For many SEO marketers, perfecting the placement and quantity of external links (backlinks) is a high priority. But that doesn’t mean that your internal link strategy should be forgotten!
Internal links are incredibly important for your site’s SEO performance — and even more so when you’re an online business with hundreds or thousands of product pages.
Link equity, sometimes referred to as link juice, refers to how much authority your website has. That authority can be passed throughout all the pages on your website through internal linking.
But, when an eCommerce website has so many pages, it can be difficult for marketers to know where and how to place those links for the best search engine optimization.
In today’s guide, we’ll help by giving you step-by-step instructions to audit internal links on your own site and find the best opportunities to improve your technical SEO.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Why is Internal Linking Important?
Internal linking is the act of building links to a website from that same website in an effort to improve the organic ranking of (and total traffic to) target pages through increased site visibility, page equity growth, and improved keyword targeting anchor text use.
The two most important parts of internal linking are:
- Linking between pages to help spread link equity
- Capitalizing on the anchor text of internal links (which helps with topical relevance for search engines)
Proper internal linking strategy helps your site rank higher and helps search engine bots and your audience find what they’re looking for. The more targeted internal links you have, the better Google and other search engine crawlers can find, index, and understand the pages on your site.
When internal links send page authority to key URLs (like critical product category or high-revenue product pages), you can improve your page rank and organic page performance. It’s easy to see why this practice can improve your eCommerce product page SEO, content marketing efforts, and more.
In short, fixing internal linking errors and optimizing your inlinking strategy can seriously boost your site’s performance.
While auditing your internal links is an important part of any eCommerce SEO strategy, it can be an overwhelming project to start. Fortunately, with proper data and analysis, deliberate testing, and focused effort, you can turn this process into an effective strategy for your brand.
For a deeper look at both internal and external linking strategies, download our eCommerce Link Building Guide today.
How to Complete an Internal Linking Audit for Your eCommerce Site
Here, we’ll walk you through the audit process that our SEO team uses as part of our clients’ eCommerce link-building strategy. We’ve developed and streamlined it over the years to identify actionable insights as quickly as possible.
Internal links typically fall into two categories: in-content (or on-page) links and navigation links. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll only cover the former in this audit and for existing web pages only.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive audit of your site’s internal links, contact our SEO team.
Step 1: Crawl Your Site
In order to audit your internal links, you need to understand their current state — ie., where they are and aren’t existing on your eCommerce site, which pages have broken links, which pages have too many or not enough, etc.
If you want to pull your crawl data for an internal link audit, we highly recommend Screaming Frog. Within this program, standard “Spider” mode is the easiest way to find all link sources.
By default, Screaming Frog will pull internal links for all of your URLs. You can locate these in the “Inlinks” tab on the SF app, or by exporting your site data from the “Internal” tab.
You can also specifically crawl internal links on their own by configuring your crawl: Configuration > Spider > Crawl > Internal Hyperlinks.
Here’s the data you’ll want to gather (and eventually analyze):
- Inlinks: Total internal link count
- Unique Inlinks: Total internal unique link count
- Outlinks: Total outlink count to internal pages
- Unique Outlinks: Total unique outlink count to internal pages
- Crawl Depth: How many clicks it takes to reach a page
- Indexability: Whether or not a page is indexable
All of these data points can be found in the links report of a standard Screaming Frog crawl. Export this data to a spreadsheet (Excel or CSV) to start your analysis.
Pro tip: We recommend connecting APIs for external tools like Ahrefs and Google Analytics for a more complete picture of your internal linking performance (more on analyzing that data below).
Step 2: Find Internal Linking Opportunities for Improvement
Now that you’ve got your site data, it’s time for the analysis part of your audit.
Below, you’ll find a few of the most obvious opportunities for your website. We recommend starting here to address these lowest-hanging fruits (and, thus, the biggest chances to improve your organic performance).
1. High Crawl Depth
The higher a page’s crawl depth, the more clicks it takes for a user (or search engine crawler) to find that URL.
You want your URL crawl depths to be low, to not only help users more easily navigate to important pages but to also optimize your crawl budget.
Here at Inflow, we typically recommend that all critical site pages have a crawl depth of three clicks or less. Less-critical pages are recommended to have a crawl depth of fewer than five clicks.
However, use your own judgment on which threshold you want to set for your site.
2. Top-Performing Pages with Few Links
If your top URLs have few internal links, you’re missing a huge opportunity to drive the majority of your traffic to other pages with relevant content (and improve your page equity).
Filter your URLs by organic sessions (make sure you connected Google Analytics in your initial crawl) to see your top pages, then compare their individual internal link numbers.
3. Pages with Few Internal Links
Another excellent opportunity to address is those pages with few internal links. These will be some of the easiest opportunities to quickly add quality internal links across your site.
Filter your data by inlink count to identify which pages have the fewest existing links.
It’s up to you to decide what your threshold will be, based on your average internal link count and your site size. Keep in mind: Not all of your pages will require internal links. Consider page performance in combination with inlink total before deciding where to add new links.
Here at Inflow, we can’t make a recommendation on exactly what that link threshold should be without crucial extra context. Each eCommerce site should be assessed with its own unique needs and performance goals in mind.
While there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule we can recommend, we’re happy to provide guidance and a free audit if you need help in this area.
4. Orphan Pages
Orphan pages are those with no internal links pointing to them. This means that no website visitors or crawl bots can find the page without a direct link.
