Internal links are the glue that connect your domains’ pages.
Besides supporting the site structure and offering context to search engines, internal links bring value to the user experience and can improve engagement metrics.
You can read more about the benefits of internal links at our blog, here: 7 Benefits of Internal Linking in SEO.
Because of their value, it’s important to aim for an error-free internal link structure; but at the enterprise level, this can be easier said than done.
This post will teach you the most common issues with internal links (and how to fix them!) so you can receive the most value from your links.
We’ve separated this into levels, so you can know which errors to prioritize, and then work your way up.
Recommended Reading: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Internal Link Analysis for SEO
Priority 1: Technical Issues
The most common (and the most detrimental) mistakes deal with technical issues and implementation.
This includes things like broken links, redirect chains, or orphaned pages (i.e. pages that receive no internal links, and so are isolated from the rest of the site).
Orphaned pages can be the most frustrating because Google may not even index it!
Marketers know that a successful SEO program rests on a strong technical foundation, so finding broken links (and subsequently fixing broken links) and identifying orphaned pages should be a priority and systems put in place to mitigate and discover them.
Another common technical issue is having too many links on the page that is linking out. This number goes beyond hyperlinks in the main body content — links in the header and footer count, too.
While there isn't a hard and fast limit on the number of hyperlinks (large e-commerce sites can get away with thousands), to maximize the number of pages crawled and followed it’s generally recommended to stay in the range of 100 internal links on average.
TIP: Look at Google Analytics to review the links that no one clicks and consider removing them.
The last few common technical mistakes are unintended noindex or nofollow tags in your crawl pattern (these hold up authority and may not be how you want Google crawling the site). Also pages may be restricted by robots.txt. Pages should be included in the XML sitemap to verify what Google has discovered with its crawler..
We recommend taking care of these issues before moving on to the next priority: taxonomy.
Priority 2: Site Taxonomy
The most common issues with internal links after the technical issues deal with the hierarchy of the links and determining which links point where.
You can think of your links and your site taxonomy as a tree branching out.
Following this visual, you should connect pages to each other that follow the same hierarchy (or branch), building out a link graph in a logical structure.
Recommended Reading: Internal Linking Strategies to Build Site Authority in SEO
Paying attention to the site taxonomy also relates to the anchor text of the links. The common issue here is using the wrong anchor text. It’s also beneficial to avoid using the same anchor text for multiple pages.
Priority 3: Contextual Use of Links
If your pages and links follow a logical hierarchy, it’s time to move on to relevance.
A mistake we see is linking irrelevant pages or pages that don’t fit in contextually.
Ideally, all relevant pages should be connected in a way that makes sense for the user. This is why not linking to product or service pages from blog posts is also a common mistake.
Returning to a common mistake in priority 1, too many links, it’s important to know this: 100 has been mentioned here and there over the years, but the answer to the question will never be a hard number.
This all depends on the site. You just don’t want it to be over-stuffed — give the users a good experience.
Each page has an ideal amount of relevant links for the reader, but this all depends on the page and its depth. This actually makes for a great SEO test!
TIP: Classify your internal links by content type to organize them by topic. This allows you to create a circular reference where similar pages link together and connect back through the homepage.
Problem Solved: Internal Link Analysis at Scale
As you’ve seen, there’s a lot to consider when taking into account discrepancies with internal links. This is where SEO technology comes in.
Our Internal Link Analysis functionality, for example, assists with finding stops in your crawl pattern by identifying areas that contain nofollow, noindex, robots.txt or canonical to another page. Those technical issues from priority 1 are already being solved!
Follow along our internal links workflow to gain more site authority.
You can also use it to identify the source of the internal link and next destination URL and any issues in the crawl patterns. This is more advanced than your typical internal links checker and a critical view to have if you’re going to actually fix them.
Returning to anchor text, the analysis can be used to review hyperlinks’ anchor text and locate similarities across multiple page types.
The view below shows a summary of the internal linking anchor text with the count of internal links that use it, and the count of unique pages that are linked by it.
(Anchor text report in the Internal Link Analysis)
The analysis also allows you to review metrics that assist in weighting internal links and identify areas where internal links are not passing equity and value.
The functionality doesn’t end there! Receive intelligent recommendations that highlight all the pages where you should add links, and verify the relevancy with a link score.
SEO automation enters the conversation with the ability to have pages that mention a certain keyword or page automatically link to that mentioned target page. This immediately solves for orphaned pages!
Pretty cool, right? We’d love to give you a 5-day free trial to explore Internal Link Analysis and the rest of the seoClarity platform.
From resolving redirect chains to fixing broken links to ensuring contextual relevance, there are multiple ways that internal linking can have some errors.
But with the right SEO technology that can audit your linking structure, you’ll be able to provide a healthy experience to both users and search engines.