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Can there be too many links to your home page?

In an online webmaster forum, a webmaster described the link experiment that he did with his websites. He tried to find out how linking to the home page affected his rankings.

Google ranking test

What did the webmaster test?

The webmaster tested the effect of links from sub pages of his website to his home page. He tried links to the home page of his website from the navigation and from the content and he tried links with and without keywords.

The test was done with a 4 year old domain name with a dedicated IP address. The web pages were HTML only. The website ranks top 5 in Google for its main, second and third keyword phrases and it has a total of 90 pages with unique content.

What were the results of the test?

It seems that too many links to the home page of your website can have a negative effect on your rankings:

  1. Linking to the home page from every page in the content with the same keyword caused a six pages drop in rankings (-6 pages).

  2. Linking to the home page from every page in the content using keyword variations caused a three pages drop in rankings (-3 pages).

  3. Linking to the home page from the navigation with "main keyword" also caused a six pages drop in rankings (-6 pages).

  4. Linking to the home page from the first 10 pages listed on Google.com for "site:domain.com/*" increased the ranking from 5th to 3rd (+2 positions).

The webmaster also observed the following:

  • Linking from the content using keyword variations was effective to a point, after which the rankings dropped.

  • There seems to be a page threshold. If the number of pages that link is even slightly above the threshold, the rankings will drop.

Does this mean that you shouldn't link to your home page?

It's hard to tell whether the results of this experiment are valid because there are too many other variables that influence the rankings of a web page.

It doesn't sound sensible that Google will downrank a web page that has a link to its home page on every page. Most users expect a link to the home page on every page of a website and even Google has a link to its home page from every page.

As Google's usual webmaster advice is to focus on the website user, it seems implausible that Google would penalize home page links.

We think that it's more likely that the ranking drops are caused by Google's change filter. If you change your web page contents, Google will temporarily downrank your web pages. This has been described in a Google patent.

High positions on Google depend on much more than the internal links on your website. If you want an analysis of all important factors that influence the position of your website on Google, analyze your site with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer.

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December 2008 search engine articles