After content, internal links are the biggest SEO lever you can pull, and one that’s 100% in your control.
In this guide on Lisa’s Inspire to Thrive, you will learn everything you need to know about internal links, and you’ll encounter hacks and strategies you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Fair warning though, some of this stuff borders on the advanced, so my recommendation is to read tip by tip, hack by a hack, and to follow the trail of images because I made sure that with every tip there’s an example found in the wild of the web, and with an accompanying image.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What are Internal Links Exactly?
Internal links are hyperlinks that point from page A on your domain to page B, also on your domain.
Here’s an internal link to Lisa’s on-page SEO guide .
And here’s what that same link looks like in HTML:
on-page SEO guide .
There are 2 types of internal links:
Contextual– these are simply links within your blog posts, for example, the one you just saw leading to Lisa’s on-page SEO guide.
Programmatic (Module) internal links– these are your templated links found across the entire site. Think your site’s menu, sidebar, and footer.
Pro tip: contextual links are best for SEO. But module links are highly scalable, giving you a better ROT (return on time).
Internal links help your site in two crucial ways.
First, they’re very important from the UX standpoint as they help the users navigate your site easily.
Second, they also have high SEO value as they help Google and other search engines crawl your website, and aid in PageRank distribution which directly affects how your site ranks.
In this guide, I’ll focus on internal linking for SEO while also touching on how they boost the UX of your site.
8 Internal Linking Strategies No One Talks About- Though They’re Super Important
#1- (Internally) Link Relevantly
Relevant internal links are the strongest because the links are supported by the content of the entire linking page.
Let me clarify.
A relevant internal link is not one that has keyword-rich anchor text. In fact, keyword-rich anchor text links can live on a 100% irrelevant pages.
No, relevancy is measured on a page level. It’s when page A links to page A1, and it’s not when page A links to page B.
This is a concept related to phrase-based indexing , which is a patent and technology that allows Google to easily determine the relevancy of both internal and external backlinks.
For example, my Unbounce review and tutorial link to my Unbounce promo offer guide .
That internal link is super strong because it has keyword-rich anchor text, is surrounded with relevant words and phrases, and the page’s title, meta title, and URL are all about Unbounce landing page builder.
That is a perfect internal link from the relevance standpoint.
Note: linking irreverently still has its merits and I’ll talk about it in detail below.
Pro tip- Google likes to see you’re an authority on the topic. Becoming an authority in Google’s eyes means having a lot of content on a certain topic.
The systemized way of building topical authority for your site is to use the hub and spoke model or pillar/cluster model of content development.
Here’s how it works.
First, you find a master keyword. The main key phrase you’d like to rank for the most. Then you find a bunch of long-tail, related keywords, and create supporting content around it.
For example, I know one of the most important articles on Lisa’s site is her AgoraPulse review .
That is her money page which she can easily turn into her pillar article.
As for the cluster Lisa would need to go to Google and type “AgoraPulse” in the search bar.
All keywords Google suggests are terms users type into Google and excellent topical cluster material.
As a further step, Lisa would then take each individual keyword and put it into SEMrush.
Then she’d be able to prioritize based on hard data with the first keywords to target being those that have a combo of decent search volume and weak competition.
The pillar/cluster model seems like intense SEO but it’s actually really simple.
Here an illustration.
And here’s the internal linking pattern to follow.
Pillar page links to cluster articles;
Cluster articles link to pillar page;
Cluster articles link to each other;
Pillar and cluster content link to parent category ;
Parent category links to each of them
An internal linking pattern like this would build a perfect relevance net where Google can easily learn your site is all about topic X.
Pro tip #2– don’t be afraid to break the rules.
Yes, relevance is important, but links also pass authority.
If you have a strong page on your site and you feel you could internally link to your money page from it, then go right ahead.
That internal link will help your rankings a lot, even if it’s not the most relevant.
Note: to find powerful pages on a domain using either Ahrefs or Moz.
Here, with Moz, I can see Lisa’s page on why a post might not be ranking in Google has a lot of authority.
A perfect place to add an internal link to some other guide on her site.
