If you’ve been in SEO for some time now, you should know how valuable internal links can be. Internal links are one of the most powerful ranking signals for SEO, yet I often see they’re overlooked.
Internal linking can help new content get discovered, help users navigate your site, and also pass PageRank.
If you want to do SEO right, you have to make sure that your internal linking game is up to par.
By doing this, you can ensure that you’re properly optimizing around user experience while also optimizing for search.
In this article, I’ll discuss some of the ways you can audit your internal link profile.
So whether that’s a broken link, a link opportunity, or a link that needs to be removed, this article will discuss all of the possible ways you can audit your internal links.
5 Ways to Audit Your Internal Links
These 5 ways to audit your website for internal linking opportunities are made to be as easy as possible.
I’ll basically be showing you how you can leverage Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, site operators, content planning, and Google Search Console to find these link opportunities.
Start Your Internal Link Audit Off With Screaming Frog
First up we have Screaming Frog.
Screaming Frog to me is probably one of the most useful site auditing tools. Whether it’s for on-page SEO or technical SEO.
With that being said, Screaming Frog has some excellent use cases for finding internal linking opportunities.
You can find pages with:
• Keywords with no anchor text
• Specific keywords contained in anchor text
• Pages with a high crawl depth
Using Screaming Frog to Find Pages Without Anchor Text
The first thing we’ll do here is look for specific text on the website that doesn’t contain anchor text.
We’ll do this using Screaming Frog’s custom search tool.
To find this tool, all you’ll have to do is go to configuration > custom search > search.
Once you have your custom search tab opened, you’ll want to add a keyword or regex that you want to find across your website.
You can look for text with anchor text or without anchor text. For this, we’ll be choosing without anchor text.
Once you have your keyword or regex in mind, you’ll want to set it to pages without anchor text. This will show you all of the pages on your website that have this specific keyword but no anchor text.
After you run your Screaming Frog crawl, you’ll be able to see the URLs where those keywords appear and the number of occurrences on each page. This will be in the custom search tab.
You may have a page that has 100 occurrences of that specific keyword, or you may have a page that only has one mention of that keyword. It will vary depending on what you’re searching for and how specific you’re being.
Going back to topic clustering, if you find a page that has a good amount of link occurrences and it’s related to your topic then you’ll want to use that page to cluster other relevant pages.
This will help users access more relevant content on your website, will help direct crawlers to more pages, and will help you build topical authority.
Use Screaming Frog to Find Links with Incorrect Anchor Text
Now another thing you’ll want to audit your website for are links using incorrect anchor text.
Say if we’re using the same anchor text for different URLs, then we’ll be sending confusing signals to crawlers and may cause cannibalization issues.
When you’re setting up internal links, it’s important to remember that you’re choosing relevant anchor text and not mismatching it between URLs.
Not only is this a waste of link equity, but it could hurt your organic efforts further down the line.
So if you want to find these keywords, then you can set up a custom search like the one we did before except this time we’ll be looking at pages using the page text search.
Make sure here that you use the specific anchor text that you want to change. Otherwise, you’re going to get a massive Screaming Frog crawl list of unrelated keywords.
So in this case, it’s just much easier if you make it as specific as possible.
Using Screaming Frog to Find Specific HTML Text
Now if we want to find HTML text in regards to anchor text or a specific keyword, this type of custom search will find everything that’s marked in HTML.
So even if a keyword has anchor text attached to it or no anchor text, this is basically the very broad general search that you can do to find these keywords or expressions.
I recommend choosing this option if you’re auditing your entire link profile.
Finding Pages With A Crawl Depth Above 5+
When we’re auditing links based on crawl depth, we won’t be using the custom search like we did for the previous tips.
Instead, you can check for this in a few ways.
You can either use Screaming Frog’s site structure tab to see what your crawl depth looks like and how pages are structured on your website.
We can also use their visualizations to see how search engines are crawling our website.
If you have any pages with a click depth over 4, then you’ll want to look for internal link opportunities where you can reduce that crawl depth.
Using the Site Structure Tab in Screaming Frog
The first method of checking for crawl depth is by checking the site structure tab.
You’ll want to hover over to the right-hand side of Screaming Frog and then select site structure which is nestled to the right of overview and issues.
You can check this in two ways, you can either look at the path and filter URLs by level.
Or you can look at the graphic underneath that will visualize the depth of each URL.
For that visualization, you can either look at a chart or a table. With the chart, however, you can’t export that specifically to an Excel file, but you can with the table.
Using Screaming Frog’s Force-Directed Crawl Diagram
The other way you can check for crawl depth is through Screaming Frog’s force-directed crawl diagram.
You can use Screaming Frog’s crawl diagram to visualize how search engines are interacting with your website.
The crawl diagram will start with the URL you first entered and then crawl your website using internal links.
And here you can use this diagram to look for any pages that are straying too far away from the home page.
You can also use it to find URLs that are indexable or non-indexable, but in this case, we’ll be using it for crawl depth.
Using the Links Tab in Screaming Frog
Here you can see the depth for all of your URLs. If you have a high crawl depth of 4+, then you’ll want to take note of those URLs and link to them from a higher-up page.
Whether that’s a parent page, blog post, or even from the homepage.
Crawl Tree Graph
Another thing that you can look at to gauge crawl depth is the crawl tree graph which is another visualization Screaming Frog has.
Like the force-directed crawl diagram, this crawl diagram may be more user-friendly and easier to understand since it visualizes how crawlers interact with your site in the form of a straight line.
So as you can see, this crawl diagram will start from the home page and then will move its way down your website going from level to level.
Using Google Search Console to Audit Your Internal Links
Next up we have Google Search Console.
In GSC, we’ll be looking at queries that rank for a similar seed/head term, pages with link volumes, and pages with backlinks.
Finding Relevant Queries to Use for Internal Linking
If you want to find relevant queries based on the anchor text, all you have to do is enter a query filter and enter one word that’s connected to the seed/head term.
In this case, say I was looking to cluster pages around the topic of branding, then I would either use brand or branding as my query filter.
This should show you all the pages on your website that have different keywords that are related in some way but are different. These pages likely contain some relevant text we can use for internal links.
Once you have a solid list of pages, you’re going to want to export that to a spreadsheet and then mark down the URLs that have potential.
Another beneficial reason for using Google Search Console is that it also shows you data for each URL. This can help you justify which pages to start with based on clicks, impressions, and positioning.
Finding Low-Hanging Fruit Pages to Update with Internal Links
Another option you have for internal linking in Google Search Console is to find low-hanging fruit pages.
This tip is more for on-page than internal linking, but if these pages are sitting in a spot where they’re not in the top 3, then it’s possible they don’t have enough (or any) internal links pointing toward them.
So because of this, you’ll want to note down any of these opportunities. The more internal links pointing towards these pages, the better chance they’ll have of seeing an increase in positioning.
You’ll basically be killing two birds with one stone here.
To find these low-hanging fruit keywords, you’ll want to set a date filter for the last 28 days.
You’ll then want to export that data to a spreadsheet and then set up a custom filter to show queries that are ranking between 4-20.
From there, if you’re feeling funky, you could export link occurrences from GSC or Screaming and perform a VLOOKUP to match those URLs.
So you could have access to click data, impressions, and positioning while showing how many internal links each page has.
Finding The Pages Will Little to No Internal Links in Google Search Console
Possibly the easiest way to audit your site’s link framework is by using Google Search Console’s top linked pages tab.
To find this report, you’ll want to go to the left-hand side of search console and swirl all the way down right below legacy tools and reports then click on links.
Like what we did with Screaming Frog, we’re basically going to be looking at pages based on their volume of internal links.
Starting with the very bottom, you’ll want to look at pages that have a huge discrepancy in internal links compared to the other pages.
So start at the bottom and work your way up from there adding internal links when relevant.
This will help ensure that you have a more cohesive internal linking strategy set in place instead of setting and forgetting pages.
Finding Pages with a High Volume of Backlinks to Use for Internal Linking
Another way we can audit our website for internal link opportunities is by using Google Search Consoles’ external link section to find pages with a high volume of backlinks.
If you have a page that’s received hundreds of (legitimate) backlinks, then you’ll want to use that URL to link to more pages that you consider valuable.
Remember, PageRank is still extremely valuable and is considered one of the most important ranking factors so those pages will take priority when looking for internal linking opportunities.
Using Ahrefs to Audit Your Internal Links
Last of the tools is Ahrefs.
While Ahrefs is better known as a keyword research or competitor research tool, they also have great site auditing features.
When it comes to anything on-page, I typically prefer Ahrefs over Screaming Frog, but these features can still be found within Screaming Frog.
Fixing Internal Links That Are Orphaned
One thing you’ll always want to look for when it comes to internal linking is to always ensure each URL has an internal link pointing towards it.
If you have any orphan pages, then that basically means that these URLs don’t have a single internal link pointing toward them.
Not only is this a bad signal for search engines, but this is also a bad single signal for user engagement since you’re practically hiding content on your website.
Remember anything that’s good for user engagement is almost always going to be great for SEO.
Fixing Internal Links That Lead to Redirect Chains or Loops
While this technically isn’t an internal linking opportunity, fixing redirect chains or loops is still a good technical SEO tweak‘ if you want to improve the crawling of your website.
With 301 redirects or redirect loops, you’re basically wasting PageRank that could otherwise be passed to your page if you just had a direct link set in place.
And especially when it comes to redirect loops, those are basically broken links, so you’ll want to fix those so they don’t throw off users and/or search engines.
To find redirect loops or chains, you’ll have to connect your website to Ahrefs and run a site crawl.
This will scan your entire website for all redirect issues.
Once the audit is finished, you’ll want to sort by errors to see if any of these issues are occurring.
If they are, just kill the redirect and replace the chain with a direct link.
Even Before You Audit Your Links, You Can Use Content Planning to Set Your Foundation
After Ahrefs we have content planning.
Content planning is a way for us to practically set up all our internal linking opportunities before we even publish an article.
Setting your Internal Links Up For Success With The Hub & Spoke Model
So starting off with the Hub and Spoke model, otherwise known as the pillar page model, is one of the best ways to do internal linking.
The Hub and Spoke model is basically where you take a topic and cover it as comprehensively as possible.
One page being the main guide or comprehensive piece around the topic and the rest will be subtopics that cover specific points around the topics.
So think of the main topic or the main page as being this broad piece of content, and then underneath you have all these subtopics that cover very specific points regarding that topic.
Say if you’re writing about email marketing, the main topic that I’m going to cover is an all-around comprehensive guide about email marketing.
Our subtopics will be made up of specific points around email marketing like:
• Best email marketing tools
• What is email marketing?
• How to do e-mail marketing
• Why you should be doing email marketing
By doing this properly, you’ll have given yourself multiple opportunities to already have your internal linking opportunities set in place.
So if you’re looking to build topical authority around an inbound tactic like email marketing, the Hub and Spoke model is the way to go.
When you’re following the Hub and Spoke method, it’s important to cluster all of the topics in a spreadsheet so you can reference it later to easily find those internal link opportunities.
Once you have it all in one space, internal links become much easier to find.
Internal linking will basically be the strategy that keeps it all together.
Clustering Your Keywords for Internal Links
If you’ve been strategizing your content and planning it out, you likely have that content saved somewhere on a Google sheet or Excel file.
Like the Hub and Spoke model, if you’ve been clustering your pages around a singular topic, then it should be easy for you to find these link opportunities.
Especially if you have them listed on a spreadsheet. You’ll have easy access to all of the pages you’ve previously created.
Just segment them into different tabs and you’ll have easy access to plenty of link opportunities.
Once you have all of your content planned out and published, leave a section on your spreadsheet that lists out how many internal links each page has.
Using Site Operators to Audit Your Internal Links
Last on this auditing list, we have site operators. Site operators can be a great way to find opportunities across your site without paying for a tool.
All you need to do is enter in an operator like this:
You’ll then be able to find pages across your website that contain relevant text to what you entered.
I use site operators the most when it comes to internal linking or updating outdated content.
Search Operators That Can Help You with Your Internal Linking Audit
Here are some of the different operators you can use:
- “site:” – Search only within a specific website or domain.
- “intitle:” – Search for pages with a specific word or phrase in the title tag.
- “inurl:” – Search for pages with a specific word or phrase in the URL.
- “filetype:” – Search for specific file types such as PDFs or Word documents.
