Internal link building is the most powerful SEO tactic you are not using.
It’s a tactic used by most well-known websites…
(i.e. those already ranking in the top 10) for one simple reason:
It has the power to boost your search traffic like crazy.
Don’t believe me?
I’ll show you how one website used internal linking to increase search traffic by 40% and another website that went from position #33 to #5.
It’s also extremely easy to implement and carries (almost) zero risk of penalties.
I’ll be showing you everything you need to know about internal link building (and more).
Table Of Contents
What is Internal Linking?
There are two types of links:
Internal and external.
An internal link will take you to a web page or resource on the same domain.
Whereas an external link will take you to a resource on a different domain.
Why Is Internal Link Building Important?
Internal links give you control over the flow of human traffic and search engine traffic which can be used in different ways.
Not only that but Google used to state–
And more recently than that…
…Google’s John Mueller went on record to say-
“The context we pick up from internal linking is really important to us… with that kind of anchor text, that text around the links. That’s really important to us.”
So don’t sleep on internal link building because if it’s important for Google, it should be important for you as well.
Let me show you a quick example with my Google penalty checker page which has internal links from various pages-
These links are using the exact anchor text “Google penalty checker” which is helping the page to rank #1 in Google for the same term-
This is just one of the ways we can take advantage of internal linking!
But we can use them for so much more than just SEO-
#1 – Internal Links Help Google To Discover Your New Content
Google’s discovers new websites/pages in a number of ways, although most pages are almost certainly discovered via crawling.
Matt Cutts explains more about the crawling process in this video-
Here’s a practical demonstration of how Google uses crawling to discover new web pages:
Right now, Google has 495 pages from my blog in their index
I know my blog pretty well (obviously)…
So I know that 495 pages = pretty much all the pages on my blog.
Great, so that’s Google’s work done right!?
Not so fast.
Google knows websites change all the time.
For example, you may periodically change the content on your ‘about us’ page or write a brand new blog post every few days.
So they have to constantly re-crawl websites/web pages to look for new content.
This is where internal links come in.
Google relies on internal links to discover new content.
This works because whenever you add a new page/post to your website it’ll almost always be linked-to from somewhere on your website.
For example, whenever I publish a new blog post it automatically apears on my homepage-
Because Google has already indexed my main blog page (and category pages), their crawler will follow that internal link to discover my latest blog post.
Like I said, most content management systems (e.g. Wordpress) add internal links to new pages/posts automatically but these aren’t always in the best location for SEO purposes.
This is why you need a smart internal linking strategy (more on this later!)
#2 – Internal Links Help Google To Rank (And Better Understand) Your Web Pages
It’s rumoured that the number of internal links pointing to a web page…
Is one of Google’s 200+ ranking factors!
In fact: Google themselves have stated that…
“The number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal to search engines about the relative importance of that page.”
They have since deleted that rather unusual specific advice but here it is for your reference-
There have also been a number of case studies whereby a smart internal linking strategy has resulted in HUGE ranking boosts
All using nothing but smart internal linking.
But, why would this be a ranking factor?
Google uses the number of internal links to figure out how important that page may be.
For example, I link to my SEO portal from within my main navigation bar… (Which is present on every page of my website)
This tells Google that I deem this content to be of high importance.
And if I think this page is important, chances are that other people will too.
It passes more ‘link juice’ meaning that it’ll be more authoritative in Google’s eyes.
Here’s a good video showing how ‘link juice/flow’ works:
Another important aspect of internal links is the anchor text used within the link(s).
This helps Google to understand what that particular web page is about.
For example, in one of my income reports…
I link to my SEMRush review with the anchor text ‘SEMRush review’.
In Google’s eyes, this helps reinforce what that page is about (i.e. a review of SEMRush) and helps them feel more confident about ranking it for SEMRush-related terms.
I dont like to leave any room for misinterpretation-
In simple terms:
The anchor text you use for internal links is an important ranking factor.
And if you’re worried about being penalised by Google for manipulating anchor text like this, don’t worry;
Penguin is much more lenient when it comes to internal links.
#3 – Internal Links Help Make You More Money (Yes, Really!)
Internal links provide a navigational aid for real-life visitors to your website.
The links in your navigation menu provide perhaps the most obvious example of this…
They funnel visitors to the most important pages on your website.
But this is also true for internal links within your content.
But why do I do this?
Because it makes me more money.
Not only does it drive new email subscribers while providing a ton of value for my visitors…
(Or at least I hope it does!), the manual to use it contains affiliate links.
Strategically sending my traffic to this page results in more email signups, affiliate conversions and therefore, more money (ka-ching!)
Here are a few ways you can use internal links to make more money:
- Funnel people towards high-converting pages
- Funnel people towards pages with affiliate links
- Funnel people towards relevant products/services
Note: The use of strategically placed internal links will help reduce bounce rate.
