10 Internal Linking Mistakes That Harm Your SEO Strategy

December 13, 2021 | Link Building

There are 3 basic reasons why people link one page on their site to another:

  1. It improves the user experience by making navigation easier.
  2. It helps crawlers discover and index new content.
  3. It distributes the ranking authority among the pages.

But, internal linking rarely gets the attention it deserves. 

It is an equally important link-building strategy, but backlinking overshadows it.

Neither is there much of a buzz about them in the SEO community, nor are they regularly optimized.

So, by default, most people make mistakes when adding internal links

If you are one among them and want to level up your SEO with the help of internal links, you’ve landed at the right place.

In this post, I will discuss some of the most common internal linking mistakes. Also, I’ll tell you how to avoid them.

But before we get into the details, your site’s SEO must be on-point. 

Check Your Site’s SEO Performance

Link-building will be more effective and efficient when you have a bang on SEO performance. 

In case your site loads slow for any reason or doesn’t have HTTPs security, it will impact your link-building efforts at large. 

So, SEOs recommend checking your site’s SEO statistics on a routine basis.

It helps you gauge your site’s present status from the SEO aspect. Plus, you identify errors, if any.

If you want a quick yet comprehensive SEO report for your website, you can get it easily using a free website analyzer tool.

Within a minute, you’ll have all the problems that are pulling your SEO back listed. 

With that, you’d get a direction to work on improving your site and reaching the perfect SEO spot.

The tool also analyzes the page links and shows their total count. It also shows the share of internal and external links. 

If you click on ‘internal links’, a dialogue box will pop up and display all the URLs on the site linked to the searched page.

In this way, you can also review and improve your internal links.

Now, let’s get to the slips all of us make unknowingly. 

10 Internal Linking Mistakes That Harm Your SEO Strategy

Google’s first ranking algorithm, PageRank, analyzes the quality and quantity of links to a page. 

It helps the search engine to gauge the page’s importance and rank it accordingly in the SERPs.

Now, these links include internal links, external links, and backlinks. 

So, internal linking is equally important. 

But, it is not ONLY about connecting pages on your site. There are a lot of other things you should keep in mind.

Here are the 10 most common and frequent mistakes made by people doing internal linking for SEO.

Let’s discuss them one at a time.

1. Improper Anchor Texts

Anchor Text is the visible and clickable set of words in a hyperlink. 

Most of the time, it appears blue like this link to the home page of Linkody

However, it is customizable. You can change your website’s link colors and styles using HTML or CSS.

Like we have done on RankWatch:

Anchor Text is an important part of link-building, both internal and external. 

If used properly, they give crawlers and users a good idea about the linked page. Else, they can cause more harm than good.

For example, linking a page about ‘chocolate shake‘ to an anchor text ‘chocolate pudding‘ is misleading.

It’s an instance of an improper anchor text. 

Similarly, writing ‘buy shoes‘ and linking it to a page about ‘leather shoes‘ is wrong.

So, improper anchor texts can destroy your SEO.

Here are some tips for using anchor text in the best way:

  • Use keywords to link pages on your site
  • Keep your link text as concise as possible
  • Make it relevant to the target page
  • Don’t use the same text again and again
  • Avoid forceful addition in sentences

With that, you can optimize your anchor text and prevent hurting your SEO.

That leads us to another popular SEO mistake. 

2. Pointing to Broken Links

Broken links are links that don’t work for one of the two reasons:

  • You’ve linked to an incorrect URL.
  • The target page no longer exists.

Broken links, both internal and external, negatively impact your SEO.

While broken external links are something that’s not in your control, it’s foolish to have broken internal links.

Why is it so, you may ask?

It is because broken links lead to poor user experience and affect the flow of link equity on your site.

The search engines perceive it as a low-quality signal and devalue your search rankings.

So, you must check and fix broken links promptly.

Here’s how you can do that:

  • Replace incorrect URLs with correct ones
  • Remove the link leading to an error page
  • Redirect visitors to another page
  • Republish the deleted page

When you do it, you can be sure to get the most out of your internal links.

3. Adding Excessive On-Page Links

You must have heard the popular saying – ‘Excess of anything is good for nothing.’

Well, it applies to internal linking as well. Overdoing it is dangerous and threatens your SEO. 

When you add too many internal links to a page like this…

search engines get suspicious and feel you are spamming. Plus, it hampers your user experience and engagement. 

That said, it can seriously affect your rankings. 

Here’s how:

  • The link equity gets divided equally among all the linked pages. So, each page gets a smaller share.
  • Users stop reading and jump to the linked page. So, your page views increase but dwell times reduce.
  • Search engines don’t crawl pages after their crawl budget is exhausted. So, important pages might get missed.

The solution is simply restricting the number of internal links on a page.

You can achieve this by linking only the pages relevant to your content or pages that are important for your users.

In this way, it will help your users and SEO both.

4. Missing Out The Follow Attribute

Links must have one of the two ‘follow’ attributes:

  • Do-follow: Crawl this link.

No-follow: Ignore this link.

To a normal user, both do-follow and no-follow links appear the same. 

So you might assume that adding either of the attributes makes no difference.

