Internal linking boosts SEO by improving user experience, site navigation, site structure, distributing page authority, and helping search engines understand content relationships. Learn the steps and best practices we use every day.

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Internal links are one of the most important search ranking factors.

“Internal linking helps us, on the one hand, to find pages, so that’s really important. It also helps us to get a bit of context about that specific page.”

That’s how John Mueller, Google’s Senior Webmaster Analyst, explains the importance of internal linking.

Unfortunately, many marketers focus on content creation and backlinks, overlooking internal links.

Don’t be one of them.

Create a robust network of internal links to boost SEO performance and drive more organic visibility for your site.


Let’s start with the basics.

What are internal links?

Internal links are hyperlinks that connect a website’s page (“Page A”) to a different page on the same site (“Page B”).

These links are essential for SEO marketing. They establish a site structure, distribute page authority throughout the site, and enhance user navigation

Internal links are significant because of their dual role — they guide users and search engine crawlers to relevant content on the site.

For instance:

  • Internal links provide easy navigation to related content, improving users’ engagement and time spent on the website.
  • These links help search engine crawlers discover new pages, understand the site’s structure, and determine the importance of pages relative to each other.

Internal link vs. external link

Internal links are hyperlinks that connect pages within the same website.

For example, in a blog post about ‘SEO tips’ on your website, you may include an internal link to another page that offers a deeper dive into keyword research.

External links are hyperlinks that point to a different domain.

For instance, if your website has an article about SEO strategies, you may include an external link to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines page. This type of link directs users to other domains for supplementary information.

Inbound link vs. outbound link

Inbound links (also called backlinks) are links from other websites pointing to your site. They are incoming or “inbound.”

Backlinking is one of the most important search ranking factors.

On the other hand, outbound links are links from your website pointing to other domains.

These links typically provide context, additional information, or sources, which helps build the credibility of your content.

Inbound Link vs Outbound Link@2x

Further reading: 26 Must-Know Digital Marketing Terms

Why are internal links important for SEO?

Internal linking improves website SEO and user experience. Here are several reasons to have a dedicated internal linking strategy.

Improves site navigation

Internal links provide a map for users to navigate the pages of your website. They help users easily find important sections or information, enhancing their overall experience.

For example, a link to a ‘contact us’ page within a blog post allows readers to quickly reach out for more information. This improves user engagement and retention.

Distributes page authority

Internal links pass ‘link equity,’ ‘link juice,’ or ‘SEO value’ between pages.

This means linking from a high-authority page (like your homepage) to a lesser-known blog post can transfer some of this authority. It can boost the SEO performance of the linked page.

Aids in website crawling and indexing

Search engines use crawlers or “spiders” (like Google’s Googlebot) to find and index pages.

Internal links act like signposts, guiding these crawlers through your site’s content. A well-linked site ensures all pages are found and indexed.

Enhances user engagement and time on site

You encourage users to explore more content by providing relevant internal links — leading to increased time spent on your site.

Engagement data on Google Analytics 4

This improves user engagement.

It also signals search engines that your site is valuable.

For instance, a blog post about programmatic SEO tips may include an internal link to a case study on search engine optimization success. This can compel users to stay longer and engage more with your content.

Strengthens keyword strategy

Internal links offer an opportunity to use keyword-rich anchor texts, which can reinforce your site’s keyword strategy.

It allows search engines to understand your pages’ relevance for specific search queries.

Imagine a blog post about healthy recipes interlinking to a page about vegan ingredients with the anchor text “essential vegan cooking ingredients.” This tells search engines that the linked page is a resource for vegan cooking.

Reduces bounce rate

A well-planned internal linking strategy can reduce bounce rates.

You encourage visitors to continue their journey beyond the initial landing page by offering (relevant) additional resources on your site.

For instance, linking to a related FAQ page at the end of a product description can keep users engaged and on-site longer. A low bounce rate and high time on site indicate that users find your content engaging and relevant, which tells Google it’s worth ranking higher.

Supports content hierarchy and website architecture

Internal links establish a clear hierarchy and structure within your website.

When you link main category pages to subcategories, individual products, or article pages, you clarify the relationship between different content.

This makes your site more understandable for search engines and users.

Further reading: How to Set Up Your Website Architecture for SEO (+ Examples that Work)

“Internal linking is a fundamental element of SEO principles that shouldn’t be overlooked. It provides ‘link juice’ to linked pages, which contributes towards its better ranking,” says Rambod Yadegar, president and co-founder of HawkSEM.

