SEO Links Checklist – SEO Audit

SEO Links Checklist – SEO Audit

Basic Link Types

Most of the types of links in SEO for any website can be divided into three main categories:

  • Internal – When you direct a user from one page of your website to another.
  • External – When you direct a user from one page of your website to a page of another website.
  • Backlinks – When pages from other websites direct users to a page of your website.

Depending on the benefits that backlinks can bring to your website, you can categorize them as useful or toxic. Useful backlinks increase authority and serve as a signal of the usefulness of your content. For more information on what toxic backlinks are and how to get rid of them, read our article What Are Bad Links? Google, SEO, and Disavow Tool.

Useful backlinks include several types:

  • Deserved – (Also known as editorial) These are useful links that your site has received without your intervention.
  • Created – These are links from external sources posted in response to your request or offer of cooperation.
  • Automatic – As the name suggests, this type of backlink is created by social networks, forums, or email clients without user intervention.

One of the important criteria for your website’s success in organic search engine results ranking is the so-called “healthy” SEO links profile. A healthy profile refers to the variety and quality of all links that are associated with your site such as external and internal.

SEO Internal Links

Internal links make up the structure of your website and allow users to navigate from one page to another. There are two main types of internal links that determine their role and importance for SEO: navigational and contextual. Navigational links, also known as pass-through links, are contained in special sections that appear on almost all pages: the main menu, footer, and navigation bars. Most often, these links consist of the names of the main sections of your site, products, or services. Contextual internal links and SEO bring higher value to your site and represent the content elements of the pages themselves. The main difference between the navigational ones is individuality. They correspond to the subject and subject of the pages on which they are located.

Lack of Internal Links

Description

When working with multi-page sites, setting up redirects, or migrating from one content management platform to another, one or more pages of your website may lose all inbound links. Pages on a site that do not have active internal links are also called orphan pages. 

How to Determine

Since identifying pages without internal links pointing to them is not an easy task, even for specialized solutions, there are several indirect signs to watch out for. Start by analyzing page results in Google Analytics: click the Pages tab, specify the time frame of interest, and filter the results from shorter to longer. Pay attention to pages with low views. Check if clicks are happening as a result of organic rankings, how long the session is, and so on. Most modern analytics and search engine optimization solutions offer an automatic analysis of the entire site for this error. For example, the website audit tool is available in the main SEMRush panel. For this, you need to update the data on an existing project or create a new one. After completing the collection of data about your website, go to the Issues tab and select the required item from the list of Notices available in the drop-down list.

How to Fix

It is recommended that each page on your website contains 2 to 7 internal links. In most cases, good examples of sections to which additional internal links can be placed are as following:

  • Pages with high rates of incoming traffic
  • Pages with the highest conversion
  • Navigation links to relevant main sections or products of your site
  • Pages with similar topics, for example, blog posts on the same topic
  • Articles from other sections, such as the user help center or related terms of use policy

For blog posts or other types of content, the proportion and number of recommended internal links may vary

Too Many Internal Links

Description

Just like having too many hashtags on social media, having multiple links rarely improves the quality of content in the eyes of your audience. When working with internal links, there are a few rules we recommend you to follow to keep the page useful and maintain the high quality of the user experience. Too many internal links disrupt the natural flow of traffic within your site and the logic of the organic path of your users. In addition, the proportion of cannibalization increases significantly, which in turn reduces the effectiveness of search engine optimization in general. Read the related article – What is Keyword Cannibalization in SEO and How to Deal with It.

How to Determine

If some of your pages do not get the expected results in traffic analysis or perform worse than their analogs in organic ranking. You should pay attention to the number of links and the anchor texts used. Start by looking for uneven traffic patterns, look at user behavior, and high bounce rates. To do this, in the Google Analytics dashboard, open the Behaviors tab, and select the Behavior Flow section.

If you want to automate the process and get accurate results faster, we recommend using an automatic website health check, such as a SEMRush Site Audit project.

How to Fix

Analyze the readability of your text with a service like the Hemingway Editor. We recommend using short and clear sentences. Do not overload constructs with redundant information, and keep your writing as natural as possible. When adding any types of links to your pages, do not forget to maintain the quality and style of all text by choosing the most accurate anchor expressions. Try to use up to 7 links per page. Select only the most relevant and useful for your users. For each relevant link, prepare several options for possible anchor text – from literal, such as the home page of the SEOQuake blog, to more customized ones that you can find on our blog pages.

