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My partner and I run what I will call a "Marketplace for Widgets." We are currently upgrading the site and I would appreciate your advice on how to handle these issues:
I currently have my home page arranged so that the user can either perform a general search for widgets within my site or click on a category and view all of the widgets in that category. The user will generally just use the search function to find what he/she is looking for.
What I would like to do is make my home page just a search box and have the user link to a category list page if the user would like to view the widgets by category. The user could then link from the category list to a specific category page which lists all of the widgets of a certain type across the United States by location.
Generally, when someone searches Google for a widget they will type the location of the widget they are looking for and the type of widget they are looking for. For example, "red triangle widget in San Francisco". Google generally comes up with with my category page.
Question 1: I am concerned that if I remove all of the category links from my home page and create a separate page of category links, my category pages will be two pages beneath my home page instead of one page beneath my home page and my results will suffer. Should I be concerned? Please remember that my category pages are always the pages that show up in Google searches.
Question 2: Since most of my users use searches to find the widgets that they are looking for, there is no reason for me to create more specific category pages than I currently have.
My question is "Would I get better search engine results if I did have more specific pages within each category? For an example, if I had a page for "red triangle widgets in California" instead of my current page that lists all of the red triangle widgets across the United States, would I be more likely to show up on the first page of Google when someone does a search for "Red Triangle Widgets in California"?
Thank you very Much,
Should I be concerned?
Please remember that my category pages are always the pages that show up in Google searches.
I think if you do what you're planning, they won't show up any more.
This is overly simplified, but I'm guessing this is what would happen. There are lots of considerations, though, about your existing site, the new site, and inbound links that would have to be factored in, but I think you'd lose PageRank and internal links to existing pages.
My question is "Would I get better search engine results if I did have more specific pages within each category?
Again, there are a bunch of factors involved, and it depends on how you build your site. Structure in relation to targeting is really important. Take a look at...
Search Engine Theme Pyramids and Google
Optimising the Pyramid for PageRank
Also, you phrase it as functionality versus results. I don't think, if I came to a site about widgets via search, that I'd be happy being greeted by a search box as the only content on the page.
...my category pages will be two pages beneath my home page instead of one page beneath my home page and my results will suffer.
Let me add that a good way of doing this might be to include on your home page some content (enough to rank for your most competitive phrases), some links to your main category pages, and the search box.
Ultimately, optimizing the kind of site I think you have is about melding usability, PageRank distribution, and information organization. Look at the home page of DMOZ, and think about this kind of category organization and PageRank distribution, with maybe 125 words of optimized text preceeding the search box. And keep the theme pyramid/PageRank pyramid in mind.