For News SEO, a publisher’s homepage is one of the important pages. Hence, the question arrives is what happens in the conditions where numerous internal link to articles from a homepage of a publisher comes as dramatically being reduced?
This blog tells about the different ways in which the homepage supports the goal of a publisher related to SEO, finding the tips regarding SEO internal linking and advice coming from the top SEO professionals, and discovering what is not supposed to be done to avoid the same issues in conditions where paywall is being implemented.
SEO Case Study of Homepage Redesign
We here overview Independent.ie., and for this company, the implementation of paywall came as a major strategic initiative. The editorial and business leaders wanted to promote as much of the paywalled, premium content on the homepage as they actually can.
Their basic idea was to present the best journalism of Independent to their most loyal readers. The support for this initiative came from data that showed the non-loyal readers would still have access to the rest of the free content from the social and search, as well as the different other external article referral sources. But, this data didn’t reveal the importance of the homepage for SEO.
Back in January’20, the homepage of the site was redesigned for only showing the best “premium” paywalled content for the day.
Perceiving from a technical and structural SEO perspective, this then meant that the number of articles that were being linked to from the homepage in total went from 174 to 48 – and this is a 72% “reduction”. Later, article detail pages were redesigned for removing the “clutter: – that being article referrer widgets, for example, “Most Shared” articles, as shown below.
Analysis that came in from the data team represented that less than 5% of the readers scrolled down to these widgets. With this, the design team had enough rationale for removing the related articles at the article’s bottom. The new design that came in was arguably more modern, cleaner, and had less of that “clutter”. But, when it came to SEO, these changes came in with terrible consequences.
The Impact on SEO
Comparing it all to the performance from February 2020 to the month prior, it was to be seen that there was a 38.79% drop in the keywords ranking in position.
As it is being shown below, there was a negative correlation in % of position 1 ranking observed, this then revealed from the article sections that from the homepage were removed.
Homepage of a Publisher’s Site Too Critical for News SEO: WHY?
According to Google’s documentation, sections and homepages of news sites have a very important significance as very important pages that are used by Google for discovering the latest news. While, by ensuring that on the publisher’s homepage that news articles are found when they are published, then one might end up helping the discovery of Google for crawling.
Particularly when it comes to large news events, most news articles go against the common advice that is given for tackling keyword cannibalization. For different new events, usage of the target keyword in the headline is found to have benefits for the top SEO services.
When two different stories are being optimized for the same news keywords, on various occasions it is found that the search engines will end up ranking the article that has been featured on the homepage as opposed to that with the freshest published date.
Whereas, how a publisher comes for featuring that coverage prominently on their sites and also how much an article or story is trending are considered as the important factors. These are the reasons why optimizing for news events, the most recent development that comes on a story requires to be found on the homepage. This then can help the determination from the search engine which one they should be ranking in the top stories of the keyword that has been targeted.
Of most news sites, the homepage has the most external PageRank. This then, in turn, passes on the ranking signals or “importance” to the other pages on the site. The removal of pages from the homepage, signals to Google and different other search engines indicating that these articles or pages are less important.
Increasing the Article Internal Links for a News Publisher
As told by the News SEO consultant, the most common approach that is adopted is to have a sidebar with the latest articles.
While the following strategy is recommended by another professional for increasing the article internal links for the publishers based on article popularity:
- Editorial popularity
- Personalized-based articles
- Relevancy-based popularity
The one that delivers the highest CTR for the related audience will then be unique to each site and it is recommended to test each type.
Articles’ Homepage Section Lists
A great way to ensure the most recent news that is on-site is being passed PageRank from the homepage is to have section blocks of the most important news sections of a site, with the latest news per section.
Solution for Having an Increment of Article Internal Linking for a Publisher
Each of the important news sections was added back to the homepage, where they displayed the six latest articles that have been chronologically published in those sections. The latest news sidebar also made its presence on mobile and desktop.
These two solutions resulted in the increase of the total articles on the homepage by 8% more than the ones before the redesign.
While each news article was then seen to be recommending the related articles to the readers and search engines that were based on the popularity and topic. Readers were now also able to see the most recent articles that were chronologically published articles.