But, it is not true.  

When it comes to internal linking, the kind of attribute used makes a big difference.

In case you use the no-follow tag for your internal links, search engines will ignore them. 

You are willingly stopping search engines from visiting those web pages or discovering new pages.

It will impact your site’s SEO as link equity will not be passed on to no-follow links. As a result, your rankings will suffer.

So, there’s no point using the no-follow tags for internal links. 

You can blindly assign them do-follow tags if there’s no good reason to prevent crawlers from visiting them. 

It will help your pages rank better in the SERPs and enhance your SEO.

5. Linking In Header Tags

Header tags or headings on a web page define its hierarchy and structure.

But if you notice links pointing to other pages in headings, remember it is a bad internal linking practice.

It doesn’t transfer more link equity to the linked page. Instead, appears spammy to both users and search engines.

Why? Because internal links in header tags confuse the search bots. They are in a fix as to index the rest of the content or follow the link. 

So, it can significantly damage your search rankings. The best practice is to optimize headers to make them relevant to the page. 

For internal links, you can add them in the body text. Or perhaps the images you use. But not in the headings.

In this way, you’ll help search bots index your pages and pass link equity easily. So, you will boost your SEO.

6. Using Masked Links

Masked links are links concealed or covered so that they resemble other links.

As the name suggests, they are links you don’t want your users to see. So, you hide them with another link. 

Some common reasons for masking internal links include:

  • Covering the affiliate links
  • Shortening or beautifying links
  • Tracking clicks and other stats

And they are present all over the internet. You’ll find them in emails and online documents as well as on web pages and social networks. 

However, using masked links might get your site penalized. 

Search engines consider them deceptive. Users might resist clicking on them. So, it doesn’t help your internal linking strategy.

That said, it negatively impacts your site’s SEO. 

The solution? Either you don’t use masked links or clearly state what the link is all about in the content. 

It will help search engines and users trust your links and follow them. Otherwise, it can be fatal for your SEO strategy.

7. Having Great Crawl Depths (For Important Pages)

Crawl depth is the number of clicks required to reach a page from the home page.

If you click on a category from the home page, the crawl depth of the category page is 1.

When you click on a product in that category, the crawl depth of the product page from the home page is 2.

And as the number of clicks increase, the crawl depth increases. But, having great crawl depths is not a good thing.

Search engines associate the crawl depth of a page with its importance in the site structure

So, you have to be careful while adding internal links. 

If you want your pages to rank well in the SERPs, they should not have large crawl depths.

You can figure it out by regularly auditing your internal links. Post that, you can make the required changes in the crawl depth.

8. Overlooking Orphaned Pages

Orphaned pages are specific pages on your website that have zero internal links pointing towards them.

There’s no way a user or search bot can get to those pages, so it is the silliest internal linking mistake one can make.

If you have many orphaned pages on your site, it can be harmful to your SEO efforts. 

So make sure to audit your site for pages with no internal links. 

When you find them, analyze their content. 

  • If the page is valuable and needs to be indexed, think of ways to interlink it with other pages of your site. 
  • If the page is not useful and needs no indexing, you can delete it from your site. 

In this way, you’ll be able to minimize the count of orphaned pages on your site. It will ensure your SEO is unaffected by it.

9. Leading To Long Redirect Loops

A long redirect loop is an endless chain of redirects that diverts users from one page to another.

It can be due to any reason, but it can upset your visitors and damage your search rankings.

Here’s how. 

When a redirect leads to another, it:

  • Slows down your website (poor user experience)
  • Confuses the search bots (indexing issues)

So, it is best to avoid redirect chains and loops when linking pages on your site.

You can audit your website for such instances, and if they exist, you can:

  • Link directly to the destination pages (eliminate loops)
  • Use redirects only to the final page (minimize loops)

In this way, you can bring your site’s bounce rate down and boost your SEO.

10. Linking Only The Performing Pages

Some pages on your site might perform better than the rest of the pages. 

They might have higher visibility, ranking, and authority compared to other pages.

That said, they don’t need more internal links to point to them. But, the rest of your pages with relatively lower metrics do.

So, when creating internal links, link to your low authority pages from your high authority pages.

It will pass on greater link equity to low-performing pages, increase their authority, and level up their performance.

Besides this, it will help crawlers and users discover them more often. That’s a bonus!

With that, forgetting your low-performing pages with great potential can harm your SEO.

So, audit your site and list out pages with fewer internal links. Link to them internally more often and from higher authority pages. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t link to your high authority pages. Link to them too, but in lesser quantity. 

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk 

Internal links are crucial in trimming down the complexity of your pages for both users and search engines.

So, if you were making the mistakes mentioned above, you know why your efforts were not paying off.

It’s time you audit your site for internal links, fix the existing issues, and revise your strategy at large.

With that, you’ll stay ahead in the SEO game!

Which of the mistakes mentioned above was new to you? Which one do you think is inevitable? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Sahil is the CEO and Founder of RankWatch - a platform that helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever growing internet landscape. Sahil likes making creative products that help in the automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas. You can connect with him and the Rankwatch team on Facebook or Twitter.

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