Serious question: Are internal links a ranking factor?
More often than not, the chatter about internal links as a ranking factor seems to come from a never-ending mobile game rather than from the real source, the search engines.
Some of the legendary SEO tales about internal links have been passed down through generations of SEO professionals. It can be difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.
In an effort to set the record straight, I took our resources to check if internal links are a sure ranking factor. Drumroll, please: you’ll find the real internal links in the future.
Claim: Internal links are a ranking factor
An internal link is a hyperlink from a page on a domain to another page on the same domain. Internal links help people navigate websites and create a hierarchical site structure.
OK, but what about the more nuanced questions, like:
- Do The total number of internal links Pointing to an important page?
- Do The quality of those internal links Refer to the page a strong influence?
- what about Anchor text for those internal links – Is this another relevant signal? Does longer text add more value?
- Is there such a thing Too many internal links on the page?
Evidence of internal links as a ranking factor
Since there are a lot of internal link questions to answer, and I want you to get all the facts straight, here it is.
Are internal links a ranking factor?
Google asserts that internal links are ranking in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Getting Started Guide. Google states:
Create a hierarchy that flows naturally.
Make it easy for your users to move from the general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages where it makes sense and work them effectively into your internal linking structure. Ensure that all pages on your site are accessible through links, and that they do not require an internal “search” function to be found. Link to related pages, where appropriate, to allow users to discover similar content.
Google’s “How Search Engines Work” program establishes internal links as a ranking factor.
Some pages are known because Google has crawled them before. Other pages are detected when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page.
This is also why Google Search Console features an extension Top linked pages report. It is used to “confirm that the primary site pages (home page, contact page) are linked correctly within your site.”
The SEO Starter Guide also recommends using internal links in breadcrumb structured data markup, which states:
A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of a page that allows visitors to quickly navigate to the previous section or home page. Many breadcrumbs have the most general page (usually the root page) as the first leftmost link and insert the more specific sections to the right. We recommend using Breadcrumb structured data coding When offering bread crumbs.
The PageRank algorithm itself and its internal flow depend on internal links.
Is your web page ranking faster if you have internal links from high traffic pages?
Since Bill Slawsky shared his analysis of the Google Reasonable Surfer patentThere have been arguments in the SEO community about whether or not pages with traffic affect ranking signals from internal links.
Slawski stated that “…based on the probability that someone following random links on the web might end up on a particular page.”
The patent talks about the position of a link on the page.
Basically, it’s about giving more weight to connections that people think people will In fact Click, including links placed at higher locations on the page.
Matt Kat confirmed This is at PubCon in 2010.
The patent does not refer to traffic.
Slawski too Dive into the Page Segmentation patent Explains more about placing internal links on a page. He shares more thoughts on How do search engines use internal links? to understand the web page.
Is anchor text in an internal link a ranking factor?
The SEO Starter Guide removes confusion if internal anchor text is a ranking factor as it states:
Think anchor text for internal links, too.
You might typically think of linking in terms of referring to external websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better.”
John Mueller is also from Google address this claim On Twitter he said:
“Most links provide a little bit of extra context through their anchor text. At least they should, right?”
And in 2019, Mueller talked more about how internal links help your ranking at the Google Webmaster Hangout.
However, claiming that long anchor text is inside your internal links is pure speculation at this time. Search engines have not verified this myth.
In fact, the SEO Starter Guide clearly recommends avoiding “using excessively keyword-heavy text or long anchor text just for search engines.”
Rand Fishkin also dives in his textual experiments To prove the value of body text quality.
Roger Monti of Search Engine Journal delves into Mueller’s response on whether the body text helps improve rankings.
Do you use internal links as a ranking signal in your site structure?
Internal linking can have positive or negative effects:
- NinjaOutreach has increased website traffic by 50% Within three months with their own internal link structure.
- The Daily Mail failed to outpace its competitors because Weak internal link.
Google patent on Sort documents based on user behavior or feature data Explores the structure of the site in more detail.
So, what happens if your internal links are broken?
Broken internal links make it difficult for search engines to index your pages and for users to navigate your site. Broken links are a sign of a low quality site and can affect your rankings.
The Google Web page decay patented proves the validity of this claim as it states,
“If a webpage has a relatively large number of broken links, it will be evaluated as an outdated webpage.”
Now, how many internal links are too many?
Back in 2009, Matt Cutts stated that there was a Maximum of 100 internal links per page.
In the past, Google wouldn’t download more than 100k from a single page (this is no longer the case), so the idea that links would distribute your PageRank made sense.
in 2013, Matt Cutts retracted that statement “Keep it at a reasonable number,” he said. So, the 100 internal link rule is no longer valid.
Internal links as a ranking factor: our judgment
Yes, there is a bit of truth in the myth that internal links and your search engine rankings are relevant.
Think of it this way, as Katz put it:
“…if there’s a page that’s important or has great profit margins or converts well — step that up. Put a link to that page from your homepage and that’s the kind of thing that can make a lot of sense.”
Featured image: Paulo Bobita / SearchEngineJournal