Creating An Effective Internal Linking Strategy For SEO

Pink paperclips laid out in a circle to represent linking

When auditing a website for SEO purposes, it can sometimes be the case that internal linking and site navigation are taken for granted and are given little credit or less credit than backlinks. In reality, these signals are some of the most important. They allow Google to effectively crawl your website, allow you to signpost the most important pages on your site and support users on their journey to finding core pages as well as helping users to find supporting information and additional resources that could enhance their experience. 

Internal linking strategies can be really effective campaigns to boost your SEO efforts. So, let’s look into what an effective internal linking strategy for SEO looks like and how you can go about creating one for your website.

What Are Internal Links?

Internal links are hyperlinks that point from one page to another within the same domain. They usually appear within content on a page or in the main navigation menu and footer as clickable links that take you through to another page on the same website.

How Can Internal Links Help My SEO Efforts?

Internal links can help your SEO efforts as they are crucial to signposting important pages for both users and search engines. They can help search engines such as Google to crawl through your site efficiently and understand the relationship between your pages which will help them to get indexed and ultimately ranked better. 

Clear and relevant internal links also help to create a greater overall user experience and can even improve user engagement if you provide links to useful and relevant resources. For example, providing clear and clickable links to buying guides or related articles for a product or service that you offer.

Why Should You Create An Internal Linking Strategy?

Creating an internal linking strategy is important as effective internal links can: 

💡 Help search engines to find and crawl new pages to rank your content better

💡 Improve user experience by providing a clear navigation through related content

💡 Disperse link equity between pages and around the site

💡 Outline the importance of a page on a site and establish hierarchy 

💡 Create hubs that display topical authority by linking between related pages and content

What Are The Use Cases of Internal Linking Strategies?

The strategy that you choose to create can depend on what your goal is and what you want your outcome to look like once the recommended internal links are in place. 

For example: 

🔎 You might be trying to improve the authority of a certain page or a selection of pages by ensuring that high authority and relevant pages on your site are linking back.

🔎 You may want to help your users and search engines effortlessly navigate through to certain pages and signpost clear links to supporting content such as related blogs.

🔎 You might already have a great internal linking strategy and just want to tidy up existing links. 

🔎 You might even be trying to stop two pages on the same domain from competing with each other for high volume and high intent keywords.

Creating An Effective Internal Linking Strategy

Once you have decided what the goal of this strategy is for your individual website, you can start to look at opportunities for internal links. 

It is always good practice to take a step back and evaluate the state of your current internal linking strategy before suggesting new links are added. 

There are several housekeeping steps you can take to audit your site’s existing internal linking. 

Below, I have outlined the 3 most important initial steps to take:

Check For Orphaned Pages

Evaluate Existing Anchor Text

Tidy Up Broken Internal Links

To check these on your site, I would recommend using a crawling tool such as Screaming Frog.

Check For Orphaned Pages

Orphaned pages are pages that exist on your website but they are not linked to from within the same domain, are not included in the sitemap and do not have any external links or backlinks pointing to them. In essence, these are standalone pages that would struggle to be found by a user or a search engine. 

To check for orphaned pages on your website, you can use Screaming Frog’s guide and follow the steps on How To Find Orphaned Pages.

You can also use Screaming Frog’s Log File Analyser together with the main crawling tool to compare data sets and identify orphaned pages easily. Here, you will also be able to see which of these pages are being accessed but not linked which may be causing issues. 

Evaluate Existing Anchor Text

Anchor text is the visible text that a hyperlink is attached to. On a page, this text is usually formatted to be underlined, bold or italicised to signal a clickable attribute. 

If the goal of your strategy is to perform some housekeeping on your existing internal links, you can simply assess anchor text across your site. Here, it would make sense to focus on the pages that are most important for SEO first.

If you have a list of priority pages that you are looking to boost through your internal linking strategy, it would be a good idea to audit the existing internal links that point towards this page. Here, you should review what the anchor text for these internal links looks like as there may be opportunities for improvement here.

In terms of best practices for anchor text, Google has recently released guidelines on writing good anchor text which should be followed. This includes examples of bad anchor text which includes text such as ‘Click here,’ ‘Read more.’ 

Tidy Up Broken Internal Links

Broken internal links are links to pages that cannot be found by the user or pages that no longer exist.

