Visualizing Link Flow Within a Site


Wouldn’t it be great to be able to visualize link flow within a website to see how links flow from one page to another? You can, by making use of a couple of free tools, and without having to code. Following is a brief tutorial on how to create a visualization of the link flow on a site.

For this purpose, I will be using Xenu, which is a free tool to check for broken links on a site, and, Graphviz, an open source graph visualization tool.

In order to demonstrate an example, I am considering a random restaurant website. Some directories within the site, like images and others, are being skipped so that link flow among the main landing pages on the site can be analyzed.

To get started, enter a website URL in Xenu. You might want to exclude any directories like /theme, /images and others, depending on the site. Once all the URLs on the site have been checked, go to File in the menu bar and click on Export as GraphViz file. Now, open the saved file in GraphViz editor and save it as a Dot (.dot) file.


Then run the following command on your Windows prompt screen.

dot -Tpng -o outputfilename.png

This should return a .PNG file as the output. You might want to read more about the command-line usage.

Please note that you will require a lot of memory for processing large files.

Why Is This Useful?

Visualizing link flow within a site enables you to actually see how a site is architected and helps in analyzing gaps in link flow. For instance, a link missing from a product checkout page to the live chat page on a site would be a problem. So, by going through the link flow graph, you can determine pages which are relevant and not directly linked.

It also helps in analyzing the most (and the least) linked pages on a site. Ideally, the most internal links should be pointing towards a targeted landing page. If the observed link clusters are not as expected, then revisions can be made accordingly.

A.D. Srikanth is a Web Developer and SEO Consultant. Check out his portfolio or contact him by email at adsrikanth[at] for more information.

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Feb 23, 2011

Great tip. I downloaded both programs and the Graphviz is processing (my computer is reacting real slow). I will reply with my experience if it ever finishes.

Srikanth AD
Feb 23, 2011

As I mentioned in the post, you might want to exclude all unnecessary directories (theme files, images etc., ) on the site before processing. And, if it's still slow then, I would try executing the files part-by-part.

griya klinik pasutri
Apr 02, 2014

Thanks a ton. XENU is fast and very useful to find any broken links (and unuseable links to image files on CSS)

Glenn Ferrell
Feb 23, 2011

What a great idea ! Also graphViz was totally unknown to me until this article.

I downloaded a windows version of Graphviz from this link:
Installed Xenu and tried it on my own site.
Worked without a hitch.

McAfee did tell me that Xenu started trying to accept incoming links from the internet about an hour after I installed. May be innocent but I blocked it and may uninstall it.

Now that you have explained the concept, I think I can get the links from one of a variety of other online tools and create a php filter to translate them into dot language -- nice little project.

(By the way, your article is the ONLY tutorial on using graphViz for Windows that I can find anywhere.)

Thanx !

Feb 23, 2011

Done that in the past and there's nothing you can use from it. Also, try to do that with a 3k pages website and you'll see what you get. Absolutely nothing intelligible (or I should say actionable) for humans.

Maneet Puri
Feb 24, 2011

I did the same thing as JBestler. I have downloaded both of them. Will keep you posted.


Feb 26, 2011

This only seems to work for very simple sites. With a few hundred links the conversion fails. The png I get is all black.

79 Link Building Resources - 2011 Edition
May 24, 2011

[...] Visualizing Link Flow Within a Site [...]

Oct 28, 2011

I tried with few local restaurants (usually 5/6 pages) the graph seems quite nice, but when I tried with slightly biggersite like bonsoni  the graph became a too busy to comprehend anything. Can't imagine what Amazon's graph would look like!   

Vitaly Makarkin
Dec 21, 2011

This is amazing. Its take a bit of time to exlude the the URLs from the list. BTW, the software works wondeful. Its saving not a lot, it's saving a DAYS if not weeks of work. And reporting in the hi-techy way ;) Vitaly

dijital pazarlama
Oct 22, 2012

graphvis keeps crashing on my windows 7 64bit. Any suggestions?

Rüya Tabirleri
Dec 05, 2012

I have the same problem here... Any solutions?

Feb 20, 2013

same here...

Rich Amor Indonesia
Dec 24, 2012

Thanks a ton. XENU is fast and very useful to find any broken links (and unuseable links to image files on CSS)

Feb 20, 2013

graphviz crashing on 64-bit windows 7

Hadi Nugraha
Jul 21, 2013

XENU is a great tool. It fast and useful. Never heard Graphiz before until I read this post. So thank you very much. It would be great to use it.

Oct 12, 2013

I can't isntall graphviz on my windows 7 :(

tips cara
Jan 09, 2014

a little bit confused. But i will try it. :)
thanks sir

Jun 23, 2014

Hi,"go to File in the menu bar and click on Export as GraphViz file.Now, open the saved file in GraphViz editor and save it as a Dot (.dot) file."How can i export .gv to .dot? I have tried to open it with graphviz-2.38\release\bin\gvedit.exe but it running endless when i do file > openCould you help me? Thank you in advance 

Aug 21, 2014

  I tried the above on a Windows 7 64bit system. Xenu worked fine for collecting the links.I used it on a site with about a dozen pages. The export as GraphViz went without a hitch.But GraphViz cannot open the file. It just freezes. And in addition, there is no "Save as .dot"function in Graphviz anyway. So I assume that one just changes the filename extension to .dot. Tried that,and then copied the .dot file into the GraphViz bin directory (to simplify the path), and tried running the dotcommand as specified above. I thought the prompt window was locked up, but I went and got coffee,and about 5-6 minutes later the png was created! Patience is required. But it did work.The result was an extremely complex chart. So I concur with others who have mentioned thatthis is probably only useful on sites with just a few pages.

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