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The Seven Commandments of Internal Linking that Will Improve Content Marketing SEO

Nearly every article on internal linking starts with a discussion of how complicated yet how important the subject matter is. On the one hand, internal linking is such a simple concept, and everyone should be doing it. On the other hand, the theory, process, and best practices of internal linking get extraordinarily complex. It’s both advanced and simple. But regardless of how complex or basic you think it is, no one argues about this: It is important.

Strategic internal linking is an SEO power technique, especially for content marketing. In this article, I’ve chosen to focus on internal linking for content marketing, because it’s one of the most straightforward and simplest ways to experience SEO uptick. Plus, internal linking among blog articles and other content is something that you can do on an ongoing basis.

In this article, I want deliver a level of SEO knowledge that will benefit the experienced SEO, but that will also provide actionable data to help SEO newbies.

A Primer on Internal Linking

Whatever your SEO skill, it will help to brush up on some internal linking basics.

The Definition of Internal Linking

An internal link connects one page of a website to a different page on the same website. In an internal link, the source domain and target domain are the same.

The Purpose of Internal Linking

Internal linking has three main purposes:

  1. Aids in website navigation
  2. Defines the architecture and hierarchy of a website
  3. Distributes page authority and ranking power throughout the site

We’ll be spending our time discussing that third point — how internal linking can spread authority and rank throughout multiple pages of a website.

The Theory Behind Internal Linking

Most of the “solid information” and “powerful strategies” on internal linking are little more than sophisticated-sounding prognostication. Still, there’s some merit to theorizing about how Google ranks and values the internal network of linking.

The basic theory is this: Internal linking strengthens the overall search-optimized value of a website. Inner linking does so by providing clear paths for spiders, prolonged sessions for users, and a tight-knit network of pages and posts.

So, how do you do it? Here are the seven commandments.

The Seven Commandments of Internal Linking for Top-Notch SEO

1. Create lots of content.

In order to create lots of internal links, you have to have lots of internal pages. The first step to a killer internal linking strategy is to have a killer content marketing strategy. You can’t have one without the other.

When you create lots of content, you’ll have lots of linkable content. The more links to the more places, the better your internal linking strategy will be.

Some internal linking strategies propose extremely complex layers of pages, silos of content, and a mathematically-balanced formula for number of links to levels of pages. I say it doesn’t really matter. Internal linking doesn’t require organizational spreadsheets and trigonometric derivative charts.

An internal linking strategy with lots of content looks less like an org chart, and more like this:

There are no “cycles.” There are no “silos.” There are no “tiers.” There are no structured flow diagrams. There’s just plenty of happy links going to helpful places.

2. Use anchor text.

In keeping with the content theme of internal linking, your internal links should use anchor text as opposed to linked images. Image links are fine, provided that images are not the main source of links, and assuming the image is properly alt-tagged.

While we’re on the subject of alt tags, our own Sean Work of Kissmetrics says:

The proper use of anchor text, of course, opens a new can of worms. Obviously, you don’t want optimized anchors. Just use natural, unoptimized sentence fragments as anchor text, and you’ll do just fine. No cute tricks. No overthinking it. Just highlight, link it, and be done.

Check out this discussion of linkbuilding for a complete discussion on strategic anchors.

3. Link deep.

The deeper your links go, the better.

There are two types of links you should avoid using in your content:

  • Homepage. Most sites have too many links to the homepage as it is. You would rather strengthen internal pages to boost the overall SEO of your site, rather than simply point more links at the homepage.
  • Contact us. This is a common mistake of many who are starting out in content marketing. As part of their obligatory call to action at the end of a post, they may write something like, “Give us a call to find out more about our awesome services!” Then, they link to the “contact us” page using the anchor “give us a call.” Don’t link to the contact us page unless absolutely necessary.

In general, you want to avoid links to the top level pages on a site — pages to which the main navigation menu already has links.

The best links — and the most natural links in a content marketing strategy — are deep within the structure of a site.

4. Use links that are natural for the reader.

Internal linking requires a user-focused approach to adding value and information. The link value that gets distributed throughout the site is secondary to this key point — providing value to the reader.

