Site Indexation and Cross-Linking Best Practices

27 Jan, 2010  |  Written by  |  under Analytics, SEO

Most of the sites I work on these days are on the small end of the scale, but a few are large news portals.  One of them went through a site redesign a few months ago (before I got involved), and they’ve seen a large dropoff in traffic.  I’m starting to look into why that happened, and wanted to share some ideas about how to fix the problem.

  1. These guys track their top search phrases, and they haven’t dropped much in rank for any of those.
  2. The total number of searches per month Google reports for those phrases have increased moderately.
  3. But traffic from search engines is down for this site.

There are a bunch of things that can imply, but to me, this says that they’re probably getting fewer “long tail” searchers in to the site.  Looking at the number of visits you’re getting from long tail searchers is a little tricky, but Analytics gives us a way.  Click to ‘Traffic Sources’, then ‘Search Engines’, then the one you’re interested in.  Select the right date range, and click the leftmost column to show ‘Landing Page’.  Scroll to the bottom and see how many Landing Pages are listed in the “1-10 of 12,345” to the right.

For the site I’m working on, # of unique Landing Pages is down about 30% for December 2009 vs. December 2008.  We also see it in that there are about half as many unique search phrases in Dec. 2009 as in Dec. 2008.  (Select ‘Keyword’ in the leftmost column of Analytics and scroll down to get this info.)

So we have a pretty clear indexation problem.  Many fewer landing pages, many fewer unique phrases.  There are a lot of potential causes, but one interesting idea came up in a quick site review.

Google spiders tend to “follow a link IN to the site, click around a bit, and leave.”  So to increase indexation, we want lateral linking to a diverse but relevant set of pages from deep landing pages.

Right now on the site, we’re linking to “related articles”, and it works by looking at category overlap and article freshness.  That’s a great start, but has some unintended side-effects.  This causes us to weight newer articles more heavily and link to them from many of our top landing pages.  For example, an old article from 2008 links to 5 articles from today and yesterday.  So whatever pages were linked to from that page back in 2008 aren’t getting any link respect now, and that’s lowering their odds of being in the index.

What if instead, we looked at category overlap and weighted articles with similar dates?  So old articles might have lateral links to other older articles.  That might be too extreme, and might starve our newer content of link respect.  So a middle ground where we factor both in, or add a new “Other Archive Articles” box for similarly-old content might help.

This will be an ongoing process of making sure lateral links are done right, but this isn’t the first site I’ve worked on with this kind of category+date lateral linkage, so I thought the above might be useful for others fighting with indexation problems.

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