Internal Links and SEO: Why Do They Matter?

By: Michael Johnson

We all know that links are the lifeblood of SEO. But sometimes, digital marketers can get so focused on link building and guest posting that they let internal link optimization fall by the wayside. 

John Mueller recently affirmed that internal linking is one of the “biggest things” an SEO can do to tell Google what content is the most important to their website. So it is vital for modern SEOs to be consistently auditing and optimizing their site’s internal link structure. 

In this article, we’ll dive into how internal links work, why they matter, and how to master the art of internal linking.

What is Internal Linking?

Internal linking is exactly what it sounds like: the act of linking to your website on your own website. Internal links direct the users toward a relevant page on your domain. For example, if you are an SEO company posting an article on your blog about link building, and you embed a link to your link building services, that is an internal link. 

Internal linking is crucial to onsite SEO because it helps Google to understand the content and structure of your website. The Google algorithm seeks to understand not only what your webpages are, but how they are used.

A smart internal linking strategy gives the Google algorithm more information about your webpages, allowing the search engine to better sort them on the SERP. Internal links are one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so if you’re not using them to their full benefit, you may be missing out on higher ranks and increased traffic.

Why Internal Links Are Important to SEO

Internal Links Help Search Engines Understand Your Site Structure

Internal links help Google’s crawlers understand the hierarchy of a website’s content and its relationship to other pages on the site. The algorithm examines a website’s internal links in order to determine which pages are the most important, which pages are related to each other, and what queries lead users to those webpages.

Creating Internal Linking Structure Helps Pass Authority
Throughout Your Site

Links are one of the main ways that Google determines the value and authority of a webpage. When one page links to another page, it is essentially “vouching” for the content on that page, indicating that the page is high-authority.

Internal links are a great tool when you want to increase conversion on your website. Sales pages, sign-up pages, and other “money-maker” pages on your site may be difficult to utilize in a link building campaign; however, you can increase their visibility by linking to them in your own content.

Internal Links Make Site Navigation Easier and More Accessible

Internal links should guide users through your site in an intuitive and accessible way. When planning your internal links, envision the user’s journey from start to finish: what search query brings them to your content, what will their aim be while viewing that content, and what pages on your site will be most helpful to them.

Understanding Internal Linking Structure

Navigational Links

These are the most important internal links on your site. Navigational links should live permanently in your main menu to guide users to the pages they want to see.

They also make up your site’s main navigational structure. Common types of navigational links include product listings, services, contact information, and content hubs.

Contextual Links

These are links that fit organically within the content on your site. These links provide additional information for the content on your pages, and they can help to improve the user experience by providing users with additional resources and information.

You can think of contextual links as citations of sorts, or sources for further reading.

Building Your Internal Linking Structure


Plan Topic Clusters

Topic clusters are groups of related pages that are organized around a central topic or theme. By creating topic clusters, you can help search engines to understand the structure of your website and identify the most important and relevant pages.

When forming your content creation strategy, plan articles and blog posts that will end up bringing users to your website’s service pages. Centering content around these topics can help your conversion and increase overall visibility. 

Decide What Your Most Important Content Is and Optimize It

When planning your content strategy, ask yourself these questions: What are your moneymaker pages? Where do you ultimately want your users to end up?

Build the most links to these pages and plan your content with these pages in mind. Build topic clusters around your most successful web pages in order to distribute authority throughout the cluster. 

Add Contextual Links to Your Content Using Appropriate Anchor Text

Anchor text is how Google immediately determines the topic of your content. You want to have a good mix of different types of anchor text on your site. 

An even mix of exact match anchor text, related keywords, and partial match anchor text will give Google good information about what users can find on your site. Before creating your content, do some keyword research and plan your links around the keywords that bring users to your site

Pay Attention to Your Highest Ranking Pages

Be sure that content on your site points back to high-ranking pages in order to boost their authority, and that your high-ranking pages are helping boost authority to the rest of your site.

Link equity flows from the high-ranking pages to the low-ranking ones, so it’s crucial that you internally link FROM the internal links. 

Don’t Forget to Support Brand New Content

Internally linking to brand-new content increases its visibility and gives it a good dose of link equity. This strategy is especially important when you are working in topic clusters or trying to target less-popular service pages. 

Promote Related Content on Your Site

When you write a blog post, ask yourself: what other content on my site will be useful to this reader? Providing links to relevant informative content ensures that the user remains on your site and is more likely to return to your site in the future. 

You can embed these links within the article, or provide a list of “Content You May Enjoy” at the bottom of your article.

How to Audit Your Internal Linking Structure

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is one of, if not the, most popular WordPress plugin for SEO. Their internal link suggestion feature suggests internal web pages that are relevant to your content, and monitors your existing internal links for traffic and performance.


SEMRush Site Audit

SEMRush is a staple in the SEO world, and their site audit feature can give you some incredible insights. SEMRush will go through your website with a fine-toothed comb, finding technical issues, broken anchor text, underutilized pages, and more. You’ll get a detailed report about your internal linking structure, with actionable tips to improve.


All in One SEO

This is another powerful WordPress plugin that suggests internal links for your content. What makes AIO stand out, though, is their “orphaned content” feature: this tool will pinpoint webpages that have zero internal links thus far, and suggest ways to utilize them.


Internal Link Juicer

Internal Link Juicer is a WordPress plugin that finds potential internal links for anchor text within your content as you work. ILJ offers both free and paid tiers, with the paid tier offering more personalized link placements and the option to block certain pages from being auto-linked.


Google Search Console

Good ol’ GSC has an internal link feature that shows you real-time data on your webpage links. Using GSC for internal link auditing takes a little more effort – it doesn’t give you live suggestions or suggest internal links as you create content, like the other tools – but learning to dig into GSC data is worthwhile.


Quick Internal Linking Tips

Find Internal Link Opportunities with Google’s Help

The quickest way to find great internal linking opportunities is also one of the simplest: a site search! When writing content focused around a certain topic or keyword, just enter this in the Google URL bar:

site:yoursite.com “keyword”

And you’ll be given a list of pages on your site that contain that keyword. This strategy is great for anchor text optimization!

Don’t Link to Two or More Pages with the Same Anchor Text

Your anchor text should make it abundantly clear what the purpose of the linked page is. If you’re using the same anchor text for multiple pages in order to rank for those keywords, Google will get confused about the purpose of each page and rank them lower in response.

Follow anchor text best practices with all of your internal links. Choose anchor text based on relevance to the linked page, not the keywords you want to rank for.

Use an Internal Link Plugin

If your website runs on WordPress, you can find multiple plugins that can audit and optimize your internal linking structure as you work. You can find both paid and free plugins that can suggest internal links, automatically add them, and monitor their performance.

Link Whisper for WordPress is one of our favorites, as it recommends internal links as you write, and can auto-link your pages based on keyword matching.


While it may seem simple from the outside, a good internal link structure can be a work of art. By planning your on-site SEO strategy with intention, you can guide users toward the pages that will help you rank higher on the SERP, gain conversions, and earn repeat customers. The time you spend planning and auditing your internal link structure will be more than worth it.


While it may seem simple from the outside, a good internal link structure can be a work of art. By planning your on-site SEO strategy with intention, you can guide users toward the pages that will help you rank higher on the SERP, gain conversions, and earn repeat customers. The time you spend planning and auditing your internal link structure will be more than worth it.

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