Whether you’re writing web content for a client or building your money-making website, optimizing your site for search engines is crucial.
And, one thing Google looks for is internal links.
John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, states that internal linking is a critical element for Google bots to determine the importance of a page within its website.
More importantly, thoughtful internal links help your visitors, too.
But, what do we mean by internal linking?
When you create a link in your content, pointing to another page on your website, you’re creating an internal link. For example, if you’re writing an article about “How to Get Rid of Hard Water Stains in Your Dishwasher,” and, within that article, you link to another page on your site about water softeners, that’s an internal link.
For a visual example, here’s how internal links look on Digital Copywriter. Both links in the image go to other content on the site.
You’ll naturally have other internal links on a page, like the navigational links at the top. But, don’t link to your top-level pages in the body of a page unless necessary.
That’s because Google doesn’t give weight to top-level navigational links like Home, Contact Us, About, Blog, and FAQ. Those links lack value in determining your website’s purpose. Plus, they appear on every page, so they don’t need repetition.
Instead, point to helpful articles that exist on your website. This helps search engines better understand your site, and that means they can give your website a double thumbs up… which can give your SEO rankings a boost.
Simple enough, right?
But, like anything, internal linking works best when you’re strategic about it. Here are a few more recommended guidelines to follow.
Create a publishing routine.
You can’t link to content if it doesn’t exist. More content means more opportunities to create valuable links. Nothing tricky here.
More content also means more projects, and that’s excellent news for you as a writer. Even better, internal linking also gives you an opportunity to take a leading role in your client’s content-creation strategy.
For instance, let’s say you’re writing for an insurance company. They hired you to write an article about factors affecting auto-insurance premiums. The article shows how a low credit score can increase your insurance cost.
Now would be a great time to suggest an internal link pointing to a new article: “Improve Your Credit Score and Save Money on Insurance Premiums.” The reader gets valuable money-saving information. Your client gets a copywriter who knows how to help boost SEO rankings with internal links. And, you secure more writing projects. Everyone wins.
Don’t overdo the linking.
Search engines crawl websites to rank them, and they can’t crawl pages with more than 150 links per page. That’s the cap. But, the rule of thumb is to limit any given page to 100 internal links or less for the best ranking.
Either way, that’s a lot of links on a page of content, right?
Well, Google doesn’t count just the links within your article’s content. They also look at links in the navigation bar and the footer. Unless marked with a “no follow” HTML tag, Google counts every link on the screen.
This includes navigational links like Home, About, Blog, FAQ, Contact Us, and other navigation bar and sidebar links.
Image links count, too. (More on using image links in a minute.)
And, of course, there are contextual links or text anchor links within the written content itself. These links carry the most value in your SEO ranking.
If your client has a large website, and they’ve loaded up their sidebar and footer with links, they may be closing in on triple digits in their link count.
While there’s a cap to the number of links you can include on a page, there’s not a hard and fast rule for the number of links you should include.
It will depend on how large the website is — bigger websites have more linking opportunities.
And, it will depend on the length of your article.
A 300-word blog has fewer linking opportunities than a 2,500-plus-word article.
Longer articles can host more links, provided there’s a need for them. We’ll touch on that in a second.
In either case, you’ll want to sprinkle the links throughout the content. Avoid grouping them too close — that can make them hard to click or tap on. Always make sure you include links that are relevant to your reader at that moment. Side note: You may have seen websites group popular articles or blogs in the footer of a page. Google sees this as spam and penalizes websites. So, this is no longer a recommended strategy.
Remember, you want to create a good user experience. Too many links can be overwhelming, so balance your links with the copy you’re writing.
Best practice is to include around 5 to 10 links within a 2,000-word article. This refers to links in the written material, not navigational and footer links.
You can adapt this rule of thumb based on your article length. A 1,000-word piece might get 3 to 5 links, while a 3,000-word article might handle up to 7 to 15 links.