“Most importantly, it provides a better and more efficient experience for the end user. They can find what they’re looking for faster, and we know Google rewards sites with better user engagement and experience.”

Types of internal links

There are two broader types of internal links: navigational and contextual internal links. Let’s review the two.

Navigational internal links

Navigational internal links are primarily for site navigation. These include links in menus, headers, footers, and sitemaps.

Here’s an example from PandaDoc’s top bar menu:


Here’s another one of its footer links:

footer links

These allow users to easily move around the website. They provide a clear path to general web pages like the homepage, contact page, or product categories.

For instance, a link in the main menu of an e-commerce site that takes users to the ‘Men’s Clothing’ category is a navigational internal link.

Contextual internal links

Contextual internal links are added within the content of a page, like in blog posts or articles. They’re typically directly related to the content.

Here’s an example:

Contextual internal links

These links provide more depth and context to a topic by connecting to other relevant pages within the site.

Another example is a blog post about healthy eating that links to a related recipe page on the same site.

Contextual internal links help search engines understand the relationship and hierarchy between different pages.

Plus, they enhance the user experience (UX) by offering additional information without navigating away from the current page.

How to build an internal linking strategy

Follow these steps to build a robust internal linking strategy:

  1. Assess the current internal link structure
  2. Identify key pages for strategic linking
  3. Develop a keyword strategy for anchor texts
  4. Create contextual and relevant links
  5. Integrate internal links in site navigation
  6. Monitor internal link performance and metrics

Assess the current internal link structure

Begin by evaluating your existing internal links. This step will identify which parts of your website are well-connected and which aren’t.

You can use paid SEO tools (like Semrush and Ahrefs) to analyze your internal link profile. It can help you visualize your site’s link structure,identify orphan pages (webpages without any internal links), and spot broken or redirecting links.

Look for pages central to your content but lack sufficient internal links.

The goal is to get a comprehensive view of your current linking situation, which will be the foundation for your new strategy.

Identify key pages for strategic linking

The next step involves pinpointing the most important pages on your website. These could be your best-performing product pages, key service pages, or high-quality content pages that you want to rank higher in search results.

To identify these key pages, look into your website analytics to find pages that attract the most organic traffic, have high engagement rates, or are critical to your sales funnel.

But remember: It’s not just about the page’s popularity but also its strategic importance to your business goals. Your service page might not be “popular,” but is important for your business.

Once identified, these pages will become the focal points of your internal linking strategy, ideally receiving more links from other relevant pages to boost their visibility and authority.

Develop a keyword strategy for anchor texts

Creating a keyword strategy for your anchor texts is about using the right words in your links to boost SEO.

Start by identifying the keywords that are important to the SEO for your website.

Then, match these keywords with relevant pages where a link would be useful. Use these keywords as anchor texts for hyperlinks so they read naturally within your content.

For instance, if your target keyword is “homemade pasta recipes,” use it as the anchor text when linking to a page that elaborates on this topic.

The key is to make these anchor texts relevant and natural, avoiding overuse that search engines may feel is spammy.

Create contextual and relevant links

The fundamental rule of internal linking is creating contextual and relevant connections between different pages. This means placing links within your content that naturally fit the topic and add value for the reader.

For instance, in a blog post about ‘Healthy Eating Habits,’ you could link to a related article on ‘Top 10 Superfoods.’

This keeps the reader engaged and establishes content relevance for search engines.

The goal is to create links that feel like a natural part of the narrative, subsequently guiding readers to explore related topics without feeling disrupted.

Integrate internal links in site navigation

Your site’s top bar main navigation is a prime area for internal linking. Including links to important pages within menus, footers, or sidebars aids navigation and distributes link juice to key areas.

For example, a dropdown menu under “Services” could link to individual service pages, ensuring these pages gain visibility and authority.

Remember, search engines typically see navigation links as high-value due to their prominence and frequency of use across the site.

Monitor internal link performance and metrics

Finally, track your internal links’ performance to understand their impact.

Monitor metrics like page views, bounce rates, and the time users spend on pages.

Tools like Google Analytics (GA4) show how users move through your site. This helps gauge the effectiveness of your internal links.

Google Analytics engagement data

If certain pages have high exit rates or low engagement, revisiting your internal linking strategy for these pages may be necessary.

Adjustments based on SEO data are key to optimizing your internal linking approach for better results.

