Multi-Page SEO Technique

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 optimisation 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 optimisation.

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 optimised 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 satelite 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 optimisation 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.

Each image should link to its own page rather than to a javascript popup or fancy HTML layer. In that new ‘image page’ will be the larger sized image plus descriptive text that both draws the sighted visitor’s attention to key points of the image, but also serves sight-impaired users as fully descriptive alternate text.  Naturally, this page will have plenty of places for those important keywords in the text.

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
0 1 (6)
1 5 (30)
2 20 (120)
3 80 (480)
4 1,000 (10,000)
5 10,000 (100,000)
6 60,000 (500,000)
7 250,000 (2,000,000)
8 1,000,000 (10,000,000)
9 5,000,000 (50,000,000)
10 20,000,000 (100,000,000)

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.

In Summary

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 optimisation 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.

  • http://improvetheweb.com Yura

    In your recent experience, has creating separate pages for images, rather than showing them with jQuery on the same page, reduced visitor experience?

    Also, another factor is page load time (though it can managed, yes).

    Thus, if all your text is pre-loaded on the same page and is shown with Javascript (you might’ve seen this example with horizontal tabs, when all the content is already on the page, as seen from the page source):
    - it loads faster
    - has a potential to show for many more long tail keyphrases from a larger body of text
    - may rank higher for more competitive (optimized for) phrases as a longer text page

    Then again, most likely your technique relies on on-page factors and interlinking (and possibly getting links to all 3+ pages for the same product), so it does work, I’m sure.

    I’m just curious, whether you’ve tested other variants, which seem to have become the best practices (sadly? :) ) .

    Thank you.

    • http://www.ammonjohns.com/ Ammon

      Hey, Yura. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
      The page-load factors are a lot less than one would imagine, and may even favour the multi-page approach, as many browsers will pre-fetch the linked pages while reading the first. The same amount of characters/text are downloaded and part of the total download overhead either way. The multi-page SEO technique requires that extra header and footer HTML has to be downloaded for each page, while the methods using JavaScript (including the popular jscript methods) require extra JavaScript to be downloaded for a single page view. Pre-fetching and pre-caching can often make the multi-page technique the faster one.

      • The same text downloaded either way, pre-caching may often be faster
      • You may get more long-tail search from one larger page, but this will also include more nonsense phrasing and traffic you didn’t want and can’t help
      • Optimal is optimal, more than optimal is less optimal
      • Cross-linking pages increases the in-anchor keyworded links pointing to each page
  • http://docsheldon.com Doc Sheldon

    Interesting, Ammon.

    I’ve used your multi-page technique on a couple of smallish ecommerce sites, with good results. I’ve found it particularly helpful in avoiding dupl./near-duplicate issues, and as you say, it’s a great way to augment your internal linking.

    I would be concerned about consuming my crawl budget too quickly, though, if I were providing 4 or 5 pages for each SKU. It’s tough enough already, to get a thorough crawl on an ecommerce site.

    Oh well, that’s why they pay us the big bucks, right? ;)

    • http://www.ammonjohns.com/ Ammon

      Hey Doc Sheldon, thanks for your thoughts and comments.

      You’re absolutely right to worry about carefully balancing the issues of getting the whole site crawled. That’s the main reason why, for this updated version, I made sure to include the cautionary section, and the guide to how to roughly use Toolbar PageRank to estimate a realistice expectation to depth of crawl for a site, and the number of pages that should safely be indexed. Take the highest PageRank page from a domain as the number and you should find my estimations to be safe guides.

      It doesn’t mean that every page will be crawled and reindexed every single month, but you should find that the crawling goes deep enough, often enough, to prevent pages being dropped from the index, even if they are not as ‘fresh’ versions sometimes (regarding changes to products, offers, prices, etc).

  • http://www.360innovate.co.uk Gordon

    Ammon,

    Amazing post. I’m going to spend my weekend(I know it’s sad) studying eCommerce sites using this technique.

    Thanks,

    Gordon

    • http://www.ammonjohns.com/ Ammon

      SEO research is addictive, and consumes a lot of weekends. Thanks for commenting, Gordon

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405620135 Valentin

        I doubt very seriously you can aroffd the best SEO company on the internet even if someone could narrow it down to just one. Companies like SEOmoz.org get $1000/hr or more. I am an independent SEO consultant with no where near the resources of a company like SEOmoz.org, and I charge $100-125/hr depending on the job and type of work. Most people online looking for SEO think $5-15/hr should get them a good SEO. But most of the people willing to market themselves that low are either 1) VERY inexperienced or 2) live in a 3rd world country, have learned a few buzz words related to SEO, and now “claim” to be SEO ‘experts’. Figure out how much money you’re willing to invest in SEO and then search for the best SEO firm that fits within your budget.

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  • http://www.countryflora.com bhavya

    Ammon,

    My site has a PR of 1 and there are roughly 200 pages indexed. Should I worry? Anything which might be flagged off?

    • http://www.ammonjohns.com/ Ammon

      I certainly wouldn’t worry as such, but it probably should be a concern you’d want to address. PR1 is pretty low, and with 200 pages to index and reindex, you may see trouble getting freshness in the SERPs. You really want to be looking to gain a few, more significant, quality links, and possibly the easiest route to that might be to get some News links. Local news sites work just fine for this and impart a little more authority than many other forms of links. See if you can find a way to court some coverage in local news, either by a charitable action, or some publicity event, etc.