How many internal links should you include on each webpage? Does it matter if you have too many? How do you determine the number of links considered to be “too many?”
This is an important topic. Links are a critical part of your website’s navigation and contribute to how your web pages rank in the search engines.
Here’s the rundown on how to choose the number of internal links for each page, and what can happen when you go overboard on your link building.
- What are internal links?
- Why are internal links important?
- Is there an official limit to the quantity of internal links per webpage?
- One link per 500 words is a good rule of thumb
- Are there search engine penalties for having too many internal links?
- The downside to large quantities of internal links: PageRank and authority might suffer
- When do large quantities of internal links make sense?
- Are internal links ever a bad idea?
- Focus on quality, not quantity
- Need help building or customizing your website? Dev.co can help
External links point to webpages on other domain names. Internal links point to webpages on the same domain name where the link is published. For example, if the domain name is www.MyDomain.com, internal links will point to additional web pages on www.MyDomain.com. For instance: www.MyDomain.com/page.html and www.MyDomain.com/page2.html.
Internal links serve three main purposes:
- Internal links provide visitors with easy access to important and relevant information throughout a website.
- Internal links help with SEO efforts to distribute page and ranking authority
- Internal links help search engines understand the context of a site’s web pages
Technically, you can insert as many internal links as you’d like on all of your webpages. However, a webpage with excessive internal links might suffer. Although there is no official limit set by search engines, officials from Google have discussed this issue several times over the years.
Back in 2009, Google’s then-spokesperson, Matt Cutts, shared his thoughts about how many links were acceptable to publish on a single webpage. Cutts reminded his audience that Google’s official recommendation was to limit each page to “fewer than 100” links. At the time, 100 was considered a reasonable number.
Currently, Google’s webmaster guidelines recommend limiting the number of links on a page to “a few thousand at most.” Clearly, Google’s guidelines have caught up with the times, since many of today’s websites are massive research libraries, requiring thousands of links on individual pages.
In light of these recommendations, you don’t have to worry too much about messing up because Google doesn’t see webpages with excessive links as spam. Matt Cutts explained this in his blog post and reminded everyone that the link recommendation is in Google’s “Design and content” section, not the “Quality guidelines” section.
Only items listed in the Quality guidelines section can be considered spammy (like hidden text, doorways, etc.). Therefore, you don’t need to worry about Google viewing your webpages as spam just for having several hundred, or even several thousand links.
However, just because Google won’t flag your website as spam doesn’t mean you should load up your pages with excessive internal links.
While there is no official limit to how many links you can place on each webpage, use your best judgment. Ideally, you should only link to content that will provide a visitor with important information related to the content they’re currently consuming. Avoid adding internal links just to add links.
Internal link recommendations based on content length:
- For webpages between 200-500 words: 1 internal link total
- For webpages between 500-800 words: 1 or 2 internal links total
- For webpages between 800-1500 words: 2 or 3 internal links total
These recommendations are only a rough guideline. If you have two important links to include in the same sentence, don’t hold back.
Generally, if you limit your web pages to one link for every 500 words, when your readers come across a link, they’ll know it serves a purpose. They might not click on all of your links, but at least they won’t feel annoyed by having to read through a bunch of colored or underlined text.
As Matt Cutts explained in his blog post linked above, Google might not index or follow all of the links you publish on a webpage if there are too many of them.
There are no direct penalties for having too many internal links on a webpage. However, it’s been said that a webpage might get buried in the SERPs for having too many links. Although, this information is anecdotal and speculative, so take it with a grain of salt.
While there is no official penalty for having too many internal links, there is a downside. Google analyzes your internal links to determine the structure of your website and the importance of your webpages. When all of your web pages link to all of your other webpages, Google’s algorithm can’t identify any order of importance.
When Google can’t identify the order of importance of your webpages, your PageRank and page authority can suffer. The more internal links you have, the harder it is for Google to determine the context of those pages.
Having hundreds of internal links on every webpage tells Google all of those pages hold the same importance, which dilutes the importance of all pages.
On the contrary, when you have only a handful of links on each page, Google can clearly see which pages are linked most throughout your site and will assign PageRank and page authority accordingly.
In this way, the internal links you place throughout your site tell search engines which pages are most important and should therefore be ranked higher. It’s definitely not the only SEO element that determines ranking, but it does contribute.
Although it’s recommended to have one link per 500 words of content (which includes external and internal links), there are instances where it’s appropriate to have a large number of internal links.
For example, say you create a custom document repository for hosting 20,000 books released to the public domain. You might have a web page for each genre that contains a link to every author and/or every title in that genre. In this situation, it would make perfect sense to have hundreds or even thousands of links on one page.
Here’s a simple way of explaining the distinction:
When your links are designed to be informative, they should be limited to only the links that will enhance a visitor’s experience. When your links are designed to be a technical resource, there’s no need to limit the number of links you have on one page.
Anytime you provide links to visitors, there’s a chance they might click on those links. Normally, this is a good thing. You want visitors to click on your links. However, links can be a distraction on pages when you want to keep your visitors’ attention. For instance, you don’t want visitors clicking away from a sales page or landing page, especially if they just arrived from a PPC ad.
For the most part, internal links are a good idea to include in all of your webpages, with the exception of sales pages and PPC landing pages.
Focus on quality, not quantity
You won’t gain any kind of SEO advantage by stuffing your web pages full of internal links. As with everything related to SEO, you’re better off using internal links as they were intended to be used. For instance, use internal links to provide helpful navigation and additional information to your visitors.
Since it does help your SEO efforts to include internal links on each webpage, choose your internal links wisely and sparingly. If you’re going to include an internal link on every page, choose the best link relevant to your content. If you don’t have an existing page that would be the best choice, create one and then include the link.
For SEO purposes, including a few internal links will help Google crawl more of your website, especially if those webpages aren’t included in your main navigation menu.
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