to your landing pages and ultimately increase conversions.
- Make logical connections – Only link content together when it makes sense.User experience, we mentioned before, is key here. For example, link to additional resources on your site when explaining a particular topic, and don’t force it.
- Update old content – Statistics, advice or guidelines change, so it is good practice to regularly update your old content. This is also where you can add links to your newer content helping Google when performing the refresh crawl.
- Use the words you choose for linking (anchor text) wisely. It’s no longer acceptable to stuff keywords into your anchor text and as we’ve mentioned, it’s all about logical connections and a natural flow.
- 3-clicks rule – Ensure all your pages can be reached in three clicks or less from the homepage.
- Relevance – Create content that matches user intent. Creating valuable content that naturally takes customers on a journey through your website will be highly rewarded by Google by placing you in the top spots. We talked about search intent here.
- Don’t just link for the sake of it. Use logic and only link when relevant. When you link from irrelevant pages to boost authority, Google won’t like it!
- Don’t overdo it. Google warns against using too many links on the same page as it can dilute the value of the content.
- Don’t ‘orphan’ pages. Pages without links are called orphan pages. They are unindexed and never show up in search results.
Amongst the fierce online competition, a good internal linking strategy will help you boost your website’s performance, increase traffic and keep your readers engaged.
And formulating a strong internal link strategy is not rocket science. All you need to do is to apply some of the best practices we mentioned in the blog and use your common sense.
Link logically and naturally. This will help users navigate your website, creating a positive experience. And Google will appreciate it too, rewarding you with better rankings for your business to thrive.