How Machine Learning can improve internal linking in SEO

Published on 08/02/2022 by Sonia Navarrete and David Jani

This article was originally published on 31/01/2020

Good internal linking for search engine optimisation (SEO) can be the difference between your pages being found or not found. Having a strong SEO internal linking strategy in place is, therefore, crucial if you want to be visible to your audience —and to Google. 

Internal linking SEO robot on spreadsheet

Technology is evolving at a fast pace, including SEO software. Today, companies can apply machine learning to internal linking for SEO, leveraging the data to provide a better customer experience and help with website ranking.

What is internal linking?

Internal links are defined by Moz as those that “go from one page on a domain to a different page on the same domain.”

Internal linking is a key part of SEO, which helps optimise all the pages on a website so search engines can find them effectively. This helps to maintain good ranking positions on the search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Differences between internal linking and external linking infographic

Internal linking is integral to your site architecture and user journey. This not only proves useful for someone who lands on your category pages or blogs after searching for your target keyword, but it also gives Google and other search engines clear clues about the overall quality of your content.

Why is internal linking so useful to search engines?

Simply put, it provides signposting via the anchor texts and links. According to Yoast, this is beneficial for three critical reasons because it shows search engines like Google and Bing information such as:

  1. How relevant your pages are to users
  2. The interconnection between related pages in a topic cluster
  3. The overall value of your web pages

Why internal linking is essential to your site’s SEO

As we’ve already explored, links help define a website’s structure and also help transfer value and importance between pages. They make it easier for visitors to navigate your site and for search engines like Google to properly index your website. This, in turn, makes it easier for users to find.

There are two main kinds of internal linking for SEO:

1. Contextual links: these links point to other related posts and content.
2. Navigational links: these help users find their way around your website

These links can become your page’s best friends —not only do they help visitors navigate your site, but they also help keep them on your page for longer.  

Plus, as Moz states, they also help establish a clearer and more structured informational hierarchy for bots to crawl the different pages and assign specific parameters to them.

This means that your site won’t just appear in the SERPs for some URLs but will also show up in the ones you want to rank for. In short, it is easier for Google to crawl your different pages on the site.

Internal linking can completely change the experience that users have on your website, impacting the time they spend on-page as well as how Google ranks it. 

So, where does machine learning come into play here?

What is machine learning?

Gartner defines machine learning algorithms as those that are “used in unsupervised and supervised learning, that operate guided by lessons from existing information.” In other words, machine learning is the process of a system learning and improving itself autonomously.

How machine learning can enhance internal linking for SEO

Machine learning algorithms use advanced statistical methods to find patterns in larger amounts of data. To put it simply, when you visit sites like Netflix or Facebook, you have ‘recommendations’ just for you. 

This is done by using an algorithm that analyses the data you generate (e.g. what you like watching, what updates you react to and how). It generates a unique pattern that allows them to make a guess about what you might want next. 

Will Critchlow, founder of Distilled (acquired by Brainlabs in January 2020), explains how this can be beneficial when applied to SEO:

“The internal linking structure can have a big impact on usability and on search performance. There are two big opportunities for using advanced techniques to determine good internal links. The first one is to be able to forecast the best page for users based either on goal completion metrics or some other analysis of good navigation paths. The other opportunity is to determine an internal linking structure to maximise the flow of link authority metrics from pages with high authority to pages that need high authority.”

Machine learning software can obtain insights from data and create models based on these insights. By creating a spreadsheet that contains relevant labelled information (e.g. links, sessions, category pages), you’ll have more data and be able to extract more detailed patterns. 

For example, by analysing data you can identify users who have visited a specific category and left shortly thereafter.

You can do this by checking Google Analytics or Bing Webmaster Tools to find out the final page they visited and modify it with internal links to keep them on the website for a little bit longer. 

Why companies use machine learning to enhance internal linking

In the past, improving your internal linking could require a time-consuming and painstaking manual audit of your whole website.

However, many of today’s machine learning software tools can crawl through all your indexed pages automatically. This can help identify areas of improvement and highlight key optimisation insights much faster.

These tools check the website and identify contextual trends, based on the keywords and links currently in use. From these, they suggest structural improvements and opportunities for linking within your domain.

This can include identifying tweaks, such as connecting pages that link together by subject matter or keyword. It also has the added benefit of identifying dead or broken links that need to be updated. 

Naturally, tools like these can save you a lot of time and make your linking a lot stronger. 

3 key ways internal linking machine learning tools can help SEO

1. Finding keywords and linking opportunities faster
2. Identifying broken and dead links on your pages
3. Enhancing the structural SEO of your site

In summary

A better link structure can not only help your online marketing via a higher rank on Google but can also make it a more personalised experience for the visitor. 

If a visitor who lands on your homepage notices a few other links, it will increase the session time, could develop into a possible conversion, and finally, and most important for you, they may end up finding something new they weren’t looking for initially.

Key takeaways:

  • Internal linking can improve your website’s SEO success
  • Better linking makes your website easier to crawl, which can lead to higher ranking
  • Machine learning tools make it quicker and easier to find linking improvements
Looking for machine learning software? Check out our catalogue!

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

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About the authors

Senior Content Analyst at Capterra, helping SMEs choose the best software. Published in Raconteur, Computer Weekly and IT Pro. Journalist and PR. Nature, bike and dog lover.

Senior Content Analyst at Capterra, helping SMEs choose the best software. Published in Raconteur, Computer Weekly and IT Pro. Journalist and PR. Nature, bike and dog lover.

Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate, travel enthusiast, keen home chef and F1 fan.

Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate, travel enthusiast, keen home chef and F1 fan.