The Page Only Gets One Internal Link

Description

As we mentioned earlier, a healthy link profile plays an important role in page rankings. A small number of internal links will not help your page get more organic traffic. It can be difficult to add truly relevant internal links for highly targeted blog posts or niche help center articles.

How to Determine

Take advantage of the audit results of the desired website from the SEMRush panel. Open the Issues tab and select the required item from the list of notices available in the drop-down list.

How to Fix

  • It is good practice to have 2 to 7 internal links on each page. This provides comfortable navigation and optimal user experience for your website visitors. In case it is difficult to find pages that are really close in meaning for suitable internal links, we recommend adding the following:
  • Pages with high rates of incoming traffic;
  • Pages with the highest conversion;
  • Navigation links to relevant main sections or products of your site.

The Link Depth Is More Than Three Clicks

Description

The content of the website can be divided into several categories. The key elements are a description of services, products, subscription plans, or information about your project. Some sections will sometimes rank better than others due to lower keyword competition or great content. Some of the pages will bring the maximum conversion-to-session ratio. The key to success is to ensure a consistent and natural flow of traffic, touching as many elements of each type as possible and making them work together. Try to arrange the most important pages so that they are accessible within three clicks of your main landing page. Google will index them as important elements of the site. Anything deeper than three clicks will receive a lower ranking priority.

How to Determine

In the main Google Analytics panel, select Site Behavior Analysis from the Behavior navigation block on the left. Click on Site Content and open All Pages. Select the date range of interest and add secondary filtering options in the Add Secondary Dimension results table. In the search options menu, enter Page Depth and click on it. The table of all pages of your site can now be filtered by the depth of location from the main one.

If you need to perform the analysis on a regular basis, save time with a comprehensive automated site health audit. For example, the SEMRush analytical service constantly updates data about the pages of your site and automatically notifies if some of them are located too deep in the structure. The Google search bot lowers the priority for content after only 5 clicks from the main page since it considers these pages less important. Thanks to constant analysis, at any time you can not only get a list of all crawled pages but also filter them by the index of the location depth from the main crawl depth.

How to Fix

Revise your navigation for a section or your entire website so that the most useful pages are always as close to your users as possible. A simple solution is to add missing links that will point to the pages of interest.

Errors in Pagination Implementation (Pagination)

Description

Since the customization of canonicalization can be somewhat complex when working with multi-page content, you can often find various attempts to reduce the effort on their maintenance. For example, instead of individually canonicalizing each page, specify the consolidated version as canonical. Due to this, search engines may ignore such instructions. This can reduce the search engine optimization of your site. Google will prefer to refer to each individual page rather than the summary version.

How to Determine

Take advantage of the built-in SEMRush tapered version checking tools, or do a quick manual check if your CMS allows quick access to the settings you want.

How to Fix

Use rel=prev and rel=next attributes when defining the structure of multi-page materials, or pages, in order to prompt search engines as accurately as possible where other parts of your material are located.

The Page Contains Internal Links With Active Redirects

Description

When migrating to a new hosting, changing CMS, or other changes that can affect the link structure, you often have to use redirects so the existing ranking results do not suffer. Old page addresses are also used in the formation of internal links. This significantly reduces the effectiveness of search engine optimization of the site as a whole.

How to Determine

You need to start by creating a list of all the links on the page. To speed up the process, you can use the Chrome Link Grabber extension. On the results page, check the “group by domain” checkbox and you will get an ordered list of internal links. Use the services https://httpstatus.io/ or http://www.redirect-checker.org/ to check the response codes for each position. This will highlight all options using active redirects and also check the landing page status again.

In order not to perform this sequence for every page, we recommend using the automatic site health check from SEMRush. It will save you time and will dynamically track changes and notify you when new problems or issues are found.

How to Fix

In the page code, replace the URL with the actual destination page for all internal links. Remember to use appropriate anchor text and also avoid using the no-follow parameter for internal links.

Link is Longer Than 200 Characters

Description

As with redundant parameters, links that are too long do not meet the Google search engine optimization recommendation. One of the important criteria for the structure of a link is its readability for both a search bot and a human. If the original link length exceeds the 200 character limit, it becomes difficult to interpret it. This is primarily reflected in the ranking results in the form of a decrease in CTR since users’ trust in such links is often lower.

How to Determine

Open the saved project of the desired site in SEMRush and go to the Issues tab. Under Notices, select the relevant issue and click on it to get a detailed report from the affected pages lists.

How to Fix

In order not to exceed the recommended length, try to shorten words. The main task of the link should reflect the structure. Approach the implementation of this task in a thesis briefly and without unnecessary arguments.