Note: While automation tools for internal linking may seem convenient, they often lack the context and strategic placement that manual linking offers. Automated links can lead to irrelevant connections and overuse of certain internal pages, diminishing user experience and potentially harming your SEO. So, avoid automated internal link building via. WordPress plugins and other third-party tools.

12 Best practices for internal links

Now you know how to build an internal linking strategy, let’s look at some best practices:

  1. Use descriptive anchor texts
  2. Don’t use the same anchor text for multiple pages
  3. Create content hubs
  4. Link high-authority pages to lower-ranked ones
  5. Avoid deep linking hierarchies
  6. Focus on user experience
  7. Use breadcrumb navigation
  8. Limit the number of links on a page
  9. Prioritize contextual over generic links
  10. Use dofollow and nofollow internal links
  11. Balance link distribution across the site
  12. Include links in fresh and existing content

1. Use descriptive anchor texts

Descriptive anchor texts help users and search engines understand the content of the linked page.

So, instead of vague phrases like “click here,” use specific, context-rich phrases that give a clear idea of what to expect on the linked page.

Here’s an example: if you’re linking to a page about gardening tips, an effective anchor text could be “expert gardening strategies” or similar descriptive text.

This improves user experience and aids search engines in associating the linked page with relevant queries.

It’s a subtle yet powerful way to enhance SEO and user navigation, ensuring your audience finds exactly what they’re looking for while signaling the link page’s relevance and topic to search engines.

2. Don’t use the same anchor text for multiple pages

It’s important to use unique anchor texts for different pages to avoid confusing users and search engines.

If multiple links with the same anchor text lead to different internal pages, it can dilute the clarity of your site’s information structure and hinder content-centric SEO effectiveness.

For instance, if the anchor text “digital marketing strategies” links to different articles in various contexts, it becomes unclear what specific content each link refers to.

So, ideally, each anchor text should be distinct and descriptive of the page it leads to. It should provide clear expectations for the user (and search bots).

This specificity helps users navigate better. It also aids search engines in accurately indexing and understanding the relevance of each page.

3. Create content hubs

Content hubs organize and present related content on your site.

It’s a part of the ‘hub and spoke’ model, where the central hub page links to various related articles (spokes or topic clusters), and these articles link back to the hub.

This internal linking structure makes it easier for users to find related content and helps search engines understand the relationships between different pieces of content.

For instance, a hub page about digital marketing may link to articles on SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing, each linking back to the hub.

“At HawkSEM, we’ve seen Google reward an interconnected structure that enhances user experience by providing a comprehensive resource on a particular topic,” says Yadegar. “Creating hubs and connecting them with relevant spokes highlights content authority in a specific subject area. And this boosts SEO returns.”

Further reading: Content Marketing Hub: How to Create One (+ 6 Examples)

4. Link high-authority pages to lower-ranked ones

Pages with high authority or PageRank (often the homepage or popular content pages) carry significant SEO weight.

You effectively distribute this ‘SEO value’ across your site by linking these to less visited or newer pages.

For instance, a popular blog post on digital marketing trends could include contextual links to newer articles or underperforming service pages related to digital marketing.

Using high-authority pages to link to lower-ranked ones is a strategic move in internal linking. This tactic boosts the visibility and ranking potential of these lesser-known pages. It also provides users with additional, valuable pathways to explore your site’s content.

5. Avoid deep linking hierarchies

Make sure important pages on your website can be reached within three clicks from the homepage.

This reduces ‘crawl depth,’ which is how many clicks it takes to get from the homepage to other pages. A simpler website structure helps both your visitors and search engines find key content easily.

For example, a visitor looking for a specific product shouldn’t have to navigate through multiple layers of categories.

Instead, streamline your site architecture so the most important pages are just a few clicks away from the main page. This enhances user experience and improves the efficiency of search engine crawlers in indexing your site.

6. Focus on user experience

Even when creating internal links, always prioritize enhancing the user’s journey on your site. Why?

It improves your site’s usability and signals to search engines that your site is helpful and relevant, positively influencing your search rankings.

So, ensure the links are natural, contextually relevant, and add value to the user’s experience.

For instance, in a blog post about healthy recipes, linking to a related article on nutrition tips can provide additional value to the reader.

Such thoughtful linking ensures users find what they’re looking for with ease and stay engaged with your content longer.

Further reading: Website UX: 6 Things Digital Marketers Should Know

7. Use breadcrumb navigation

Breadcrumb navigation is a secondary navigation that shows the user’s location on a website.

