Top 6 Internal Linking Best Practices for SEO in 2024

Joel CariñoWritten by Joel Cariño|Last updated: 29 May 2024

Internal linking is arguably the linchpin that holds a website together. 

As long as internal links exist from one page to another, the content will remain connected and accessible to users and search engines.

There are different types of internal links, each an effective avenue for transferring PageRank.

However, not all practices for internal linking are effective.

Indiscriminate internal linking may even become the limiting factor for SEO and the user’s search experience.

This guide explores the top 6 internal linking best practices for SEO in 2024.

Internal Linking Best Practices vs Strategies: What’s the Difference?

The terms “best practices” and “strategies” are often interchanged in internal linking discussions. After all, some overlaps may exist between the two concepts.

Understanding the differences between the two is crucial as this directly influences your decision-making and problem-solving when it comes to internal linking.

Internal linking strategies are overarching plans designed to achieve goals in your internal linking efforts. They provide a long-term roadmap on where and how to use internal links in your website.

Meanwhile, best practices for internal linking are more technically inclined, focusing more on the implementation process of your strategy. They concern the individual “how-to” aspects of each step in your strategy.

Here’s an illustration to describe best practices vs strategies:

Strategy vs Best Practices

6 Internal Linking Best Practices to Achieve Your SEO Goals

Strategic planning is crucial when you add internal links. Here are 6 of the best internal linking practices to strengthen your site’s internal link structure:

1. Anchor Text Optimization

If internal links are doorways, anchor texts are like glass doors. The more descriptive and contextually relevant an anchor text, the clearer the door becomes. 

This makes it easily perceptible for users to know what lies ahead of those internal links.

Here’s an example from one of Linkody’s blog articles:

Example of an internal link

The hyperlink shown above leads to another page explaining the reasons why backlinks can have adverse effects on a site’s SEO:

Screenshot of Linkody's blog article on how backlinks can hurt SEO

Optimizing anchor texts means being vividly clear about where the links intend to take users. 

Otherwise, unclear internal link anchors might hamper user experience if users click and land on a page outside their search interest.

Here are some practices for improved anchor text formulation for internal linking:

A. Be frugal with exact-match internal links

Exact-match anchors refer to anchor texts that use the exact keywords for the destination page.

While some might argue that using exact-match anchor text is better, especially for contextually relevant links, they can also potentially backfire on your website.

A few exact-match anchor texts are fine, but plenty of it? 

It will make your internal linking profile look spammy. 

LinkStorm’s Anchor tab report shows all the anchor texts used in a website, including the destination of those anchors. 

Users can use this information to diversify their internal linking anchor texts and prevent rampant exact-matching.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's anchor tab with highlights

In 2013, Google has already answered whether exact-match anchors for internal links can hurt SEO. They answered with “typically not.” 

It’s always better to play it safe, especially if Google ever changes its mind through an algorithm update.

As a rule of thumb, always seek to diversify the anchor texts used for internal links pointing to a single page. This keeps your internal link profile looking natural.

B. Make anchor texts descriptive

In connection with preventing exact-match anchors, making anchor texts descriptive is one solution to achieve this.

You may add a few words or use synonyms to exact-match anchor texts to make them partial-match. For instance, below are two internal links from LinkStorm’s resource pages leading to our dedicated resource on what are internal links.

Demonstration of exact-match and partial-match anchor texts in action

The above demonstrates how anchor text must be diversified for better contextual linking and to create a natural internal linking profile.

Anchor texts provide a glimpse of the link’s destination but do not operate single-handedly. 

The content around anchor texts can also provide context to the internal link’s destination. 

This way, even when the anchor text features particular information on the linked page, users will still have a crystal-clear understanding of what awaits should they click on the internal link.

Here is an example:

Screenshot of Linkody's content on broken link-building

The internal link might not be descriptive enough to explain where it leads, but the content around it provides substantial context regarding the linked page.

In the example above, the internal link takes users to a recent case study and statistics on link decay.

C. Use long-tail keywords as anchor texts

Long-tail keywords refer to longer, more specific phrases that warm leads typically search on Google.

These keywords have lower search volumes but higher conversion rates, making them valuable for content marketing.

However, the importance of long-tail keywords spans beyond content creation. 

Using long-tail keywords as anchor texts for internal linking is useful, especially for making descriptive anchors. 

Long-tail keywords match more closely with a user’s search intent. This means users are likelier to click long-tail internal links than other links using generic anchor texts.

For instance, take a look at the long-tail anchor text we used in this section:

Screenshot of long-tail anchor text

Another benefit of long-tail anchor texts is they provide web crawlers with more context about the linked content. This boosts the internal link’s relevance, influencing how much link equity is transferred from the source to the linked page.

