Internal Link Audit: A Comprehensive SEO Guide

Joel CariñoWritten by Joel Cariño|Last updated: 19 June 2024

A site audit is a necessary SEO activity to ensure that your domain and every page on your site are working properly. One crucial part of a website audit is verifying the proper implementation of your internal link strategy.

Internal links are essential for websites but are often overlooked in favor of SEO strategies like link building and content marketing. However, a recent study on 23 million internal links revealed an extremely positive correlation between internal links and organic traffic. The study found that sitewide navigational links profoundly contribute to internal linking.

Yes, internal links are important for websites. But they can also be equally detrimental when not properly managed. This is where an internal linking audit comes in.

This resource dives deep into internal links and how auditing them can impact search engine optimization. 

What is an Internal Link Audit?

An internal link audit involves inspecting and examining a website’s internal link structure. This process reviews how well internal pages link to each other, identifies sitewide issues, and uncovers opportunities for improvement. The goal is to make your website easy to navigate for users and search engines.

Importance of Internal Link Audits for SEO

All links, whether internal, inbound, or external links, have their respective purpose and objectives for a website:

  • Internal links: guide users to relevant information that satisfies their search inquiry and help search engines understand the structure and thematic relationships between pages
  • External links: provide additional external resources for users, boosting the site’s credibility in the eyes of search engines
  • Inbound links: enhance the authoritativeness of a website via backlinks and boost referral traffic from external websites 

While all are instrumental for a site’s SEO performance, they can also become its downfall, especially internal links, when left unmanaged.

Poor execution of internal links may reduce the crawl and index efficiency of search engines. Google may struggle to understand your internal link structure, leading to lower search engine rankings. 

More importantly, poor internal linking affects navigation, which may negatively impact the user experience. Internal links pointing to broken links or the presence of redirect loops can also scare users away.

An internal link audit aims to fix these. Below, we’ll explore the undeniable importance of auditing internal links for a website’s SEO.

Benefit #1: Uncover issues concerning internal links

Internal links are meant to take users from their current page to other important pages on the website. For instance, site owners may use internal links to take warm leads to conversion-focused web pages, compelling them to complete a desired action. 

Internal link issues defeat the original purpose of internal links. Some of the most persistent issues include:

  • Broken links
  • Redirects
  • Nofollow links
  • Links with excesive click depth

Conducting an internal link audit uncovers these errors, helping site owners improve their websites. Let’s take a look at each of these internal linking errors below:

A. Broken Links

Broken links are hyperlinks that lead to nonexistent pages. This may happen for several reasons, like if the target URL was deleted, moved to a different location, or changed.

Here is what a broken link looks like:

Screenshot of a 404 error message

Clicking on broken links takes users to a 404 error page, which ruins their user experience. Broken links also become dead ends that conclude the crawling journey of a web crawler, such as Googlebot.

Graphical representation of how Googlebot responds to broken links

B. Redirects

Redirects are HTML instructions designed to take users to a different URL than requested. These commands are not inherently bad for a website and may even be beneficial in some cases.

Problems only arise when a redirect chain occurs. That means a redirect leads to another redirect, which leads to another redirect, and so on. This can increase the website’s loading time, affecting users’ search journey.

Graphical representation of how redirects work

C. Nofollow Links

Nofollow links are qualified with a rel=’nofollow’ attribute in the HTML code, which tells search crawlers not to crawl the linked page. Unlike redirects and broken links, nofollow links do not directly affect users since they can visit the target link normally.

However, nofollow attributes prevent the transfer of link equity or PageRank from the source to the linked page. This limits the SEO potential of many internal pages mistakenly qualified with a nofollow.

Graphical representation of how Googlebot responds to nofollow links

D. Excessive click depth

Click depth refers to the number of clicks required to navigate from a website’s homepage to a specific page. Lower click depth means it takes fewer clicks to reach a target page. This improves SEO by making pages more accessible to search engines and users, enhancing the site’s visibility and user experience.

A high click depth, on the other hand, ruins the user experience by requiring more clicks to reach a desired page. This is often inevitable for outdated content, causing older pages to drop in SERP rankings. Creating new internal links can reinvigorate this old content.

Benefit #2: Find internal link opportunities

Webmasters often overlook many internal links throughout their websites. In a recent case study of over 5,000 websites, site owners miss internal links 82% of the time. In other words, many users fail to reach relevant content because the pages are not effectively interconnected.