One of the corollary benefits of internal linking is that it improves user engagement on your site. When a user sees an informative link that truly matches the context of the content, they are likely to click on that link. It can be an external link, as long as it’s something that the reader will be interested in. If that link is an internal one, the site visitor stays longer and becomes more involved in your website experience.

Dave Davies, in his Search Engine Watch article, made a good point when he wrote the following:

When you link in your content you’re telling the engine that the target of your link is so relevant and important that you want your visitor to simply be able to click a link and go straight there. Basically, that what you’re linking to is potentially so relevant that the visitor may want to stop what they’re reading and go to the next page.

Content links are a strong signal to both the search engine and the user that the content you’re linking to is really good. Readers want that. Thus, internal linking is helping the reader. But you’re also helping your SEO.

Win. Win.

5. Use relevant links.

Internal linking, as I’ve made clear, is less rigorous and scientific than some might think. But you still have to be intentional. Don’t merely link for the sake of linking. Instead, link to content that is relevant to the source context.

In other words, let’s say I have a page on my site about dog food. And, I have a page on my site about the nesting habits of parakeets. (I have neither.)

Should I link the two pages?

There is not a strong connection between dog food and parakeet nests, especially on a superficial level. These two pages probably won’t provide mutual enhancement from internal crosslinking.

But, if I have a page on parakeet food, then it might make a great internal link for my parakeet nest article. Chances are, information about “parakeets” is going to be on both of the pages. Because of this content overlap, the link is relevant.

As much as possible, link to relevant content in your internal linking.

6. Use follow links.

Follow links are the best way to build out the internal link architecture of your content marketing.

One theoretical internal linking strategy of the past was to nofollow most of the links on a page, in order to increase the link juice to a single page. This type of pagerank sculpting doesn’t work as an SEO strategy.

Back in 2005, the search engines came up with the nofollow, known by the attribute rel=nofollow. The idea behind nofollow was that the link “should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index.” As Wikipedia stated, such links would “reduce the effectiveness of certain types of internet advertising because their search algorithm depends heavily on the number of links to a website.”

Despite the uproar and confusion in the wake of the nofollow link, most people now agree that it’s a good idea. As Danny Sullivan explained, nofollow links can help sites “avoid problems with search engines believing they are selling influence or are somehow involved in schemes deemed as unacceptable SEO practices.”

In spite of its value, however, using nofollow links is not a strategy you should be using as part of your internal content links. The link value needs to flow freely to and from internal pages, rather than get stopped up by a nofollow. Keep things free and fluid.

7. Use a reasonable number of internal links.

You don’t need tons of links in your internal content. Google’s instructions are simple: “Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.”

Question: What the heck is a reasonable number?

Answer: Nobody knows.

Smart people have tried to answer the question, but not even Matt Cutts has provided a definitive statement. He wrote, “It seemed about right to recommend 100 links or so,” and “in some cases, it might make sense to have more than a hundred links.”

So, should you go for 100 links? Maybe, but that 100-total links includes all the links on a page — footers, headers, nav bars, ads, everything. 100 links isn’t as hard as it sounds, once you calculate the total number of HREFs on an entire page.

When it comes to internal linking, I suggest around three to four, depending on the length of your post. I usually write articles that exceed 1,500 words, and I don’t have a link-heavy navigation bar. So, I wouldn’t feel bad about throwing in ten or twenty internal links if I needed to.

There’s no magic number. There is however, the all-important user. Add as many links as would be helpful for the user.

Do not create massive blocks of site-wide footer links!

This was a really common practice on travel and real estate websites a couple of years ago. These websites would include their most prized keyword rich internal links near the footer. It wasn’t uncommon to see upwards of 50 of these types of links near the footer. The problem is when you have a website with thousands of webpages; this quickly multiplies into tens of thousands of “spamtastic” links that the search engines will quickly penalize your site for. In 2013, many of these sites were hit with an algorithmic penalty for such practices.


