Internal links are links that point from one page on a domain to a different page on the same domain.
In this post, we will dive into internal link analysis, and why you should audit your internal links to get the maximum benefit.
You can learn more about internal links at our cheat sheet to internal linking, here: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Internal Link Analysis for SEO. (You guessed it: the hyperlinked text used here is an internal link!)
How Should You Structure Your Website?
Your internal linking structure should follow a pyramid formation.
Your homepage rests at the top. Directly beneath lie cornerstone pages or category pages that link deeply to relevant blog posts or product pages. All pages within one link of the home page will be perceived as the most important pages to search engines.
(The pyramid formation has the most important pages at the top of the structure.)
Why is an Internal Link Audit So Important?
A thorough internal link analysis provides you with several insights and allows you to uncover common mistakes with your internal links.
Your internal link strategy can only lead to benefits for the end user experience and search engines if the links function properly, and so, this is where an internal link audit comes in.
Recommended Reading: 7 Benefits of Internal Linking in SEO
What to Look for in an Internal Link Audit
#1. Find Broken or Bad Links
Since you use internal links to connect your site, any broken links aren't serving their purpose.
A link audit uncovers any links to internal pages that return a 404 page status code (i.e. page not found). Simply identify the parent pages on the website and update the link with 200 OK pages.
#2. Locate Internal 301/302 Redirects
If your website has a lot of internal 301/302 redirects from link removal, there’s a chance that your deeper pages may not be receiving as much link equity as they could be. While Google claims there is no link equity lost in 3xx redirects, why leave this up to chance?
I would rather be 100% sure that internal links are passing their full value throughout the website. Besides link equity, it will also help with your crawl budget as Google spiders will not have to crawl the link twice.
Often, these are instances of internal redirects in key areas such as the primary/secondary navigation, footer or sidebar links. This is great because, with one change, you can eliminate a large quantity of these internal 301 redirects.
While you’ll want to fix as many as possible, I recommend you start there.
#3. Confirm No Follow Links
An internal link audit can reveal "no follow" links versus "do follow."
"No follow" internal links to low-value pages might be intentional, but you should double check that all pages that have only "no follow" internal links are actually low-value pages.
#4. Check for Too Many Internal Links
While Google has never confirmed how many internal links is too many for a given page, more than 100 links (including those in the headers and footers) is overwhelming for a reader and look like spam to search engines.
A link audit reveals all the pages with more than 100 links. Not doing this places your website at risk of losing the ability to have additional pages crawled.
#5. Identify Pages for Better Internal Linking
An audit will reveal which pages are not linked as often as they should be. It will also call out pages of little importance that have an overabundance of links.
(Uncover the anchor text for your internal links and the URL the page links to.)
To reduce bounce rate and increase engagement, consider prioritizing links to pages that already have good engagement, but that have fewer pages linked to them.
For further reading on internal linking strategies and best practices, reference the article: Internal Linking Strategies to Build Site Authority.
#6. Locate Un-Optimized Anchor Text
An internal link audit will reveal cases of generic anchor text that can be enhanced.
Anchor text is an additional opportunity to clue the search engine in on what keyword you want a certain URL to rank for. For example, anchor text that says "Click here" doesn't tell Google anything about that end destination page.
An internal link audit will reveal all cases of this generic text so you can replace it with more descriptive keywords and provide more context.
When we think about links, we often ignore the internal links that drive value to the site. Backlinks usually get all the attention!
Internal linking is a highly valuable strategy, both for SEO and for your site’s bottom line. Pay careful attention to how your links connect your pages to each other, and try to keep your navigation as intuitive and convenient as possible.