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Planet13, how does your e-commerce page look? doesn't it have information on the product in the form of specs, features, pictures, prices etc?
Well, the FIRST ecommerce page (the page that is linked from the informational pages) isa category level page, so it has about 12 individual blue widgets linked to from the blue_widgets.html page. The blue_widgets.html has just the names, a photo, price, and a link to the detailed product pages. Plus the blue_widgets.html has about a paragraph of opening text about our particular blue widgets, and a paragraph of footer text (near the bottom of the page) as well. This is typical layout for all the ecommerce sites that rank well for the keyword blue widgets.
The detailed pages (such as porecelain-blue-widget.html) have more detail about the individual product (how it is made, it's weight, it's significance, more photos, etc.,)
So overall, I would say it is pretty typical of an ecommerce page that has a category level -> individual product level structure.
so why do you feel that linking to that category page doesn't sound good? It does seem to lead the user to a variety of products for that category that have more information of interest to the user. You even seem to be stating the user and the conversion metrics is good. So doesn't it all sound positive for the user and hence Google?
"Hmm...you haven't stated the period for which it ranked. Was it ranking for long and dropped recently?"
"If their ranking was only for a few days/months, it could even be other reasons like google promoting the page to see whether users like them,attracts more links, etc. If it were not doing well against the benchmarks, they might have moved it to where it need to be."
one from a major US news outlet.
"one from a major US news outlet."
My internal pages mostly have a toolbar PR of 3, and most have 3 to 6 (it can be anywhere from zero to 20 though) in-content links, plus navigation and link to category. Seems reasonable to me.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:43 am (utc) on Jul 5, 2013]
[edit reason] examplified specifics [/edit]
each link to a page had a snippet for explanatory tag, and the content was in a <dl>
Actually when you write an article and interlink with related pages then its beneficial but on the other hand if you do the linking only for ranking purpose then it can hurt you.