- “related:” – Find websites related to a particular domain.
- “cache:” – View Google’s cached version of a page.
- “link:” – Find pages that link to a specific page or domain.
- “info:” – View information about a website, including its indexed pages and backlinks.
- “allintext:” – Search for pages where all the query terms appear in the text.
- “allinanchor:” – Search for pages where all the query terms appear in the anchor text of links pointing to the page.
- “allinurl:” – Search for pages where all the query terms appear in the URL.
- “allintitle:” – Search for pages where all the query terms appear in the title tag.
Why You’ll Want to Prioritize Internal Link Audits
An internal link audit is important because it helps you plan out all areas of your website that can be improved through internal linking.
It may be adding an internal link to a close to ranking page or it could be a link that’s using the same anchor text but pointing to different pages.
Whatever it may be, you’ll want to check that there’s nothing negatively impacting your internal linking structure.
Internal linking in some cases can really make or break your SEO strategy.
How Often Should You Audit Your Internal Links?
An internal linking audit can and should be done once every three to six months.
The frequency of these audits will depend on the size of the website, but this time frame will help strengthen your internal linking game and make your SEO efforts more effective.
Say in this instance your site has over 10,000 pages, it may then be worth doing this audit more frequently. Say every 1-2 months.
But if you have a smaller website, say less than 500 pages, then you could get away with doing this audit every 4-5 months.
What Should Be Your Goal With Internal Linking
Your goal with internal linking should be to focus on improving the user experience for the reader while making it easier for Google to discover and crawl your website.
Here are a few examples of why you should incorporate internal linking into your content strategy:
Building Topical Authority for SEO
When it comes to internal linking, one of your main goals should be to build topical authority.
This involves creating a network of internal links that connect related content under a specific topic, making it easier for Google to understand the authority you have on that topic.
By doing so, you’re essentially showing search engines the relationship between related pages about that particular topic, which will help boost your sitewide authority.
Creating Visibility for High-Converting Pages
Another goal of internal linking is to boost the visibility of your high-converting pages.
By adding internal links on your high-traffic pages, you can guide visitors to landing pages or at least prompt the reader to take an action.
Getting Content Discovered
Internal linking also plays a crucial role in getting your content discovered.
By linking to older pages or pages with a high crawl depth, you can increase the chances of that content being discovered by both your readers and search engines.
Spreading Link Equity Throughout Your Site
The last internal linking goal you’ll want to have is to distribute more PageRank throughout your site.
PageRank is a Google algorithm factor that considers the quantity and quality of links to a page to basically calculate its importance.
So if you distribute your PageRank through internal links, you’re passing link equity to other pages, which can help improve keyword rankings for that page.
Why You’ll Want to Occasionally Audit Your Internal Link Profile
Now that you know the goals of internal linking, here are some outcomes you can expect from an internal link audit:
Internal Links Can Help Your Pages Rank Better
Going off the previous point about distributing PageRank, the more links a page has, the more important Google sees it as.
Assuming you’re using keyword-rich anchor text, these internal links will help your site rank for more keywords and rank higher for the current keywords.
Internal Links Provide a Better Experience For Your Users
One point that’s important to highlight, even beyond SEO, is that these links should be optimized for the read, not search engines.
Remember, the goal of SEO is not to trick search engines, it’s to provide the user with a solid experience. And Google with reward this user experience with visibility.
So add internal links when relevant. Add them in the navigation, the footer, and the content. Just make sure you’re not spamming your site with internal links.
Internal Links Help Search Engines Discover Content
As mentioned before, internal links can help search engines discover new and old content on your website.
This applies especially for e-commerce websites, which have tons of pages buried under pagination.
And while a sitemap may help, it’s usually not enough for Google, especially for larger websites.
The sitemap will help Google know which URLs exist on your website, but in most cases, they won’t initiate their crawl if there aren’t any internal links pointing to it. Google is simply choosing to crawl other pages on your website and putting your page on the back burner.
This isn’t an issue with crawl budget, rather it’s crawl efficiency.
If you want to improve the crawl efficiency of your website, you’ll want to add more links to these pages to make it easier for crawlers to discover that content while demonstrating the value of that page.
