Google’s John Mueller explains that using too many internal links on the same page can dilute their value, and goes over what to do instead.
This topic is discussed during the Google Search Central SEO Hangout recorded on July 2, 2021.
A site owner submits a question asking if there are any dangers associated with using an excessive amount of internal links.
The topic of external linking often comes up during these hangouts, but the impact of internal linking is rarely discussed.
Internal links are important for SEO because they send signals to Google about the pages that are most important for a particular website. They don’t send the same ranking signals as external links, but they still count.
In addition, Google uses internal links to better understand the structure of a site. A sitemap can also be used to communicate this information, but a logical structure of internal links helps to make it even clearer.
With all the help internal linking has given, could too many of them be a bad thing? Here’s what Mueller says.
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Google’s John Mueller on Using Too Many Internal Links
Overly liberal use of internal links on a website can lead to problems. The first problem is that Google will not be able to understand the structure of the site.
When asked if too many internal links on a page do more harm than good, Mueller responds:
“Yes and no. I think in the sense that we use internal linking to better understand the structure of a page, and you can imagine the situation where if we try to understand the structure of a website, with the different pages that exist, if all the pages are linked to all the other pages on the website, where you basically have a full internal link on every page, then there is no real structure there.
It’s like this huge mass of pages for this website, and they are all linked together, we can’t determine which is the most important. We cannot determine which of them are related to each other. And in a case like that, having all of those internal links doesn’t really do much to your site.
So regardless of the PageRank, authority and things like that, you are basically not providing a clear structure of the website. And that makes it harder for search engines to understand the context of the individual pages of your website. So that’s how I would view it there.
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The second problem is that using too many internal links will dilute their value.
An internal link can signal Google that a page is important to the website, but it starts to seem less important as new links are added.
If there are twenty internal links on a page then they will not all be treated with the same importance as if there were only one or two links.
“And similar to the second question you had there, regarding internal linking doing more harm than good – yes, if you dilute the value of your site structure by having so many internal links that we don’t see more structure then it makes it harder for us to understand what you think is important on your website.
And I think providing that sense of relative importance is sometimes very helpful, because it gives you a little more opportunity to refine how you would like to appear in search results.
If you tell the search engines pretty clearly and straightforward, well that’s my main page, and from there you link to different categories and the categories go to different products, then it’s much easier for us. to understand that if someone searches for this product category, it is this page that we should show in the search results.
Whereas if everything is cross-linked, then it’s like, well, any of these pages could be relevant. And then maybe we’ll send the user to a random product instead of your category page when you actually search for a product category.
According to Mueller’s advice, site owners should aim to have an internal link structure that resembles their own site structure.
It could potentially look like: home page> category page> services page> quote request page.
Or if you add internal links to something like a blog post, you can add contextual links to related posts on the site.
While some internal links are good, more is not better. You will send stronger signals with fewer links.
Listen to Mueller’s full response in the video below: