Google’s John Mueller explains that using too many internal links on the same page can dilute their value, and goes over what to do instead.
This topic is discussed during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on July 2, 2021.
A site owner submits a question asking if there are any dangers associated with using an excessive amount of internal links.
The topic of external links comes up often during these hangouts, but rarely is the impact of internal links ever discussed.
Internal links are important for SEO as they send signals to Google about which pages are most important to a particular website. They don’t send the same ranking signals as external links, but they still matter.
In addition, Google uses internal links to better understand a site’s structure. A sitemap can also be used to communicate that information, but a logical structure of internal links helps make it even clearer.
With all the help internal links provide, could too many of them be a bad thing? Here’s what Mueller says.
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Google’s John Mueller on Using Too Many Internal Links
Using internal links too liberally throughout a website can lead to problems. The first issue is Google won’t be able to understand the site’s structure.
When asked if too many internal links on a page do more harm than good, Mueller responds:
“Yes and no. I think, in the sense that we do use the internal links to better understand the structure of a page, and you can imagine the situation where if we’re trying to understand the structure of a website, with the different pages that are out there, if all pages are linked to all other pages on the website, where you essentially have like a complete internal linking across every single page, then there’s no real structure there.
It’s like this one giant mass of pages for this website, and they’re all interlinked, we can’t figure out which one is the most important one. We can’t figure out which one of these are related to each other. And in a case like that, having all of those internal links, that’s not really doing your site that much.
So regardless of what PageRank, and authority, and passing things like that, you’re essentially not providing a clear structure of the website. And that makes it harder for search engines to understand the context of the individual pages within your website. So that’s the way that I would look at it there.”
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The second problem is using too many internal links will dilute their value.
One internal link can signal to Google that a page is important to the website, but it starts to seem less important as more links are added.
If there are twenty internal links on a page then they won’t all be treated with the same importance as if there were only one or two links.
“And similar to the second question you had there, with regards to internal links doing more harm than good — yes, if you do dilute the value of your site structure by having so many internal links that we don’t see a structure anymore, then that does make it harder for us to understand what you think is important on your website.
And I think providing that relative sense of importance is sometimes really valuable, because it gives you a little bit more opportunity to kind of fine tune how you’d like to be present in the search results.
If you tell search engines pretty clearly and directly, well this is my primary page, and from there you link to different categories and the categories link to different products, then it’s a lot easier for us to understand that if someone is looking for this category of product, this is that page that we should be showing in the search results.
Whereas if everything is cross-linked then it’s like, well any of these pages could be relevant. And then maybe we’ll send the user to some random product instead of to your category page when you’re actually looking for a category of products.”
According to Mueller’s advice, site owners should aim for having a structure to internal links that resembles their own site’s structure.
That could potentially look like: homepage > category page > services page > request a quote page.
Or if you’re adding internal links to something like a blog article you could add contextual links to related articles on the site.
While some internal links are good, more isn’t better. You’ll send stronger signals with fewer links.
Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below: