But with that said, there are still plenty of online marketers who haven’t uncovered its full potential.
And because of that, they’re leaving some crucial opportunities on the table.
So, what exactly are internal links?
Internal links point to other pages on the same domain. A great example is a blog post linking to another post on the same site (like we did in the first sentence of this article).
From a user standpoint, internal linking will help users navigate your site, and more easily discover related content.
On the SEO side of the equation, they’re also important! Particularly, they are a great way to share link equity from one resource on your site to another.
So, let’s go over a few ways you can assess your website and SEO efforts through smart internal links.
Are You Using Internal Linking Effectively?
First things first, are your links effective?
There are a few ways to tell if your internal links are up to par with industry standards.
Most importantly, internal links allow search engines to crawl your site content more easily.
Search engines use bots to look at all internal links on a page to see what other content you’re linking to. Bots then hop on every link and repeat the process.
There are many tools online—both free and paid—that serve this function. One of the more popular options is Screaming Frog, a website auditor.
Once installed, Screaming Frog can look at a specific page and determine which links it can crawl. Simply enter a URL and hit Start.
You will find all internal links simply under the tab, and scrolling to the right will reveal the status of each link (whether they can be indexed or not).
Another important point worth mentioning is that you shouldn’t have any orphaned pages on your domain.
But what exactly is an orphaned page?
Orphaned pages are pages that don’t have inbound links from anywhere else on your website.
They’re articles, blog posts, or product pages that live in obscurity collecting virtual dust.
As established earlier, you need search engines to actively find pages on your website, and internal linking aids the issue.
It’s important to note that orphaned pages contribute to drops in site traffic and potential revenue.
This problem affects 84.1% of websites according to a SEMrush article. The same article mentions that a typical site abandons 12% of its pages, and you definitely want to avoid that.
How to Assess Your Own Internal Linking
To begin, let’s go over some of the ways you can assess your site’s internal linking structure.
First, you’ll need to find any orphan pages on your website. Improving your SEO efforts and internal links is easy once you identify any orphan pages.
Find orphaned pages
You can easily find orphaned pages using site auditors like the Screaming Frog (as mentioned earlier) or SEMrush.
On Screaming Frog, you can generate a list of orphaned pages by going to Reports > Orphaned Pages.
Do note that the free version of Screaming Frog can only crawl a limited number of pages. To crawl more than that, you will need to buy a license.
Determine pages that need more love
To start, find site pages on Google Analytics that are not generating your desired number of visitors.
Next, determine pages on your site where you can internally link to these underperforming pages.
Go back to Google Analytics and find site pages with the most traffic.
From here, link from the overachieving pages to the underperforming pages. It’s best if the pages you’re linking to are relevant to the topic of the popular pages.
This way, you provide more value to users by linking to relevant pages that need traffic.
Find the average number of internal links in your most important content
In a blog post by Matt Cutts, former head of the webspam team at Google, noted that a site should have somewhere around 100 internal links.
That’s 100 internal links in total — including those found in your header, footer, and sidebars.
Cutts also notes that going beyond that might be detrimental to user experience.
So, browse through your key pages and check just how many internal links you have.
While you’re assessing, locate and identify pages you deem unimportant or ones that seem to collect virtual dust.
These could be posts that you don’t want spiders to crawl. They could also be pages that were timely when posted but have since outlived their purpose.
Start by reducing or removing all internal links from pages you no longer plan on keeping.
Better yet, you can delete these posts entirely or redirect them. Use your efforts toward link equity and more important pages.
How to Improve Internal Linking for Pages That Need Help
There are a few actions you could take to make sure that the right pages get their dose of love. And with internal links, you’ll want to do just that. Here are a few great starting points.
Improve your anchor text — The words you choose as the hyperlink have an impact on the link’s effectiveness. Not only do they need to be relevant, but they also must be descriptive. It should be able to tell users what kind of content they’ll see when they click on the link.
Add related posts — A related posts section is an easy way of introducing links to content that you can’t organically place into the post itself.
Stop abusing footer links — There’s nothing wrong with having site-wide links in the footer section. But don’t go overboard.
Check if you have no-follow links — By default, your links should all be do-follow. This means your links are ready for crawling. But there are cases when links have a no-follow attribute attached to them. This tells Google not to crawl that specific link, so make sure that your internal links are do-follow, unless you have a specific reason not to
Look for broken links — Your most popular pages shouldn’t have broken links. These are links that go to pages that are no longer live. Typos on the URL can also result in broken links. In this case, use a Chrome extension like Check My Links to find broken links on a page.
How to Deal with Edge Cases
There are a couple of situations where spiders are unable to crawl some pages as easily as a standard web page. Below are some scenarios.
Iframe — Iframe is an HTML syntax that lets you embed content from another website. It’s the same technology that allows you to embed a YouTube video or a SlideShare presentation to your post.
Forms — Google bots can’t fill out forms and so they’re unable to go beyond pages that require user input.
Search bar — As with forms, bots can’t use the search bar. Therefore, they won’t find content that’s only accessible through search.