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Internal links: you might think you know what they are, but are you using them correctly? As an integral part of the way your site makes sense to users and Google alike, it’s vital to get them right. In this article, we’ll explore what the common mistakes are that you can make with internal links, so that they don’t trip you up in the future.

What are internal links?

Put simply, an internal link is a hyperlink on one page of your website that sends users to another on the same domain. It links ‘internally’ within the same website. Both your users and search engines rely on these links to navigate your site in a logical order.

What's the difference between internal and external links?

Internal links lead to pages on the same website, whereas external links link out to other websites; both internal and external are important for both navigation and context, with external links being an important part of link building, which is another arm of SEO.

Why are internal links important for SEO?

Internal links are crucial for your SEO because they signal to Google’s crawlers, which are what is used to find, understand and index your site, which pages they should crawl next. Internal linking creates a structure for your site, linking off to relevant pages and creating not just a path for Google to follow, but your user too.

What is link equity?

To fully grasp why these mistakes impact your SEO so much, you should know what link equity is. Link equity, also referred to as link authority or, quirkily, as ‘link juice’, is essentially link ‘value’ that gets passed from one page to another. It’s based on a number of factors, such as the authority and relevance of the linking page.

Our TOP 12 internal linking mistakes

It’s possible to get internal linking wrong, and to do so causes harm to the performance of your site within the search engine results pages. Here are some of the most common internal linking faux pas that you could look to fix if you’re serious about your SEO…

Broken internal links

Following a link fills you with a certain amount of expectation, and this expectation turns to disappointment if you find that the link leads to a URL that no longer exists. Broken links frustrate the user journey, disrupting the natural flow of your site and going against you in the SERPs.

Broken internal links may be the result of something as simple as a typo, or something a little more technical, like an overlooked or incorrectly implemented redirect when a page is moved, renamed, or deleted.

Too many on-page links

There is such a thing as overdoing it on internal links; this isn’t logical when trying to direct the user around your site, and it makes little sense to Google either. It’s cluttered at best, and spammy at worst, and could cost you dear in the rankings.

Take a more considered approach to your internal linking, linking to pages that users should consider next after each page; always think about it from the perspective of a human navigating your site.

Redirect chains and redirect loops

When you implement a redirect, you might think it’s job done, but you might have inadvertently created something known as a redirect chain or a redirect loop.

If, for example, a page that you’ve linked to internally links to a redirected page that directs to another redirect, a chain is formed. If the last page in the chain redirects to the original page, it causes a loop. It can increase your load speeds, causing problems for your users. This is on top of thoroughly confusing Google crawlers.

It’s best to link straight to destination pages, as opposed to URLs that redirect.

Excessive crawl depth

Crawl depth refers to the number of clicks needed to reach a page - as you may have guessed, it really shouldn’t be that many; every click is an opportunity for your user to give up on finding what they’re looking for. All pages should be within three clicks of the homepage, and internal linking is instrumental to that.

Misuse of temporary redirects

Redirects set up to temporarily direct traffic to another URL without losing link value (for example, if the page is being redesigned), such as 302 redirects, can be useful, but they can damage your page’s rankings if they continue to be used. This is because it won’t pass any ‘value’ on from the original page to the one you’ve redirected traffic to, which will mean it’s less visible in the SERPs.

Make sure you only use temporary redirects when you need to and remove them once the original page is back up and running.

Overuse of permanent redirects

Permanent redirects can cause you problems too, particularly if you’re over reliant on them. Whilst they are, of course, useful for directing traffic from now deleted or relocated pages to their new destination, each redirect uses up ‘crawl budget’, which is the time and resource search engine crawlers use to discover the pages on your site. Therefore, too many redirects can waste the time and energy of crawlers, slowing down their progress to the parts of your site you really want indexed, and therefore affecting their rankings.

If you can, change your internal links to the destination page, as opposed to relying on a redirect to get the user and the search engine crawler to where they need to be.

The use of Nofollow attributes

Within the HTML of your web pages, you can add ‘nofollow’ attributes to a link, which can be picked up and understood by Google as an instruction not to follow that link; for example, if you’re linking out to an external site that you don’t necessarily want to be associated with. If you misuse Nofollow attributes though, such as attaching them to your internal links, you could be making Google ignore a perfectly good page.

You may want Google not to index one of your pages, which is where the temptation to use Nofollow no doubt comes from. However, the right thing to do is use the meta robots Noindex value.

Pages with too few incoming internal links

We know we said not to overuse internal links but underusing them comes with perils too; striking the balance is so important. A page without enough internal links signals to Google that it’s not really that important to look at - so why should they rank it highly?

Incorrect anchor text

Anchor text is the text used to link off to another page of your website - it ‘anchors’ the link to the page. If the anchor text isn’t relevant to the page you’re looking to, your users will be confused, and you’ll lose marks as far as Google is concerned.

Relevance isn’t the only consideration you need to make when choosing your anchor text. Stuffing keywords or unnatural language into a page just to use it to link from jars the reader, as is vague, non-descriptive anchor text such as ‘click here’; anchor text should describe the page you’re linking to.

The cardinal sin of internal linking, though, is to simply input a link with no anchor text. Who wants to see that?!

Orphan pages

Orphan pages are ones that have no ‘parents’ - basically, no other page is linking to them. These standalone pages have little chance of being found by both your users, and by Google, so by orphaning them, you’re doing them a huge disservice.

Irrelevant links

Internal links should always add something to the page that the link is on; either context, further information, or the natural next step in the user journey. Linking to pages that aren’t relevant is unhelpful to the user, and it won’t happen if you properly understand user intent; regularly review your internal links to ensure the most relevant page is linked to.

Linking to the wrong page

This goes hand in hand with irrelevant pages; linking to the wrong page confuses both the user and Google to the detriment of the user experience.

Remember to always put UX first

When it comes to your website on a broader level, as well as your approach to your internal linking, you can’t go far wrong by always putting the user first. Keeping them in mind while you structure your pages and help them navigate around the site will mark you out as an organisation that really understands what they need; the byproduct of that is that Google will see it too and prioritise your site on the results pages.

Need help with your internal linking?

If there’s anyone that knows their onions when it comes to internal links, it’s us here at 427 - it’s a huge part of SEO, and we’re proud to be the full package. Whether your site needs a complete SEO overhaul, or you’re looking for specific link advice, get in touch with us today.

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About Chris Simmons

Chris is our onpage SEO Specialist at 427 Marketing, having joined the team in early 2023. He works with our content team to cover the 4 pillars of SEO; content, onpage SEO, technical SEO and offpage SEO. Prior to joining the 427 Marketing team, Chris spent almost 10 years applying his SEO and content skills across several different industries in marketing agency and inhouse roles including tool hire, auctioneering, health care within the NHS and high end luxury retail in both B2B and B2C capacities. His passion for writing, content, UX, technical and on page SEO has expanded our content offerings, helping provide reliable advice about all things SEO to 427 Marketing.

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