When the wrong page shows up in Google

What happens if you’re top of the Google results for something, but it’s not the right page showing in the results? You’d be forgiven for getting irritated, but you’d also be forgiven for thinking: “well at least my site is top”. Does it matter?

The most frequent manifestation of this phenomenon is for your home page to be the one which shows up in the Google results. This is particularly common in websites belonging to small, technical businesses, which have only a tiny number of external links to pages on their site beyond the home page. You might have a 100-page site, but when Google looks around the web, it sees 25 links to the home page, 1 link to some product page and nothing else: 98 pages have no external links at all. The algorithms could be forgiven for deducing that the only page where people should be sent is the home page.

But let’s return to the question: does it matter? The answer is yes, but primarily from a user experience viewpoint. If visitors aren’t being sent to the page about the search they made, you need to ensure that the page they do want is easily accessible. For example, if you’re top in Google for ‘blue widgets’, but your home page is showing, you’d better make sure that the home page has a quick, easy and obvious link to the blue widgets page. Otherwise, there’ll be plenty of visitors who take a quick look, can’t see what they want, and leave.

From a business point of view alone, that would be a terrible waste. However, it’s also bad from a search engine point of view. Lots of visitors coming straight back suggests that your site isn’t as relevant as the search engine thought, and you won’t hold your position for ever.

You can see in Google Search Console which searches are sending a lot of people to your site. Investigate which page is appearing in the search results for each of these searches, and if it’s not the one you’d expect, ensure there’s a clear link to get people to the right page. Something hidden in a navigation menu isn’t good enough.