How to Perform an Internal Link Audit: Complete Internal Link Analysis
- 1 Why Internal Link Audits Are Important for SEO
- 2 How to Complete an Internal Link Audit: Step-by-Step
- 3 FAQs
- 4 Final Thoughts
Site owners struggle with auditing their content because it requires you to go back and identify opportunities for improvement on existing pages. It doesn’t always seem like a great use of time, but an internal link audit is a great way to enhance some of the things you’re already doing right.
You’ve created an awesome piece of content and want to pass more ranking power to it.
An internal link audit can help you do that.
Plus, it doesn’t have to be this complicated, daunting task.
In this guide, we’re taking a deep dive into internal linking for SEO and walking you through the steps for completing an internal link audit on your website.
Why Internal Link Audits Are Important for SEO
Think of your website like a spider web. Internal links help connect the web and allow Google bots to navigate your site more easily.
This spider web also helps Google navigate or “crawl” your site. As you add internal links to your pages, you’re adding more ways for Google to find new pages.
The more access points and connections Google has to your website, the easier it will be for the bots to crawl and identify new keywords and index new articles.
Keep in mind that an internal link audit isn’t just about Google but also about user experience.
Internal links are a great way to enhance a piece of content and provide more information on a topic that you might not be able to cover entirely in one piece.
By adding internal links, you’re ensuring that a topic is covered entirely on your site so users don’t have to leave and go to another site for more information.
Performing an internal link audit can help identify weak spots in your web, making the site easier for Google to crawl as a whole.
In fact, Google spells it out for us:
Auditing your internal link structure can ensure that the search engines can easily navigate the site and understand what topics you cover on your site.
A well-structured internal linking strategy helps users navigate the website too. If you can’t cover a subject entirely on the page, the next best solution is to link to more information. Having that information on your website allows you to internally link to it to help the reader get what they need.
Another reason internal link building is important is to pass “link juice” from one page to another. Google calls this PageRank.
You’ve likely heard of Domain Score or Domain Rating, but PageRank is the algorithm Google uses to determine where a website ranks in the SERPs.
Link building is one of the most common things SEOs do to increase their PageRank. But internal linking on your own website helps pass some of that PageRank along to other pages.
The image above might not be the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but it’s the original Google Patent explaining how link equity works and how internal linking can help spread link juice throughout your website.
Think of it like this.
If page A links to pages B and C and has 0.4 equity, then pages B and C will receive 0.2 equity.
The more equity a page has, the more link juice it can pass onto other pages.
So, if you have a power page on your website with a ton of links flowing to it, it has a lot of link juice that it can pass on.
For example, this Jasper vs Jarvis article on Niche Pursuits has 319 backlinks and ranks really well for a number of keywords.
Performing an internal link audit on the site and finding opportunities to get links from this article can help boost other articles and give them a better chance of ranking.
How to Complete an Internal Link Audit: Step-by-Step
If we understand the importance of an internal link audit, now we need to know how to perform one. There are a number of steps you can follow but I wanted to highlight the five most important ones that I think move the needle the most.
1. Develop a Website Structure for Internal Linking
In my opinion, it’s never too soon to settle on a website structure and how you plan to build out your content. There are a few ways to do this:
- Content clusters
- Hub pages
… or a combination of all of them.
You need to do this because it creates a web of related content which does a few different important things:
- It tells Google that you’re an expert on a subject
- It makes it easier for users to navigate the site
- It helps Google crawl the website and gain a better understanding of your content
If you can do all three of these things, you stand a much better chance at ranking for your target keywords.
Let’s say you have a gardening website with a bunch of content on it, but it lacks organization and structure. You might have some content on vegetables, flowers, and fruit.
When you’re performing the internal link audit, you’ll want to find all the pieces of content that fit into each of these three categories and make sure they all link to each other.
Once you’ve done this, you’ve then created three silos. You have a silo on vegetables, one on fruit, and one on flowers.
Link Whisper makes this incredibly easy by allowing you to filter by custom keywords. When you do this, you’ll find all of the orphan pages on your site that mention these words but don’t link to them.
So, if you have an article on growing potatoes, you can make sure that all the other articles on potatoes or vegetables link to the article on growing potatoes.
2. Get Your Link Juice in the Right Places
I talked about “link juice” and link equity in the first section, but this is another important step of your internal link audit. You want to find the pages on your website that generate the most results and make sure they have as many links as possible.
There’s a reason why I bolded “most results.”
Results and traffic aren’t necessarily always the same thing.
If you have a gardening affiliate site, you might make the most money from an article reviewing tillers, even if the article doesn’t have a lot of traffic.
That’s because these are expensive items, so you get more commission per sale.
An article about keeping rodents away from your vegetables might have the most traffic and backlinks because of the topic.
In this example, what do you think you should do?
You’d be right if you said, “link from the rodent article to the tiller article.”
If we go back to the example about the PageRank patent, you’ll understand why this is right.