Underutilization of internal linking leads to significant content being buried and making it harder for users, Google, and other search engines to find. This ultimately negatively impacts the website’s SEO performance and user engagement.

An internal link audit reveals internal link opportunities initially missed during the initial content creation process. Finding internal links manually is a slow and tedious process but actionable for relatively small websites. However, if you’re dealing with a large website, there’s more merit in using SEO tools.

SEO tools are equipped with algorithms that not only find missed opportunities but also suggest internal links that might not have been discovered without AI’s aid. Maximizing all link opportunities ensures a well-connected site with a strong internal linking structure.

Benefit #3: Optimize site-wide use of anchor texts

Fixing internal links and their issues is not the only objective of site audits. It also targets the anchor texts used throughout the website.

Anchor texts and internal links are directly correlated. More optimized anchor texts increase the relevance of the target URL, boosting its SEO value and ranking in search results.

Check out the infographic below explaining the different types of anchor texts plus examples:

Infographic explaining the different types of anchor texts along with definitions and examples

For instance, let’s say you’re targeting a page that educates users about “internal link analysis.” Generic anchors like “click here” or “learn more” give users zero context about the linked page, leaving users second-guessing what to expect when they click the link.

Meanwhile, highly optimized, descriptive, and keyword-rich anchors like “Discover how to analyze internal links” inform users about the target page’s content, giving users a positive experience on your website.

Optimizing anchor texts allows websites to maximize the impact of internal links in SEO. A specialized internal linking audit tool can make that possible.

Learn more: Best Practices for Optimizing Anchor Texts

Benefit #4: Fix the website’s internal linking structure

Internal linking’s main goal is to strengthen the connections across pages. A solid internal linking structure is achieved when web pages are effectively interconnected. Users can easily reach targeted pages, and the Googlebot can crawl and index all the pages within the domain. 

However, pages not included in a site’s main structural system become inaccessible to users and web crawlers. These are called “orphan pages.”

Graphics showing what are orphan pages

Orphan pages are pages without any internal links pointing to them. While they can also be accessed via an external backlink or if users know the exact URL, they are not connected anywhere on the website. This heavily limits their discoverability, crawlability, and indexability.

In other words, it is physically impossible to visit the page unless users know the exact URL. It’s important to audit internal links to find these displaced pages and reconnect them to the website.

Moreover, internal link audits also help site owners restructure and organize content into sensible thematic or topical clusters. 

Topical clusters consist of a pillar page surrounded by support or cluster content. A pillar page is a long piece of content that comprehensively covers a broad topic. Throughout the content are internal links sending users to cluster content that covers each aspect of a pillar post in even greater depth.

Graphical representation explaining the anatomy of a topical cluster

Well-linked topical clusters improve SEO by highlighting topical authority and subject expertise. This signals to Google that your website is an authority on the niche and gives greater weight to your content for relevant searches. 

Can I Audit My Internal Links Manually?

It is possible to audit internal links manually, especially if you’re dealing with a relatively small website or less than 100 web pages. While the process will take time and effort, the audit and changes can be completed within several days or weeks. 

Performing a manual internal linking audit does not require paid tools or subscriptions to SEO software. It can be accomplished using only free and complementary website management tools like Google Search Console.

Here are the general steps when doing a manual internal linking audit:

  1. Create a database of all your content by listing your web pages on a sheet. Insert essential details by adding the following columns to the database: Page Title, URL, Category, Publication Date, and Excerpt. This information will help you have a bird’s eye view of all your internal pages on a single dashboard.
  2. Based on the Page Title, Category, and Excerpt, arrange your pages into pertinent topical clusters. For instance, if you have several pieces of content on generative AI, you may group them together in a single cluster. It is totally fine if some pages overlap with other topical clusters; this gives leeway to build internal links between each cluster. 
  3. Starting with one topical cluster, manually visit each page and find viable anchor text placeholders for internal linking with other pages within that cluster. If there is no room for internal link placement, modify the copy to create space for internal links. The goal is to have all pages within a cluster interlink with each other to establish topical authority on the subject.
  4. Once every topical cluster is effectively interlinked, you will have dedicated information hubs or a collection of inter-related content for specific topics. The next step is finding an opportunity to connect each cluster with others on similar topics. For example, some links within the “generative AI” topical cluster may have some connection to pages under the “content marketing” topical cluster. Find these connections and interlink them.

