Cracking The Internal Linking Code

Whether you are new to SEO or not, you should know that internal linking is very important in ranking a website. Sometimes, it can even be more important than the links you get from other sites or blogs — especially if your structure is incorrect.

In today’s article, we’re looking at what internal linking is, how it works, some of the best practices, and also the types of internal links that exist. 

What is internal linking?

So what is internal linking in SEO? In a nutshell, internal links are those that you can use to point from one page to another on your own domain. 

There are different types — which we will all discuss in a section below –, but this technique lets you tell the search engines which pages are related to others (in terms of topics) and which ones are most important. 

Everyone knows that they should have internal links on all of their posts and pages, but adding them without a set strategy can actually be detrimental to a website. 

Before we move on to the rest of the article, we’d like to point out that ideally, you should keep your internal links within the same categories. For example, if you have a category that deals with golfing clothes on your website, you should avoid linking from your putter post or page to your golfing shoes post.  

Why is internal linking so important?

Internal links can be used by the search engines to understand your website’s structure

Whenever a search engine’s crawlers end up on your site, they always get to the homepage. That is the most important page you have on your blog or website, and it will always be so. 

Internal links can be employed to show Google (or any other search engine) which posts are related to others in terms of topic, but they can also be used to create a sound site structure. 

For example, if you were to have an affiliate website where just five or six posts contain products or services that you want people to buy, it would be great if you could link to them right from your homepage. 

The concept of ‘page depth’ is utilized by the search engines to try and tell where your pages are located. Your homepage is at depth 0 so any of the links you place on it, whether navigational or not, will be located at depth 1. 

If you create pages that none of your other posts link to, they’re not going to be found by the crawlers — ever. If Google doesn’t find those pages, it’s pretty clear that you have zero chance to rank for their keywords, right? 

internal linking

Internal links can be used for passing authority from one page to another

What are your power pages? What are the ones that have the best page rank on your site? If you don’t know how to tell this and you don’t want to use any online tool for the purpose, you can just look at which one of your pages is getting the most internal links.

Chances are that your homepage has acquired the most links in the past whether through outreach, buying links, press releases, or any other link-building method you’ve used in the past. 

Since your homepage is also the most valuable one you have in terms of crawl budget, when placing a link on it, you will effectively pass authority to the second page or post. 

If you’ve acquired links for one of your money pages and you’ve just built another that has 0 backlinks, you can also use internal linking to pass at least some of the authority of the first to the second. 

In other words, you should run your site through Ahrefs or SEMRush and look at all of the backlinks you’ve acquired to find out what your power pages are. 

seo internal linking

Your readers can use them to navigate through your posts 

If someone ends up on your homepage and they see no way of getting to a possibly interesting article they might want to read, they’re going to just leave. 

That’s where your navigational links come in handy as they can direct users either to a post category that they are interested in checking out, or they can simply direct them to an article, if you’ve added a link to your sidebar to it for example. 

Internal links can be used to improve your user experience, but they can also convince people to make a purchase, if they get more of the information they need without too much effort. 

Types of internal links

The two main types of internal links that exist and that you can use to your advantage are the following:

  • Navigational
  • Contextual

Navigational internal links

These are the links that can usually be found right at the top of every homepage. Whether you run an e-commerce website, an affiliate one, or even a blog, you want people to be able to check out either other posts or categories right from your homepage. 

Adding internal links to your footer is also possible, of course, but you do have to keep in mind that you will be sacrificing some user experience as not all people scroll down to the bottom of your homepage. 

Large retailers such as Amazon, for example, commonly have their categories listed in a sidebar that you can use to get to any category on their site. 

Out of all of these, footer internal links are probably the least useful ones from a real user’s standpoint. 

Contextual internal links

Contextual internal links can be utilized to pass authority from one page to the next. But get this – they should somehow be related, both in terms of topic and in terms of category. 

As previously mentioned, it doesn’t make any sense to link from a post in one category to another in a completely different one as you’re going to mess up your silo structure and the crawlers are probably going to end up being confused about your pages. 

So try to keep these mixed internal links to a minimum and always choose the right category and the right links when you publish a brand new article. 

Internal linking strategies

Coming up with an SEO internal linking strategy off the bat might be a little challenging, especially for someone who’s never owned a website before. But it can be done both conveniently and effectively if you take some time to think and jot down your ideas of categories and main pages. 

Google has to be able to understand your pages’ value, relevance, and the relationship between them as easily as possible. 

Creating an internal linking strategy largely depends on the type of website you want to have. What is the ideal structure of your site? What do you want to have displayed in your menu? What are your most important pieces of content, those you want people to come across first and foremost?

Here are some more tips.

Use a hierarchy

The best structure that you can create is to have your homepage link to your parent pages, the very large ones where all of the sub-category posts can be linked from. You can either use a simple link to the category (if you don’t want to create a parent page) and then link to and from those articles between each other. 

Parent pages should link to their child pages and the other way around. Fortunately, you do not have to constantly add links to your homepage as one will most likely be in the navigation (listed like ‘Home’). 

But that’s the only thing you will get away with. The rest of your pages, especially those that are ‘children’ of the same parent pages, have to be linked to and from one another — not all of them, of course, but it would be great if as many of them could. 

Related posts

While there are many linking tools and plugins (and we’ll tackle some of the best in the sections below) out there, you do have to consider that they can malfunction. What are you going to do then? Will your entire internal linking structure be useless as the links will disappear?

For this reason, we recommend either having a set section where you can display your ‘related posts’, one that your designer has created for you, or we advise adding the contextual links to all of your articles manually. 

As much of a hassle as all of this might sound like, it’s actually quite safe and effective. Sure, in case you change your mind and want to create another category and move your posts into it, you will have to do all of the grunt work yourself if you’ve added the links manually. 

But even taking this drawback in account, it’s still the safest method of all. 

Add links to your recent or popular articles

If your homepage isn’t static, you’re probably going to have your recent articles displayed on it in some form or another. But if it is static, you will have to add them to your sidebar or to the navigational menu at the top or at the bottom. 

Displaying some of your recent or popular article links on your homepage is a good way not only to get people to visit and read them, but they will also be crawled faster and easier by Google. 

internal linking mistakes

Internal linking mistakes

Broken internal links

So you’ve noticed that one of your pages or posts is not getting any traffic and based on the data you’ve examined in an SEO tool, it’s not ranking for any keyword. Before you decide to delete it, you should also look at its backlink profile and see whether it has acquired any internal or external links.

If none of your other pages are linking to it, the 0 traffic and 0 keyword situation is completely natural. Add some internal links from your power pages to the problematic one and wait for a month or two to see what happens. 

If nothing happens then, you can remove it from your site. But wait! You can’t just delete it, at least not without removing the links that you have on your other pages and that are pointing to it. 

Otherwise, it’ll end up being a 404 and you don’t want to have any broken links on your site, whether internal or external. 

internal links 404

Too many internal links

Even on your homepage, you should never have more than three thousand internal links, whether in the navigation or not. There isn’t a set rule according to which Google crawls websites, but even if you look at it logically, it couldn’t be possible for all of your pages to be just as important as all of the rest. 

Fortunately, this is not a problem most SEOs or webmasters have to face as they often don’t have enough internal links rather than too many. 

Nofollow internal links

The rel=nofollow attribute can be used when you want to link to a resource, for example, but it should never be used in internal linking. Otherwise, it’s not going to be able to pass any authority or link juice to that specific page. 

Make sure that your internal links are never nofollow. This error more than often shows up if you’re using a bad plugin or you’re using it incorrectly. It’s almost never a human error as you would probably not want to add the rel=nofollow attribute manually in your code, especially to an internal link. 

Pages that have received no internal links 

Also called ‘orphaned’, these pages can’t be crawled at all. Not only are your visitors not going to see them, but neither will Google’s crawlers. 

Keep in mind that if you have a ‘recent posts’ section on your homepage and there’s no other page linking to your recent article, they’ll end up being at a bigger depth as time goes by and you publish more content. 

A too large crawl depth

If an important page takes just too many clicks to reach, the search engines are going to believe that they don’t matter that much, so they’re not going to rank for too many keywords or get too much traffic. 

Redirect problems

Redirects can be useful in some situations, but if you do not keep a clear log of what you’ve changed and what redirects you’ve made in the past, you’re in serious trouble. 

Try to keep your structure as clean as possible and if you have to remove a page and the links directing to it, it’s better to do it rather than creating hundreds of redirects, instead. 

What is the best internal linking tool?

If by internal linking tool, you mean an SEO tool that can help you create a sound internal linking structure, there is no perfect one out there. 

You can, however, use standard SEO tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs to keep track of your broken links. You can also create linking opportunities using Screaming Frog

What is the best internal linking plugin for WordPress?

Link Whisper

As one of the best plugins for WordPress internal linking, Link Whisper is very easy to use and takes some of the hassle out of the whole process for you.

However, we’ve been using it for a while now and we’d like to note that you do have to pay attention and make sure that you do not include the same link on several different anchor texts — this is a common error that can show up while using the plugin. 

It also doesn’t seem to be able to select the best anchor texts, so you might still have to add your internal links manually after all. 

The plugin isn’t cheap, but it’s easy to install and use and it can at least give you some guidance as to which posts work better linked with others. A single-site license is priced at $67. 

Get Link Whisper

Yoast SEO

Yoast internal linking is convenient, user-friendly, and it also comes with heaps of other features. This plugin is one of the most popular ones in terms of SEO and you can use it for a variety of tasks from keyword optimization to improving your text’s readability. 

What’s important to note is that you aren’t going to get this feature if you use the free version. The paid one costs $89 for a year. 

Rank Math

This is another SEO plugin that you can use for internal linking, especially since it gives you link suggestions on the right side of its editor. 

Some of its other features are rich snippets, managing your redirects, and of course, SEO analysis. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t cost a penny, so it’s a great option for people starting out. 

Internal Link Juicer

If you want to have complete control over your internal linking process, Internal Link Juicer might be right up your alley. 

It allows you to set your anchor text, whitelist or blacklist certain pages or posts, and even customize your link output. 

It’s also worth adding that it is completely free, so it’s excellent for bloggers, marketers, or affiliates, or those that have little to no experience when it comes to internal linking. 

Inline Related Posts

This one’s really user-friendly and convenient, but it’s also quite easy to customize. You can set whether you want your links to be nofollow or not, whether you want them to be added automatically to your posts (within the same category), and you can also add them ‘manually’. 

The blocks or boxes added by the plugin can also be customized visually. The free version is a little limited in terms of features, but the premium (limited) one costs just $27 and it gives you access to heaps of themes.  


We hope that our post has helped you understand why SEO internal linking is important both for the search engines and for your users. 

Starting out with a safe and sound internal linking strategy is much better than having to fix your internal links afterward, so we strongly advise you to create it from the beginning. 

Need help with your SEO or digital marketing efforts? We have lots of plans and courses available. Get in touch to find out how we can be of assistance!


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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 20 years.

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