Internal linking when undertaken with these seven commandments in mind, is a cinch. It’s not overwhelming, complicated, or difficult. The great thing is, you’ll experience a stronger link profile and better SEO by consistent internal linking. It’s even worth it to go back and audit your old content to make sure it has sufficient internal linking.

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

  1. thanks for sharing useful post.

  2. Thanks Neil, It’s great to see in writing somewhere about if it’s okay or not to use optimised (now spammy) anchor text in internal links.

  3. Donald Piccione Jun 10, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Hi Neil,

    great post as usual. It is funny on how still today I am finding business websites who have their footer stuffed with keywords as anchor text for their internal links :-) Another category to add among travel and real estate websites are the Locksmiths :-)
    All The Best,

  4. Re: #3
    What about linking to a “product” page that’s in the Nav bar when trying to push a conversion from a blog post? If used in moderation?

    • Cynthia, I think that would be a good way to go about things. Let us know how it works out for you. We look forward to your insights.

  5. Thanks Neil, that was a very practical and easy to understand article for someone new*ish* to the game.

    Much Appreciated,


  6. A solid review with many simple, yet important solutions. Thanks for re-sparking the SEO juices Neil!

  7. Thanks for a great article. This was a nice refresher :)

  8. I’m still a newb, but first time i’m hearing don’t include a “contact us” CTA with a internal link. Seems to me that ultimately you want the user to convert and if a gentle nudge in an about page is going to help move the user on (and it usually does), that seems more important than the equity lost in an internal link.


    • If you do what you feel is best for the visitor you are the fine. That’s the big thing I look for when internal linking or using CTAs.

  9. Thanks for sharing this great post.,Its very useful for me.,

  10. I found some good way of Internal linking.

  11. Love to read your suggestion how to use Internal linking while doing seo.

  12. Great article. I’m wondering, should we use links that open in a new tab/window or just have them open in the current window?

    • Alysia, I think there are merits to both strategies. I just have them open in the same tab though so it makes it easier to browse.

  13. Thanks for sharing these helpful Internal Linking points. I will definitely try to follow your post for my Website.

  14. Thanks a tonn for the useful tips!

  15. Darragh McCurragh Jul 11, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Re: “Purpose of Internal Linking” – I would like to add that after the recent Google updates one aspect of linking with pertinent anchor text is that Google not only uses keywords to determine a site’s or page’s contents but also derives the meaning or content classification/semantics of a page from the text that other sites link to it. And this is one of the reasons a certain page may now rank well for a “keyword” that’s not even mentioned on the target page. However, it might have been in the anchor text of (deemed reliable) link TO that page. Like if you had a page on doughnuts and someone links to it with “cookies with wholes in them” as an anchor text then Google “learns” that doughnuts have holes in them and all of a sudden searches for “baked stuff with holes in it” might land on your doorstep. You can use this to your advantage by choosing your anchor text wisely in internal linking.

    • Darragh, thanks for these great additional points. They will be very helpful to all our readers :)

  16. I appreciated your post and I thank you. Anyway they seem quite normal advices (dofollow, not exact anchor texts…) but honestly I think today’s seo has become more difficult than ever and requires also other approaches. For example is it true the first link gets more value? And what about creating a strategy that would pay more attention to a certain page instead of the others (I mean,one page should be the hub of the strategy)? And why a circle internal linking is not worth anymore?
    I would like to read your thoughts. Thanks and keep writing interesting things! :)

  17. I have seen a lot of blog owners linking most of their posts and pages to their home page! I hope this post will make them understand the right way of doing internal linking.

    Thanks for the great share, Neil.

  18. John Mitchell Mar 13, 2015 at 1:06 am

    An interesting article and great refresher for those of us who started pre-Google.

    I’d disagree with the comment about not added a link to the contact page on the call to action though. It makes life much easier for the visitor if the link is there rather than them having to scroll up (typically) to the main navigation and in my view is more likely to get them to contact you. Having said that, encourage my clients to have the physical contact details clearly shown on both the top and bottom of the page to improve the UX. I think that, as most people are “lazy” and don’t want to search for information when they are on a webpage that linking to the contact page is one way we can overcome that laziness.

