Deep Page Power! Just What are Google up to?

In terms of search engine optimisation your homepage has always stood more chance of ranking for any given term, if you wanted to compete on a competitive term your home page or top level domain was always the place to get the ball rolling.

Late last night I noticed something interesting in the SERPS which was subsequently tweeted out by Patrick Altoft this morning, it seems that Google is giving deep pages a ranking boost based on their relevance;

deep page rankings

The keyword car insurance, apart from the odd domain, has been dominated by home pages, now it looks like Google is been much pickier about the pages it is showing to users.

On the face of it, it seems like Google is looking at the domain as a whole and analysing;

1 – What is the general theme of the site

2 – How much link authority is there to the domain as whole

3 – Which page on the site is the most relevant to the query

If this is an approach Google is going to adopt long term then this will surely have ramifications on link building efforts, where do you build the links to?

If you scan the link profiles of the above pages there are very few links to them at all, however when you look at the domain as a whole there are loads of links, optimised and pointing to a whole range of pages on the domain.


Don’t just think this is an issue in the car insurance industry, it’s been rolled out on multiple keywords, I have found 10 different ones so far showing this kind of result.

So what does this mean for our link building?

Well, it’s too early to say just yet but the indications are that to rank for any given term your site must be an authority on a domain level and not just a loaded home page.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts….


Tim Grice is the CEO of Branded3, a search marketing agency in the UK. Tim has over a decade of experience in search and regularly speaks at key events and conferences.

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23 Replies to “Deep Page Power! Just What are Google up to?”

  1. Hey Tim. I spotted this on one of my domains this morning. What was previously my homepage ranking at 10 had flipped to the most relative URL on the domain – funny though as I wouldn’t say that was the most relevant page – this was also on a term that has just started showing the new map and local listings.

    Having said that, i do have a site that has tons of homepage authority and has consistently ranked with it’s subpages on big traffic terms with relatively few subpage links for the last 6 months or so.

    Thanks for the interesting post, good food for thought.

    Here’s another one though (u can email me your thoughts on this ;)). Now the world and their wife are onto the branding bandwagon, how are those of us who were already doing it, going to keep our advantage?

    Have a good weekend.

  2. Hi Tim… How will this effect a general article directory?

    I build links to the main keyword of the post.
    I also build links using brand to the posts. aka… site name , relevant phrase, and related terms all to the post.

    I also build similar links to the home and category pages.

    I have concerns because the site itself is not relevant to any particular post. The post itself is relevant to the keyword.

    Will general article directories still be part of the future? Will I and others still be able to rank post pages using a wide variety of anchor text and terms that have to do with brand? Or are we about to look at a “new” world that is dominated with niche specific sites? Thanks

  3. Hmm interesting move, I think it so far has just been carried out on the uk end. I am not sure how much this will help my sites in general but overall it should be able to improve relevancy. So maybe the ideal structure in Google’s eyes is a website that has a good homepage PR which flows it through the site to important pages through homepage post or category links. Maybe this is another hit taken against link sculpting. What do you think?

  4. Hi Al,

    I think if you have a decent and varied link profile + you have a nice flat structure to your site then you can always get deeper pages to rank. I guess the weird thing about this is that the deeper pages have replaced the home page, even though on paper the home page is where all the links are pointing to, it’s certainly going to be an interesting few month.

    I would email you about the brand issue but the honest answer is to just keep one step ahead of everyone, I would say if you have a very brand focused anchor profile then I would throw a couple of keyword focused links at your page, just to make sure. It’s funny when I first started discussing brand anchor text I had to take a bit of stick for it, as you say it seems everyone is now trying it out.

    I was reading a thread on webmaster world a few days ago explaining that Google had different algos for different SERPS, in other words depending on your industry the algo may play out differently. This must come down to trends, what kind of websites should be linking to those in your industry? For example is it really realistic for a ‘machinery’ website to have thousands of links from tech blogs? This all comes back to the relevancy debate and I have a feeling the next trend that will be noticed is one concerning relevancy of a link profile, not necessarily does the linking page have the same keywords, but is it a hub site for other websites in 9your industry? This would explain why some sites rank number one with very few links.

    Any way I am rambling…

  5. Hi Pchef,

    The honest answer is I am not sure, I have not seen enough evidence to predict how this might play out. My advice would be to pretty much carry on doing what your doing, build lots of brand links into the home page and keyword rich links + brand into the deeper pages.

