Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

It Doesn’t Matter Where You Point Links, Google Will Pick The Page

You will have all seen and heard me mention the fact that Google now seems to be choosing which page of your site to rank based on internal links & on page factors, rather than relying solely on external links and the anchor text used.

This all happened at the end of last Summer and seems to be rolling  out for more and more search queries, a classic example of what this has done can be seen when you search for any major phrase;

Internal Pages Ranking

Most of these internal pages that are now ranking were home pages last year and when you break down the link profile I can almost guarantee you the vast majority of links targeting the keyword in question link back to the homepage.

Why Are Google Doing This

There hasn’t been that much commentary on it, however we can only presume Google are looking to show the most relevant page on a domain, regardless of where links point to externally. The reasons for this aren’t clear but it obviously has something to do with search quality, why send a visitor to a home page when there is a perfectly optimised internal page?

Now this is all well and good but where do you build links to then? Logic says you build links to the most relevant page, however what you think is the most relevant page and what Google does could be 2 entirely separate things.

Sure you may have an internal page optimised for coat hangers but your homepage has your special offers on along with other related products.

How Are Google Doing This

After a few different tests it became clear that Google are using internal anchor text to decide which pages relate to which keywords, just like external links an exact match anchor text will give more weight than some other random variation.

I trialled this on SEO wizz just over a month ago, linking to an internal page with ‘search engine optimisation’, I matched the URL string exactly;

/search-engine-optimisation

However, just doing this wasn’t enough to override the authority of the homepage and because of this the homepage still ranked and came up first when perfroming a site: search + keyword.

Then I created a site wide internal anchor text ‘search engine optimisation’ pointing to the page, within 24 hrs this was now the most relevant page and was ranking in exactly the same position as the homepage, it had literally been switched.

Just to cover all my bases I removed the keyword from the URL and the Title tag of the internal page, yet it still ranked while ever I had the internal anchor text in place.

How To Handle It

If your homepage has been replaced by an internal page you may not need to do anything, you may even see conversion rates go up.

However, if you really want your homepage to be the master page for your target keyword you have 2 options;

1 – Change your internal anchor text to take the focus off the internal page

2 – If you can 301 redirect that page back to the home page

If you need to keep the internal anchor text the way it is then you could try adding a site wide link to the home page using the anchor text, however this can be a little tricky, best way to do it is my adding the text to the alt attribute of your logo or brand image.

Failing this you will just have to optimise the internal page both for search engines and conversions.

But What About Link Building?

The truth is it doesn’t really matter, Google seems to be looking at domains collectively, both internal and external anchor text is being used to decide where a domain should rank not where a page should.

Yes, it’s still good practice to link build to the most relevant page, however it may also be a good to include some anchor text to the home page and any other relevant pages for that keyword.

Use site: search modifier to discover the most relevant pages of your site for the target keyword, target at least 80% of links at the most relevant and spread the others amongst the next 3 or 4.

The main thing to remember now is that you are making your domain synonomous with a keyword not just a page.

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Author: Tim (254 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 19 comments }

Paul Gardner April 27, 2011 at 8:47 am

Yep, had this happen to me over the past few months and did exactly as suggested: just redirected internal links to the relevant page (according to Google) and we’ve actually had better conversions. In fact, I’d say this could be a good thing and it may be that the optimised URL plays a ‘more’ important role in this, too.

Aaron April 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Hi Tim,
Thanks for the post… I started noticing this a while back and decided to start using the linking method mentioned above. All I can say is from my experience it is working very well… almost too good for my competitors- lol.

David Ballantyne April 28, 2011 at 12:33 am

Hi Tim,

About finding the page that Google thinks is most relevant for a particular search query. I have been using Google Webmaster Tools search query history, this gives the search query and the page on my site that ranks for it. I have then been using some search ranking software to identify current Google search rank and search volume for the ranking page.

As a result of identifying the ranking page and search queries it ranks for I can then carry out link building with the most relevant anchor text.

I know you have been discussing how to get the home page or a specific landing page to rank for a particular search query regardless of what Google thinks is relevant, but would it not be easier to simply accept what Google has determined is relevant and then carry out link building using the search queries that Google has determined as being relevant for that page?