#2- Use Anchor Text
Anchor text is the clickable part of the link.
For example, this is a link leading to Lisa’s e-book on Twitter marketing.
“This is a link” is the anchor text of that internal backlink.
And it’s a ranking signal for Google’s algorithm.
Here are some internal linking anchor text rules to follow.
always use relevant keywords– it’s impossible to overoptimize internal anchor text, so make sure you use a relevant term whenever you link to a page you want to rank.
Exact-match anchor is strongest– exact-match anchors with external backlinks are a common Google Penguin fodder, but with internal links they’re completely fine.
Multiple identical links- if you link multiple times to the same page, the first link needs to have the best anchor (more on first anchor text rule below)
Menu internal links- your menu links need to have your best keyword as anchor text.
Multiple links and link equity– repeated links boost the total amount of PageRank that flows to the target page.
#3- Use Longer Anchor Text to Rank for Long-Tail Keywords
Don’t waste internal link anchor text on head keywords you can never rank for.
For example, Lisa’s site is strong but the competition for the phrase “on-page SEO” is insane and the only way for her to rank for that phrase is to dedicate her whole life to it.
So sending anchor text like “on-page SEO” is a waste of a good opportunity
But sending anchor text like “ on-page SEO guide for beginners ” is a different story because that phrase is less competitive and internal anchor text has a real chance of making an impact.
#4- Use Your Taxonomies
What are WordPress taxonomies?
WordPress taxonomies are a way for WordPress as a CMS to group relevant posts together.
As such they are an excellent UX feature as users can easily find connected posts grouped together by a common theme.
But taxonomies are also an untapped reservoir of relevancy you as a smart blogger can use to your advantage.
What do I mean by this?
I mean that having a developed category or tag holding dozens of posts signals to Google that your site is about X and that they should rank you higher for the entire corpus of keywords belonging to topic X.
For example, my Unbounce tag stitches together my guides on Unbounce.
These articles are all interlinked and also link to the tag.
When Google sees that logical network of internal links they understand my site is about Unbounce and they rank me higher.
Remember this is another way of feeding relevance signals to Google, and one most people completely neglect, especially since most webmasters noindex their taxonomies, which is a critical mistake.
More on it right below.
Pro tip- should you noindex your taxonomies?
No, you should not.
According to John Mueller , content that is noindex/follow over a longer period eventually becomes noindex/nofollow, which means it’s dropped out of the index and all internal links from that section of the site also disappear from the link graph.
Pro tip #2- don’t go overboard with taxonomies
Remember, they are duplicate content as they consist of text snippets scraped from belonging posts+ featured images.
So going crazy and having too many taxonomy pages will lower your site’s quality score and invite Google Panda to your door.
Pro tip #3- Make your pages unique
This is something I have had on my to-do list for quite some time now.
By adding unique content to your taxonomies you make them an original content and this makes them more likely to rank in Google, and also boosts the strength of all internal links from that category or tag.
More on it below.
Pro tip #5 (last one I promise):)- Categories and Tags Internal Link Strengthening
What do I mean?
Internal links from 100% duplicate content hold only a fraction of the power the links from original content have.
And categories and tags are 100% duplicate content.
So, by making your taxonomies more unique, by making them real value-added pages on your site you will strengthen all internal links hosted on those pages and all your pages will benefit from it.
#5- Use Your Menu Strategically
Your site’s menu is the prime estate of your blog.
It’s highly visible, menu items get clicked all the time and you can even make your menu sticky so it follows them as they scroll down the page.
And because Google has incorporated Reasonable Surfer Patent in their algorithm this means menu links have a ton of PageRank to pass to linked-to pages.
These are powerhouses of authority, but there are two big problems here.
First, unless you plan on having a mega menu, they’re limited in space and you can only include one or 2 links to your money content.
Second, there’s something called the first anchor rule, and the best way to explain it is with an example.
If you’re a regular reader of Inspire to Thrive you’ve probably already noticed that Lisa links to her AgoraPulse review within her site’s menu.
That programmatic internal link makes her ArgoraPulse review super powerful.
Because it’s in the menu and her menu is ever-present across the site.
