Internal Linking Audit: Putting the Horse before the Cart

5 Min read or listen

Conducting an internal linking audit is one of the best decisions SEO professionals can make.

Putting the cart before the horse is a big mistake. That we all know. We must put the horse before the cart.

This proverb can be perfectly applied to link building.

External linking is common, but internal linking not only ensures SEO enhancement, but also improves user experience.

It is logical that the Marketing Department and the Board of Directors of a company pay attention to external links, because they give authority to the website.

However, SEO professionals must be aware of the need to have an internal linking strategy that makes visitors stay longer on the site, seeing more pages and increasing conversions.

The first step to achieve this goal is to conduct an internal linking audit that allows us to understand its strengths and weaknesses.

How to Conduct an Internal Linking Audit Step by Step

With an internal linking audit we will accomplish:

  • A web structure review. We will understand how the structure of our site influences the potential of our pages and what landing pages we want to be ranked.
  • A PageRank Flow Audit. We will ensure that the PageRank distribution does not lose potential or die on the dead-end pages of our website. We will find errors on the pages and fix them.
  • A link optimization. We will add links to enhance certain pages, we will choose the location of the link, we will pay attention to the anchor text...

We will achieve these goals by following these steps: 

Step 1 - Web Crawling

We have focused our explanation on how to use Screaming Frog because of its popularity. But there are many other tools that can be useful for SEOs interested in an internal linking audit.

Once we install Screaming Frog, we simply have to enter the domain name and start the crawl.

Up to 500 URLs can be crawled in the free version. We will need to purchase the license to crawl more URLs.

When the web crawl has finished, we can export many documents. One of them is a complete page list (where we can also see the internal links that each page has).

That already allows us to have the raw data. However, how can we review the structure of the web?

Screaming Frog offers various visualizations to check the structure of the web.

One of the recommended visualizations to review the structure with an emphasis on internal linking is Force-Directed Crawl Diagram.

Force-Directed Crawl Diagram is a navigable visualization that allows us to focus our attention on nodes or pages and see their internal links.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Step 2 - Page Analysis: What Correlation Do They Have?

Finding broken links. Once we have finished the site crawling, within Screaming Frog we can also check for broken links on the website. We just need to:

  1. Click on 'Response Codes'
  2. Select 'Client Error (4xx)'
  3. Click on 'Inlinks'

Finding redirects with internal links that lead to them. When we change the URL of a page, it is easy to forget that it is very likely that it has internal links pointing to it.

If we want to change that, we can do as it follows:

  1. Filter the URLs and show only the redirects
  2. Click on the 'Inlinks' button to find the internal links that lead to redirects
  3. Change those internal links into links that lead to actual landing pages

Identifying 3 types of pages to modify their link flow:

  1. Orphan pages
  2. Pages that have many links to them, but are not very important on the site
  3. Pages that are too sunk within the website's structure

Thanks to the list of URLs, the inlinks and the visualizations (in graphic form); we can find these problematic URLs and solve the problems.

If we want to carry out this step, we can use Screaming Frog's page evaluation system. It can evaluate the pages of a site based on the internal links they have. (Unfortunately this system can only be found in the paid version.)

Sorting the URLs by this criterion allows us to see which ones work better and worse within the structure.

Step 3: Linking Improvement

At this point in our internal linking audit we want to improve the internal links that we have.

We know that not all links are equally important. Its importance varies depending on its position on the page, its anchor text or its alternative text (if it is an image, for example.)

We must find opportunities for improvement to get our links to pass PageRank in a fluid and efficient way.

One way to do this is to identify the URLs on our website that have fewer links than those that rank higher. It is particularly important to find those URLs that position on the second page of Google results. (Between positions #11 and #20.)

What we try to achieve by improving the internal linking of these pages is to make them go from those positions to the first page of Google. (Between positions # 1 and # 10).

Having a better positioning guarantees a strong increase in visibility, clicks and search engine traffic.

For this reason, in the internal linking audit we must identify the pages with the most SEO potential.

In addition to this process, it is convenient not to underestimate the importance of naturally linking related-themed pages that can be mutually beneficial.

Why do we talk about this mutual benefit?

Because the page that leads to the linked page offers related information that improves the experience of the users who were consulting it, and because the linked page gets more traffic than before.

But how can this natural linking be achieved? How is it possible to do it (in a scalable way) on websites with thousands of pages and content that is regularly updated?

Easy answer! With a periodic internal linking audit! We need to conduct it with a tool that uses Artificial Intelligence, so that each time it is executed it works better.

DWX responds perfectly to these requirements. It is an ideal tool for conducting an internal linking audit and allows to improve internal linking.

DWX Crawler can crawl the site obtaining actionable insights to improve internal linking as we have explained. And DWX InLinks will allow us to achieve great results and improve internal linking by enhancing those pages that can go from the second to the first page of Google results.

In the end, if we return to our initial idea, automating the excellence of a website's internal linking with intelligent audits of a large volume of pages is (if we think of an SEO strategy) like putting the horse before the cart.

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