SEO Tutorial Series – What’s The Difference Between Internal Links, External Links and Backlinks?

internal links, external links and backlinks

Internal links, external links, and backlinks are important for search engine optimization (SEO) making up the most significant portion of “off-page SEO.” The quality of your website’s internal links and external links can directly impact how well or how poorly your page ranks within the results of a search engine.  CourseVector has created this guide to help you understand the importance of linking and the differences between internal links, external links, and backlinks.

What Are Internal Links?

An internal link is a hyperlink that points to another page on the same domain.  The use of internal links allows relevant content to be connected throughout your site enabling users to navigate the pages of your website better.

More Than Just Navigation

Most importantly,  internal links help establish information hierarchy and spread ranking power.  For search engines to crawl your site, it must have a crawlable link structure.  A crawlable link structure will allow for search engine spiders to locate the individual pages of your website and store them in their massive keyword database.  Think of your site structure as a pyramid with the top being your homepage; this structure ensures ranking power can flow throughout your entire site, therefore increasing your website ranking potential for each page.

Rules for Internal Links

  • Make Links Useful & Relevant
  • Avoid Keyword Stuffing

What are External Links?

An external link is a hyperlink that points to a page on another website separate from the original domain.  Similiar to internal links, external links allow relevant content to be connected. However, the reason to utilize external links is slightly different.

Most SEO professionals believe that external links are the single most significant source for obtaining higher rankings.  Why?  Search engines consider external links as third-party votes towards ranking.  When another website links to yours, it is more beneficial than you linking to your own page.

Determining The Value

External links are an easy way for search engines to trace and assign site rankings.  When determining the value of external links, search engines use a specific algorithm.

  • The relationship between the two sites
  • How trustworthy is the linking domain
  • The popularity of the linking page
  • The relevancy of the content between the two pages
  • The number of links to the same page from the linking domain

According to a Search Engine Land article, “The best links in the world won’t achieve anything if they point to a site that’s a mess from a technical standpoint.” Make sure that your navigation is in tip-top shape to maximize the impact of other SEO efforts, including link building.

Backlinks Basics

Backlinks also referred to as,  “inbound links” or “incoming links,” are created when an external website links to yours.  Essentially, backlinks to your website are an indication to search engines that others confirm or endorse your content and site.  If many websites link to the same page, search engines can conclude that content on that page is link worthy, and therefore worthy of including on the search engine results page (SERP).

Where to get the Best Backlinks

The best backlinks are those with credible sites, businesses, and non-profits that have been on the internet for 10-20 years. To achieve these high-quality links, one will have to build relationships using good, old-fashioned marketing. Here are some places you might look for backlinks:

  • Forums and blog comments: Start with friends who own a business, own a website or blog. Adding well thought out responses to articles and features you are interested.
  • Directory links: A good place to find directories to use is Directory Maximizer, which will assist in discovering directories that are SEO friendly, as well as helpful tips about submitting to directories. Having a site listed in a directory is also a backlink. Although this type of link is meaningful, it does not help to establish the website owner as an authority in their field.
  • Guest postings: A content-rich guest post or blog on a related site is an excellent beginning.
  • .edu, .org and .gov sites: Start with blogs at a local university or municipality and comment on the contents with a link to your site; this allows followers in that forum to visit your site and leave comments on your content. Do not spam .edu sites; this should be used as a focused attempt to build a following. Rich, interesting content in any forum will attract interest, and that is what is important.
  • Articles, announcements, and press releases:  These cannot be used every day like forums, but they can be meaningful.

Strategies for New Website Owners

  • Always use the same profile picture across all social media, so that people will recognize you; this will help to build their trust.
  • Interacting in the comment sections will keep readers on the site longer. So if a reader makes a good point, say so, engaging them in polite conversation will lead to repeated traffic, increase shares on social media, and therefore more backlinks.
  • Always use good grammar and spelling. These lend another level of credibility to content; a site like Grammarly.com helps checks for plagiarism as well, which will help avoid duplicate content.
  • Do not attack or demean anyone regarding their comments no matter how rude they are, as that would be counter-productive. Instead, encourage dialogue.
  • Never use a service that offers to build backlinks for a monthly fee or link swapping services. These are a violation of Google’s policy and could result in problems. Just don’t do it.

Buying Backlinks

Buying backlinks have never been a good option for raising your SEO score. We have all seen the ads on the internet, “Buy 3000 backlinks for $10.” It is best to keep that $10 in your pocket and invest instead in relationships with credible businesses in your niche. Buying backlinks can earn you penalties in the search engine results pages. Instead, build backlinks to sites that you would want to affiliate with as if there were no search engine result pages.

Accepting Backlinks

Make sure the backlinks accepted are quality links. That’s why buying thousands of backlinks is so dangerous to your credibility, unless you have the time to sift through all those links to discover whether or not they are credible and relevant to your site’s vision and mission; it’s like a shotgun blast rather than a focused attempt to gain trust and respect. You can’t buy respect and buying links permits integrity questions.

Think of backlinks as an endorsement; the more trusted and respectable the person giving the recommendation the better, right? It’s the same with backlinks – only website crawling bots don’t know the difference between Bill Gates and John Doe. However, they can search for relevant business backlinks. Think quality, not quantity. A sudden surge of backlinks raises questions which could result in your IP blacklisted or blocked and at the very least will cause penalties on SERP.

Cost-Benefit and Time

In our experience, link building is a valuable part of any SEO campaign. However, the actual return on investment is questionable. Generally obtaining backlinks from higher ranking sites can be very difficult and time-consuming.  Customers must understand that the positive effects of backlinks can take years and not just months to see.  Furthermore, companies must continue their SEO visibility campaign on top of the backlink building costs.  Backlink campaigns are not for clients seeking instant results, and, if done improperly, can be extremely expensive with little to no results.

CourseVector’s SEO Sevices can help you achieve optimal site rankings.  However, when using backlinks, external links or internal links, keep these recommendations in mind as they can directly impact your websites ranking ability and user experience.  And most importantly remember credibility takes time.

Ready to get started?