By doing this, you’ll improve the efficiency of how crawlers discover and crawl your website, leading to more pages being indexed.
Things to Look For When You’re Doing An Internal Link Audit
Now, there are several factors that determine whether an internal link is quality or not. Here are a few things you need to look out for:
Length of the Anchor Text
The length of the anchor text can be a good indicator of the quality of a link. Ideally, your anchor text should be enough to convey to readers where that internal link takes them
It should give users and search engines a clear idea of what the linked page is about. Too short, and it may not provide enough information; too long, and it may come across as spammy.
The Quality and Context of Your Link
The quality of your link is determined by the relevance and value of the linked page.
The linked page should be linked in a way that shows readers what that page is about. You want to avoid using any anchor text that may mislead readers about that page. Otherwise, this could cause confusion for both search engines and readers.
Type of Anchor Text Used
The type of anchor text used can also impact the quality and effectiveness of your internal link. There are several types of anchor text, including:
These are anchor texts that include your brand name.
These are anchor texts that include relevant keywords but not your brand name.
These are anchor texts that exactly match the primary keyword of the linked page. While exact match is fine to use in moderation, don’t overdo it as it can come across as spammy.
And of course, make sure you’re using your exact match anchor text in a natural way. Don’t just randomly throw your link into the content.
These are anchor texts that contain 3-6 words. Long tail anchor text is usually the most effective for including internal links in your content in a natural way.
Images can also serve as anchor texts. The interesting thing is that your alt text becomes the anchor text for your image. Try it out, I find it works really well most times.
The placement of a link within the content can also influence how effective that internal link is. If the internal link is higher up on the page, then Google will see it as more relevant compared to a link that’s added farther down in the content.
Frequently Asked Questions That Can Help With Your Internal Link Audit
How Many Internal Links Should Each Page Have?
Each page should have 3-6 links per page. While there’s no golden number for how many internal links each page should have, it’s generally good practice to have at least one internal link pointing to each page.
How Do You Fix a Broken Internal Link?
If you want to fix a broken internal link, you have a few options here.
You could add a 301 redirect. This will send users to another page of your choosing. Or you could just replace the internal link that’s originally there. You could also just kill the link entirely.
Is it Bad to Have the Same Anchor Text for Multiple Pages?
Yes, it is a bad idea to have the same anchor text pointing to multiple pages. The reason for this is because anchor text is used by search engines to understand the context behind a link and page.
If you have reused anchor text for multiple pages, you can confuse crawlers and, in some cases, confuse your readers.
To keep your site organized and structured you want to make sure that you’re using the proper and relevant anchor text for each specific page.
Should I use Exact Match Anchor Text for my Internal Links?
Yes, you should use exact match anchor text, however, you’ll want to be cautious with how you use it.
While exact match anchor text does have its place you want to at least diversify your anchor text profile.
So instead of primarily using exact match anchor text, you at least want to switch it up so you’re either using long-tail or any other variation of exact match.
Say if my keyword was “email marketing tips,” I could switch it up by saying either “tips to learn email marketing,” “how to get better at email marketing” and so on.
What Kind of Anchor Text Should I Use For My Internal Links?
Anchor text will generally vary depending on the page.
Whether it’s a product page, a blog post, or a service page, you’ll generally want your anchor text to be relevant to the query you’re targeting.
A good way to find anchor text inspiration is to use Google Search Console.
In the query report for each specific URL, you’ll be able to see a whole list of queries for each URL that will be relevant to your content.
In some cases, you’ll have access to 100s of queries that you can use as anchor text.
Can A Page Have Too Many Internal Links?
Yes, you can have too many internal links. While it’s hard to overdo, if you’re just adding internal links for the sake of adding internal links then those links will be devalued.
Having too many internal links on a specific page (for the sake of internal linking) is not only spammy to the user but will also send spam signals to search engine crawlers.
As I mentioned previously, user experience is key. While positive user experience can benefit SEO, negative user experience can also negatively impact your SEO.
Try to avoid making your links spammy and only linking when relevant.
Auditing Your Internal Links for SEO
So hopefully you were able to learn a few new things when it comes to internal linking. Remember even if you don’t have access to paid tools such as Screaming Frog or Ahrefs, you can still use Google Search Console or site operators to find these opportunities.
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