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Internal Linking as a Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

Are internal links a confirmed ranking factor?Read on to learn the truth about internal linking and best practices.

Serious question: Are internal links a ranking factor?

A lot of the time, the chatter around internal linking as a ranking factor feels more like coming from a never-ending game of phone calls than the real source, search engines.

Certain mythical SEO stories about internal linking have been passed down through generations of SEO professionals.It is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

To clarify, I used our resources to verify that internal linking is a confirmed ranking factor.Drums, please: You'll find out the truth about internal linking.

Disclaimer: Internal linking is a ranking factor

Internal links are hyperlinks from a page in a domain to another page in the same domain.Internal links help users navigate the site and create a site architecture for the hierarchy.

OK, but what about more basic questions like:

  • point to pagetotal number of internal linksDoes it matter?
  • point to pagethe quality of those internal linksDoes it have a powerful effect?
  • anchor text for these internal linksWhat about - is this another correlation signal?Does longer anchor text add more value?
  • is there on the pagetoo many internal linksSuch a thing?

Evidence of Internal Linking as a Ranking Factor

Since there are still tons of internal linking questions to answer, and I want you to get straight to the point with all the facts, here they are.

Are Internal Links a Ranking Factor?

Google confirms that internal linking is a ranking in its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Beginner's Guide.Google says:

Create a natural and fluid hierarchy.

Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want.Add navigation pages when it makes sense, and efficiently process those pages into an internal linking structure.Make sure all pages on your site are linkable and don't require an internal "search" function to find them.Where appropriate, link to related pages to allow users to discover similar content.

Also, Google's "How Search Engines Work" uses internal linking as a ranking factor.

Some pages are known because Google has crawled them before.Additional pages are discovered when Google follows links from known pages to new pages.

That's why Google Search Console provides a "Top Linked Pages" report.It is used to "confirm that the core website pages (homepage, contact pages) are properly linked in your website".

The SEO Beginner's Guide also recommends using internal linking in breadcrumb structured data markup, stating:

"Breadcrumbs are a row of internal links at the top or bottom of a page that allow visitors to quickly navigate back to the previous section or root page.Many breadcrumbs take the most general page (usually the root page) as the first leftmost link and list more specific sections on the right.We recommend using breadcrumb structured data markup when displaying breadcrumbs.

The PageRank algorithm itself and its internal processes rely on internal linking.

Do your pages rank faster if you have internal links from high traffic pages?

Ever since Bill Slawski shared his analysis of Google's patent for reasonable surfers, there has been a debate in the SEO community about whether pages with or without traffic affect ranking signals for internal links.

Slawski said: "…Based on the probability that a person randomly clicks a link on the web, it is possible to end up on a particular page.

The patent talks about the placement of links on a page.

Essentially, it's about giving it think peopleactualLinks that will be clicked have more weight, including links placed higher on the page.

Matt Cutt confirmed this at PubCon 2010.

The patent does not cite traffic.

Slawski also digs into the page segmentation patent, which explains more about placing internal links on pages.Additionally, he shares further insights into how search engines use internal linking to understand web pages.

Is anchor text in internal links a ranking factor?

The Beginner's Guide to SEO clarifies the confusion over whether internal link anchor text is a ranking factor, as it states:

"Also consider anchor text for internal links.

You might generally consider linking from the perspective of pointing to external sites, but paying more attention to anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better.

Google's John Mueller also addressed the claim on Twitter, saying:

"Most links do provide some additional context through their anchor text.At least they should, right? "

And, in 2019, Mueller talked more about how internal linking can help you rank in Google Webmaster Hangouts.

However, claims of long anchor text in internal links are currently speculative.Search engines have yet to verify this myth.

In fact, the SEO Beginner's Guide apparently recommends avoiding "excessive keyword stuffing or lengthy anchor text just for search engines."

Rand Fishkin also digs into his anchor text experiments to demonstrate the value of high-quality anchor text.

Additionally, Search Engine Journal's Roger Montti delves into Mueller's response to whether anchor text helps improve rankings.

Are internal links used as ranking signals in your website architecture?

Internal linking can have positive or negative effects:

  • NinjaOutreach increased its website traffic by 50% in three months through its internal link structure.
  • The Daily Mail failed to outperform its rivals because of its weak internal links.

Google's patent for ranking documents based on user behavior or functional data explores website architecture in greater depth.

So what if your internal links are broken?

Broken internal links make it difficult for search engines to index pages, and it also makes it difficult for users to navigate your site.Broken links are a sign of a low-quality website and can affect your rankings.

Google's Web Decay patent validates this claim, as it states,

"If a page has a relatively large number of dead links, it is assessed as a stale page.

Now, how many internal links are too many?

Back in 2009, Matt Cutts stated that there was a limit of 100 internal links per page..

In the past, Google wouldn't download more than 10 pages (this is no longer the case), so the idea that links will distribute your PageRank makes sense.

In 2013, Matt Cutts retracted that statement, saying it "keeps it to a reasonable number."Therefore, the rule of 100 internal links is no longer valid.

Internal Linking as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Yes, there is a bit of truth in the myth that internal linking and your ranking in search engines are linked.

Think of it this way, as Katz puts it:

"...If there is a page that is important, or has a high profit margin or converts well – upgrade it.Put a link to that page from your root page, that's the kind of stuff that can make a lot of sense.

Extended reading:

Inbound Links as a Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

Are Paid Links a Google Ranking Factor?

Is link stability a Google ranking factor?

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