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Serious question: are internal links a ranking factor?

Too often, the chatter around internal links as a ranking factor seems to come more from an endless phone game than from the real source, the search engines.

Some mythical internal linking SEO tales have been passed down through generations of SEO professionals. It can be difficult to tell fact from fiction.

In an effort to set the record straight, I used our resources to check if internal linking is a confirmed ranking factor. Drumroll, please: you will find out the truth about the upcoming internal links.

The claim: internal links are a ranking factor

An internal link is a hyperlink from one page in one domain to another page in the same domain. Internal links help users navigate websites and create a site architecture for the hierarchy.

Okay, but what about the most important questions, like:

  • Is the total number of internal links pointing to a page?
  • Is the quality of these internal links does pointing to the page have a big effect?
  • What to say about the anchor text of these internal links – is this another sign of relevance? Does longer anchor text add more value?
  • Is there such a thing as too many internal links on a page?

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Proof of internal links as a ranking factor

Since there are still tons of internal linking questions to answer, and I want you to have all the facts clear, here they are.

Are internal links a ranking factor?

Google confirms that internal links are a ranking in their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Getting Started Guide. Google says:

Create a fluid hierarchy.

Make it as easy as possible for users to switch from general content to more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages when it makes sense and integrate them effectively into your internal linking structure. Make sure that all of the pages on your site are linked and don’t require an internal “search” feature to be found. Link to related pages, if available, to allow users to discover similar content.

And Google’s “How Search Engines Work” builds internal linking as a ranking factor.

Some pages are known because Google has crawled them before. Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page.

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This is also why Google Search Console offers the “Main linked pages” report. It is used to “Confirm that the main pages of the site (home page, contact page) are correctly linked within your site”.

The SEO starter guide also recommends using internal links in your breadcrumbs structured data markup, stating:

“A breadcrumb trail is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly return to a previous section or root page. Many breadcrumbs have the most general page (usually the root page) as their first leftmost link and list more specific sections to the right. We recommend that you use Breadcrumb structured data markup when viewing breadcrumbs.

The PageRank algorithm itself, and its internal flow, relies on internal links.

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

Since Bill Slawski shared his analysis of Google Reasonable Surfer’s Certificate, there has been some argument in the SEO community as to whether pages with or without traffic affect internal link ranking signals.

Slawski said that “… based on a probability that a person following random links on the web could end up on a particular page”.

The patent speaks of the position of a link on a page.

Essentially, it’s about giving links more weight than he thinks people are going to. Actually click, including links placed in higher positions on the page.

Matt Cutt is confirmed this at PubCon in 2010.

The patent does not refer to trafficking.

Slawski too dives into the page segmentation patent this explains more about the placement of internal links on a page. And, he shares other ideas on how search engines use internal links to understand a web page.

Is anchor text in an internal link a ranking factor?

The SEO starter guide clarifies the confusion if internal link anchor text is a ranking factor as it states:

“Also consider anchor text for internal links.

You can usually think of linking in terms of pointing to external websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better.

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John Mueller of Google also responded to this request on Twitter, where he said:

“Most links provide a bit of extra context through their anchor text. At least they should, right?”

And, in 2019, Mueller explained how internal linking helps your ranking in a Google Webmaster Hangout.

However, the claim that long anchor text in your internal links is just speculation right now. Search engines haven’t verified this myth.

In fact, the SEO Starter Guide obviously recommends avoiding “using anchor text that is too keyword-filled or long anchor text for search engines only.”

Rand Fishkin also dives into his anchor text experiences to prove the value of quality anchor text.

And, the Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti takes a look at Mueller’s response to whether anchor text helps improve rankings.

Are internal links used as a ranking signal in your site’s architecture?

The internal mesh can have positive or negative effects:

  • NinjaOutreach increased their site traffic by 50% in three months with their internal link structure.
  • The Daily Mail has failed to outperform its competition due to its weak internal mesh.

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Google patent on Classification of documents based on user behavior or feature data explore the site’s architecture in more depth.

So what if your internal links are broken?

Broken internal links prevent search engines from indexing your pages and users from browsing your site. Broken links are a sign of a poor quality site and can affect your rankings.

from google Web page disintegration patent validate this statement as it states it,

“If the web page has a relatively large number of dead links, it is considered an outdated web page. “

Now, how many internal links are there too many?

In 2009, Matt Cutts said there was a limit of 100 internal links per page.

In the past, Google didn’t upload more than 100k from a single page (it doesn’t anymore), so the idea of ​​links distributing your PageRank made sense.

In 2013, Matt Cutts retracted this statement saying to “keep it at a reasonable number”. Thus, the rule of 100 internal links is no longer valid.

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Internal links as a ranking factor: our verdict

Yes, there is some truth to the myth that internal linking and your search engine rankings are linked.

Think of it this way, as Cutts said:

“… if there’s a page that’s important or has great profit margins or is converting really well, increase that.” Link to this page from your root page, this is the kind of thing where it can make a lot of sense.

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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita / SearchEngineJournal



Rosemary S. Bishop