This can have some SEO benefit and indirectly increase revenue.
Because a type of bounce rate is likely used as a Google ranking factor if people click back to the SERPs after visiting your site.
So while bounce rate is not a direct ranking metric…
It indicates people are not engaging with your content.
A lower bounce rate may mean you rank higher and therefore lead to more organic traffic.
3 Internal Link Building Strategies You Can Implement Today
OK, enough talk…
It’s time to build some strategic, rank boosting, revenue-increasing internal links.
Here are the 3 processes I’m going to walk you through:
- My quick ‘n’ dirty method.
- The manual method (hint: this is better than the quick ‘n’ dirty method, but is more time-consuming).
- BONUS: The power process (trying to rank a certain page? — you need this).
Let’s go through each one step-by-step.
#1- My Quick And Dirty Internal Linking Process
When it comes to SEO…
Time = Money.
This is because the longer one task takes, the less time you have to spend on other important tasks (this is known as opportunity cost).
My 3-step quick ‘n’ dirty process can be implemented super-quickly…
Yet it still leads to incredible results!
Note: This method only works for Wordpress-based websites.
Here’s the basic process:
- Create a list of URLs and primary target keywords
- Find the LSI keywords for each of those primary keywords
- Use the SEO Auto Linker plugin to add internal links in seconds.
I recommend making a copy of the sheet above before you begin.
Let’s get started.
Step #1 – Gather A List Of URLs And Primary Keywords
Some of you will already have a list of URLs mapped to primary keywords.
If so, fantastic – paste them into the first tab of your Google Sheet (this is the one titled: ‘#1 – URLs / Keywords’) and jump straight to step #2.
But first, you need to gather a list of URLs from your website.
If you have a sitemap (which you should)…
You can simply copy/paste the list of URLs from the sitemap into the sheet.
But if not, here’s another super-quick way to do this:
Go to Google and search for the following:
This will return a list of all the pages on your website.
I also recommend setting the number of results per page to 100 under ‘search settings’:
You can then use this free Chrome bookmarklet to scrape all 100 results from the SERPs.
Paste these into the URLs column in the Google Sheet.
Next, use this SEMRush trial to extract the keywords.
Just go to the URL report (under Organic Research) in SEMRush.
Paste the first URL from your Google Sheet into the search bar.
Scroll down and you should see a list of organic search keywords for that page.
Open the .csv in Excel, then copy/paste the list of keywords into this free tool.
This will convert the list of keywords into a comma-separated list.
Copy the comma-separated list into the ‘primary keywords’ column in your Google Sheet.
Rinse and repeat for the rest of the URLs on your list.
Step #2 – Find The LSI Keywords For Your Primary Keywords
“LSI keywords” is really just a technical term form “related keywords” and while there is much debate about how useful they are for optimising content…
…they are a great source to find related keywords we can use to build internal links!
For example, if we take the keyword ‘product launch formula’…
An LSI keyword could be:
- ‘product launches’
- ‘launching a product’
- ‘how to launch a product’
Finding LSI keywords should be a breeze!
Start by brainstorming related keywords. Add them to your spreadsheet.
Still, brainstorming will only get you so far. So here are a couple of other methods:
How To Find LSI Keywords With Google
Copy one of the keywords from your Google Sheet and paste it into Google.
Scroll to the bottom of the results page and you should see a list of related searches.
Copy relevant keywords into the LSI Keywords column in your Google Sheet
Note: not all keywords will be relevant, so be picky!
Rinse and repeat for the rest of the keywords (and for all the URLs) on your list.
How To Find LSI Keywords With LSIGraph.com
To find LSI keywords easily you can use LSIGraph…
Go to LSIGraph.com and paste in a keyword from your spreadsheet.
Then click Generate.
It should then find and kick back a bunch of LSI keywords.
Add any relevant ones to the LSI Keywords column in your spreadsheet.
Then repeat for each keyword on your list.
Step #3 – Add These Keywords To Your Website With SEO Auto Linker
Good news: most of the hard work is done. SEO Auto Linker will handle pretty much everything from here.
I know the plugin hasn’t been updated for a long time, but it’s what I use and I can only share what I do with you.
But first things first…
You need to install the plugin.
Once installed, go to the plugin page in your WP dashboard and click Add New Link.
Next, go back to your Google Sheet and select the tab labeled ‘#2 – For WP’.
This sheet pulls all of the keywords you entered into a neat list.
This can then paste into Wordpress.
All you have to do is select a URL from the dropdown.
Copy/paste the URL keywords from the ‘COPY ME’ column into SEO Auto Linker.
SEO Auto Linker will comb through your website looking for occurrences of those keywords in other posts/pages.
If it finds any, it’ll automagically add an anchored link to your specific blog post.
Note: I usually set the Links per Page option to 1, as I don’t want a ton of links on every page – that just looks spammy.
#2 – The (Better) Manual Internal Linking Process
SEO Auto Linker works well – the only issue is that you don’t have full control over exactly where these links are placed, as the plugin decides this for you.
In my opinion, it’s much better to do this manually.
That way, you can control exactly where the internal links are placed and ensure they:
- Make sense
- Attract clicks
- Create a list of URLs and target keywords.
- Use Google to find relevant pages/posts on which to add internal links.
- Rinse and repeat whenever you publish new content.
Simply use the methods laid out earlier in the post to do this.
Here’s how it should look when you have your URLs + keywords entered:
Next just click the buttons it generates or if you want to do it manually for any reason you can head to Google and search for-
To find all the pages from your site that Google thinks are relevant to a particular topic.
I’m aware that performing this search correctly over and over can be a bit of a hassle.
Thats why I built the Google Sheet above to make things super straightforward.
Just go to the 2nd tab of the sheet named ‘#2 – For Google’. Select the URL you’re building internal links to from the dropdown list. Then hit the ‘Click here’ button.
This will take you straight to the Google search – no hassle!
If I was looking to build some internal links to my product launch formula case study.
I would select that URL in the spreadsheet (see above), open the Google search results and then pluck out any pages that would make sense to add internal links from.
Here’s a page that fits the bill:
So now, simply read through the post and look for appropriate places to internally link.
This looks like a good place:
Next, I simply login to my WP dashboard and add a link in that location.
Here’s the final result:
Note: I only recommend adding 1 link per page, so when you’re done, head back to the SERPs and look for more internal linking opportunities.
Rinse and repeat this process for each page on your website.
Important tip: Do this process every time you publish a new blog post or web page on your website. Not only will this lead to Google indexing the page much quicker, it’ll also give it a much needed ranking boost.
#3 – The Power Process
Is there a particular page you want to rank above all others…
Yet it’s nowhere to be seen in the SERPs?
If so… you need my power process.
Here’s how it works:
- Find the most powerful pages on your website using Ahrefs (7 day for $7 trial available here).
- Add internal links from these pages to your target web page.
Here’s how to do it:
Choose the ‘Best By Links’ report from the ‘Pages’ section on the left-hand menu.
This will show you a list of the most powerful pages on your website.
Ordered by # of referring domains (i.e. backlinks).
In general, more backlinks = more power.
Make a note of any pages that you could potentially add an internal link from.
Make sure they’re relevant!
Right away, my ecommerce SEO tutorial stands out.
With 177 referring domains, it’s certainly powerful. And because every ecommerce site needs a lot of on site work…
This is the perfect page from which to mention (and add a link to) my on page SEO audit tutorial.
I mean – it doesn’t get much easier than this!
Here is how I placed the link-
Adding a relevant internal link like this gives the page a huge authority boost.
But there’s no need to stop there; keep working your way down the list of top pages on Ahrefs – there may be other pages you can add an internal links to.
This will give the page even more of a boost!
BONUS: A New Approach To Internal Linking
A week before I was about to publish this, I was pitched a new plugin called Link Whisper.
Now I get pitched things all the time, but this is made by the same guy that made LongTailPro (see my Long Tail Pro review) which was the king of keyword research tools for a long time.
And I have been so impressed with it I halted post and video production to talk about it because I will be using it on all of my sites going forward – I’m already using it on the blog.
Unlike dumb plugins that just replace keywords and phrases you specify with internal links, Link Whisper actually analsyes all of the text across your site to come up with it’s own intelligent suggestions.
The best way to show you how this works is with an example.
Let’s say I just published my keyword research template and now I want to build internal links to it. I can just open LinkWhisper-
Which tells me I have zero internal links pointing to it currently.
All you have to do is click Add and LinkWhisper will make intelligent suggestions automatically-
It’s making some pretty decent suggestions off the bat.
But what make’s it really cool is how you can customise those suggestions-
That makes it really easy to build smart, manual internal links without any hard work at all.
Just review the suggestions, click to easily add/remove words from the anchor text and click “Add Links” – that’s it!
Not only that but it also includes some pretty awesome reporting features-
At the moment I am using all of the methods I have listed above and it’s very likely that Link Whisper will replace the manual part of it.
I am already using it on this blog and have deployed it on a couple of niche sites to experiment more but it’s the best internal linking plugin I have ever used.
Wrapping It Up
Internal linking is crazily powerful – don’t neglect it!
Plus, unlike regular ol’ link building strategies (from external websites)…
Internal links are under your full control.
You can decide:
- Where they’re placed
- What anchor text they use
- Which pages they link to
I strongly recommend you give this a shot right now.
But remember: every time you add an internal link to one of your posts, submit your URL to Google.
It is extremely important because it’s like telling Google that you’ve made some changes and that your URL needs to be indexed again.
And while you are reviewing your internal linking structure, you might want to pay attention to canonicalization as well!