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My homepage always appears instead of more relevant pages
steerpikegg




msg:4493126
 1:09 am on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Aside from my business site, I run a hobby site which is a forum. On the homepage are excerpts from recent posts and most popular posts. It's been this way since it launched 3 years ago.

My problem is, my homepage seems to outrank almost all pages in my site for any particular term. The rankings are good, but it's not really the best landing page for a visitor searching for something specific. Incoming links are fairly spread out, although the majority are to the home page.

I don't have this problem at all on Bing which always shows the appropriate page.

I guess the most obvious solution would be to remove the excerpts from the home page, but that's not something I'd really want to do as it works very well for the most part.

Does anyone have any other suggestions?

 

Robert Charlton




msg:4493132
 3:33 am on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Are there any external inbound links to the articles that don't rank? (I understand these are recent articles, but over time are they attracting natural links?)

Are your articles organized in categories?

What percentage of your links from home goes to categories, and what percentage goes to articles?

Roughly how many links from home do you have?

lucy24




msg:4493150
 6:20 am on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

I guess the most obvious solution would be to remove the excerpts from the home page

If it were anything other than the home page, I'd have said the obvious solution was to no-index it.

I know your situation. I've got one humor page whose text consists almost entirely of actual search strings I've found in logs. Letting the page be indexed would be pretty disastrous, because you'd get a stream of people searching for that exact same string again :)

Hm. On some types of sites, no-indexing the home page might be a pretty good idea. Would it make the search engines mad?

Robert Charlton




msg:4493159
 7:39 am on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm not a fan of noindexing pages as a way to control what ranks. The idea of noindexing a home page seems totally at odds with the way a user or a search engine needs to interact with a site on the web.

The immediately obvious problem with noindexing any upper level page that ranks, let alone a home page, is that... unless you have two pages ranking... you may end up with no pages ranking at all.

Beyond that... and this is speculation... possible distortion in traffic patterns could negatively affect pages lower in a site's nav hierarchy. It certainly would mess up "branding" and linking patterns.

steerpikegg




msg:4493167
 8:19 am on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks Robert. To clarify ...

Are there any external inbound links to the articles that don't rank? (I understand these are recent articles, but over time are they attracting natural links?)

Are your articles organized in categories?

What percentage of your links from home goes to categories, and what percentage goes to articles?

Roughly how many links from home do you have?


Yes, we do have a good many external links to the categories and pages once they mature. I'd say it's about a 70/30 split in favour of the homepage for inbound links. I'm not sure category wise, I'd have to look into that.

The site is a forum, so the organisation of content is very much like this one, probably with a similar number of links from the homepage too.

I forgot to mention it's a UK site. The site ranks very well and is recognised as the leading site in its niche, so much so that we have very little competition. As well as forum content, we have editorial article and the forum is used to discuss them.

Bing seems to get it exactly right, but for G, even with very mature articles that are no longer on the homepage, it will still bring up the homepage on an exact title search merely because the words can still be found separately on the homepage.

For example, if I type in : How to make a knitted cover for your red widget on Tuesday, G will still bring back the homepage because on it are the words cover red and widget.

Whilst ranking any page at all seems to be a blessing these days, I can't help feeling that our CTR is suffering because G is returning a page that doesn't immediately seem to match what they were looking for.

phranque




msg:4493204
 11:44 am on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

are these pages indexed by google?
do they show up in a site:example.com search for an exact article title?

steerpikegg




msg:4493226
 12:55 pm on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, all the pages are indexed and appear in site: or custom search, but the homepage always ranks well above them.

steerpikegg




msg:4493227
 1:00 pm on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, all the pages are indexed and appear in site: or custom search, but the homepage always ranks well above them.


Sorry, I mean to say but the homepage always ranks well above them in general serps, custom search is fine.

Robert Charlton




msg:4493516
 10:39 pm on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

steerpikegg - I'm thinking that you're right about too much text on the home page, not only in stealing the rankings that you'd like for inner pages, but also by fuzzing up semantic signals sent by your navigation. I'm guessing also that you may have too many links from home, perhaps not well prioritized, which may be obscuring the inner pages by draining away too much of your available link juice.

Perhaps the only semantic signals clear enough for ranking come to Google from your home page. Check this out in the general serps by digging down into the Google results to see whether your internal pages are ranking further down. If so, how far down are they?

