The Balance of Internal vs. External Links

The Balance Between Internal vs External Linking

We know we need to link to improve SEO, but what’s the right balance?

The most important, internal and external links, play a crucial role in affecting your site’s credibility, position, authority and engagement.

But to be able to even think about creating link equilibrium, we must first get a good understanding of what they are and what they do.

What Internal Links Do

Internal links are the threads that connect your website’s content into a cohesive digital tapestry.

These are the links that connect one page of your site to another, helping users navigate and find related content to peak their interests.

But their importance goes far beyond user experience.

The Benefits for SEO


1. Improved site navigation:

Internal links create a journey for your visitors, so they can explore the site fluidly.

This is not only for site users, but for search engine crawlers, as if your site is too complicatedly formatted they may not be able to index your content correctly.


2. Better user experience:

When people find it easy to move from one clearly labelled page to another, they’ll stay on the site longer.

No one likes feeling lost, and with effective internal linking, you can reduce bounce rates and improve your SEO rankings as you go.


3. Indexing and Crawling

Search engine bots use internal links to travel across your site, so they can discover and index new pages.

By creating clear pathways, you guarantee that important content doesn’t go overlooked.

Strategies for Quality Internal Linking

To completely harness the power of internal linking, try these:

  • Plan Anchor text optimisation: Use descriptive and relevant text that gives users and search engines a clear idea of the linked content.
  • Hierarchical structure: Organise your links in a logical order, with the most important pages receiving the most internal links.
  • Content relevance: Link to related content to provide additional value to your readers and improve the contextual relevance of your website.

External Links and Their Significance

While internal links are away strengthening your website’s internal structure, external links extend your site’s reach.

These outbound links connect your content to other authoritative sources, creating and expanding the web of credibility and trust.

The Importance of External Links for SEO


1. Building Authority and Trust

When you link to reputable sources, like government websites or prestigious research team sites, you associate your site with their street cred.

You boost your own trustworthiness and credibility when you link to sites that search engines recognise as leaders in their areas of expertise.


2. Relevance to Content

External links to high-quality, relevant sources can improve the overall value of your content.

You can rank higher in search results, simply by relating to more “official” content.


3. Link Quality and Diversity

A diverse set of good external links can send a signal straight to search engines saying that you know your stuff.

Basically, it can improve your SEO as search engines will see your site as a valuable resource in your niche.

Strategies for Effective External Linking


1. Identify Authoritative Sources

One of the more critical aspects of external linking is connecting to “authoritative sources”.

These are websites or pages within your industry or niche that are considered trustworthy and experts.

When you link to them, you take back a fraction of their credibility to improve your site’s reputation.

Here’s how:

  • Thorough Research: Look for sites, blogs, and publications that are recognised. Consider their domain authority, content quality and reputation.
  • Relevance: Make sure that whatever you link to is relevant to the topic in your content, linking to unrelated or loosely related sources can dilute any credibility you have.
  • Establish Relationships: Building relationships can be mutually beneficial, reach out to sites, collaborate on projects and engage with their content. If you can get backlinks, that seriously boosts your SEO.


2. Nofollow vs Dofollow Links:

Understanding when to use these is going to give you a leg up when you’re externally linking.

These two types of links control how search engines interpret and follow the links on your website:


Dofollow Links:

These are the default links, which you’re probably used to seeing by now.

They also pass “link juice” that can help improve the linked page’s ranking.

Use dofollow links when you want to endorse the linked page’s content or believe it adds value to your content.


Nofollow Links:

Nofollows instruct search engines not to follow the link and not to pass any link juice.

They are typically used when you’re linking to a page for reference but do not want to vouch for its content or don’t want it to impact your site’s SEO.

Common scenarios include user-generated content, sponsored content, and links to unverified or potentially spammy sources.

Use the “rel=nofollow” attribute in the HTML of the link to specify to search engines to NOT follow the link.


3. Avoid Link Farms and Spammy Sites:

These are websites that exist purely for the purpose of creating backlinks.

They often have low-quality content, engage in black-hat SEO tactics and can seriously damage your website’s reputation and SEO.

Here’s how to steer clear of them:


Vet Your Sources:

Before linking to an external source, check it out.

Check the website’s content quality, relevance and legitimacy.

Avoid websites that appear to exist solely for backlinks.


Red Flag Alert:

Be wary of websites with suspicious or overly aggressive SEO tactics, like keyword stuffing, excessive ads, or low-quality content.

Also, avoid sites that have been penalised by search engines in the past.


Regular Audits:

Periodically audit your external links to make sure they continue to meet your standards.

Remove links from sites that have become spammy or unreliable over time.

Finding the Balance

Link building strategies should adapt to the type of content you’re working with.

The approach you take for blog posts may be different from other content types.

As long as you can find the balance between internal and external links, you have the key to optimising both user experience and SEO.


1. Blog Posts

Blogs are often informational, educational, or entertaining in nature.

Here’s how you can balance internal and external links in this content:

External: Find other posts that back up your information, from credible sources only. Make sure they are relevant to your content and provide additional value to your readers.

Internal: Use these to guide visitors to related content, it keeps people engaged and helps improve your site’s crawlability.

Anchor Text: Pay attention to this for both internal and external links, make sure the text is useful and easy to read for people and bots.


2. Landing Pages

Landing pages are designed for specific marketing purposes and often have a singular focus.

Internal: These links on this page should be purposeful and lead users into your conversion funnel. Direct people to more detailed product pages, services, contact forms, or signup pages.

External: Minimise these links, only use them strategically when referencing authoritative sources like clients to reinforce the message or benefits presented on the page.

Call to Action (CTA): Prioritise this, make sure it’s prominent and encourages users to take action, buying, signing up, or contacting your business.


3. Product Pages

Product pages are typically designed to drive conversions.

In this context, the balance between internal and external may lean more towards internal links.

Internal: Guide users to related products or valuable content. For example, if you sell phones, have links to accessories, reviews or comparison pages to encourage site exploration and purchasing.

External: Product pages don’t really need external links, but you could think about linking to reputable reviews or industry-related news articles to boost the credibility of the product.

User Experience: Keep this in mind. The goal is to guide users to relevant content without disrupting their shopping experience or overwhelming them.


4. Multimedia Content

This often requires a slightly different linking approach:


Embedded Links:

In videos or infographics, you can use embedded links to guide users to related content, whether it’s internal or external.

They should enhance the viewer’s understanding of the topic.


Transcripts of Descriptions:

If you’re using multimedia content, think about providing transcripts or descriptions on your website.

This allows you to incorporate both internal and external links within the accompanying text.


In short, internal and external linking amp up your SEO and ultimately your rankings.

It’s important not to stuff in too many links where they don’t fit, and work around the relevance of the content there.

By finding the right balance, monitoring your rankings and changing what you’re doing, you can improve your position in search engine rankings whilst delivering an excellent user experience.

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Last updated: November 27, 2023