If you’ve done any research into SEO for your website, then you likely know that you need to have links to be successful. There are two types of links you can and should have for your site: internal links and external links.
When used correctly, a combination of both of these types of links can create more trust and authority for your site and give your search engine rankings a boost.
But, it’s important that you first understand what each type of link is, how they’re helpful, and what they do. Let’s break down how to add internal and external links to your website in detail.
Including links on your website is important in the same way that it was important to cite your sources for your English paper back in high school. These links show that your content is credible and grounded in knowledge and research that extends past your own opinion or life experience.
Links can also provide a more in-depth experience for your visitors. They provide avenues to explore a subject more deeply and check out related information that doesn’t duplicate the information on your site. Essentially, they add additional layers of value and context to your readers.
An external link points to any information that your reader can find outside of your own domain. This type of link may include linking to trusted, authority sites with credible, fact-based information, linking to someone else’s blog post, or any other instance where the link you insert takes your reader away from your site and to another one. It’s an opportunity to provide value to your readers, allowing them to gain more information about a specific topic or event.
Examples of good times to stick in an external link include linking to a study or survey that you referenced in your content, linking to a product or service that you’re reviewing, and so on.
Internal links are links that you place in your content that lead your reader to another destination on your own site. For example, you might add a link to your service page in a call to action on your latest blog post. Pro tip: the deeper in your website that the internal link lives, the more value it adds since your reader would not be likely to find that specific link on their own otherwise.
Internal linking should be very natural and have a nice flow to it. Chances are, you’re talking about a lot of the same concepts and services in your pages and posts, so linking to other related information to lead the reader on a journey through your website should feel very easy and natural.
Now that you know what the difference between internal and external links is, let’s talk about what they do and why they’re beneficial.
Benefits of external linking:
When you link out to an authority site (high-quality and high trust), you increase your digital footprint by building a history of links between your site and more established sites. This helps to attract more relevant and valuable eyeballs to your site.
Adding an external link can help you build relationships and expand your reach. For example, let’s say you own a roofing company and you link out to a trusted roofing blog. That blog may notice the influx of traffic they’re getting from your site and potentially create a link on their site back to yours. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship that adds value to everyone, including the readers.
Lastly, your willingness to include valuable external links shows that you truly care about your readers and their experience. Rather than have the mindset of hanging onto your readers on your site for as long as possible, they’ll appreciate that you care enough to provide them with avenues to explore the topic further, which will ultimately build more trust in your brand.
Benefits of Internal Linking:
Internal links work to boost your SEO by leading your readers on a journey through your content and website. Google gauges your site as more valuable when you have natural internal links that create a positive, flowing user experience.
Your use of internal links encourages your readers to spend more time on your site, engaging with your brand. This leads to a decreased bounce rate and increased SEO. And the more time readers spend on your site exploring your brand, the better.
While linking to other sites and within your own site provides a TON of value, you have to make sure that you’re doing it correctly and using best practices or you’ll end up shooting yourself in the foot.
Here’s what to look out for:
Links should only be used in a natural, organic way. Using the correct anchor text is crucial. Anchoring your links to irrelevant or unrelated keywords can actually hurt your SEO.
External links send people away from your site, but you obviously would like them to stay awhile. Always set external links up to open in a new tab so the reader is more likely to come back to your post or page after checking out the information in your link.
Be sure to occasionally go back and check that all your outbound links are still active, relevant, and up-to-date. Broken or unsecured links create distrust in your brand and with Google as well.
If you have a business that has several similar services, i.e. SEO management, SEO audits, etc., pick ONE page and make sure all pages point to that page to that page to ensure that there’s no cannibalization of rank (too many pages ranked for the same keyword).
Don’t feel intimidated by link-building! Both internal and external links are critical for the success of your site in Google, but they’re nothing to stress over.
The key to a good internal and external linking strategy is to always make sure it’s natural and relevant. As you’re writing your content, you’ll be surprised by how often you find opportunities to link either to another area of your own site or to an external site that will add more value to your readers.
Remember, your number one priority should always be to provide the most value and the best user experience for your reader. Doing that will put you in good graces with Google and will earn you a reward through higher rankings.