NOTE FROM EDITOR [Joe]: The following guest post is by the amazing Mr. Ammon Johns. It was first published in 2011 on his own site. However because, Ammon, is some kind of weirdo, he deleted it quite some time ago. BUT, he has given me permission to republish here in it’s entirety! Personally, this post changed the way I thought about information architecture and internal linking. It beautifully articulates how to increase customer/user experience, and apply an aggressive approach to SEO at the same time. Win/Win!
This is the long-awaited update to my classic 3-page search engine optimization technique, which was first published in 2003. This is a rare example of a specific SEO technique that has been used successfully for many years.
It can be openly shared in this way because it is a technique that also enhances usability, and is not in itself in any way ‘shadey’ or deceptive to search engines.
Why a Multi-Page SEO Technique is needed
Basic and fundamental on-page search engine optimization is not that difficult once you have even a general idea of basic on-page ranking factors such as using relevant keywords in titles, headings, and within the paragraphs of text on a page. One could call this ‘generic SEO’ because it really is the baseline and fundamental aspect of any search engine optimization.
Generic level search engine optimization works quite well across many search engines, which was a lot more important before Google attained its current dominance, and is still important in several countries today. Even in markets where Google has clear search dominance, one should not dismiss alternatives such as Bing, nor even entirely dismiss search engines that send very little traffic.
However, where a market is at all competitive, this sort of generic level SEO simply doesn’t cut it. In such cases you have to start be better optimized for specific phrases, specific search engines, and you need to start using off-page factors such as link-building. That’s the level at which my multi-page SEO technique starts to come in.
At this point, the content needs to be better optimized for the particular algorithm than the competitors’ content is – and this means choosing which algorithm (and search engine) you will attempt to match. One page cannot closely match different algorithms, and each of the major and minor search engines has its own algorithm.
To rank well in multiple search engines for the same competitive search terms it becomes necessary to have multiple pages optimized for each term, each page optimized for a different algorithm. This creates new problems, namely in how to repeat the targeting of phrases, without creating lots of ‘near duplicate’ pages, and how to link multiple pages that target the same words into a clear navigation that doesn’t confuse users.
The old method of using multiple landing pages simply does not integrate well with the need to have all pages tied into the navigation structure of the site in order to have any link power. Methods of using multiple sites or satellite sites do work, but add phenomenally to the needs for link-building, and tend to split the link equity, or weaken the brand integrity. here are all kinds of other work-arounds in use by SEOs that vary from cloaked content to hidden links, but oddly, they are all unnecessary.
Having multiple pages for each product or service is not only simple, but in fact is already in common existence. Here I will explain my multi-page SEO technique that is the modern twist on my classic 3-Page Technique.
The Multi-Page Search Engine Optimisation Technique
This SEO technique was originally devised for client sites, and thus is most typically applied on any of the classic styles of eCommerce sites we know, with their somewhat catalog style display of products that lead to a page specific to each product, with an image, some descriptive text, and an add to cart function.
Yes, that’s the sort of thing. One page, and whoever is in charge of SEO probably had to battle to get even a paragraph of text onto it originally.
Well, this is where the multi-page optimization technique comes in.
We’ve already learned that having a unique description that sells the product is good for both SEO and conversions. We know not to use the default text from the manufacturer because hundreds of other sites have it. We know that having multiple views of the product helps visitors, enhances usability, and increases conversions.
Well, here’s how we tie that all into SEO with the multi-page SEO technique.
You should probably have a ‘Full Details’ or ‘Detailed Specifications’ type link that goes to a page with longer text as well. On such a page, you can get right down to the specifications and details that most users would never want, but some IT department considering buying it for some obscure use absolutely need. Talk about the materials, the manufacture, the tolerances and capabilities in full detail. This page will thus have a longer text and tend towards a slightly higher reading level, all with plenty of added opportunity for intelligent and natural keyword use.
You could have yet another page connected too, as something like ‘Read Reviews of this Product’ which would lead to User Generated Content in the form of product reviews, perhaps with some small ‘fair use’ snippets of other reviews with proper attribution. This would allow for even more ‘long tail’ keywords, and most importantly, adds text that uses customer language and terms for products and details.
All of these extra pages will naturally link back to the main product page, but also link to each other. This allows customers to click from looking at the fine detail to go and read the technical details. It also provides natural cross-linking, thus making all of these extra pages a natural and integrated part of the site, while simultaneously increasing your internal cross-linking and link popularity factors.
A few words of caution
Technically, the only limit to the number of additional pages for each product or service you could have is that imposed by your own creativity. Using this multi-page SEO technique would allow you to easily create 5 or more additional pages for each product you offer, effectively multiplying the size of the entire site by that factor. You should consider carefully before doing so.
If you multiply the volume of pages in your website significantly, you also multiply the amount of content that search engine spiders must crawl and index. If your site were not deemed a high priority to crawl, or at least, not high enough for all of its pages to be crawled and re-indexed on a regular basis, this could cause some pages to appear to drop from the index intermittently.
One of the best tools for estimating the relative crawl priority of a site is to look at its PageRank score, even that imperfect metric of the Toolbar PageRank indication (TBPR). Find any tool that allows you to determine the Toolbar PageRank score for your domain, then apply the following rough rule of thumb.
|TbPR||Number of Pages Crawled|
Numbers in brackets are the potential maximums I feel could be safely considered as relatively stable in the index. Number before brackets is the ‘safe’ number.
Using this table, if you had a site with 100 product pages and used my multi-page SEO technique to create an average of 3 additional pages per product, you would need a minimum toolbar PageRank of 3, and I would recommend that you should have a toolbar PageRank of 4 or higher to be reasonably safe in getting all of the site indexed.
The multi-page SEO technique allows you to create a variety of additional pages for important product or service related keywords, naturally increasing your ability to target variations in algorithms, or keyword variants.
The whole concept is about providing a variety of pages in a manner that is intuitive, seamless, logical, and aids usability. It just also happens to give multiple pages that can naturally have less or more text, at a variety of reading levels, to better suit certain search algorithms, and of course, those pages are all interlinked to the main single-product page naturally.
Just as was true when I originally shared the 3 page optimization technique all those years ago, this is still an effective method that is so natural and seamless that even other SEOs often fail to notice the strategy. I close this article now, as I did then with the following:
My classic [Multi]-page optimization technique has proven to be powerful and effective for hundreds of clients. In sharing it now, the important part is the lesson in how to combine increased search engine optimization with increased usability for humans too. Anything you need to hide, hasn’t been truly optimized, as it is only attaining half or less of the marketing effects that it could and should.
5 thoughts on “Multi-Page SEO Technique”
Steve Ceaton says:
“Each image should link to its own page” Wouldn’t this trigger Panda with “thin content” issues?
Joe Hall says:
Not if you are also creating a unique textual description of each image on the page.
I’ve been choosing to not link to the attachment and no index the media page it is on. I’m wondering the benefit of having a unique description on an image page, because those wouldn’t really provide value to searchers?
Nice to see thoughts vetted by somebody else. Now I feel less crazy and a little validated. Thanks for sharing / re-sharing!
Jeannie Hill says:
I have been looking for this article by Ammon Johns for an authoritive approach to multi-page SEO. Thank you, Joe Hall; I am glad to have found it. Its supports your 3-page optimization technique.
Now that we also have AMP pages, it has another layer of complexity. How are you monitoring crawl budget?