Technical Links

This concept refers to links automatically created or controlled by some rules. Examples would be redirects, links to landing pages, or page elements containing UTM tags, canonical versions of pages, pagination, and localized pages. Technical links can point to internal elements and external sources but always relate to how data is transmitted and processed.

Chains and Loop Forwarding

Description

Over time, existing websites can accumulate old or invalid redirect rules that can conflict with existing ones by creating loops or leading to multiple redirects of users.

How to Determine

Free services like https://httpstatus.io/ or http://www.redirect-checker.org/ allow you to check the response code for only one page or sequence of URLs. This is inconvenient if you don’t know which pages might contain redirect loops or where potential redirect loops might be. If you need to speed up the process and perform a comprehensive check of the entire site, use the automated audit SEMRush. Open the results of updating your project data in SEMRush, go to the Issues tab, and select the required item from the Errors list in the drop-down list.

How to Fix

Avoid using old URLs of pages with valid redirects as targets for your internal links. Multiple redirect rules at the domain level can play with changes in permalink rules. Periodically check existing links and redirect status with free tools like https://httpstatus.io/ or with SEMRush’s built-in audit functions.

Read How to Implement These Actions in the Articles: https://httpstatus.io/ http://www.redirect-checker.org/ https://httpstatus.io/

Internal Links Contain Redirects to the Less Secure HTTP Protocol

Description

If your site has been around for a long time, there is a good chance that you migrated to the secure HTTPS protocol and connected SSL encryption certificates. However, your pages may have hyperlinks using the old HTTP protocol. They are difficult to detect at first glance. Read the related article – HTTPS vs. HTTP.

How to Determine

You will need a list of all internal links on the page. It’s easy to get it in just a couple of clicks using the Chrome Link Grabber extension. On the results page, enter the desired protocol into the search bar, for example, “Http,” and you will get a filtered list of all matching links. Once you find the internal link using the legacy protocol, you can go back to the original page and use the display code option to find the element that contains that link so you know exactly what needs to be updated.

In order not to open each page in turn, add a separate project for the website of interest in your SEMRush control panel. After initial diagnostics, you will receive all the information you need to be organized in the Issues tab. For a list of specific pages, select Warnings where you can find the information you need for the error.

How to Fix

Once you’ve got a list of pages and related links, update the hyperlink path information within the desired <a> tags via the href attribute. If you are using executable scripts in your pages such as JavaScript, it is a good idea to make sure the links they contain are up to date. As a general guideline, try to always link to up-to-date versions of your pages and avoid overusing redirects.

Read How to Implement These Actions in the Articles: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/caodelkhipncidmoebgbbeemedohcdma

No Redirect or Canonicalization Settings for the HTTP Version of the Home Page

Description

In case your home page has versions on the HTTP protocol and on the more secure version, HTTPS, it is important to remember to specify the secure version of the page in the parameters as canonical. Search services are not able to automatically determine the main version of the page. Additional parameters are needed to avoid problems with indexing and traffic cannibalization. The correct redirection and the canonical version of the page must be configured for the www subdomain, regardless of which version of the domain name you prefer to use as the main one.

How to Determine

Open the audit results of the site of interest in the SEMRush project dashboard. You will need to select the Issues tab and the Errors sub-item to get access to a detailed overview of all pages that match your request.

How to Fix

It will be enough to add a permanent redirect with a 301 redirect from HTTP to HTTPS version of the page. In case redirects do not suit you, you should add the appropriate canonicalization parameters to the HTTP version of the main page. It is also important to check that you are using the correct version of the page for redirects when using the www subdomain. Otherwise, you might accidentally create a redirect loop.

Internal Links Contain 404 Errors (Broken Links)

Description

Older blog posts or even the main pages of a website may retain hyperlinks to content that is no longer available. This situation is especially common after several hosting migrations or changing the content management platform. Regardless of the quality and age of the site, almost all webmasters have to deal with broken links SEO.

How to Determine

Benefit from a centralized SEMRush site health audit. From the project audit panel, open the site of interest and go to the Issues tab. To get a list of pages affected by the problem, you can select the corresponding item in the Errors drop-down list. Pay attention to the separate points for 4xx client-side errors and 5xx server-side errors.

How to Fix

For updated pages, add current URLs with the latest changes. For missing pages, try to find the closest possible replacement. There are two options for how this can be done: fast – vertical and better quality – horizontal. The fastest way will be to climb exactly one level of the content hierarchy vertically and link it to the nearest suitable section. For example, you can link to pages with posts of a suitable topic for blog tags. A horizontal approach will take more time and effort but will minimize the negative impact on the user experience as much as possible. Its essence lies in the selection of the closest alternative to a broken link from similar pages. For a missing blog post, find another. For a category, link to a similar tag.

