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Can Too Many Links in Your Articles Harm Your SEO?

4 February 2022
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Can Too Many Links in Your Articles Harm Your SEO?

Link building is one of the most important search engine ranking factors. Including hyperlinks within articles and blogs pointing to high-quality external sources and relevant internal pages increases the trustworthiness and authoritativeness of content, and helps Google to better understand the structure of a site. But can there be too much of a good thing?

Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, thinks so, after recently highlighting the downsides of cramming in an excessive number of links. Like keyword stuffing, overdoing certain tactics when implementing a SEO strategy can actually have a detrimental impact on online visibility and search engine rankings. The key is to balance core elements like links and images so they support the purpose of the article, rather than using them simply for the sake of doing so.

When optimising content for SEO, there are two types of links you have control over:

  • Internal links, which point to pages on your own website.
  • Outbound or external links, which point to someone else’s website.

Internal links can be used to direct readers to product and service pages, blogs and contact details on your own site. These can guide the reader and prompt them to take action after reading an article, while also helping Google to better understand your site. External links can be used to direct readers to third-party sources to strengthen topic signals and back your statements up with facts. As you will see, Google looks at internal and external links differently.

Why can too many internal links be a problem?

Structural issues

Having too many internal links in content can confuse Google, with Mueller noting that a “giant mass” of pages being interlinked makes it much more difficult for its systems to determine what is important and how everything is connected. An unclear structure undermines SEO efforts because it takes Google’s crawlers longer to make sense of everything, while the context of individual pages can be lost.

However, the maximum limit for links may come as a surprise. Google can actually crawl hundreds of links on a page. But, just because it can, doesn’t mean that you should include that many. A huge number of links is both detrimental to the user experience, which is weighted more heavily in search now, and Google’s quest to better understand your site.

Diluted value

The second main problem with an abundance of internal links is that the value of the links can be diluted. If you decide to include 10 internal links in a blog, they will not be deemed as important individually as if you had only included one or two links. Again, this also loops back to the structure of your site, as it makes it harder for Google’s crawlers.

Mueller adds: “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.”

There is an important distinction to note here between general web pages, such as product pages, and content marketing output like articles and blogs. When linking from primary or pillar pages, it is important to point internal links to different categories and then sub-categories, so everything flows correctly. This makes it easier for Google. Mueller recommends matching internal links with a site’s structure.

Content marketing is slightly different. When you are link building with blogs, they should be “contextual” and point to articles and pages that are related to the blog topic and anchor text. When adding internal links to blogs, one or two is ideal. The idea here is to give the reader additional relevant resources so your piece is more valuable in itself. These links also create what SEOs call “link juice”, which can be amplified when you earn backlinks.

Are too many external links also a problem?

Mueller’s response in a Google Search Central SEO hangout addressed the issue of using too many internal links specifically. Why is the misuse of these links often worse than for outbound links? Mainly, because internal links are a direct, tangible ranking factor.

Mueller has spoken about external links in the past too. He believes they are a “great way to provide value” to readers, as they can click through to other pages that provide further information about things they want to know about. However, he stated in a Google Hangout, albeit from 2016, that linking to outside sources “isn’t specifically a ranking factor”.

Mueller sees external links as a way to boost the overall quality of a blog or article, which can then make it more relevant for Google in search. While this may have changed since then, it does highlight that Google looks specifically for internal links as part of its core crawling and indexing process. External links are useful but are not essential, as they don’t play a role in how a site is structured.

Are broken links an issue?

Another factor to consider when linking or auditing a website based on link quality is ensuring that the links you are using point to the right source. Research by Semrush found that 42.5% of sites have broken internal links, either due to a malformed URL or because the target page no longer exists. These errors can impact link equity, which can lead to lower rankings, as Google may surmise that a site is of low quality.

So, not only can too many links cause problems, them not being optimised correctly can exacerbate the issue. And when you have a dozen or more links on a page, it is easier to overlook a broken one. After identifying broken links during an audit, it is recommended that you either remove the link entirely, or if you can find another relevant page, replace it with another live link.

Link building can be difficult. You might need assistance with inserting the right internal links when crafting content and optimising it for SEO, or attempting to build a strong backlink profile to increase your exposure online. Atlas SEO can help with both of these tasks. Contact us today to find out more about our contact creation and outreach services.

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