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Category page shows up alternating with 2 other pages
albert




msg:4459319
 7:42 am on May 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

If this topic was covered before I'm sorry ... but I found nothing.

I had a category page of my site ranking at about #10 in Google for a competitive generic search term for a long time. Now this page shows up at about #13 alternating with another 2 pages of my site. These pages are product pages and subpages of the category page. They are more specific i.e. focusing less on the generic search term but on the products. -

Curious: If I change settings to 100 results I find always 2 of these pages at about #20 and #21, alternating, too.

Ranking good with the category page is important for me even though #10 is no top ranking.

Other category pages with similar or better rankings don't move like this.

What does that mean? And what can I do?

 

deadsea




msg:4459379
 11:16 am on May 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

As far as 100 results per page go --

If a site has two pages that would rank in the top 100, they pull the second one up and display it just below the first one. So when you switch from 10 to 100 results per pay, many of the sites that are in the top 10 with just one page each, have a second page in the top 100 that gets pulled up to go along with their first listing when you view 100 results at a time.

albert




msg:4459388
 11:30 am on May 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks, I know ... but that doesn't answer my question.

albert




msg:4459395
 11:58 am on May 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

To clarify: My question focuses on that sudden alternating of category page and product pages, and on what I can do to stop this.

Robert Charlton




msg:4459566
 5:46 pm on May 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

sudden alternating of category page and product pages

IMO, this suggests that the pages are quite close in ranking "scores"... perhaps for different reasons (ie, different sets of ranking factors)... and that Google is testing one set of factors against another. Possibly the results are returned by different data centers, and the suddenness of the switch may be due to your seeing one center vs another.

For a related discussion, see this thread...

Why Do Some Homepages Get Buried?
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4410350.htm [webmasterworld.com]

CainIV makes this observation about pages from a domain he sees switching in results...

...almost as if some type of internal usability test is being done to select the better of the two pages.

...and he and I exchange some comments about what we've been observing in this regard for the past two years or so.

Sounds to me like you're seeing the same thing, only with product pages and subpages. The entire thread is filled with observations that could easily apply to this situation. Linking, of course... both internal and external... enters into it.

PS: Your observation of the pages switching even when you have 100 results selected indicates that they must be very close, as in #20 and #21 (as you've observed), and their rankings are almost a toss-up. If they were further apart, say #20 and #35, it's not likely that they'd switch, as the #35 would be unlikely to pass the #20, which is what it would have to do, to cause them to switch.

albert




msg:4459761
 6:35 am on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thank you, Robert, that seems to make sense. But I'm still wondering why this alternating came up recently.

And if I understand correctly you say linking to my preferred page (the category page) will help?

albert




msg:4461983
 9:59 am on Jun 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Update:

In the meantime the category page I spoke about seems to be gone from the SERPs. It's replaced by product pages belonging to that category (1 product page when settings are 10 results, 4 product pages when setting to 100 results).

And now the same effect I've described in my first post seems to start with other category pages.

My category pages contain unique content, are not overly SEOed and were visited often. They had low bounce rates, too. And they ranked more or less stable for their category keywords in Google for years.

Anybody observes similar effects?

And more important: Anybody an idea what to do?

Robert Charlton




msg:4462214
 9:37 pm on Jun 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

albert - Any chance the naturalness of the links is in question? When you asked "you say linking to my preferred page (the category page) will help?", I was going to caution against doing that in a manipulative fashion.

Internally, be sure to have a good hierarchical nav structure, with linking back up the navigation chain, so your product pages would all link back to the appropriate category pages above them. I assume you've been doing this, but if not, don't do it just for this one category... make it a sitewide change.

You can use judicious links from home to your most important category pages, but if you overdo it, you'll distort semantic clarity and reduce flow of link juice to the remainder of your site.

I've seen many site owners wreck their entire sites trying to get category pages to rank (generally by keyword stuffing or PageRank sculpting, or by too-obviously co-ordinated inbound links). Their efforts would often have been better spent, I've felt, getting a broader range of individual product pages to rank for more specific terms.

Also... work on non-search ways of promoting traffic to those category pages, and ways of getting visitors engaged with them.

albert




msg:4462666
 9:52 pm on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

Robert, thanks again.

Naturalness of links is given (to a large extent), internal structure as you recommend, and semantic clarity should be given (top down from generic to specific terms).

I wonder why this effect I speak about came up recently. Rankings were stable before for years, and I've changed nothing in the last weeks or months. What I observe seems to have nothing to do with penguine AFAIK because it's some kind of process, no sudden fall-back in rankings.

One aspect might be the content of my category pages. I have not altered this content for years as the pages ranked well. But my content was and still is copied (in parts, at least) all the time by some small competitors, Amazon and Ebay vendors - so I begin to think that maybe it's a Panda effect. But this content is mine, and I always thought that this was obvious for Google.

What do you think?

And if so, what to do? - I know that I have to act with care.

Robert Charlton




msg:4463274
 5:35 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

albert - First, a note that I made a logical error in my earlier comments...
Your observation of the pages switching even when you have 100 results selected indicates that they must be very close, as in #20 and #21 (as you've observed), and their rankings are almost a toss-up. If they were further apart, say #20 and #35, it's not likely that they'd switch, as the #35 would be unlikely to pass the #20, which is what it would have to do, to cause them to switch.

My revised thoughts... Because of the way that Google generally clusters results, if the first page was #20 and the second was "naturally" #99, Google's normal clustering effect would draw up the second result to appear immediately after the first... and it would still display as #21.

To find "natural" position, therefore, you need to nibble down on the number of results shown, testing various maximums. Try 100 results first, then maybe 50, and keep going down, say, halfway to the first position, until the second result disappears. This should give you an idea where the second result would be without the clustering. I trust you follow.

Note they there may be a "most-recent-search" effect, which might influence what you see, so, once you think you've nailed the natural position of the second result, empty your cache and flush cookies and then try the search again with your last-selected number of results... to see if you get more or less the same thing.

One aspect might be the content of my category pages.

I had considered mentioning this, but didn't want to write an essay. I feel that category page content is often overlooked. It can, IMO, be important. The algo of course looks at multiple factors, so a page might do well in a category search even when it has bad content. I feel that content matters.

...my content was and still is copied (in parts, at least) all the time by some small competitors...

I've run out of concise theories on this one. I can say that a client page which had vanished for a single-word search during the Scraper update before MayDay seems to have come back since Penguin. I've seen it in the #2 position (clustered after our first-place home page), or in the middle of the page two, sometimes for the single-word search, sometimes for a two-word search that I'd hoped the page would rank for but somehow it never did.

I've sometimes hesitated to rewrite, or at least to shorten, heavily scraped content, but in general, when pages have needed to be rewritten, they've performed as expected, assuming the link juice was there. So, by all means freshen that up. I'd try a few category pages before I did the whole site. But don't play around with it. Rewrite the page once and live with it for a while.

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