If you do not have the ability to select a replacement for each broken link, you can always set up a redirect to the nearest navigation section of the website such as your blog, site home page, or product catalog. The article 301 vs 302 Redirects. Complete SEO Guide to Implement will help you understand the types of redirects. 

Read How to Implement These Actions in the Articles: https://www.seoquake.com/blog/301-vs-302-redirects/

Links to Internal Pages Contain the No-follow Attribute

Description

Depending on the specific case, an additional nofollow attribute can be added to the internal link either manually or automatically. Since this parameter is designed to primarily manage external links, its use inside a website can only harm search engine optimization and worsen the indexing results.

How to Determine

Go to the audit panel of the SEMRush site and open the Issues tab. In the Notices section, you can find the corresponding error description and access detailed information. 

How to Fix

It is good practice to restrict the use of the nofollow <a> tag attribute to external links to other websites only and only in cases that are reasonably required by its purpose. It is not recommended to restrict or control the transmission of link authority within a single website, as this does not lead to positive results.

Links Contain Too Many Parameters

Description

If the link is generated from a form validation on your site or contains many UTM tags, it is less SEO friendly. This can also happen when using redirects with the help of plugins that can communicate the parameters of the original link to the landing page or add new ones.

How to Determine

To get a list of your site’s indexed links containing additional parameters, use Google operators by entering the following expression in the search bar: site:your_site_name inurl: (& OR ? OR %). In the search settings, you can specify the maximum number of results per page to speed up the process a little. Copy the data to Google Sheets or another processor and use the LEN or COUNTIF functions to get data on the length of the links. To learn more about other formulas that can be useful to you when working with Google Sheets, read the article Google Sheets for SEO.

To regularly receive this information automatically and in a convenient form, use the site health audit. In the SEMRush projects panel, select or add the site you want, go to the Issues tab, and open the Warnings item. From there, select the description that matches the error you are looking for.

How to Fix

In addition to the obvious solution to reduce the number of parameters, you can use third-party services such as bit.ly in order to convert long links with many additional arguments into shorter ones. Since this will not always be convenient in terms of analytics and tracking results, an alternative can be a specially created landing page that will collect analytics and redirect users to the desired pages using short links without additional tags. Depending on the used redirect rules and regular expressions, various attributes can be case sensitive. This will only worsen the stability of their work as part of your links.

Read How to Implement These Actions in the Articles: https://www.seoquake.com/blog/google-sheets-for-seo/

Errors in Hreflang Links

Description

Some attributes are less sensitive to redirects and absolute links but hreflang is not one of them. This parameter is responsible for ensuring that users from different countries and regions can see the localized version of the site if it is available and available. In order for the site to display correctly in all language versions and be correctly indexed by search services, it is very important to periodically check the status of localized versions of your pages. For more information, see the Hreflang Tags article.

How to Determine

Select Errors from the Issues tab in your projects list – SEMRush Site Audit Panel. After, you can view a detailed list of links that were affected by the problem and filter them at your discretion.

How to Fix

In order to protect your site from problems with displaying language versions by the hreflang parameter, it is enough to carry out simple but regular checks:

  • Specify only absolute link addresses
  • Landing pages should not contain redirects and return a 200 code
  • Monitor and fix broken links in time
  • Hreflang links should not link to the page on which they are located
  • Possible conflicts between hreflang and canonical versions of pages
  • Other hreflang link conflicts

If there are errors in the links themselves, check if the parameters are correct:

  • Only language codes that are supported by ISO 639-1 can be used. For language variations, the ISO 15924 classification must be used.
  • The country/region codes specified in ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 can be used.

Errors in Canonicalizing Pages

Description

Since the 2019 update, Google has automated things related to canonical links SEO. In the absence of specifying a canonical version, the search service will independently combine such pages into a cluster and determine which one to use as canonical. The update also affected the multilingual versions of the pages. If the translation only deals with end-to-end navigation, leaving the body of the page intact, Google will classify it as a duplicate of the original website page. 

How to Determine

Check out this quick guide to link consolidation from Google. You may be missing something or you can find a quick solution for your specific problem. For a more comprehensive and automated audit of all problems related to this topic, we recommend using the SEMRush site health check. You need to add your site to the projects section or update the verification data if the site has already been added. To access the affected pages, open the audit results of your site, and select the Issues tab, Errors sub-item.

