For long, the discussion around inherent links’ influence on the ranking is supported by ceaseless non-credible facts instead of a credible source. Many “Facts” that have been passed down by generations of SEO professionals are nothing but inaccurate myths.
In this article, you’ll find whether internal links are a firm ranking factor with facts and credible sources. You’ll also encounter some great exercises for the same.
But first, what are the internal links?
An internal link or inherent link is a hyperlink from a page to another page under the same domain authority. They help to navigate through the website(s). Through navigation, they help to build an information hierarchy for these websites.
There is a handful of questions around internal links:
Does the quality and quantity of internal links pointing to a page matter in SEO? Or even inherent links for the fact matter in the ranking?
Or like, how anchor text and their length put value to inherent links?
Let’s deep dive into this topic to answer those questions.
Proof Of Internal links As A Ranking Factor
In Google’s SEO starter Guide, internal links are indeed a ranking factor. It states:
Create a naturally flowing hierarchy
Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages when it makes sense and effectively work these into your internal link structure. Make sure all of the pages on your site are reachable through links, and that they don’t require an internal “search” functionality to be found. Link to related pages, where appropriate, to allow users to discover similar content.
In fact, “How search engines work” by Google demonstrates inherent links as a ranking factor.
Some pages are known because Google has already crawled them before. Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page.
Google Search Console also has reported on “Top linked pages” and “Confirm that the core site pages (home page, contact page) are properly linked within your site.”
The SEO Guide further promote breadcrumbs as:
“A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate back to a previous section or the root page. Many breadcrumbs have the most general page (usually the root page) as the first, leftmost link and list the more specific sections out to the right. We recommend using breadcrumb structured data markup when showing breadcrumbs.”
Google’s John Mueller, in a Google Webmaster Hangout, in 2019, verified that internal links help with ranking.
Do Internal Links From High Traffic Pages Promote Faster Rank Up? (Quality Of Internal Links)
There have been quarrels on the effect of pages’ traffic in the ranking of pages via internal links. Especially after Bill Slawski’s take on Google’s Reasonable Surfer Patent which states “…based upon a probability that a person following links at random on the web might end up upon a particular page.” The effects appeared to be neutral.
Slawski elucidates this with Page Segmentation Patent and placement of links on a page.
The patent essentially addresses the position and significance of the links It believes that links at higher-up positions and with more significance will have more influence. It doesn’t credit traffic for the ranking.
Matt Cutt’s confirmed it at PubCon in 2010.
Does Anchor Text Put More Value To Internal Links?
According to SEO Starter Guide and Google’s John Mueller, anchor text does put more context to the links.
The Guide states:
“Think about anchor text for internal links, too. You may usually think about linking in terms of pointing to outside websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better.”
As per Mueller:
“Most links do provide a bit of additional context through their anchor text. At least they should, right?”
Having said that, the value of the length of an anchor text is still unclear.
SEO Starter Guide does put some light on this and recommends avoiding long anchor text as: “using excessively keyword-filled or lengthy anchor text just for search engines.”
Rand Fishkin and Roger Montti have separately studied the value of anchor text within an internal link for ranking. Least to say both have a positive outcome of the experiments.
Connection Between Site Architecture and Internal Links
A good and bad internal link architecture will eventually affect your site. NinjaOutreach boosted their traffic with the help of interlinks by 50% over three months. But, The Daily Mail didn’t receive a positive outcome because of weak links.
How Do Weak Or Broken Internal Links Affect Ranking?
Search engines cannot crawl the poor or broken inherent links. And so users will not be able to navigate your page. This will eventually lower your ranking.
As per Google’s Web Page Decay patent:
“If the web page has a relatively large number of dead links, it is assessed as being a stale web page.”
Quantity Of Internal Links
In 2009, Matt Cutts made a statement saying that there is a limit of 100 links per page which he later changed in 2013 by saying “keep it at a reasonable number.”
Further, in the past, Google would only download up to 100k of a page. Therefore, at that time, the number of links might impact ranking. However, this is no longer the case.
As Cutts said:
“…if there’s a page that’s important or that has great profit margins or converts really well – escalate that. Put a link to that page from your root page that’s the sort of thing where it can make a lot of sense.”
So, internal links do impact ranking in both positive and negative ways. If nothing, what’s the harm in building a quality internal link? If the internal link is not broken you might get more traffic. That’s a win for sure.
See Also: Internal linking for SEO: Why and how?