Breadcrumb navigation on Best Buy website

It enhances navigation and clarifies the relationship between different parts of your site.

Take an example of a retail website. Breadcrumbs may look like “Home > Men’s Clothing > Jackets.”

This helps users backtrack their steps. And also ensures search engines understand the site’s structure and hierarchy.

Implementing breadcrumb navigation, which is a particularly effective tactic in digital marketing for ecommerce, leads to enhanced user experience. It also supports the site’s SEO by reinforcing its structure.

8. Limit the number of links on a page

There’s no hard and fast rule on the exact number of links a page should have. However, avoid overwhelming the page with too many links.

An excessive number of internal links can dilute the link value. And it can potentially confuse and overwhelm users.

The key is to maintain a balance that provides enough links for user navigation and SEO benefits without making the page look cluttered.

So, don’t go overboard when adding links to your blog posts and product pages.

9. Prioritize contextual over generic links

Contextual links (those embedded within the body of your content) are more valuable for SEO than generic navigation links. They provide relevance and context for the user and search engines.

For example, within a blog post about healthy eating, a link to a related article on diet plans using relevant anchor text like “comprehensive diet planning guide” is far more effective than a generic sidebar link saying “More Articles.”

Contextual links naturally guide the reader to additional content they’re likely to be interested in based on the context of their current reading.

10. Use dofollow and nofollow internal links

Most internal links should be ‘dofollow’ to allow search engines to crawl them and pass on link equity. These links signal to search engines the importance and credibility of the linked pages, which contributes to their ranking potential.

However, there are scenarios where ‘nofollow’ links are appropriate. These are typically used for links that don’t necessarily need to contribute to a page’s SEO (such as links to login pages, user profiles, or internal admin pages).

The ‘nofollow’ attribute asks search engines not to follow these links or pass on link equity, effectively saying these links aren’t endorsements or votes of confidence in the traditional SEO sense.

A judicious use of ‘nofollow’ ensures your site’s link equity is concentrated on the content that truly matters for your SEO objectives, while still providing necessary navigation for users.

11. Balance link distribution across the site

Aim for an even distribution of internal links across your site. What does this mean?

Every page should have the same number of links, but no page should be isolated or overloaded.

Pages with too many links can overwhelm the reader, while pages with too few may remain under-leveraged. A balanced approach ensures each page contributes to and benefits from the site’s overall SEO.

For instance, your homepage may link to category pages, which link to individual articles or products, forming a cohesive and navigable structure.

12. Include links in fresh and existing content

It’s important to integrate internal links in new content you create and within your existing content.

  • For new content, consider how it fits within the broader context of your site and link to and from existing relevant pages.
  • For existing content, periodically revisit and update it with links to newer target pages. This ongoing process ensures your content remains interconnected and relevant.

As an example, if you add a new product page, go back to related blog posts or category pages and include links to this new page. It’d help create a cohesive network of content.

What We Do at HawkSEM

HawkSEM is one of the fastest-growing SEO agencies that works with the biggest brands like Microsoft, Honda, Verizon, and Nike.

We have a large and multidisciplinary team of SEO specialists offering end-to-end international and national SEO services to B2B and B2C clients.

In addition to creating high-quality content and getting backlinks from high-authority websites, our SEO strategies focus on internal link-building and technical optimization.

“Especially today, we cannot look at SEO in silos. Everything must work together to design a convenient and valuable user journey,” says Yadegar.

“For instance, even if you publish high-quality blog posts, it won’t perform well on SERP. Similarly, if you manage to get high-quality backlinks for a domain, that won’t really have a lasting impact.

So, you shouldn’t look at internal linking as a separate entity. It should be a part of the larger picture. This focused and holistic approach has enabled us to achieve excellent results for our clients.”

Our team helped Prismatic, an award-winning integration platform, boost keyword ranking by 67% and increase visibility in the top 3 results by 228%.

Similarly, for Easly, a globally recognized CaaS platform, we helped increase their brand’s keyword portfolio by 1,500%.

Client testimonial – Easly

The takeaway

Internal link building is a strategy you don’t want to ignore, especially if you want to benefit from its SEO benefits.

So, as a first step:

Add it to your checklist: Create internal links. Next, audit your site’s existing internal link structure. Then, build an internal linking strategy based on the steps and best practices listed above.

If you need help, get in touch with our experts. We can help improve your SEO strategy to get your site to rank higher on SERP for high-value keywords. Book a free consultation today.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation