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I have a site with thousands of pages. The pages are dedicated to be found by the search engines as they are very specific. It is very unlikely that the users will find necessary pages using any navigation on the site. So for me, I'd leave the link to page only in the sitemap as it is easier.

But how would Google, Bing and others consider pages with no internal links pointing to them? Will they be ranked lower due to the lack of those links?

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But how would Google, Bing and others consider pages with no internal links pointing to them? Will they be ranked lower due to the lack of those links?

URLs that appear in your sitemap without any internal or external links will have less authority than those with internal and external links pointing to them. The more authority a page has that links to another page, the more likely it will rank higher as a result.

Whether they will rank lower as a result of not having any links to them depends on the specific algorithm of each search engine, and the quality of the links you're comparing them against.

As this source covers (as well a good background on internal linking):

You should add internal links to all of those pages that point to the pages that you want to rank well in search engines.

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Internal links are most useful for establishing site architecture and spreading link juice. Search engines need to see content in order to list pages in their massive keyword–based indices. They also need to have access to a crawlable link structure ,a structure that lets spiders browse the pathways of a website in order to find all of the pages on a website.

If there are no internal links for your pages, spiders might not know the way to reach that page.This hinders their ability to get pages listed in the search engines' indices.

Hope this answers your question.

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