Thank you for a useful post.

David.

Tim April 28, 2011 at 12:51 am

Hi Paul,

An optimised URL certainly is playing more of a role in terms of where a site ranks, but no matter what the page was like as long as we kept the internal anchor text the same it would be the most relevant. Bit like when you link bomb a site without the keyword being used on page and it still ranks.

Tim April 28, 2011 at 12:52 am

Hi Aaron,

In most cases the page Google picks will be the more relevant page, I guess if you have a content heavy site you just need to be careful not to have too many pages fighting for the same space, especially if it is a high converting key phrase.

Tim April 28, 2011 at 12:56 am

Hi David,

Yes, if the page Google has selected is the better page to rank both from your perspective and theirs then certainly just treat it as ‘the’ landing page and build your links into it. We have had a few issues recently where a client has wrote and article on their blog which is well optimised for a keyword one of their optimised landing pages ranks for, Google then replaces the landing page with the article and conversions plummet, I guess a little more care needs to be taken when developing content on a site and stringing it together with anchor text.

Robert April 28, 2011 at 1:11 am

Morning Tim

Another really interesting post. We have found this to be a big thing for our own websites at the moment. For instance one of the most competitive printing terms we are sitting 9th for on page 1, This has flipped to our inner page, even though about 90% of the links where pointing to the homepage. Also a few of our clients, its showing a page we dont want too, but going to take on your tips above to try and resolve this.

Aaron April 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Hi Tim,
Within the last 24 hours, I think google made some huge update- all I know is something went wrong! The most competitive terms in one of my niches are being dominated by complete spam sites!!- Like for instance a strange .ws domain with one page of content and 5,000 comment comment backlinks is outranking a legit brand website. Ugg..

Tim April 29, 2011 at 4:38 am

Hi Aaron,

We noticed a big updated across the keywords we monitor, not sure what it relates to yet but yes, a bit worrying that spam sites seem to be benefiting.

EVan April 30, 2011 at 6:49 am

I wouldn’t 301 back to the homepage, you don’t want to loose the individual pages ranking

Tim May 4, 2011 at 1:53 am

Hi Evan,

Under normal circumstances I would never 301 a ranking page, however what Google seems to be doing here is simply switching pages, one minute the homepage ranks, next the deeper page, so both have ranking potential. If the deep page ranks but the home page never has then ye, definitely no 301.. :)

iDCx May 25, 2011 at 4:16 am

Great post – just made me twig onto something with an ecommerce site im playing with!

thanks for that little nugget of gold there tim!

IdcX

Tim May 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Ye, it can be a little confusing though, where do you target links if you have two potential pages, especially if Google keeps switching the page

Innes July 11, 2011 at 5:10 am

This is just the info one of my colleagues is after, which makes it especially useful. I have also been intrigued by this for quite a while now. As ever, relevancy is as important as it ever has been. Thanks again!

Chris Ryan October 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

This is seriously very interesting… i find it really very difficult to build links to my internal pages…. it’s much more easier to build links to your homepage as its more accepted…

You’re also saying that, i point a link to the specific page (which i want to rank for) from all pages of my site and it should do the trick…

Also, as you’ve said Specific Anchor text to the homepage will also help…. so google eventually shows the relevant results… but what about my competition.. they have higher links to the specific page and they rank higher..

Tim November 1, 2011 at 2:59 am

I think your link building needs to be as natural as possible, due to this I would never solely build to the home page of your site, Google will find the most relevant page to display to searchers, however you should help them find the right pages through optimised internal anchor text and a focussed link building campaign. Try and optimise a page for 10 terms, 3 broad, 3 mid tail and 4 longtail, this tends to work best for me.

Greg January 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Thank you for your tips ; i’m french but i like reading your blog even in english. Good continuation.

Evan January 3, 2012 at 6:31 am

Good point, thanks for the clarification :)

ijah March 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is magnificent, let alone the content!. Thanks For Your article about How You Should Target Links, Google Decides To Rank Internal Pages Based On Relevance .

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