The rodent article has a ton of link juice pouring over, so by linking to the article that makes you the most money, you’re increasing the chances of that article ranking higher and passing more traffic through.
When you’re performing the internal link audit, you also want to keep your silos in mind. You don’t want to endlessly link to any article on the site just because you need to pass link juice over to it.
Your internal links need to make sense, and the content needs to be related.
The best possible strategy you can deploy is linking high traffic/high backlink articles to less popular “money pages” in the same silo.
So, how do you find out which articles on your website have the most link juice?
You can start by using the backlinks tool in Ahrefs to see what pages on your website receive the most links.
These are the pages that have the most link juice and can make the biggest impact with every link you provide.
3. Fix Broken Links
A broken internal link is when you’re linking to another page on your website that no longer exists or doesn’t work. This can happen if you remove a page or change the URL without updating the internal link.
This is a waste of link equity because you’re essentially sucking some of the link juice out of one page and then sending it into the abyss.
Not only do broken links create a bad experience for users, but they also act as a wall for Google’s crawlers. As Google is crawling a page, it’ll see a broken link as a dead end which can hurt the rankability of a page.
The main reason why broken links exist on a website is that site owners don’t even know they have an issue.
Link Whisper makes it super easy to prevent this by allowing you to scan your entire website for broken links.
Here’s an example I did for a fishing website.
You’ll receive a report of all the broken links on your site, and you can go through and fix them automatically using Link Whisper.
4. Ensure Proper Anchor Text Across the Site
Google is paying more and more attention to topical relevance, and we could spend hours discussing this topic alone.
That said, relevant anchor text helps tell Google what a page is about, so it’s important that you don’t play this off as “outdated SEO” like a lot of people will tell you.
Adding anchor text like “click here” or “learn more” doesn’t tell Google anything about what people are clicking on.
In an interview with Search Engine Journal, John Mueller spoke directly about the importance of anchor text.
“So with regards to that… thinking specifically about the anchor text here, I don’t think you need to do anything specific there if you’re already linking to those pages.
If you’re using a reasonable anchor text for cheese in this case, that sounds perfectly fine.
I don’t think you need to kind of change the anchor text to be “buy your cheese online here” and it’s like, “the ultimate guide to all types of cheese here.”
He’s saying that the best anchor text is text that “describes what the user will find after they click the link.”
Long story short, don’t overcomplicate it!
In this article about growing potatoes in the cold, the author links to a page about storing potatoes. Look at the anchor text.
A great way to find relevant anchors on your site is by doing a site:search.
If you’re trying to get a link to a page about growing potatoes, you can enter “site:[yourwebsite] “growing potatoes” on Google and find every page that mentions those two words.
5. Find More Internal Link Opportunities
An internal link audit isn’t only about fixing mistakes, it’s a great way to find new linking opportunities as well.
You can use Link Whisper to get internal link suggestions as you’re writing and you can use it to go back to live articles and find suggestions as well.
By pulling up a Link Report in WordPress, the tool will display all the orphan pages you have so you can tackle those first.
Make sure to focus on orphan pages in terms of priority. The most important pages are the ones that make you the most money or generate the most results for you.
For example, if you run a grilling affiliate website. Which page do you think is more important to get links to?
- The Complete Guide to Cleaning Your Grill
- The 10 Best Green Egg Smokers Under $1000
One of these articles makes you money, and one funnels people to the article that makes you money.
The goal of your internal link audit should be to ensure that no page on your website is lacking internal links.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about internal link audits.
There are three main types of internal links, and it’s important to understand each and how they’re related to an internal link audit:
Navigation links: These are links that help users navigate through the different pages of a website, such as menus, sidebars, and footer links. You don’t want to overdo these but I think it’s helpful to have some navigation links on every page.
Contextual links: These are links that are embedded within the content of a webpage and are relevant to the topic being discussed. Contextual links can help users discover related content and provide additional information. These are the links we’ve focused on primarily throughout this guide.
Anchor links: These are links that point to a specific section within a webpage. Anchor links are useful for longer pages with multiple sections, as they allow users to jump directly to the section they are interested in. You’ll commonly find anchor links in a Table of Contents.
I like to think of an internal link analysis as an advanced breakdown of the internal link structure of a single page. When you conduct an internal link audit, you’re looking at the site from a macro perspective.
An internal link analysis looks at a single page from a micro perspective. You’ll look at the number of links pointing to the page, the anchor text used for the links, the quality of the content providing the link, and the overall structure of the links.
Yes, internal links are essential for SEO. There are always people who will debate the importance of anything in SEO, but I believe that internal links will always be relevant because they’re necessary for making your website easier to use for both Google and your users.
Now that you understand the steps involved in performing an internal link audit, it’s time to get to work.
I suggest starting by developing an internal link structure if you haven’t already. Determine the overarching subjects of your site and see how you can break down the pages to fit within those subjects.