The Science of Internal Linking: Algorithms and Patterns

The Science Behind Internal Linking: Patterns and Algorithms

Just data and numbers.

The science of internal linking is really like that of any other: cross-referencing patterns and algorithms to find some kind of answer.

In this case, the answer you’re looking for is how to come up with a solid internal linking plan.

To help you out on your scientific linking journey, we’ve started you off with the basics.

The Fundamentals

What are Internal Links?

Internal links are hyperlinks that connect pages within the same website.

They can be in the form of text, images, or buttons.

These links are primarily used to aid navigation and guide users to relevant information on your website.

How do Internal Links Differ from External Links?

While internal links connect pages on one site, external links (backlinks) connect your website to external sources.

External links are essential for establishing credibility and authority, while internal links help with user experience and site structure.

The Role of Anchor Text in Internal Linking

Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink.

It provides context and tells both users and search engines what the linked page is about.

Using descriptive and relevant anchor text is crucial for effective internal linking.

It helps search engines understand the content of the linked page and its relationship to the linking page.

The Algorithms Behind  Internal Linking

Search engines like Google use algorithms to determine the relevance and authority of web pages.

Internal linking is a key factor in these algorithms.

Understanding how these algorithms work can help you make informed decisions about your internal linking strategy.

Google’s PageRank Algorithm and Internal Linking

Google’s PageRank algorithm, developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, revolutionised search engines.

It works because a web page’s importance can be gauged by the number and quality of links pointing to it: Internal links are a significant part of this equation.

In essence, when you link from one page to another on your website, you’re passing a vote of confidence to the linked page.

This can boost its authority and affect how it ranks in search results. However, not all pages on your site are equal.

The PageRank algorithm also takes into account the authority of the linking page. Therefore, strategic internal linking can help distribute authority effectively across your website.

How Search Engines Use Internal Links

Search engines use internal links to crawl and index your site.

When a search engine’s bot (crawler) visits your website, it starts at a specific page, typically the homepage, and follows internal links to discover other pages.

This process helps search engines index your content and understand the relationships between different pages.

Proper internal linking ensures that every page on your site is accessible through a series of clicks from the homepage.

When your pages are well-connected, search engines can index your content more efficiently, making it more likely to appear in search results.

Algorithm Updates Affecting Internal Linking

Search engines regularly update their algorithms to provide users with more relevant and useful search results.

Some algorithm updates have had a notable impact on how internal linking works:

  • Google Penguin: This update aimed to combat spammy and manipulative link-building practices, including internal linking. It reinforced the importance of using natural and relevant links within your content.
  • Mobile-First Indexing: As more users access the web via mobile devices, Google shifted to mobile-first indexing. This means that the mobile version of your site is the primary one for ranking and indexing.

Now that we have a grasp of the algorithms at play let’s explore the best practices for effective internal linking.

SEO Best Practices for Internal Linking

Internal linking is not just about adding links randomly within your content.

To make the most of it, you need to follow these best practices:

How to Strategically Structure Your Internal Links

  1. Create a Sitemap: Plan your website’s structure like a roadmap. A well-organised sitemap helps you see how different pages are connected and where internal links are needed.
  2. Use Relevant Anchor Text: Choose anchor text that accurately describes the linked page’s content. This improves both user experience and search engine understanding.
  3. Prioritise Important Pages: Link to your most important and valuable pages from multiple sources. This spreads authority and directs users to your key content.
  4. Avoid Overloading with Links: Don’t overdo it. Too many internal links on a single page can confuse users and dilute the impact of each link.

The Ideal Frequency of Internal Links

When it comes to the science of internal linking, it wholly depends on the length and content of your pages.

Longer pages with in-depth content may need more internal links to help users navigate.

In general, aim for at least one internal link for every 200-300 words of content.

Balancing User Experience and SEO

Internal linking isn’t just for the computers; it’s for the people, too.

A seamless, user-friendly experience should be your primary goal.

If your internal links help users find the information they need, search engines will likely reward your site with better rankings.

Avoiding Common Internal Linking Mistakes

There are common holes people fall into when adding internal links to their site:

  • Broken Links: Regularly check your internal links to ensure they are still working. Broken links can frustrate users and harm your SEO.
  • Orphaned Pages: Ensure that all pages have at least one internal link. Orphaned pages (pages with no internal links) are less likely to be indexed or ranked.
  • Keyword Stuffing: Avoid overusing keywords in your anchor text. This can appear spammy and harm your rankings.


Patterns and Strategies

Hub-and-Spoke Model

It involves creating a central “hub” page that links to several related “spoke” pages.

This is an effective way to organise and categorise your content, guiding users and search engines to relevant information.

Silo Structure and Its Benefits

A silo structure groups related content together in a hierarchical manner.

Each silo focuses on a specific topic and all pages within the silo link to each other.

This helps search engines understand the thematic relevance of the content.

Thematic Clusters for Improved Rankings

Thematic clusters involve linking related pieces of content together to create a network of information.

This strategy not only aids in SEO but also enhances the user’s experience by providing more in-depth knowledge on a topic.

Implementing Breadcrumbs for User-Friendly Navigation

Breadcrumbs are a navigational aid that shows users their location on your website and allows them to backtrack to previous pages easily.

It not only improves user experience but also provides an additional layer of internal linking.

Measuring the Impact of Internal Linking

The effectiveness of your internal linking strategy can be measured in various ways:

1. Tracking Improvements in Search Engine Rankings

Monitor the rankings of the pages you’ve internally linked.

Over time, you should see improvements in their positions in search results.

Tools like Google Search Console can help you track these changes.

2. Analysing User Behaviour with Tools like Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides insights into user behaviour on your website.

You can track how users navigate through your site and identify which internal links are the most clicked.

Use this data to refine your internal linking strategy.

3. Identifying and Fixing Internal Linking Issues

Regularly audit your website for internal linking issues.

Look for broken links, orphaned pages, and opportunities for improvement.

Tools and Resources

To assist you in your internal linking efforts, here are some tools and resources to consider:

Tools for Internal Link Analysis

Screaming Frog SEO Spider:

This tool helps you crawl your website and identify internal linking issues.


Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO tool that goes beyond internal link analysis. While it provides insights into internal linking, it’s also a powerhouse for backlink analysis and competitive research. Here’s how Ahrefs can assist with internal linking:

  • Internal Link Analysis: Ahrefs offers detailed reports on your website’s internal links. It helps you identify which pages receive the most internal links, which can be crucial for distributing link equity effectively.
  • Competitive Analysis: You can compare your internal linking strategy with competitors. This can provide insights into how you can improve your approach.
  • Backlink Analysis: While not directly related to internal linking, backlink analysis can help you identify external sites that link to your content. These backlinks can be incorporated into your internal linking strategy, further boosting your SEO efforts.
  • Keyword Research: Ahrefs also provides powerful keyword research tools, which can help you identify keywords to target with your internal links.

Further Reading and Resources

  1. The WILO blog: We have numerous guides on how to get your site’s internal linking in top shape with specialised posts and guides.
  2. Moz’s Guide to Internal Linking: A comprehensive guide on internal linking best practices.
  3. Google’s SEO Starter Guide: Google’s own guide to SEO best practices, which includes information on internal linking.

Final Thoughts

If you put internal linking down to a science, it might make things easier.

Understanding the data and reasoning behind why things work can actually help increase your chances of building a strong linking strategy.

And with the help of WILO, you might see your desired SEO ranking results sooner rather than later.

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Last updated: November 27, 2023