Put simply, a page linked with long-tail anchor texts might rank higher in search engine results for relevant long-tail search queries.

2. Strategically direct your internal linking efforts

Internal links must never be indiscriminately created.

You can maximize the impact of your internal linking efforts when you strategically control its direction.

Before building internal links, it’s important to have an end goal in mind. What do you want to achieve specifically once all internal links are created?

Below are a few tips to consider to help guide the direction of your internal linking:

A. Breathe life into newly published content

Building internal links from indexed web pages to newly published content increases its visibility among Google’s crawlers, expediting new web pages’ crawling and indexing process.

Infographic Demonstrating How Crawlers Discover New Pages Using Internal Links

Meanwhile, the absence of internal links bridging indexed and new content may limit crawlers from indexing a page. While they may still get indexed eventually, this prolongs the time needed before the web page appears on search results.

Moreover, completely overlooking internal links may result in having orphan pages on your website.

Speaking of which…

B. Reconnect orphan pages

Orphan pages refer to web pages are are not linked to and from other pages on a website.

Users cannot access the orphan page without knowing the exact URL. Plus, since they exist outside the internal web structure, orphan pages are also inaccessible to web crawlers, rendering them unindexed.

If SEO is a core marketing strategy for companies, they cannot afford to have orphan pages throughout their site. 

Internal links bridge the gap between orphan pages and websites, allowing people and web spiders to crawl and index previously orphaned pages.

C. Transfer PageRank to the least-performing pages

The most common reason for internal linking is to maximize link equity transfer from one internal page to another.

Similar to backlinks, high-authority pages transmit link juice or PageRank to linked pages.

Illustration of how PageRank is transferred via links

Commonly, many websites pursue a scale-down approach when internal linking.

Scale-down approach is a directional internal linking process where the PageRank transfer comes from high-PA to low-PA pages. 

Pursuing a scale-down approach jumpstarts the SERP competitiveness of least-performing pages by receiving immediate authority from pages performing well on search results.

D. Boost the performance of high-ranking pages

Sometimes, high-ranking pages also require an authority boost to propel them further in search results. Users can also take advantage of internal linking to achieve this in a process called the scale-up approach.

Scale-up approach is a directional internal linking process where PageRank is transferred from high-PA to fellow high-PA web pages.

Building internal links from pages that perform well on SERPs to other high SERP-ranking pages fills up the latter’s authority gauge. This often results in a page’s bump up in search performance.

LinkStorm is a viable tool that can be used for both scale-up and scale-down approaches. The software’s Opportunities tab provides intelligent, AI-assisted internal linking suggestions throughout a website. 

As shown below, users can take advantage of the average position information on the dashboard to maneuver the direction of their internal linking efforts.

Screenshot of efficient link opportunities from LinkStorm

The above suggestion features a scale-down approach since the internal link comes from a page in position #3 to a page in position #45.

Meanwhile, the bottom suggestion coincides with the principle of the scale-up approach since the link internal link comes from a page in position #5 to a page in position #3.

3. Place internal links high up on web pages

The average time on a web page sits at 52 seconds across industries. This number depends on a lot of factors.

Often, people bounce out immediately when the content’s introduction fails to hook them into reading an article. Even when users decide to stay on the page after the introduction, engagement trickles down as they scroll through.

Reaching the bottom of a web page happens rarely.

This is where inserting internal links high up on a web page comes in.

Backlinko says they’ve tested internal link placement extensively and found that internal links placed high up on web pages improve dwell time and minimize bounce rate.

Internal links give users something to click on and explore outside their current page. Plus, links up high are likelier to get click-throughs than those at the bottom since users seldom reach them.

Take a look at the introduction of our comprehensive internal linking guide:

Screenshot of LinkStorm's resource on the complete guide to internal linking

We have placed many links in the introduction part to provide users with content to click on, increasing their dwell time, a parameter important for SEO.

While a few links above the fold are helpful, adding too many links can also overwhelm users. Always put yourself in the reader’s shoes when you add links to determine how many links are enough to keep audiences engaged.

4. Qualify your internal links properly

The SEO value of links is directly related to their underlying rel attribute. 

By default, links are qualified as dofollow, allowing the transfer of link equity. Meanwhile, links qualified with rel=‘sponsored’ get lesser link equity, and rel=‘nofollow’ transmits zero link juice.

In the case of link building, having an equal distribution of dofollow, nofollow, and/or sponsored links is crucial for a natural backlink profile.

