Internal Links vs. External Links: How Do They Impact SEO?

If you are new to the world of SEO, you may be confused by the terms internal and external link. What is the difference between the two, and what kind of an impact do they have on your website? 

Let’s take a look!

What Are Internal Links?

Internal links are hyperlinks that point to another page on the same website. In other words, links that target the same domain as the one the link is created on. 

Example of Internal Link 

If you take a look at our own blog, you’ll find this internal link in our post on the 12 vital on-page SEO factors to boost stronger rankings

<a href=””>on-page SEO problems</a>

What this line of code means is that the anchor text on-page SEO problems was used to link out to our post on, you guessed it, on-page SEO problems. 

screenshot of internal link example

What Are External Links?

External links are hyperlinks that point to a page on another website. In other words, these are links targeting a domain that is different from the one the link is being created on. 

You will often come across the terms inbound external links and outbound external links . The former refers to links that have been placed on another website and are pointing to yours. The latter refer to links that you have placed on your website that point to other domains. 

Example of External Link 

Let’s turn to that same blog post on SEO factors for an example of an external link. This is what it looks like:

<a href=””>this study</a>

As you can see, there is no difference in the code itself between an internal and an external link. The only thing that sets them apart is the domain being linked to. 

screenshot of external link example

What Are Backlinks?

SEO professionals often use the term backlink to refer to what is also known as an incoming external link, or just incoming link

Backlinks are all the hyperlinks that point to your website from other domains. The more quality backlinks from relevant, authoritative websites you have, the higher the value of your own pages will be. 

Why Are Internal Links Important for SEO?

There are several reasons internal links are very important for SEO:

  • They help visitors navigate your website
  • They help search engines better understand what each page is about
  • They help establish an information hierarchy for your website
  • They spread link equity across different pages
  • They help increase page authority 
  • They improve the indexing of your website
  • They can improve rankings for your target keywords when you use optimized anchor text 
  • They can improve user experience and engagement
  • They can boost the number of pages visitors look at and reduce bounce rate

A good internal link strategy will help you both direct visitors to pages they might find useful, and build authority and relevance in the eyes of search engines. And since it’s so easy to find all the relevant internal linking opportunities with Link Whisper, you really have no excuse not to start upping your SEO game! 

Pages that have no incoming internal links are called orphan pages. Since no other page points to them, search engines will have a very hard time finding them, and users will never come across them. In other words, you will be missing out on the opportunity for these pages to contribute to your sales, marketing and SEO strategies. 

Why Are External Links Important for SEO? 

External links also play an important role in search engine optimization:

  • They can help your readers learn more about a specific topic
  • They can back up your claims and improve the credibility and trustworthiness of your content
  • Relevant, quality external links improve the authority of your website
  • They help search engines understand what a page is about
  • They provide the opportunity to connect with others in your industry, who may share your content with their own audience

Adding relevant external links to trustworthy, authoritative sources will increase the value of your own content, both in the eyes of your visitors and search engines. 

Best Practices for Internal Links

Now that you understand why it’s important to add internal links to your pages, let’s take a look at some internal linking best practices:

Use Exact Match Keywords For Anchors

In order to tell search engines and readers what an internal page is about, use exact match keywords as your anchor text. This will help them rank for the most relevant terms, and eliminate any doubt as to what a page is about. 

screenshot of exact match anchor example

Link To Your Most Important Pages

The more important a page on your website, the more internal links it should have. This will signal to search engines that this page is your top priority, and they will crawl and index it sooner. 

Your most important pages should not only be a part of your main menu and footer, but you should also build as many in-content internal links for them as possible. 

Link To Pages You Want to Rank

If you want to help a new page get indexed sooner and rank better, create as many relevant internal links from the content of other pages as possible. This will send a signal to search engines that this page matters, and it will ensure it is found as soon as possible.

Search engines don’t crawl your entire website when they come to call. They visit your most important pages, so if you include a link to said new page there, it will be seen, indexed and ranked in less time. 

Consider Your Sales Funnel 

When creating your internal linking strategy, make sure to consider your sales funnel and how you want to direct traffic. Link out to relevant pages that a visitor is most likely to be interested in. This will increase the number of pages a visitor sees per visit, and reduce your bounce rate. 

Ensure Topical Relevance

Only add internal links that make sense and refrain from internal link stuffing. Consider the user experience on a page: if every other word is a link, they will start to distract from the content of the page. 

Should Internal Links Open In a New Tab?

No, internal links should almost always open in the same tab. You want to keep visitors engaged and streamline the time they spend on your website. Asking them to visit a new tab can make them lose interest. 

The only case in which you can set internal links to open in a new tab is when the internal link serves as a suggested reading the visitor might want to check out later. 

Should Internal Links be No-Follow?

No, internal links should always be do-follow. This will ensure they pass on link equity and that search engines understand they are important. 

How Many Internal Links Are Too Many? 

There is no definite rule that says how many internal links you should add to a page. While search engines can crawl hundreds of links per page, your goal should be to provide a pleasant user experience, as opposed to adding every semi-relevant internal link that comes to mind.

How Do You Find Internal Linking Opportunities?

While you can find internal linking opportunities manually, we strongly suggest you try out Link Whisper to save both time and effort. 

Our AI-powered solution will automatically suggest relevant internal links as you write, and you can also use it to add links to recent posts to older articles. 

Our automated internal linking feature will save you even more time, as it will add the internal links you want placed to the anchor text you have specific to all past and future pages that contain it! 

Best Practices for External Links

How can you make sure the external links you add to your website follow Google’s guidelines and help you build trust and authority? Just follow these steps:

Link to Authoritative Sources

Only link out to authority sources: websites that are experts on a topic and are inherently trustworthy. This won’t always be the top result in search engines though. If you are not familiar with a website, check out their about page, read the bios of their authors, or check out their backlink portfolio to see if they are a good source. 

Link to Relevant Sources

When adding an external link, make sure you link out to the most relevant source available. Try to find a post that has been published no later than last year. Ensure that the link is adding value to your own writing, i.e. backing your opinion up, referencing a statistic, providing more in-depth information about a topic. 

screenshot of relevant external link example

Link to Quality Sources

Before you place an external link, read the page yourself and make sure it’s written well and that what it’s saying makes sense to you. If you can’t understand it, chances are your audience won’t either. 

Limit the Number of External Links Per Page

There is no specific rule stating how many external links you should add to a page. The best course of action is to use common sense. If you need to reference a stat or research, add the relevant link. If an external link won’t be adding any real value to the content of your page, skip it. 

Should All External Links Be No-Follow?

Making all except the most authoritative external links no-follow is considered best practice. This will ensure you have done your due diligence and you will not be associated with the content of these pages in the eyes of search engines. 

Make an external link do-follow when you want to pass link equity and are certain that it’s relevant and of the highest quality. 

Should External Links Open In a New Tab? 

All external links should open in a new tab. This will ensure your audience remains engaged and isn’t distracted by the new website. They will still have time to check it out at their leisure after they are done browsing your content. 

Internal Links vs. External Links: Which Are More Important? 

Both internal and external links are very important for SEO. Well-placed internal links will help spread link equity and ensure your pages are indexed and ranked faster (and better), while carefully considered external links will increase the trustworthiness and authoritativeness of your website. 

Take a moment to think about every link before adding it. It may seem like an insignificant step, but it can help up your SEO game in no time. 


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