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1 - We have index pages which list each article with a small snippet of the article. Usually, the first paragraph of the main article.
2 - Each index page has about 30 articles on them.
3 - The article meta description tag also contains the snippet.
When I do a search on a sentence from the snippet, the index page comes first and not the article. Hence my thought that the index pages are outranking the actual article pages.
Has anyone seen this before? Does this type of structure cause issues?
Appreciate all thought and help.
There is a "dial" that seems to get shifted up and down in the total ranking algo. Sometimes (such as August/Sept) the "article index" page is the primary one shown in Google's search results even though the "full article" would be more immediately relevant and helpful. Visitors from search get sent one click away, higher up the hierarchy from the ideal url.
At other times, this is not so frequently the case. Here's my guess: when PageRank means more in the total scoring, the index page usully has higher PageRank and therefore gets into the SERP. When PR gets "dialed down" in the algo, then the major page has more of a chance.
I can think of at least two factors here, very closely related. The article index page is likely to be:
1) fewer clicks from the Home Page or other landing page, and
2) higher Page Rank (especially when calculated out to many decimal places)
In two cases I know of, one big fat inbound directly to the full article has changed the situtation. Was that PR kicking in, click depth or just a new data push? I can't say for sure, but it certainly is suggestive.
The full article page, in most cases, would have a higher keyword repetition than the index, and quite possibly a higher keyword density, too. That's been the case where I see this phenomenon happening. So this is a potent observation suggesting that keyword repetition is no longer as effective as many still think it is. If these pure keyword text-match factors were still strong, then the actual article page would not be at a handicap compared to the article index page.
If the various articles are all about one subject, or cover several highly related subjects, is it possible that Google doesn't know which article fits the query best, and so they show the index page where all of them are listed instead, and let you choose whch one to click?
Though I do like the "PR" and "clicks from root" logic there though Tedster...
As I mentioned above, this phenomenon (I've been calling it the "one-click-away" search result) seems to get more prominent at some times and less promininent at others.
So I would be very cautious about playing around with url and link indexability when the result you are trying for is a bit ephemeral. Rather, I have always assumed that one-click-away results won't look as good to Google when they analyze ender user satisfaction with the current dial settings. So the tweaking should usually be done in their camp, not mine.
After all, your domain is still ranking for the search, and the URL that ranks is relevant and links to the ideal result. That's better than disppearing.
I didn't see this mentioned, but when the index pages are higher ranked, are they accompanied by a second, indented, listing for a more targeted page? They frequently are in my case, and which comes first seems to rotate, but the dual listings remain.
I agree that changing the indexable status of the title only indexes might be something not to rush into right now.
You also don't mention how long these articles are. Unless they're fairly long, I suspect that with 30 or so snippets on each, the index pages might actually have more content than the article pages, and that might make a difference sometimes.
While that might not raise the specific keyword density as it relates to each snippet, if the articles are related enough in general, it could easily raise the amount of related, or supporting, language for the index page as compared to the article page. Watching my own serps for content pages and the related index pages it seems like that might sometimes make a difference.
Basically, I need to look at ways of picking off the search term and using it to get the visitor right to the desired info. Redirecting to a separate page (the "right" one, from my view) might be too heavy handed. But I can put named anchors on each snippet and redirect to what I think is the correct snippet. Or generate the page dynamically, and move the "correct" snippet to the top and highlight it.
Alas, does nothing for the growing percentage of browsers who block the Referer: header and thence the search query.