On the other hand, it makes no sense to qualify internal links with a nofollow since it transfers zero PageRank.

LinkStorm’s Issues tab shows the internal linking problems in a website, particularly nofollow links, redirects, or broken internal links. 

You can then use the information to address the issues from your CMS provider. This can help you maximize the link value transferred between multiple internal links.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's issues tab

5. Avoid internal link spamming

We can never understate the importance of internal linking, but it’s equally crucial to avoid overdoing it.

One of the biggest internal linking mistakes is link spamming.

PageRank declines with every new link added to a web page. So, how many internal links are in the safe range?

Many years ago (around 2009), Matt Cutts said the recommended number of links on a page (both internal and external links) was 100. According to him, web crawlers may truncate and not index the entire page if a page has more than a hundred links.

Of course, since 2009, Google’s web algorithm and crawling efficiency have improved, but it always pays to be safe.

Moz says search engines have a crawl limit of 150 links per page on your site before search engine crawlers stop crawling. They said the limit is somewhat flexible since important pages (like a pillar post or authority page) may have dofollow links of around 200-250.

Still, to be perfectly safe, keep your links within 100-150.

6. Take advantage of internal linking software

Having internal linking software can be instrumental to the success of your website’s SEO strategy. The ideal tool must take the time-consuming hassle out of manual internal linking and help your site build a strong internal linking structure— LinkStorm does just that. 

LinkStorm uses two algorithms to suggest internal linking opportunities throughout your website that would have otherwise been buried in hindsight:

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Link Opportunities tab

Semantic Similarity: Uses AI-assisted machine learning to suggest pertinent internal links to related content based on contextual information and semantic analysis

Content matching: Uses seed keywords throughout the content as anchor texts for internal linking placement

Aside from internal linking opportunities, users may also use LinkStorm to conduct an internal link audit.

From the dashboard, simply visit the Issues tab to find internal links that are mistakenly qualified with a rel=’nofollow’ attribute or redirect/broken links.

You may also explore the Anchor tab to optimize anchor texts throughout your website. 

On top of the standard internal linking feature of LinkStorm, the tool may also be utilized for conducting creative research and competitor analysis. 

LinkStorm comes equipped with dedicated crawlers that can scrape content from competitors so you can analyze them via the software. 

Once you plug in your competitor’s website information, the tool automatically crawls the site, revealing the competitor’s relevant website data, like:

  • Pages
  • Link opportunities
  • Existing links
  • Anchor text usage
  • Linking issues

You can explore each of those tabs from the dashboard for creative brainstorming.

LinkStorm new project opt-in

If you visit the Pages tab, you can type in seed keywords that are relevant to your niche and pull up all the pages in your competitor’s domain using that keyword. 

For instance, the keyword “backlink” reveals all the content containing the term backlink. You can then explore all your competitor’s pages and find content gaps between you and their website.

Repeat this process on all competitors for the best results.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's pages tab

The Links tab is another treasure trove for on-page SEO optimization, revealing the internal linking strategy used by competitors.

Simply input your seed keyword on the search bar. For instance, the keyword “backlink” reveals all the anchor texts containing the term backlink on the hyperlink. 

You can then analyze this information to see how you can improve your internal linking efforts based on your competitor’s existing strategy.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Links tab

The Opportunities tab offers features beyond internal linking suggestions. It’s also a helpful tool for interlinking topic clusters and pillar pages.

From the Opportunities tab, write the seed keyword of your pillar post on the first bar and the seed keywords of the various cluster content on the second search bar.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's link opportunities tab search bar

This will show all possible internal linking opportunities from your pillar post to each cluster content. 

You can reverse the process by writing the content cluster keywords on the first bar and the pillar post keyword on the second one to find ways to link back your content clusters to the pillar page. 

Finally, input each cluster content seed keyword on the first and second bars to create interconnections between each cluster’s content.

By doing this process repeatedly, you will have several topic clusters throughout your website in the end, as shown in the illustration below.

Website topic cluster setup illustration

Ready To Embrace Intelligent Internal Linking?

Effective internal linking is a crucial game player for SEO, especially because it is affordable and achievable without professional help. Plus, the impact of internal linking on a website’s SEO performance cannot be underestimated.

Armed with reliable internal linking software, you can take the tedium off internal linking and expedite the intelligent creation of internal links.

LinkStorm is an all-in-one toolkit that can help you create a strong internal linking structure and elevate your SEO strategy, minus the headache and cost of managing your in-house team.

If you’re interested in learning more about LinkStorm, check out LinkStorm’s pricing guide for a FREE trial. No strings attached.

Happy linking!

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