The most important rule is to include links where your visitor will find them helpful based on the content they’re reading. Always write for the reader, not the guidelines,
Content and links should relate back to the site’s main topic.
Remember what John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said? Linked content helps determine a page’s importance within its website.
But, you don’t want to create content and links just to have internal links, hoping for a better SEO ranking. It doesn’t work that way.
Let’s say your client is an insurance company. You wrote the article we mentioned above about factors affecting the cost of auto-insurance premiums. If that article contained a link to another page, “The Safest Cars on the Market Today,” that’s good. A vehicle’s safety stats are related to insurance premium costs.
But, if it linked to a piece titled, “The Most Economical Cars on the Market Today,” that isn’t related to the original topic of the page or to the overall purpose of the website as a whole. Google will spot the incongruity and lower the website’s SEO ranking slightly.
To put your best foot forward with your visitors and the search engines, make sure the content and links you suggest and create tie in to the overall topic and purpose of the website.
Write strong anchor text.
Creating links with words like “click here” doesn’t help anyone. Non-descriptive links have no value and aren’t kind to those with accessibility needs.
But, it’s not recommended to use exact-match linking, either. If you have an article titled, “5 Accessibility Writing Tips to Empower Your Client’s Sales,” avoid using that exact text in your link. Google is sensitive to links that sound forced or spammy and could penalize you. Exact text anchors appear unnatural to them and likely read unnaturally to your visitors.
Instead, look for organic text phrases which naturally make for good links to the article. Like this: “I hadn’t realized that writing content for accessibility needs increases sales. Since I’ve included it in my writing arsenal, I’ve increased my value to my clients and get paid more.”
See how natural that anchor text fits with the surrounding copy? The text phrase describes the content on the other side of the link with a few organic words. It’s not forced. There are no tricks. No optimization. And, it’s more inviting.
Here’s another tip: Avoid using the exact long-tail link phrase for more than one article.
Using our example above, I wouldn’t want to link the phrase, “writing for accessibility increases sales,” to point to a different article on a similar topic elsewhere on the site. If a writer uses the exact phrase for multiple articles, Google can’t figure out which article to rank for that text phrase.
What about image links?
Using images as links is acceptable. They add color and give a page some variety. But, there are two things to keep in mind when using images:
1. They shouldn’t be the primary link.
If you add an image link, accompany it with a text link. Google gives isolated image links a low value.
2. Use alt tags.
If you use an image in your article, include an alt tag to help define it. Describe the image as if you’re explaining it to someone who can’t see it. Blind and visually impaired people use adaptive equipment to read the screen, so help them know what’s there. There’s no need to optimize your alt tag with keywords unless they fit naturally into the description.
Wrapping up with a quick word on automation.
Automation is a time saver. And, there are many plugin tools to help create and manage internal linking.
But, automation isn’t as simple as assigning a phrase to a piece of content, and then every time you write that phrase, having a link magically appear on your website. While it’s true automation can work like that, there are some links to be careful of.
Automation can put links in places you may not want.
With automation, links are assigned to and created based on phrases you write. A writer’s goal is to get in a flow, so your words pour onto the page. You might not notice if you use separate link phrases close together. Then the automation tool may pick up on your phrasing and create links that are too close together on the page. You can limit the number of links in many tools, but you’ll want to check the content and edit the spacing as needed.
Watch for unrelated link references.
Internal linking is about assigning a variety of related text anchors to a specific article. Over time you’ll have many phrases, and it’s impossible to remember them all.
So, you may write a phrase in your content that points to an article unrelated to the one you’re writing. You’ll want to double-check if the destination article is the one you intended.
Most tools have ways to review and edit these quickly, but it’s essential to know it’s not a “set it and forget it” system. If you’re using automation, it still pays to manually check your links.
I hope this article proves valuable for your client work or getting your money-making website up and ranking. Let us know in the comment area.
Internal linking is not only great for helping your SEO score, but it can give your visitors a better, more satisfying experience, and that can keep them on your website and enjoying your content for a long time to come.