Doing the above steps ensures your website is well-linked, making up for a successful internal linking strategy.

In theory, manually auditing websites is feasible, provided you have time, patience, and the benefit of a small website. However, things get more complicated when you manage a large domain. 

This is where an internal linking audit tool comes in.

Internal linking audit tools are specialized software solutions designed to analyze and optimize a website’s internal linking structure. They assess how pages are interconnected and identify issues such as broken links, improper anchor text usage, and underlinked content.

These tools help enhance site architecture by suggesting improvements and new linking opportunities, ensuring that content is effectively interconnected and accessible. By doing so, internal linking audit tools boost SEO performance, improve user navigation, and enhance the website’s overall health.

Below, we’ll explore the essential insights that an internal linking auditing tool must uncover.

Essential Insights to Uncover During Internal Link Audits

Here are the important reports and data that an internal linking auditing software must present to help users stay on top of their internal linking efforts:

1. Broken Links Report

A core purpose of internal linking software is to help site owners fix common internal linking issues. One persistent issue is broken links. You can use a specialized internal linking tool like LinkStorm to reveal all broken links on your site. 

From the tool’s dashboard, click the Issues tab on the sidebar options.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's dashboard with arrow to the Issues tab

Select the “Broken” option from the Issues tab interface to show the broken links on the website.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Issues tab with arrow to the broken option

This will reveal all of your website’s broken links. In this example, we’ll use Linkody’s website as a reference. As shown below, they only have one case of a broken link on their domain.

Screenshot of Linkody's broken links from the LinkStorm Issues Tab dashboard

The Source Page column indicates the page where the broken hyperlink is located. Meanwhile, the Target URL column shows the broken destination itself. You will also find the HTTP Status Code, which is normally 404 most of the time for ‘Page Not Found.’ However, a 503 error or ‘Service Unavailable’ may occasionally appear when the service is overloaded and cannot process the request. 

After discovering the broken links plaguing your site, you may return to your CMS to resolve the errors. 

2. Redirects Report

From the Issues dashboard, you may simply jump tabs from the “Broken” to the “Redirected” option.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Issues dashboard with arrow to the Redirected tab

This shows all the redirected pages on your website and other essential information concerning redirects, such as the Source Page, Target URL, Status Code, and Target Final URL.

Screenshot of Linkody's redirects from the LinkStorm Issues Tab dashboard

As the above example shows, most of Linkody’s redirects are 301, meaning permanently redirected. That means when users click the original target URL, they will be taken to the link on the target final URL instead.

Some redirects are good, but mismanaged redirects can prevent users from reaching a desired page. This is the case if you have a redirect chain or loop on your website. Here is a visual representation of how redirect loops work:

Graphical representation of how a redirect loop works

To test if you’re dealing with a redirect loop, click one of the Target URLs listed on Redirected option under LinkStorm’s Issues tab. Pages on redirect loops often buffer indefinitely until an error message pops up, just like this one:

Redirect loop error message

Redirect loops always end on the same link it began with. Once you find a page in a redirect loop, copy the page’s Target URL and the Target Final URL on LinkStorm’s search bar and click apply, as shown below.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Issues Tab with arrows and highlights

Doing so reveals all other redirected pages that contain the same URL. From there, you can investigate in a trial-and-error fashion which other pages belong to the redirect loop. Just click the link and if it shows an error message and doesn’t reach the destination, it is likely part of the redirect loop.

Keep repeating this process until you find all the pages in the redirect loop chain.

3. Nofollow Links Report

From LinkStorm’s Issues tab, click the No Follow option.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Issues tab with arrow to the No Follow option

This will show all of the Source Pages where the nofollow hyperlinks are found, along with the Target URL. Unlike redirects and broken links, fixing nofollow links is more beginner-friendly.

Screenshot of Linkody's nofollow links taken from the LinkStorm Issues Tab dashboard

Many CMS, like WordPress, are equipped with tools and plugins that allow users to toggle a button to set a link as nofollow or sponsored. Below is an example:

Screenshot of nofollow toggle for links on WordPress

This removes the hassle of looking into the links’ HTML source code and manually adding or removing unwanted rel attributes. 