How to Fix

The official Google Help will help you navigate the most common scenarios and choose a solution. Make sure mobile versions are always marked rel=”alternate” and full versions are always canonical. It is not recommended to specify one page as the canonical version for several mobile versions and vice versa. Also, do not forget to avoid specifying addresses that may contain active redirects and use absolute values ​​for all links.

There is No Canonicalization for Amp Pages

Description

Due to the way AMP pages are indexed, it is recommended to use the canonicalization parameter in the <head> tag. The most common two options are:

  • Availability of only the AMP version of the page
  • Availability of regular and AMP versions

In the first case, it is necessary to use the canonicalization parameters for both pages. In the second, use it only for the existing one, with a link to itself.

How to Determine

You need to open the most recent project audit data in SEMRush and select the appropriate website from the list. On the Issues tab, open the Errors item and use the available filters to organize the list of detailed results in the most convenient way.

How to Fix

Add a rel=”canonical” parameter to the <head> tag of each AMP page. To simplify this task, take advantage of automatically generated content, such as universal header settings or special sections for entering tracking codes, available in various CMS.

Outbound Links SEO

As we mentioned, external links are links that direct your site visitors to any other resource. For search engine optimization, the most important aspect of an inbound link is the transfer of authority from the source site to the recipient of the link. In order to control this process, external links SEO uses the dofollow attribute if the transfer of authority is allowed and nofollow if the site owner does not want to communicate additional weight to external resources due to his links. The second option is often found in paid placements, affiliate sales programs, and other areas of commerce and promotion.

External Links Contain 404 Errors (Broken Backlinks)

Description

Many websites may contain external links to pages that no longer work or are not available at the moment. The error during automatic verification will not always be reliable. It may be that the site to which you link is simply blocking the bot’s attempts to gain access.

How to Determine

Use the Link Grabber extension for Google Chrome or similar to conveniently export a list of all links on a page. In the search results, select the item “filter by domain” to make it easier for you to find all external links of the page of interest. Next, upload the results to the batch service https://httpstatus.io/ to check the response code for each external link. The test results can be downloaded in a convenient table format.

Since it may not be very convenient to carry out such an analysis for each page, SEMRush can save time by fully automating the whole process. If you have audited the health of your site from the project panel, go to the Issues tab and select the Warnings item. The resulting list of pages can be sorted by the link address, the number of errors, and the date of the first detection of the problem.

How to Fix

One of the most reliable ways would be to manually check your links to ensure that landing pages are truly inaccessible to user agents, not just bots. If you find that redirects are triggered, then it makes sense to also update the address of the original link on your site.

Read How to Implement These Actions in the Articles:

Sites Get Inbound Links From Questionable Sites

Description

Not all inbound links can positively influence your site’s ranking in search results. Links from some sources can lead to penalties from Google. 

How to Determine

If you have not yet added your site to the SEMRush automatic health audit panel, you can also use the regular domain analysis. Enter the address of the site of interest in the main search bar of the main toolbar. If necessary, indicate that you are interested in the analysis at the root domain level. Click on Backlinks in the analysis results overview pane. On the results page, you can not only see brief summaries of the main parameters but also export a list of all referring domains, pages, and even IP addresses. In addition, you can use the built-in filters to work with the list of results without leaving the page.

How to Fix

Flag potentially malicious sites by clicking disavow or upload the required domains to the Disavow Tool located in the Google Search Console.

Read How to Implement These Actions in the Articles: https://www.seoquake.com/blog/what-are-bad-links-google-seo-and-disavow-tool/

External Links Direct Users to Questionable Sites

Description

Inbound links are undeniably important for SEO but outbound links also form a significant part of a healthy link profile, cited by Google as a key factor in ranking success. Independent research shows that sites with relevant inbound links to reputable and quality resources rank higher. External links to questionable resources can negatively affect your site’s performance in search results.

How to Determine

Most analytics programs offer outbound link analysis for one page of a website. Specialized spider programs will help to cope with the task of organizing the collection of all links from the domain, but they will not be able to provide an analysis of the data obtained. We recommend referring to the automated health audit of your SEMRush link profile. Add your site to the projects menu and watch for notifications.

How to Fix

If you find that external links contain questionable sources, try to remove or replace them with more authoritative sites. You can check information about a site simply by entering its domain in the main search field of the main SEMRush toolbar. You can also see a potential list of alternatives, in the form of organic and paid competitors of the resource you are interested in.

Read How to Implement These Actions in the Articles: https://www.rebootonline.com/blog/long-term-outgoing-link-experiment/
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