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If your homepage has been replaced by an internal page you may not need to do anything, you may even see conversion rates go up.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