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Noticing a trend of a drop in landing page ranking vs increase in homepage

     
11:14 am on Dec 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I've recently carried out an end of year ranking review and have noticed a rather strange trend with some of our sites. In short, many of our keyphrases are still ranking on page #1 but the results are now pointing to our homepage as opposed to their much more relevant landing pages. Here's an example:

Term: "Red Widgets"
At the start of 2012 this ranked #1 for the URL sitename.com/redwidgets.

At the end of 2012 this is now ranking #10 for the URL sitename.com.

This is a similar story for blue widgets and yellow widgets, and I'm at my wits end trying to work out why? Has anyone else seen a similar trend?

Cheers,

Ellie (UK Affiliate Site)
1:06 pm on Dec 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator andy_langton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I've certainly observed this problem in many different situations over the years. One of the factors involved is Google's increasing reliance on 'authority' and safer-bet results. And for most sites, the most authoritative page is the homepage.

'Cannibialised' rankings can be a tricky one to resolve. Two obvious steps are to improve the authority of the landing pages themselves, and to ensure the homepage is not mistakenly targeting the same keywords you want to rank for with a more specific page.

The question that's difficult to answer, of course, is whether your landing pages would actually rank back where they were, or whether they are no longer considered strong enough candidates.
11:26 pm on Dec 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I believe a lot has to do with a site's internal linking, most of us probably aren't using keyphrases in links as much as 2-3 years ago and certainly use "Home" for homepage links, but with Google devaluing some exact match terms in links and titles it's likely that it is the results of the "Home" links passing more authority to the home page (kinda like using "tag" markup).

EDIT: BTW @Ellie, as long as your navigation is clear and obvious, this situation could net some extra page views. If your navigation isn't that clear then it's hard to suggest fixing it or adding a "funnel" without seeing the site in question.
2:24 pm on Dec 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

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except she didn't make any changes to internal linking so the change in traffic wasn't due to a change on site.
3:59 pm on Dec 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@Sgt_Kickaxe - right, that's why I wrote
, but with Google devaluing some exact match terms in links and titles it's likely that it is the results of the "Home" links passing more authority to the home page
Internal pages don't neccessarily have to have a link named "home", some sites have img links to the homepages, but in general my assumption was nothing with sitelinks had changed and the links to the homepage were likely generic text or image which may have somehow gained value over the years worth of SE algo changes.

Sorry I wasn't more clear.

The description "end of year ranking review" doesn't express when this happened exactly or if it was a gradual process. "Trend" might not be a trend but an specific cause sometime during the year.
11:24 am on Dec 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Thanks very much for all of the replies.

@Andy Langton - I think aiming to improve the authority of the ranking pages is a good option, although I'm hesitant to tweak the homepage too much in case we lose those rankings.

@Stru82 - Our navigation could well be overly optimised (we have exact match text, then synonyms phrases as title tags) so I'll try deoptimising to see if that helps.

I'll be sure to reply back in the New Year if we see any improvements. Thanks again for the suggestions.
1:01 pm on Dec 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Honestly, others may say I'm wrong, but if Google's sending the traffic to your site's index page are you sure you want to change it? What are your bounce rates like when they send the user's there and do the users make it to the page with the information they need?

EDIT: and what you'd said about your sitelinks @Ellie, thanks for the clarity - that's very interesting to know. Your link optimization worked though!
 

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