How hub pages and internal links pay for Mail Online


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Combining hub pages for key topics and keywords with well-planned internal links can be a very effective SEO strategy.

This is to ensure that when you regularly create content around a topic, you can consistently rank for the topic. key words.

I’m going to use examples from Mail Online which some say is the most visited English language newspaper site on the web. That’s not to say it’s the best – far from it – but it does provide a useful topic for this post.

Mail Online has recently started using Hub Pages consistently for many of its most popular topics, but not all.

It gives us the opportunity to see what effect it has had. So here I’m going to take a look at the strategy for two topics and an example of what happens when you don’t.

Hub pages: what are they and why do you need them?

In this context, a hub page is a thematic page around a certain subject or keyword. It could be a tag page, like this one for SEO, or maybe a category page.

Sites that produce a lot of content around the same topic often end up competing for search positions.

This is especially true with newspaper articles, as in the New York Times example here. News articles are generally brief and come and go in the search rankings. However, linking them to a hub page serves as a signal to Google that this is the page that needs to rank for a particular keyword or term.

To show how it works, here are some examples from Mail Online.

Search term ‘Chelsea News’

Mail Online had no hub page policy of any kind until recently. Dan Barker (@danbarker on Twitter) pointed this out recently and believes that Mail launched this strategy around October 25 of last year.

This means that we can get a before and after image of the effects of this tactic.

Here we have the search results for the entire Daily Mail domain for the search term “Chelsea News”. This is news related to Chelsea Football Club, relatively popular research in the UK.

We can see that it started to return results for this hub page from November 7. He also set up pages for other English football teams.

This page existed before, although its search performance was inconsistent until November 7 of last year.

This graph shows the ranking of this page, and we can see a consistent (and higher) search ranking from November.

Chelsea Online Mail Landing Page

The difference is the internal networking strategy.

The screenshot of the article below (the article is dated May 2015) shows the opportunities to link to the hub page that were missed.

Chelsea article no internal links

This next screenshot shows the new strategy. In this December 2015 article, links are to the Chelsea squad page (the hub page).

article with internal link

This is the Daily Mail team page. In addition to internal links from each article, the site now uses the different elements of the page.

For example, team logos and live boards now link to individual team landing pages.

team pages
Search Term: ‘David Cameron’

Here is the Daily Mail view for the search term David Cameron:

1. Full Daily Mail view for search term David Cameron

As in the previous example, the rankings are inconsistent and many different pages are returned by Google for the six month period indicated.

It is until the beginning of November, when the hub page takes over. Since then, the performance of this David Cameron landing page has improved significantly.

There have been a few hiccups since November, possibly due to inconsistent linking strategy implementation, but the page is performing much more efficiently.

David Cameron Landing Page

Again, the difference is between using internal linking effectively and missing the chance to link, as this August 2015 article shows.

article without hub page

Now Mail Online editors have learned how to use internal linking (there may have been internal training in October) and press articles and opinion pieces on Cameron all link to the hub page.

4. Internal link of David Cameron's new article

The Telegraph: internal networking as it should be

Of course, Mail Online has been slow to realize the value of internal links (I raised this in 2014) compared to other news sites.

For example, The Telegraph has been using links correctly for some time, and this is reflected in the performance of its David Cameron landing page.

telegraph center page

Her center page ranks consistently for the term because it has had links from all of her Cameron posts for some time.

6. The Telegraph David Cameron article

This means that the Telegraph and The Guardian (which also knows what to do with links), are the only news sites to rank on the first page of Google for the term with their landing pages.

Mail Online: inconsistent internal mesh

While the Daily Mail now internally links and uses hub pages, the site doesn’t do this for every search term (or hasn’t rolled out the strategy in all of its sections yet).

This underlines the impact that an effective internal networking can have, used with dedicated hub pages.

For example, celebrity news generates a lot of traffic for Mail Online, and it covers any loose celebrity “news”.

However, very few celebrities still have landing pages. For example, Jennifer Lopez.

As a result, the Mail’s rankings for this search term are top to bottom and return 55 different URLs over the six month period shown below.

Daily Mail Performance Jennifer Lopez - No Landing Page

As the previous examples demonstrated, with a J-Lo landing page and the right links, the site could rank consistently and generate even more traffic.

In summary

Mail Online creates and publishes huge amounts of celebrity and news articles. With each of these articles, they gain thousands of links and social shares from their readers.

While each new article performs relatively well in search, they only do so for a limited time. If the article becomes old, the positions drop until the original article is usurped by a new article, and so on.

These examples show how effective using link pages and hubs can be and demonstrate its value, especially for sites that produce a lot of content around the same themes.

They also show how quickly sites can get results with this strategy. In the case of Mail Online, it looks like it took a little over a week for Google to display the links and return the desired page for the search terms.

This strategy, implemented across a range of keywords, allows sites to rank more consistently for a wide range of search terms, with clear beneficial effects on traffic.


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Rosemary S. Bishop