However, the manual HTML process is much more beneficial and perpetual, especially if the plugins get bugged and cease performing as designed.  

4. Anchor Text Distribution Report

Another essential function internal link audit tools must have is assisting users with anchor text optimization. Internal links are crucial in SEO and user experience, but half of an internal link’s benefit relies heavily on the use of anchor texts.

LinkStorm gives users a bird’s eye view of their website’s anchor texts. To do this, press the Anchor tab from LinkStorm’s side panel.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's dashboard with arrow to the Anchor tab

This will reveal all of the anchor texts used throughout your website, including how many times they were used and the destination of those anchors, whether internal or external links.

Screenshot of Linkody's anchor texts taken from LinkStorm Anchor tab

Clicking any of the numbers under the Internal or External column will reveal all of the links where the particular anchor text was used. For example, the anchor “SEO and content marketing strategies” are used 3 times on the following links:

Screenshot of Linkody's pages using the anchor text SEO and content marketing strategies

LinkStorm’s Anchor tab is essential for diversifying anchor text usage throughout a website. If many links on your site extensively use exact-match anchor texts or reuse the same anchors several times, Google might flag those links as spammy. This puts you at risk of suffering SEO-damaging penalties from the search engine.

It’s best to use a good variety of anchor texts, such as exact-match, partial-match, and phrase-match anchor texts. 

Learn more: Internal Linking 101: Importance of Anchor Text in SEO

5. Internal Link Opportunities Report

Arguably, the most essential functionality of an internal link audit software is finding link opportunities throughout a website. Internal links typically get lost under the radar during the content creation process. 

Only during an SEO audit are missed link opportunities revealed. Links allow relevant pages of your website to be interconnected, making them easier for users and search engines to access. 

LinkStorm reveals all possible internal link opportunities. To do this, click the Opportunities tab from the LinkStorm dashboard.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's dashboard with arrow to the Opportunities tab

This takes you to a page where you can select between LinkStorm’s algorithms for finding internal link opportunities: Semantic Similarity and Content Matching.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Link Opportunities tab

Here’s how each works:

  • Semantic Similarity: Uses AI machine learning to understand the content and context of a page, finding viable anchor text for internal link placement using semantic analysis.
  • Content Matching: Finds seed keywords throughout the website as anchor text placeholders for internal link placement.

Clicking either of the two algorithms will list all the link opportunities within the website, plus other essential information, like the Source Page, Suggested Placement, Target Page, and the Click Depth of the source and target pages.

Screenshot of Semantic Similarity Suggestions on LinkStorm

Guided by the provided information, site owners may choose to edit the content on their CMS dashboard and manually insert the internal link. Or, for a more seamless implementation of internal linking, you can simply click the Accept or Reject button to the right, provided LinkStorm’s snippet of code is installed on the website.

To install LinkStorm’s snippet of code on a website, visit the main dashboard. At the bottom right, you will find the HTML snippet you must paste on the website’s Head, Body, or Footer.

The image below demonstrates what happens after LinkStorm is installed on the website:

Automatic Link Placement Script for LinkStorm

After installing LinkStorm, accepting or rejecting an internal link suggestion on your website becomes as easy as one click of a button.

6. Click Depth Information

Click depth is another crucial factor to consider for SEO and internal linking. The click depth of all stale content inevitably increases as more pages get published on a website. In other words, reaching an old page from the website’s homepage will take more clicks than relatively new content.

LinkStorm’s Opportunities tab allows users to optimize click depth by connecting contextually relevant stale and new content. Consider click depth when building internal links between two related pages.

For example, look at the internal link suggestions below:

Screenshot of LinkStorm's opportunities tab with click depth highlighted

By connecting low-click depth with high-click depth pages, you consciously reduce the number of clicks it takes to reach the target page. For instance, connecting a page with a click depth of 1 to another page with a click depth of 4 will trim the latter’s click depth to 2. 

As users click through the linked stale page, this will breathe new life into the old content. Google will then notice if the traffic of the old page begins to increase. This may potentially result in a bump in search performance or improvement in SERP ranking.

7. GSC Information

Google Search Console is undoubtedly the best source of information regarding website performance and SEO ranking. A good internal link audit tool integrates GSC data to help users strategize their internal linking efforts straight from the software’s user interface.

