Does the Internal competition affect the Rankings?
There are several cases over the web were multiple pages from the same website are optimized and targeted for the exact terms. Even though such practice is not recommended, it is a very common case mainly due to the fact that people tend to put in their homepages all of their important keywords.
In this article we will focus on the following questions: What happens when more than 2 pages from the same domain are optimized for exactly the same term? Could such a practice lead to internal competition among the pages and affect the rankings?
Filtering the SERPs
When several pages from the same website are relevant for a particular search term, Google usually displays only 1 or 2 pages per sub domain. This is due to the fact that Google does not want to flood the SERPs with pages from only one source. This means that even if there was a 3rd very relevant page from the same website, it would not be included in the search results. Instead, what would really happen is that a page from an external source would rank in the 3rd place.
Usually such results occur when you search for the website of a particular brand. In this way you do not only get pages from the official website but also from Wikipedia, from Social Media and from other websites that contain info about the brand.
So based on the above it is clear that Google filters the pages from the same domain with specific criteria and then selects only the ones that seem more relevant and more popular. The rest of the results from the same domain could be seen only if the user clicks on the link “More results from example.com”. Once these 1 or 2 pages are determined, they are combined with the other pages of the web and in this way the SERPs for a particular search term are calculated. As you understand this is a great way to speed up the search process, since the research is narrowed to particular pages by eliminating the rest.
The Criteria for selecting the most relevant pages of the domain
There are strong indications that in many of the cases above, the selected pages of the website are not always the ones that are more targeted for the search term. This means that even though it is certain that the domain should appear in the search results, since it is a trusted source of information, the page that has been selected is not the most relevant. Instead in many cases it is the one with the higher PageRank or with the most relevant links and at the same time the one that contains all the search terms.
This is the typical case when we try to optimize both the homepage and the internal pages for the same keywords. On the one hand we have the more generic homepage that has the higher PageRank and on the other hand we have the internal pages that are supposed to be targeted and highly optimized for particular terms. So in this case, depending on the amount of links and the PageRank that the internal page has, Google selects as more relevant the internal page or the homepage.
Calculating the SERPs
Once the most relevant pages of the website for the particular search term are selected, they are combined with the relevant pages from different domains and the SERPs are calculated. In this way the pages that are more relevant and targeted to the particular keyword rank higher.
As expected this might lead us to the following result:
If our selected page (for example the homepage) is not as relevant and targeted as the other pages it will rank lower. This is why it is very common to see that targeted pages with low PageRank often rank better than generic pages with high PageRank.
The tricky part
So far, so good. It is a common knowledge that targeted pages often achieve better rankings than over stuffed generic pages.
The only tricky part in this case is that obviously the results would have been different if the selected page was not the homepage but the targeted internal page of the website. This means that if we reorganize the content of our site so that there is no internal conflict between the homepage and the internal page, we have good chance to achieve better rankings. Additionally we can support the internal page by passing more PageRank juice from the homepage or by adding few more quality links directly to that page.
Obviously the ideal way to solve such kind of situations is not to remove all the main keywords from homepage, but to focus on the most important ones. Certainly you will need to have some generic text on your homepage but make sure that your SEO copy does not optimize and focus on the same keywords as your internal pages. A good idea, when it is possible, is to move the content of the most important internal page to the homepage and maintain at the same time a small generic text for the additional services/products that you offer.
As usual our suggestion is to play it safe. If you are facing ranking issues with sites that are already online, try to experiment, but perform small changes at the time. When you develop new websites make sure you optimize each page for few keywords and have targeted landing pages that are able to lead the visitor to your goals.