Internal Links Improve Search Engine Ranking

Internal links play an important role in your onsite search engine optimization. How you link to other pages within your site helps search engines find pages on your site, index them, and rank them for specific keywords.  In fact, when performing a check for a website’s backlinks, some of the strongest backlinks a site has come from internal links within the site to other pages of the site.  If you doubt this, just look at Wikipedia. Almost every page on their website contains a plethora of internal links to other pages of the site, and they dominate the search engine results pages for many keyword searches.

Internal Links Versus External Links

Internal links are links that go to other pages of your own website.  External links are links that go to pages that are not part of your website. In other words, other people’s websites.


Internal Links Should:

  1. Use keywords as anchor text
  2. Be interspersed with the content of your site
  3. Interlink between pages of your site that are related to each other
  4. Open in the same browser (i.e. don’t use target=”_blank” in the URL code)
  5. Be “dofollow” (i.e. don’t use the rel=”nofollow” in the URL code)


How to build an internal link

A typical link looks like this: <a href=”URL”>ANCHOR TEXT</a>

To build your link, you would replace URL with the URL of your web page and replace ANCHOR TEXT with your anchor text. Of course, you would want your anchor text to be a particular keyword related to the page you’re linking to.  If you’re not familiar with this concept, please review choosing your best keywords.

If you didn’t notice, that link we just used there is an example of an internal link. It’s linking to a page that is related to this topic, using the anchor text: “choosing your best keywords”.  When search engines crawl this page, they’re going to find that page too because of this internal link.  It also adds additional relevant content for our readers.


Sitemaps as a Form of Internal Linking

Using an XML sitemap for search engines and an HTML sitemap for your human visitors is a great way to create strong internal links for your website.  We’ve got an entire video dedicated to creating a sitemap (there, I did it again…another internal link).


PageRank Sculpting

Typically, people think about pagerank sculpting in terms of dofollow and nofollow links, but a recent change in the way Google handles this has changed pagerank sculpting. Andy Beard does a good job of discussing this in his article: PageRank Sculpting Isn’t Dead.  Essentially, you should look at how you’re linking to pages on your website, and include prominent pages in prominent positions so they receive more attention from search engines and visitors.  You may wish to nofollow links to unimportant pages (like your contact page, privacy policy, and terms of use).  For detailed information on how Google is currently handling PageRank scultping, check out this article on PageRank Sculpting from Matt Cutts.  Dan Thies also covers this topic in depth in his Fast Start SEO Guide (FREE).


Additional Resources on Internal Links

StomperNet  discusses how internal linking creates ranking improvements through referential integrity, which is composed of topic, reputation and confirmation. This video is about 20 minutes long, but really explains internal linking strategies and onsite SEO in depth.

In this video, Matt Cutts discusses PageRank sculpting using internal linking strategies.

Our article on internal links discusses internal linking strategies, contextual links and making use of your own website as an authority site.

Read this article from Barry Schwartz on internal linking strategies, including a discussion on image versus text links, use of javascript and flash, image map navigation and framed navigation.