Lisa has ~567 indexed pages in Google. This means her review has at least ~567 internal links pointing to that page.
That’s a lot of PageRank and a wonderful strategy on her part.
The first anchor problem I mentioned above is that when Google finds 2 links on page A pointing to page B, they will pass authority from both, but will take into account only the first link’s anchor text, the one that’s higher up in the HTML.
Because Lisa links to her review from the menu, with the anchor text “why AgoraPulse” that means she is stuck with that one anchor and has zero internal link anchor text diversity.
Is that a problem?
Not necessarily. Her page can still rank just fine. It’s just something extra to consider.
I personally like to vary my internal anchor text and that’s why I keep my money pages in the footer, way below in the HTML.
#6- Use Your Footer Strategically
I love footer links!
Any time I add them I see large rankings increase for my target page.
And they’re unbeaten when it comes to fast indexation of any page.
That said, footer links are not as valuable as menu and content body backlinks.
So when adding them you need to take a balanced approach.
Don’t have too many of them and include only your key money pages.
For example, here’s my site’s footer.
Now, here’s what not to do.
First, we have this page with its mega footer.
I’m confident that just by looking at the image you can guess why mega footers are bad.
They link out too much!
In the example above, this page on Call center software has 40 links in the footer. That is way too much and such an abundance of internal links takes too much PageRank from the internal links in the content body.
In other words, if they halved the number of footer links, the contextual links would grow significantly in power and would be able to move the needle much more efficiently.
Here’s another example of an opposite problem, this time coming from Wiza.co
This is an underutilized footer because they only link to their obligatory pages and even have 2 outbound links to their social profiles.
It’s a wasted opportunity because footer links help only when they point to the exact pages you want to rank.
But when you point them to the blog subfolder, that link juice gets diluted over too many URL’s and ranking impact is minimal.
In this specific case, I’d remove footer links to obligatory pages and add links to their crucial landing pages and commercial content .
#7- Limit the Number of Links on a Page
Both external and internal links pass PageRank. Even nofollow links dissipate equity.
And the more authority a page gives away, the harder it is to rank it.
So, it pays to curb your outlinking habit and tightly control the number of links on a page.
First, use this free tool to see how many links you have on a given page.
As an example, I’ll use this NameCheap review page from my buddy Shamsudeen:
So, Samshudeen has 101 links on that page. Sounds like it’s a lot and it is.
There’s probably room to remove some of those links so that more PageRank is preserved for the links that remain.
I took a look and it seems like he has a bit too many affiliate links on the page.
If he were to remove just 10% of those links, that means each of the remaining links would get 10% more link equity assigned to it.
Remember, by removing links you’re not losing equity, but that extra juice is divided among the remaining links making them stronger.
Finally, not linking out can sometimes hurt your credibility.
For example, my good friend Folajomi Ballo has this emotional statistics page .
The page is well put together and the stats are interesting, however, there are zero external links to the sources of the statistics.
I highly doubt Folajomi conducted a ton of research, surveys, and case studies to reach those conclusions.
Instead, he borrowed them from other sites but he neglected to link to them in a bid to preserve PageRank. However, that is preventing his page from looking legitimate and rarely a blogger will link to a stats page where the stats seem made up.
#8- Use Google Search Console to Get Valuable Data
Did you know you can you GSC to inform your internal linking strategy going forward?
Yes, it’s true.
They have a whole section and report dedicated to it.
The value of this report is 2 fold.
First, you can see which pages have the most internal links and thus receive the most PageRank.
They are perfect candidates to send internal links to your most important money pages.
Pro tip- the stronger the page, the more PageRank it passes so make sure you use your best anchor text on these power pages.
Second, you can also see which pages are orphaned or underlinked.
What are orphaned pages?
Orphaned pages are those that have zero internal links pointing to them.
They get no love from the rest of the site and as such is almost a burden to your sites’ SEO and they can never rank.
So use the filter to find those pages (set value to “equals” and 0 internal links)
Note: I have 0 orphaned pages. I’d be embarrassed if I had even one considering that I’m writing an internal linking guide here:)
Also, all posts and pages that have 5 or