Internal vs External Linking for SEO Writing

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is multifaceted, requiring businesses to constantly update their online marketing strategies and consistently create new content. 

Search engines like Google and Bing reward companies with great SEO by giving them higher search rankings and optimized rich cards, but the relationship is mutually beneficial. Google favors businesses with great SEO because it understands what they do and can deliver a better product to its users. 

One of the best ways to optimize your web content and get high search engine rankings is blog content, keywords, and our topic for this blog: internal and external linking

Frequent use of internal and external links can improve your online content for both the reader and the search engine. However, many website owners still don’t understand what they are and how they differ. Keep reading to learn about the difference between internal and external links and determine how they can affect your website’s SEO.

Infographic representing internal and external links for SEO

What Are Internal Links?

An internal link, also known as a cross-link, is a hyperlink that takes a reader to a different webpage within your domain. Think of a blog post linking to another blog post or a “related items section” that takes you to a product page. Internal linking is meant to keep visitors on your site for longer and thus increase your engagement. 

Benefits of Internal Links

Why do you want people to stay on your website for longer? Because Google cares. Your bounce rate (the percentage of people who leave your site without engaging in your content) is an indicator of a well-constructed website. A low bounce rate can improve your search ranking and help search engines index your site as visitors follow continuous links to other pages. 

Internal links also improve the user experience on your site. Use an internal link to guide a visitor to other content they might want to see. Maybe you’re writing a blog about the best hotels for a weekend stay in the Bay Area – add an internal link to your blog on must-try restaurants in San Francisco. Internal linking SEO like this can help keep your visitors engaged and even sell your product or service. 

Using an anchor tag <a> to create internal links

All you need to create an internal link is the name of the internal folder you’re linking to, plus a tiny bit of HTML knowledge. Using the formula below, you’ll input your folder into your website’s basic text. For this example, we’re linking to a folder called “internal.html.” The <a> in an HTML tag is your “anchor”. The “href” attribute will take your visitor to the destination page when it’s clicked. After your “href,” enter the anchor text that you want to appear as your clickable hyperlink. 

  • To link to a page in your public_html for your primary domain, insert the file name below where it says “internal.html”
    • <a href=”internal.html”>This text will now be a link</a>
  • To link a file in a subfolder, add your subfolder name in the “href” attribute. Here’s what it should look like:
    • <a href=”subfolder/internal.html”>This text will now be a link</a>

Graphic that depicts internal and external linking for SEO

What Are External Links?

External links direct us to web pages on a different website domain. You’ve probably seen them in blog posts containing statistics or study results, where the hyperlink is used as a reference. When another website links to your domain, that’s called backlinking. Though external links reduce visitors’ time on your site, they are a great tool to improve SEO and credibility. 

Benefits of External Links

The use of high-quality external links will increase your domain authority and subsequently improve your search rankings. Search engines will better understand what your blog or article is about if they can relate it to another website with high domain authority. 

When it comes to external linking SEO, bounce rates are less of a concern. You may be guiding your readers to another page, but that jump can increase your credibility and encourage your visitor to return to your page. For example, if you’re writing about how websites with higher visitor “time on site” generally rank higher on Google, source your information

Backlinking for SEO

Backlinking will further improve your site’s credibility by telling Google and other readers that your content is valuable. In fact, the more backlinks a page has, the more search traffic it gets from Google. Other website owners can see their backlinks on Google Search Console, making it a great way to reach out and connect with other businesses in the world of content and digital marketing. Anytime you’re backlinked by another site is an excellent source of free traffic for your online business. Plus, it’s a crucial element of Google’s algorithm. 

Using an anchor tag <a> to create external links

Follow a similar process for external linking as you did for internal linking. All you need is a URL to your destination page. In the “href” section, add the exact link, followed by your anchor text. Take a look at our example below, which would link to the homepage of

  • <a href=””>Text that will be a link</a>

Optimizing Your Links For SEO

Now that we’ve gone through the basics, let’s get into the details on how to optimize your external links for SEO best practices:

  • Get information on your links through Google Search Console. There, you can see all of your backlinks, outgoing external links, and internal links. 
  • Use links with high domain authority. Your internal and external links should be current and relevant. When you’re linking to another site, check to see if the site has high domain authority.
  • Be precise! Double-check and test all of your link destinations before you upload your blog post. 
  • Avoid linking to improper link sources. This includes Wikipedia, competitor sites, biased blogs, sites with intrusive pop-ups, and similar articles. 
  • Stick to good link sources like government and academic resources and objective evaluation firms like Consumer Reports. 

Here are a few best practices for internal linking:

  • Link to pages where relevant. Don’t add a link where it looks unnatural. Product pages are a great place to add internal links to “related products”. 
  • Don’t link to your homepage. This is rarely necessary nor helpful to your readers. 

Don’t wait to add internal and external linking to your SEO marketing stack. If you’re writing blogs and creating rich content for your site, you’re already halfway there! If not, smartboost is here to help with content writing, linking, and more for your website.

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