Many of you may have noticed your homepage disappearing for certain keywords or rankings in search engines only to be replaced by an internal “more relevant” internal page. While this is a concern for SEO and conversion, there are two sides to this “situation” that you can benefit from, if you take Google’s lead.
Now it seems Google is pushing the focus back to targeted internal pages on some data centers, rather than allowing broad match / sweeping / less-ideal landing pages to act in place of a clear champion page to greet visitors from search engines.
If you are thinking to yourself what did you do to make this occur, or what can you do to fix it, your cries are not alone. In fact, quite the contrary occurred in May when Google devalued internal pages that lacked the necessary credentials to rank on their own merit and many websites lost the majority of their long-tail traffic.
This is the reverse of the Mayday update in May of 2010, when internal pages fell out of Google’s index or stopped ranking for long-tail variations, now, the relevance model is being adjusted to identify a more specific array of characteristics .
In this most recent tweak to the organic ranking algorithm, it appears that the antithesis to that formula is making a debut. For example, since your homepage is the root and located in the root folder, it serves as the apex or catch-all for the lion’s share of a websites keywords by default.
However, as you begin to create more content, over time, internal pages (whether through internal links flow, concentrating link equity or deep links) start to eclipse the otherwise identified primary page and this can result in either a double ranking or replacement by the newly dubbed authoritative and relevant internal page.
A few clients are concerned about this and have brought this to our attention, and I have also witnessed this phenomenon first hand with our own site http://www.seodesignsolutions.com/ whereby the homepage is replaced with an internal page for a sub folder or sub page (but only for specific searches).
This phenomenon is keyword dependent and if you modify the keyword (by reversing the shingles/word order) you can often see the legacy page that originally captured the keyword/ranking but when you change the order or add additional keyword modifiers the new landing page is presented.
Before you consider this a bad thing, remember, search engines rank pages, not websites, so consider this an opportunity to get your internal pages in order as new primary landing pages for the new keyword variation.
By successfully having a visitor delivered to an internal page that is more relevant (or a page that has been earmarked as more relevant by a search engine) means that a visitor does not have to stumble around looking for what they were looking for.
This becomes more of a conversion optimization issue than an SEO concern under these circumstances. What you do about it however, it entirely up to you. If you must change something, the idea is to start with changing your attitude about why these changes are occurring or how they can impact your sales or site conversions.
The next tactical and logical suggestion is to refine your landing page and start to cultivate deep links (links from other sites) to the new page (not exceeding a 60% ratio of the same anchor text to the page) to cement that page as the new champion in the SERPs (search engine result pages) for the keyword in question.
In our observation, Google has increased sensitivity to the spam / likelihood filters for inbound anchor text to a page. For example, if you have 100% of the inbound anchor text going to a page with the same “exact match” anchor text, not only is this unnatural, but could potentially flag a spam filter as a result of the likelihood of all of the people linking to a page with the same anchor text.
This is particularly important if you are building links deliberately, (imagine that), suggesting you should strive to (a) mix your primary keywords, modifiers and overlapping shingles (groups of keywords) into your link building campaigns for maximum effectiveness and (b) benefit from keyword stemming.
For clarification, keyword stemming is when a page starts to rank for additional keywords or synonymous key phrase variations as a result of (1) the diversity of internal link anchor text (2) the anchor text in the deep links from other sites and (3) the on page content / keyword prominence and proximity.
By understanding that there are 1000 ways to say the same thing (yet with different keywords) then blanketing a site with multiple relevant keywords improves your chance of reaching a prospect if they use a deviation of your keyword group or some variable of a supporting modifier or suffix.
There is a process (link mapping) which allows you to sculpt the internal link flow of a website to create a preferred landing page. You will require additional deep links to the preferred page in addition to creating unique nodes of relevance to separate the two pages that are fighting over the same result.
In many instances, the use of a canonical tag or the use of noindex, follow in the pages meta header will suffice to sort the two pages fighting for dominance. The more unique the content, the internal links and the deep links to that page, the more emphasis you can transfer to the target page for the desired ranking.
Keep in mind; having someone enter the page that is most suited for conversion is like getting pay per click accuracy for free. Unless the page selected is not the most relevant. However, shifting the focus can be accomplished with a simple SEO technique, but sometimes another type of change is required – conversion optimization and refining questionable landing pages for relevance.