The homepage of a publisher is one of its most important pages for News SEO. Ever thought about what would happen if a publisher’s homepage redesign dramatically reduces internal links?
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One publication learned to see what happens when the number of internal links to articles from a publisher’s homepage is dramatically reduced and how it recovers.
Shared in this article is their experience redesigning the homepage and how the resulting change in internal linking architecture affected search rankings.
The various ways the homepage supports a publisher’s SEO goals are discussed and insights are cast upon the internal linking tips. The top News SEO professionals, share their advice and suggest what not to do to avoid similar issues when implementing a paywall.
Homepage Redesign SEO Case Study
One of the major strategic initiatives for Independent.ie was implementing a paywall.
Their editorial leaders and business wanted to promote as much premium, paywalled content on the homepage as possible. It was done with the intention to showcase Independent’s best journalism to its most loyal direct readers.
Data that showed that “fly-by” supported this initiative. Or, the non-loyal readers would still be able to access the rest of the free content from search and social and also from other external article referral sources.
But, that data didn’t reveal how important the homepage was for SEO.
The site’s homepage was redesigned to only show the best “premium” paywalled content of the day, in January of 2020.
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From a technical and structural SEO perspective, this meant that the total number of articles that were linked to the homepage went from 174 to 48 – a 72% reduction.
But that was not all. Article detail pages were redesigned to remove the clutter. And an analysis from the data team showed that less than 5% of readers scrolled down to these widgets.
This provided the design team with enough rationale to remove related articles at the bottom of the article. The new design was cleaner, more modern, and had less of that “clutter.”
But these changes created terrible consequences for SEO.
How Did It Impact SEO?
When compared to Feb 2020 performance to that of the month prior, there was a 38.79% drop in keywords ranking in position 1.
A negative correlation in % of position 1 rankings was revealed from the article sections that were removed from the homepage.
Why Is The Homepage Of A Publisher’s Site So Critical For News SEO?
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According to Google’s documentation, homepages and sections of a news site are very important pages. Google uses these to discover the latest news.
You can help Google’s discovery for crawling by ensuring that news articles are found on a publisher’s homepage when they are published.
When it comes to large news events, most news articles, particularly, go against the common advice for tackling keyword cannibalization.
Using the target keyword in the headline for news events is beneficial for SEO.
Whenever two stories are optimized for the same news keyword, the search engines will rank the article featured on the homepage as opposed to that with the freshest published date.
To support the claim, in Google’s documentation on how it ranks news, prominence is a key component:
“The most basic signal that information is relevant is when an article contains the same keywords as your search.”
How much a story or article is trending and how a publisher features that coverage prominently on their sites are important factors.
Hence, when optimizing for news events, the most recent development on a story needs to be found on the homepage. This helps search engines determine which one they should rank in the top stories for the target keyword.
The most external PageRank is found on the homepage of most news sites. This passes on importance or ranking signals to other pages on the site by removing pages from the homepage, signals to Google and other search engines that these pages/articles are less important.
Ways To Increase Article Internal Links For A News Publisher
1. Latest News Sidebar
The most common approach is to have a sidebar with the latest articles, according to Barry Adams, a News SEO consultant. This publisher also has a dedicated page (“https://www.nu.nl/net-binnen”) with the latest articles linked from their top-level navigation.
2. Related Articles
John Shehata, Global VP of Condé Nast, recommends the following strategy for publishers based on article popularity for increasing article internal links:
-Popularity-based (most read within x hours).
-Relevancy-based popularity based on topic (related articles).
-Personalized-based articles (based on user reading history on-site).
-Editorial popularity (top stories selected by news editors).
The one that delivers the highest CTR for your audience will be unique to each site and he recommends testing each type.
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3. Homepage Section Lists Of Articles
Having section blocks of the most important news sections of a site is a great way to ensure the most recent news on the site is passed PageRank from the homepage.
The key insights for the publishers from this case study are:
-One of the most important article traffic referral sources is the homepage of a news site.
-The homepage plays a significant role in that article’s ranking ability, although users will come to a news article from search.
-The more important the article may be perceived by Google’s crawler when the more internal PageRank an article receives.
-Altering website architecture for a cleaner design will create a negative impact on a publisher’s performance on search.
-Ensuring that an article receives a link from the homepage when published is critical for News SEO. Having an automated sidebar on the homepage with the latest articles published in chronological order allows us to accomplish this goal.
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