An internal link is a link from one page on a website to another page on that same website. For example, this is an internal link. That link points to another page on this website. This is an external link. That link points to a page on a different website.
Internal links are important to both visitors to your site and to search engines, both of whom will use them to navigate your site. As both visitors and search engines will navigate your site using the same internal links, you need to find the right balance between creating internal links for visitors and creating them for search engines.
As with links from other websites that point to your site, internal links signal relevance and pass authority. Therefore, optimisation of internal links will improve your rankings in search engines. Links from 3rd party websites are more valuable than the internal links that you create yourself, however, if you create and structure your internal links properly, then you’ll require less external links to rank well.
Whereas you can’t control which pages on your site get linked to from 3rd party sites, and what text is used to form those links, with internal links you have complete control of those two factors. This means that you can strategically channel authority around your site – directing it towards the pages that you want to rank well and away from pages that don’t need to be ranked.
Not all internal links are viewed equally by search engines, in that the more prominent the location of an internal link, the more value it’s assigned. So, an internal link placed within the main content on a page will pass more authority than an internal link placed in the footer of a page. The main places that you can place internal links are, in order of the value they pass: top navigation, in-content, sidebar and footer.
There is no universally perfect internal linking structure, however, a common approach is to use a pyramid structure, with the homepage being at the top of the pyramid. The purpose of adopting such a structure is that it results in the minimum amount of links possible between the homepage, which will normally be page with the most authority, and any other page.
Below are specific SEO recommendations for optimising the internal links on your website. Implementing them should result in improved rankings for the keywords that you’re targeting. Keep in mind the need to balance optimising links for search engines with optimising links for visitors though. Don’t follow a recommendation if, on your particular site, doing so would make navigation confusing or difficult for visitors.
Every page of your website should be linked to from at least one other page. If there are any pages that aren’t linked to internally, which also don’t have any external links pointing to them, then there’s no way for search engines to find them, and if they can’t find them then they can’t display them in their results.
Where possible, match (exact, phrase or synonym) the text of the link to the keyword that you’re trying to rank the linked to page for. For example, if you want to rank a page for ‘mortgage advice’, create internal links using text such as ‘mortgage advice’, ‘get mortgage advice’, ‘mortgage guide’ and ‘professional mortgage advice and help’.
Variation is important in all aspects of internal linking. So, don’t link to the same set of pages from every page and don’t use the same clickable text (called anchor link text) for every internal link to a particular page. A lack of variation not only offers a poor experience to visitors, but it also risks incurring a search engine penalty for over-optimisation.
Your homepage will probably be the page on your site with the most external backlinks, which makes it your most authoritative page and your biggest internal linking asset. Any page on your site should be accessible within 5 clicks from your homepage, you should add direct links from your homepage to your most important pages, and you should remove links from your homepage that point to pages of low importance.
The most authoritative pages on your site are those with the most/best external links pointing to them. You should add internal links to all of those pages that point to the pages that you want to rank well in search engines. Your high authority pages might not be the ones you expect them to be, so use a tool such as Ahrefs to confirm which ones they are.
Interlinking pages that are targeting competitive keywords means that authority can flow directly between them. As a result, when you acquire a new external link to one of those priority pages, some of the new trust and authority will pass directly through to the rest of your priority pages.
Management of your internal links is an on-going on-site SEO process. Each time you add new pages to your site you should insert links in the new pages that point to older pages, and edit older pages to insert links to the new pages. You should also add new internal links if you target new keywords with existing pages, and edit existing internal links if you change your existing keyword targets.