The site is a forum, so the organisation of content is very much like this one, probably with a similar number of links from the homepage too.

You can't do exactly what this forum, does, though, because this forum is a large enough gorilla that it will support more linking from home than most sites will.

Again, what's the percentage of links on your home page to individual threads, as opposed to links on your home page to your deeper nav structure? Linking to too many posts will drain the link juice available for the deeper posts. Similarly, how clearly organized are your categories?

Regarding custom search...
the homepage always ranks well above them in general serps, custom search is fine.

Is this true on all Google Custom Search Engines, or just the one that you've set up to search your specific site? To see what I'm getting at, take a look at this discussion...

Google "Custom Search" ranks my site normally, but not regular search?
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4286347.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Google CSEs have their own quirks, including not displaying Google Universal results. My guess is that these quirks aren't the problem, and that the problem is more likely your nav structure and home page content, but it's hard to be very precise without more description of what's going on.

steerpikegg




msg:4493721
 11:31 am on Sep 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the reply.

Here are some more specific details about the home page.

It features the 10 latest new topics in full. These change frequently, so each one would be on the homepage for no more than a couple of hours.

There are 50 links (in total) to latest topics (titles only) in the main cateogories.

There are around 30 links to internal pages via the nav system.

The are 5 external links (4 of which are no-follow), plus links to our facebook and twitter pages.

On looking at the incoming links for external sites, it's pretty much an even split with 50% coming direct to the homepage and 50% coming to inner pages.

Content wise, we have circa 80,000 posts in 9,000 threads in the main forum, some other non-forum sections of the site which total around 2,000 pages.

In the serps, our homepage will usually be in position 1-4 depending on the query, the most relevent page will usually be around position 20+ in the same result set.

Hope this is some help.

Robert Charlton




msg:4493941
 7:51 pm on Sep 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Very helpful post. Thanks.

First, to correct a slight misstatement in my previous post...
Linking to too many posts will drain the link juice available for the deeper posts.

I should have said, "linking to too many threads".

Your description of your home page suggests to me that directly "linking to too many threads" from home, combined with your rapid turnover and too much of the text content on home, is likely a good part of the problem....
It features the 10 latest new topics in full. These change frequently, so each one would be on the homepage for no more than a couple of hours.

There are 50 links (in total) to latest topics (titles only) in the main categories.


Rushed version of my answer for now...

- way too many deep links from home to individual threads (60 in all) in comparison to only about 30 to your main navigation system (which should be feeding all the threads in all the rest of your site).

- much too much post content on home. Inclusion of those topics "in full" encourages Google, as you've noted, to rank your home page. Also, having the complete topics on home also doesn't encourage visitors to use the deep link, as a snippet would... so you may not be getting all the deep inbounds you might have if you'd showed a snippet only.

- Related to this, frequent change of latest topics may only confuse Google. I would not change them nearly as frequently as you're doing, but this depends on your area. In some cases, that much freshness may be warranted, but I don't know your area.

Note, though, that Google doesn't somehow save the previous position of your link. When you change the link, you've changed the entire link juice situation for Google.

That very brief exposure on home also may not be helping you build link equity with visitors. A lot depends on your traffic patterns.

I'd keep the overall count of direct deep links to threads to maybe 1/4 of your overall home page linking, and post titles and a small snippet for each. I prefer a snippet uniquely written for the purpose as opposed to the first line of the post.

Hottest threads and threads you want to promote for their potential are the ones that should be on home, long enough for your visitors to interact with them. Don't automatically put newest threads on home. Perhaps make greater use of category pages. Again, though, you may be more news oriented than I'm thinking. Usage patterns should influence structure. The above should give you a sense of how I think they might interrelate.

I'd approach fixing this gradually, testing each step of the way. In the transition you want to minimize losing traffic to home before you build traffic to inner pages. Perhaps gradually reduce post content on home and number of direct links to individual threads, and beef up your category pages as you do this.

steerpikegg




msg:4494623
 8:06 am on Sep 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks ever so much Robert for the suggestions. I have taken this onboard and will look at introducing these in phases to see what happens.

The strange thing is, Bing seems to have no problems with determining which pages to show whatsoever.

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