Deliberate orphan pages might include landing pages or other targeted marketing efforts. However, most eCommerce sites should keep orphan pages to a minimum — especially when those pages are intended to direct the customer to your products.
If these orphan pages are crucial for your website and/or you want crawlers to index them, you’ll need to add some more internal links in Step 4 of this process.
5. Outliers & Inconsistent Patterns
It’s not just those pages with few or no internal links that we need to keep an eye on. We also need to consider pages with an outsized number of internal links, especially compared to similar page types.
For example, the number of internal links on a blog page with 10,000 words will likely be more than the number of internal links on a post with 1,000 words, simply because the length of the content on each of these pages will differ.
Keeping those differences in mind, look for consistency within page types.
For example, if all of your category pages but one have 100 internal links each, and that outlier has 5,000 links, you need to take a deeper look at what’s going on. You’ll need to analyze the pages’ performance to see which approach is the best for your site. Should they all have 100 inlinks or should they all have closer to 5,000 inlinks?
Again, the “right” answer here is specific to your company’s performance goals.
Step 3: Review Third-Party Data (If Necessary)
In addition to your site’s data for each URL, we recommend reviewing external reports from sources like Ahrefs and Moz. They can provide additional opportunities to improve your internal links.
While this step isn’t necessary for every eCommerce webpage, we prefer having more data and a larger perspective on a site’s activity to make more informed decisions.
If you’re conducting this audit and the resulting updates in-house, this third-party data might be information overload. However, where possible, it can be a useful addition to your own understanding of your site’s needs and company goals.
Please note: Both Ahrefs and Moz require paid subscriptions to gain access to these tools.
Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool also includes a Linking Opportunities feature.
This feature scans the top 10 keywords each page on your site is ranking for. Then, the tool identifies mentions of those terms on other pages of your website, suggesting those opportunities in its final report.
You can use Moz’s Link Explorer tool to evaluate individual URLs. Note that this tool will analyze both internal and external linking opportunities.
You can also use Moz’s Top Pages report (found inside the Link Explorer tool) to confirm your top performers and cross-check your data against that which was revealed in your initial site crawl.
Step 4: Implement Your New Internal Links
Once you run your initial internal linking audit analysis, you should easily recognize the biggest opportunities for your existing pages.
So the next set of questions is: How do you decide which pages to link to — and what’s the best strategy for doing so?
We recommend this guide from DWX for the most basic internal linking opportunities on product and category pages. Below, we’ve also added a few other best practices to consider:
Link to High-Performing Pages
Remember, the goal of internal links is to spread page authority and direct your website visitors to your most important pages. For an eCommerce website, this typically means popular product pages.
Review key metrics like organic traffic, conversions, and overall sales performance to find those top-performing pages. Then, strategically link to those URLs on relevant pages. You’ll also want to use these high-performing pages to link to other, relevant pages, to spread that link juice throughout the site.
Use Meaningful Anchor Text
Your anchor text should be as detailed as possible to illustrate to the reader (and to search engine crawlers) what a particular page is about.
We emphasize diversity in anchor text for each inlink. The more ways you can describe the content in different anchor text opportunities, the more range and context search engine crawlers and your audience will have access to when searching for specific content.
If you’re not sure how to add variety to your anchor text, conduct further keyword research. This will reveal which other terms and phrases your audience is using in their Google search to find your products.
In the same vein, avoid using “click here”-type anchor text. “Click Here” doesn’t provide any context or detail about what’s contained in the link and can present accessibility issues. Instead, we recommend using the exact or similar target keywords as a page’s anchor text.
Example: If you’ve written a product guide about the best wireless speakers, use copy like, “Prepare your crew for your upcoming road trip by choosing the best wireless speakers for your needs.”
It’s tempting to go overboard with your internal linking, but be judicious about your strategy. Not only is overlinking viewed as spammy, it also dilutes the power of each link on the page.
In other words, the amount of page rank a particular page can pass is finite. Adding a new link to a page will change the distribution of this passed page rank among the linked pages, as you are now splitting it across more pages.
What constitutes “over-linking” is a bit of a judgment call. In general, keep content readable and useful for site visitors.
Think about it from a user experience perspective: If you wouldn’t enjoy reading the content because of too many links or confusing, keyword-specific anchor text, someone else isn’t going to enjoy it either.
On the flip side, you can easily improve an already overstuffed page’s equity by removing links. Overlinked pages that are already over-linked do not have to damage your link equity forever! Don’t be afraid to remove low-quality existing links or update anchor text to be more relevant and meaningful.
In addition, know that the first link on the page passes more equity than subsequent links on that same page.
If or when you link to the same URL more than once from a single page, the first link to that URL will be more important. This matters for anchor text, especially if the first link’s anchor text needs improvement.
Start Your eCommerce Internal Link Audit Now
Because your internal linking structure is so crucial to your site’s organic performance, optimizing it should be a priority for your eCommerce brand.
If a comprehensive site audit requires too much bandwidth, you can always begin by auditing your top-performing pages or a section of your website at a time. Chunk the work down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
After all, auditing and implementing these links will take some investment on your team’s behalf and likely can’t be done immediately. The rewards, however, can be substantial.
If you want an expert to audit your internal links for you, Inflow’s team is happy to help. As part of our comprehensive content audit, we’ll evaluate your current internal linking strategy and present recommendations to improve your SEO performance.
Learn more by requesting a free proposal today.