    I think with a directory it will ultimately come down to how much authority you have, make sure you have a good structure to your website and build some high juice links to the homepage and more popular deeper pages. We had a client who was struggling with longtail traffic recently, we pointed a few site wide links at a number of deep pages and the whole domain seemed to receive a boost.

    This would be my advice until we see whether or not these new rankings are going to stick.

  6. Hi Aaron,

    I think link sculpting has already begun to be phased out, the new rankings, if they stick, will mean your site structure needs to be as flat as possible, keyword rich and your home page should pass as much authority as possible.

    Not much has changed other than we might have to start building links to the homepage that are relevant to a deeper page in terms of context. It would be almost like anchor text flows down the structure as well as link juice.

  7. I think this change makes a lot of sense, oftentimes these inner pages are more relevant to the search query but may have a hard time garnering the type of link profile that a homepage gets.

  8. With Google giving more emphasis on aged branded domains in the SERPS, how does this affect your average affiliate marketer?

  9. Very interesting post Tim. I must admit that I hadn’t noticed this until I read this post so I am not really sure how it is going to affect my sites. I had almost had it with the recent “delayed MayDay adjustments” so I do hope that this will affect me in a positive way. Trying to run a business based on an ever-changing Google is like being a farmer in an area with unpredictable weather. Not something one would want 🙂

  10. Nice to see this post. Exact same thing has happened to me! On one hand, it’s great, on the other it’s definitely going to muck with my link building strategy. It complicates on-page optimization as well. Do I change around all my title tags? Etc. This is in the US version of Google too – so it’s not just a UK thing as a reader above suggested.

    Anchor text passing like link juice is an interesting thought. I really don’t know what to think about this change at all and we’ll see how long it lasts. Google US right now is flipping between the home page and the more relevant page, but the ranking is staying the same. We’ve moved up in rankings at the same time this happened so perhaps this change is also intended to combat inferior linking practices as well. Which would be awesome.

  11. Agreed, it’s definitely more user friendly, however it makes it a lot more difficult to judge where to build links to….

  12. Hi Henry,

    I think an affiliate marketer should be trying to make his website into a brand, plenty of brand anchor text and unique user friendly content throughout the site. I think Google would prefer thin affiliate sites to be completely cut out of the equation, could be tough times ahead, just need to stay ahead of the curve.

  13. Hi Mikael,

    Google has rolled out more updates and changes in the latter part of this year than I have seen in long time, it’s challenging but as an SEO it’s exciting. As long as you have relevant pages with unique content this up date should be a good one.

  14. Hi Robyn,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, how do we link build in a way that passes relevance and authority to these deeper pages. I honestly think that Google is looking at metrics on a domain level more and more, so not what anchor text is pointing at a page, but what is pointing to the domain.

  15. I hope you’re right. I always use unique content. Been there, done that with the spun crap content. Just not worth the effort. 🙂

    I agree that it is exciting but that only because it is not my only source of income 😉

  16. Hello Tim,

    Yes Google is giving deep pages a ranking boost based on their relevance, and as far
    As I know it started two weeks before, and the good think is I made few pages a month ago and they are ranking well,
    ago deep inside the website, and they started ranking quiet well this week, all I did was give it the same keyword url ,title,heading 1 , and throw that link on the sitemap
    On the homepage.

    Google— ranked well this week
    Yahoo– not showing
    Bing— First week first page

  17. Hi Ebrar,

    Yes it’s quite interesting the deep page algo, I am not sure how long it will last but it certainly makes sense to show the most relevant page on the most authoritative domain.

  18. Hello Tim,

    This still seems to be happening. I noticed Google ranking an inner page for a number of sites in the web design field, some of which went to ‘weaker’ pages. Slightly changing the page title and adding an internal link and keyword rich anchor text back to the homepage might sort this out.

  19. Hi Michael,

    It looks like a permanent change, we have tried things like changing the title tag but it seems to be the URL holding all the weight. I think Google going forward will judge the authority of the domain as a whole and then decide which page it thinks is relevant. In terms of link building just make sure you’re pointing them to the most relevant pages.

  20. Hi Tim

    I’m always conscious that if my homepage is targetted towards selling ‘blue widgets + City’ and then I have an inner page with ‘blue widgets + City’ in the title, in the url, in a h1 and so on that Google will deem the inner page the most relevant page or that Google will christen it as a filler or duplicate page.

    You can see this with alot of web design companies, that have ‘web design + city, search engine optimisation + city’ and then they have an inner page ‘web design + city’. This is where I’ve noticed it in one of the markets I keep an eye on.

    If I want Google to index the homepage rather than an inner page I’ll make sure that there is a clear distinction in the pages.

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