One of the main reasons I bought the Yoast SEO plugin was for its internal linking suggestions. It automatically flags similar content that you can link while writing or revising posts. But it didn’t work on my site. Here’s what finally fixed it for me, and might work for you if you find Yoast internal linking not working.
Yoast’s knowledge base has a number of suggestions, including looking for errors, disabling plugins, or switching to a stock theme. If none of those suggestions helps, you might have too many tags.
Yoast internal linking not working
The problem I ran into was I would click the Analyze Your Content button in the Internal Linking section of the Yoast SEO plugin. The window would pop up, but the progress bar stayed at zero, even if I let it sit all day while I was at work.
I tried everything and finally gave up, until I stumbled onto the solution.
Too many tags seems to confuse Yoast
I went a little crazy with my tags about 10 years ago, because I had a plugin that needed a lot of tags to work. That plugin stopped working several years ago, but I didn’t relish the thought of cleaning up all those tags. Deleting tags takes forever when you have 3,000 of them like I did.
But one day, I bit the bullet and started deleting tags that were only used in 3 posts or less. A tag that less than 1% of your content uses is pretty useless. It’s also faster to delete. After deleting those tags, the site as a whole sped up noticeably. That made me brave enough to try deleting some of the tags that were on every post, because they were common words. Too common. That really pepped up my site too.
Strategy for cutting down tags
To cut down on my tags, I tried to meet somewhere in the middle. I’ve been blogging a long time, so I have more than 4,000 posts. I figured if a tag is on more than 1,000 of them, it’s not unique enough to be helpful. Nobody’s going to click on a tag and wade through that many. I have seen people click on a tag and wade through a couple hundred. So I set my cutoff at 300. If a tag was being used more frequently than that, it wasn’t unique enough to be helpful. On the other end, I set a cutoff at around 25. That was strictly arbitrary.
Someday I really need to sit down, map out my categories, then map out how my tags relate to those categories. But this wasn’t the day for that.
How I knew when my site was fast enough
Eventually, I noticed that if I deleted some tags in bulk, then went and clicked the Yoast button to create a 410 content deleted redirect it could create the redirect faster than I could scroll down and click three more buttons. At first, I could click that button three times, walk to the kitchen to fill my water glass and come back, and it would still be chugging away. So at that point, I decided to try having Yoast re-analyze my content. That worked. It was slow at first, but when I left it running for 45 minutes and came back, it had managed to analyze about 90 posts.
The good news was, Yoast uncovered some content I’d written 15 years ago that related to stuff I’m writing today. I don’t know how much of that stuff stands a chance with Google, but linking it may be enough to get Bing’s attention. That’s worth something.
A side effect of getting rid of worthless tags
Having too many meaningless tags hurts your SEO in a couple of ways. In my theme, the tags display near the top of the content. Search engines were looking at that tag soup before they were looking at my first paragraph. Cutting down on the tag soup increased my keyword density and got my good keywords higher up in the content.
Having fewer tags also means fewer pages to crawl, and fewer crawl errors. I had some content that had been languishing a long time, and removing the tag soup helped it start ranking and getting some views.
So if you experience Yoast internal linking not working, try cleaning up your tags. There are tons of benefits to doing it.
Other internal linking issues
This feature of Yoast has given me more trouble than any other. I found the link analysis took up too much CPU time, which I fixed by throttling my database, and tweaking wp-cron.php. Once I did those two things, site performance improved considerably, which is important.