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Search Engine Optimization

How to Get Internal Pages to Rank Higher than a Homepage

Iris Hearn

By Iris Hearn

Apr 8, 2019

How to Get Internal Pages to Rank Higher than a Homepage

Digital marketers spend countless hours making sure each page of a website is SEO-friendly and keyword-optimized for their industries.

But, what happens if your homepage ranks over other, more relevant web pages your site has to offer?

Say you sell medical software and have specific products catered to each particular medical practice. If a pain management doctor is looking for a new electronic health records system, you’ll want to bring them to their industry-specific page so you can show how your product caters to their unique needs.

The trouble is, sometimes your homepage can rank before your industry page, due to it having a higher overall page authority (due to more click-throughs on search engines, more direct traffic, and more referral links, just by default) than your other website pages.  

In this scenario, a visit is still great, but you risk that visitor not finding their practice-specific page fast enough, which could cause them to leave the website.

So, what do you do to prevent this?

Well, Google’s John Mueller shed some light on why this happens, and what you can do to help in a recent Google Webmaster Central hangout session.

Mueller’s Take on Ranking Inner Pages

The topic was brought up when a user asked the following question:

“You said Google’s algorithm doesn’t automatically favor the homepage ranking above other pages. What should we do to let Google know that a blog post, for example, should be ranking for a certain page term rather than the homepage.

If we have a small website, how do we present clear signals to show Google that this blog post is the better page for certain search terms even though the home page probably has most internal links pointing to it?”

First, Mueller offered the following advice:

“The best thing that you can do in a case like this is to make sure that you really have that content covered well on those blog posts and maybe have it a little bit clearer on the homepage that this page is not about that content.”

For example, if you were the medical software company in the previous example, your homepage shouldn't be optimized for a niche keyword such as “how much does a pain management EHR software cost” -- your blog posts should be long-form and relevant enough to rank for those terms on their own.

This also ties into ensuring your site’s content is strong and purpose-built for search engines. Having strong pillar content pieces covering a bigger topic and breaking it down into smaller, more specific subtopics is a great way to execute this.

Additionally, Mueller also talked about the importance of strategically adding internal links throughout your website to help Google understand how these pages relate to one other. Specifically, he spoke on the importance of anchor texts, which are the hyperlinked words that link out to another page.

“You mentioned internal linking, that’s really important. The context we pick up from internal linking is really important to us… with that kind of the anchor text, that text around the links that you’re giving to those blog posts within your content. That’s really important to us.”

Essentially, Google is looking at more than just the presence of the links, but what the anchor text is telling you about the next page that’s linked up. So, when you’re linking to other pages, don’t just say “click here to learn more,” but something that provides more context about what’s on the next page, like “learn more about our inbound marketing consulting services.”

This not only helps Google make more sense of what will be on the next page, but it also provides significant value to your users.

While this isn’t always easy on your homepage, this strategy is important to use in your inner pages and most importantly your blogs and pillar content so it’s easy to navigate from one page to the next.

Finally, Mueller talked about general SEO best practices to evaluate your own website against. This can seem like somewhat basic advice for seasoned digital marketers, but while SEO practices are evolving rapidly, it’s important to be aware that these basic elements still matter to Google as a core tenant of ranking:

“Additionally, of course, the content, like I mentioned, is really important. So, [make] sure you have clear titles on those pages, you use clear headings, you could structure content in a way that’s easily readable, that’s in a way that is really clear that this is about this topic without… resorting to keyword stuffing.…

Be reasonable about… putting keywords on your pages. Write your pages in a way that they would work well for users rather than in a way that you think search engines might pick that up.”

In other words, Muller is reiterating something we’ve been strongly advocating in this publication for quite some time: Don’t write your content for the algorithm. Write it to help your users.

As we’ve said time and time again, SEO is becoming more human. So, write your content to help the humans who are going to be reading your blog, and the results will follow.

Tactics like keyword stuffing and over-using keyword variations in an attempt to please the search engine simply won’t work because it won’t be providing the same value.

Final Thoughts

To view Mueller’s full response, you can watch the Webmaster hangout here.

While SEO best practice is vital to getting found, at the end of the day, you have to take a step back and see what is really providing the most value to your users.

By asking yourself, “What is the goal of this page? What are users going to want to see here, and what’s their next step?” on each webpage, you’ll uncover some clear answers that will help improve your results.

In short, the goal shouldn’t be to beat Google’s algorithm, it should be to think like Google. That way, you’re always staying one step ahead, while also providing a great experience to your users. In other words, your homepage should not necessarily be ranking for these long-tail, highly specific keywords you’d expect to see covered more in-depth in a blog post.

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