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Are Your Homepage Links Hurting Your Rankings?

May 23, 2008
What if I told you that all the links in your site that point to your homepage (i.e. the "default" page) of your domain are doing you more harm than good? That would sound pretty silly wouldn't it? Well, in many instances, those links are doing just that.

Before I go any further, let me explain exactly what a homepage link is for anyone who happens to be new to web promotion and web design. A "homepage" link is a link that goes the main page of your website. You know, the one that comes up automatically if you just type in your URL.

So if your domain name is www.example.com then your homepage is the page that comes up when I visit that URL.

The server is setup to return a specific page as the "default" page when no actual page name is referenced in the URL. This "default" page is often "index.html", "default.htm", or something similar, but could be virtually anything. When no page name is referenced, the server returns the content of this page.

Ok..so now that everyone knows what a homepage link is, I hear you asking "John...how can links to my homepage be bad?". So I'll answer. If done correctly, a homepage link is generally a good thing. The problem is that a huge percentage of the homepage links I see on the sites that I analyze are done incorrectly.

Instead of the homepage link pointing to the actual domain, the link is pointing to the actual default page such as "index.html", "default.html", etc.

For a more visual example:

Instead of the homepage link pointing to "www.example.com" it is pointing to "www.example.com/index.html". Now, the content that is served up at both of the above URLs may be identical, but they are both technically different URLs and they are generally treated as such by the search engines.

So, how can this potentially hurt you? Well, you have to remember that one fo the biggest factors in how well a particular URL ranks in the search engines is the link popularity of that page. In the above example, there are two distinct pages each with their own link popularity.

Most people when linking to your site, will link to your homepage/domain name, i.e. "www.example.com", but if internally in your site, when linking to your homepage, you linked to "www.example.com/index.html" then you are effectively splitting that pages potential link popularity between two different URLs.

The end result of this is often that your homepage never ranks as high as it could.

The bad news is that this is extremely common. The good news is that it is relatively easy to fix. Just go through your site and look for all of your homepage links to make sure they are linking to your main domain and NOT to a specific page.

If you find links incorrectly pointing to the actual page instead of the domain, change them and eventually, the engines will pick up the changes and you will likely find that your rankings will improve.

There are additional things that you can do to further speed up the process, but unfortunately, they are dependent on what type of server your site is running on and a bit beyond the scope of this article (but generally fairly easy to setup if necessary).

Ok...so there you have it. A quick and easy to fix a problem that can have potentially big effects on your site's ranking. Now...go fix it!

I'll see you at the top!
About the Author
John Buchanan is an SEO consultant in Dallas Texas with 10 years in the field. He does search engine optimization in Dallas, Texas and for companies throughout the world.
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