Is Google Testing CTR with Internal Pages?

Recent SERP changes for top terms have some scratching their heads as usual homepage listings for top campaign terms have been traded for highly relevant internal pages.

Over the past week we have noticed that for many clients, usual first page listings for top campaign terms which previously featured the homepage are now displaying internal pages URLs. While this is often what we would prefer as it delivers a more relevant page to the SERPs,  thus a better user experience, it still leaves me perplexed at why Google is being so nice. Could this be since Christmas is nearing?

It is often difficult in SEO to get an internal page to rank for a desired term as the homepage often outweighs the internal page by way of internal and in-bound link authority. This can be altered with good SEO and link-building initiatives but it still begs to wonder what Google is doing. From what I assume, Google is choosing an internal page for which it feels might be a better match for a search query and performing a bit of CTR analysis.

Here are some variables that I took into consideration when reviewing the internal page candidates as well as my findings:

Keyword has consistently held a first page result in Google for several months. Yes, in all cases.

Keyword is linked from the homepage to the now ranking internal page with this exact link text. Yes, in most cases.

Internal page is the next highest organic landing page in Google. Not exactly, but is a top performer.

Keyword is the top organic referring term. Yes, in most cases, if not at the top it is a top performer or second to the brand.

Internal page has a decent bounce rate. No. Some were low and some high, nothing over 57%.

So, what do you see? Keep in mind you will not see this for every “good” term you have but you may be surprised that this SERP switch up is affecting you too. I have noticed that this does not apply to a site who does not have a viable internal page candidate other than the homepage or internal pages that already perform well.

Happy searching!

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  • Pasquale

    Same changes are taking place on Google Italy, the problem now for me is on what page go on with links builing campaign…

  • Great little article. An internal page on my website began ranking number one for Madison WI wedding phootgraphy for several weeks. I couldn't figure out why this was happening; my optimized landing page was performing less well than the internal page. Now I understand. Thanks for the post. Terry

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  • Great post Josh.

    I noticed the same thing happen for a couple of my keywords right at the beginning of November.

    For one of the top keywords, the transition started a couple months ago, when the targeted interior page started appearing as a bumped-in result for the homepage result for the keyword, giving us rankings 2 and 3 on the SERP for that keyword. Glory days!

    However, on November 2nd, the homepage result disappeared and the interior page showed at the 9th result on the SERP. While I was excited about the interior page displaying as our primary result for that keyword, it looks like a have some more work ahead of me to improve the rankings for the interior page (which has about 10% of the leads the home page had.

    Sitewide, I noticed about 40% jump in the number of pages receiving entrances via search on the first week of November, but this has trailed off a bit. So, may this is just another Google experiment.