    If you are worried about giving the contact page more weight than other pages because there are two (or more) links to it from, almost, every page then I personally wouldn’t be – I’m sure I remember reading somewhere some research several years ago that suggested that Google only counted one link if it found multiple internal links on a page to the same page. Now, that’s something worth testing and I might do that in the next few weeks :)

  19. Hi Neil,

    I love reading your articles and this one was no exception. I particularly enjoyed your comment in the first commandment, namely: …”There are no “silos.” There are no “tiers.” There are no structured flow diagrams. There’s just plenty of happy links going to helpful places.”

    I don’t know why, but these days everywhere I look, the WordPress gurus are pushing “silos”. I find it completely ridiculous. Thank you for clarifying this issue for me. From now on, for me… “plenty of happy links…”

  20. I think the most important thing when it comes to internal linking is relevance. Some people point to their home page or some random pages whether or not it makes sense.

  21. That was helpful! Internal links are very relevant especially if you are tying to link new content; however, how the links are done is very important.
    Thank you for highlighting those important guidelines

  22. Nice article. What would be your advice if you have a web company with several hundred clients and you want to put a link back in the footer to your website – should you use anchor text or should it be a plain link to your company or should it have title text – there seems to be a lot of discussion on this topic and no real firm advice. Your comments would be much appreciated ?

  23. Kenneth Villegas Jul 31, 2015 at 2:08 am

    What a great piece of information about proper internal linking. Actually, some of my internal linking process are actually right, but after I read it Neil, I realized I made some mistakes too.. LOL! I often link to the contact us page, which should be avoided since it is one of the top-level pages of the site.

  24. Daniel Caliguire Sep 15, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Great article thank you. I use internal linking between content and we are getting 20% organaic growth month over month. Keep the internal links flowing and go as deep as you can.

  25. Hello Neil. Thank you for the great explanation. You said we have to use links when it is relevant. Do you recommend, in a technical language, that we have to use links where the probability of being clicked is quite high? And if true, should we use analytic tools to create feedback and remove (or change) those links having a low ratio of clicks per impression?

    And the last question: is there any research that show what is the mean clicks per impression ratio of internal links?

  26. Thank you for the informative post. I have on question though, I really get confused when we talk about linking to internal pages. Will the link juice be flowing to homepage automatically, as we have home in the menu/header?
    Thank you again!

  27. I don’t quite understand the link deep theory. Why can’t I link to my contact us page when Google places so much emphasize on having a contact us page. Also, is linking deep equivalent to linking to old articles/blog posts?

  28. Great article I didn’t realize internal linking had anything to do with page authority but I guess it makes sense. Look forward to putting some of these strategies into action thanks!

  29. Does the link juice actually add a vote per page per link like external do-follow links?

  30. Hi if link a particular post 4-5 times from a single post ,it will be good SEO practice ??

  31. I’m really confused because: (1) you recommend 3 to 4 internal links per page, but you have many more, especially when “recommended reading” at the bottom is considered; (2) you say as many as will help the reader, then given an artificial number. On my site, many related pages consistently *would* help the reader, and are full of information that I could link, and the link would be legit and useful. I came to this page bc someone told me that I should only have 2-3 and someone else said 3-4 links per page. Your advice is the same in that respect. But, again, you have those inconsistencies. Can you please explain in detail why you have more, and why more wouldn’t be better *if* genuinely helpful? My specific question is whether more internal links, even if useful, hurts the site overall (and secondarily whether linking back and forth between useful pages is bad, which goes against the “silo” theory). Thank you!

    • Google’s main objective is to serve the user relative content via search criteria. Google only credits the first internal link per page towards seo page ranking weight. There is a HUGE difference between spamy links and readability links. Personally, I use links that are both informative and extend the long tailed search phrase of my title.

      Carpet Cleaning Milwaukie

      Urine Stain Removal

      Google seems to really like this if its structured properly. It seems that Google weighs jump links to locations on the same page the same as linking to page located at another location.

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