Using free tools such as Google Search Console can help you to identify any broken links or 404 error pages. Alternatively, using an effective paid tool like Screaming Frog will crawl all internal links on your site and highlight those that are broken. With any broken links, you can look to update these to a similar new page, another similar relevant page or remove the link if there is not a suitable alternative. 

Clearing up these broken links can help to improve user experience and also help ensure that crawlers don’t end up on a broken page which could waste crawl budget.

Methods To Find Relevant Internal Links

If your goal for this strategy is to boost the importance or authority of certain pages, you will want to highlight opportunities to link to relevant pages. 

To find suitable internal links within your site there are several ways to do this. Below I have outlined the two methods that we have found are most effective for this: 

Method 1: Site Search

The first method is one that can be done by anyone and is free. This would be best for smaller sites with less pages or could be used alongside Method 2 for larger sites.

This simply involves using the search bar to conduct a search for your chosen keyword and should be searched for using the following command: ‘site:yourdomain “chosen keyword” or as pictured below. 

This method will help you to see pages that mention or are related to your chosen keyword that Google has indexed. This would be great for smaller sites that have limited content as you will be able to easily see all related pages. When shortlisting these related pages, just make sure that they don’t already include an internal link to your chosen page!

Method 2: Screaming Frog Custom Search

For this method, you will need the paid version of Screaming Frog to get all of the results. This method is better for larger sites and will provide a larger dataset for you to work with. 

In this method, we will use the Custom Search function in Screaming Frog to search for keywords that are utilised within pages on the site to spot linking opportunities to relevant pages. For example, if one of my priority pages for this strategy was our SEO service page,  I would want the crawler to search all pages on my site that include the anchor text ‘SEO’ within the page content. 

Steps To Take For Method 2:

  1. Set up Screaming Frog to run a crawl as usual but take an additional step to set up Custom Search by selecting the following pathway ‘Configuration → Custom → Search’ from the top menu as imaged below. Select ‘Search.’

Once the below image has popped up, you can start to input your selected keywords in the section marked ‘Enter search query.’

2. Input your list of keywords based on your priority pages. In the example below I have chosen to create custom searches for the service pages that we have at Cedarwood Digital. To add more searches, simply click ‘Add’ in the bottom right of the pop up. 

Here, you should also instruct the crawler to focus on ‘Content Area’ by selecting this option in the dropdown.

3. Once you’re happy with the keywords that you have input, press OK and start the crawl. The Screaming Frog crawler will then crawl the site to identify pages that show instances of the individual keywords you have entered and will return these for each of the keywords.

4. Check the results of this crawl by selecting ‘Custom Search’ in the drop down as pictured below. In the left hand corner dropdown entitled ‘All’ you will be able to filter between each of your keywords with specific results.

5. Export your results for each keyword into an Excel spreadsheet and create a new tab for each focus keyword.

6. At this stage, I would suggest an additional step of also exporting all Inlink data from the crawl. You can do this by following the pathway: ‘Bulk Export’ → ‘Links’ → ‘All Inlinks’ in the top menu. 

This will allow you to evaluate which of the Custom Search pages already include an internal link to your chosen page. To cross reference your Custom Search results against the Inlink data, add a tab to your spreadsheet that includes the copied Inlink data and simply filter by the chosen page and cross reference using a formula such as VLOOKUP. 

Tip: Inlink data will also include internal links from the main navigation menu so I would suggest that you filter the data just to include links found in the content. 

7. After cross referencing your data, you should now be left with a list of pages that include the relevant anchor text and do not currently include an internal link to your chosen page. These are the key opportunities to update and include internal links that point back to the page that you want to boost. 

As an additional step, you may also want to combine efforts and use Method 1 to highlight any additional opportunities.

As you can see, reviewing internal linking and creating a strategy for this can be really beneficial in terms of elevating your SEO efforts and there are a number of ways in which you can do this. Above, we have outlined some actionable recommendations on how to create or improve an effective internal linking strategy. 

Whatever your goal is, improving link signals throughout your website might just be the perfect place to start when thinking about your next SEO strategy. Above all, a focus on user experience and how they navigate through your website should be at the core of your strategy. 

To find out more about how an effective internal linking strategy can boost your website or help with your SEO,  we’d love to hear from you!