Once you link your GSC account with LinkStorm, the tool will gain access to relevant information regarding your websites, which you can use to refine your SEO approaches. 

From the LinkStorm dashboard, select the Pages tab from the sidebar menu.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's dashboard with arrow to the Pages tab

Clicking the Pages tab will list all of your website’s pages. The switch on the left allows you to toggle the column inclusion of Google Search Console data.

Google Search Console Data Toggle in LinkStorm's Link Opportunities

The Pages tab reveals all your pages, including important information, such as Impressions, Average Position, Clicks, and Clickthrough Rate, which you can use to refine your internal linking efforts and other SEO strategies.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Pages Tab with Highlights on GSC Data

For instance, let’s say you want to boost a web page’s average position. You may copy the destination Page Title from the Pages Tab and paste it into the search bar of the Opportunities tab. This will let you find all internal link suggestions pointing to the targeted link.

Screenshot of the search bar at LinkStorm's Opportunities Tab

Accepting the internal link suggestion will enable the transfer of link juice from the source pages to the targeted URL. This will boost the targeted link’s SERP ranking, especially if the link juice comes from high-authority or high-SERP-ranking pages.

This is just one example of how LinkStorm can be utilized to maximize internal links and amplify their effects on your site’s search performance. LinkStorm’s potential is best explored on your own to find the best strategy to elevate your current internal linking to the next level. 

Best LinkStorm Alternatives for Auditing Internal Links

LinkStorm is a specialized, all-in-one internal linking toolkit designed to help owners manage their internal linking activities. While revolutionary in its use of artificial intelligence, LinkStorm is not the only SEO auditing tool on the market. Below, we’ll look at some LinkStorm alternatives you can use to audit your internal links and overall SEO strategy:

Google Search Console

Search Console is Google’s free proprietary tool dedicated to helping site owners understand how they perform on Google search. It is the best free tool for boosting a website’s SEO. By analyzing the essential data presented in GSC, users can improve their search visibility and organic traffic.

Screenshot of Google Search Console's homepage

The Search Results option from the sidebar menu offers real-time search performance of web pages. You may arrange web pages from best-performing to least-performing by toggling the average position column. 

Theoretically, consciously building internal links from high-average position pages to low-average position ones can help boost the latter’s positioning on Google search. Conversely, interlinking fellow high-average position pages allows you to improve their search ranking even more.

Google Search Console offers so much more information. We recommend exploring the free tool independently to uncover the best approach to improving your website’s performance.

Internal Link Juicer

Internal Link Juicer captures an almost similar level of intelligent internal linking as LinkStorm’s Content Matching feature. To use Internal Link Juicer, you define your seed keywords, and the machine will automatically find related web pages and links based on those selections. Plus, it has WordPress plugin integration, making internal linking as seamless as possible.

Screenshot of Internal Link Juicer's homepage

However, Internal Link Juicer has its downsides as it has no integration with Google Search Console, unlike LinkStorm. You also have no options for viewing existing internal links and resolving broken links plaguing the website.

Internal Link Juicer is also a WordPress plugin, which means it only works on that platform. If you’re using a different CMS, this SEO tool is not the best option.

Link Whisper

Link Whisper is one of the most advanced internal linking software to date. It provides internal linking opportunities to fill gaps throughout the website. However, like Internal Link Juicer, Link Whisper is a WP plugin and won’t work outside the WordPress platform.

Screenshot of Link Whisper's homepage

Link Whisper has a reporting feature, which is useful for white-label reporting, especially for SEO agencies. This report includes pages crawled, links found, internal links, orphaned pages, and broken links. 

What makes Link Whisper unique is its ability to index even orphaned pages, which, by definition, have no incoming and outgoing internal links. Like LinkStorm and Internal Link Juicer, accepting link suggestions comes at a single click.

Audit Your Internal Links with LinkStorm

Internal links are often underestimated and treated as the runt of the link-building family. However, when used strategically, they can have a massive impact on your site’s SEO and search engine rankings.

An internal link audit bridges the gap between your website’s current state and its vast potential for improvement. LinkStorm is the all-in-one internal linking auditing tool that can take your website where it needs to be.

Visit our LinkStorm’s pricing page to find out which plan best suits your needs.

Happy linking! 

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