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If a page has several sections all using anchor links from a table of contents, are there any SEO consequences of also having separate pages for each section?

Here's an example to illustrate the situation.

Say there is an essay at example.com/full-essay. Clicking any item from the below table of contents jumps to the content on the same page using an anchor link, i.e. example.com/full-essay#section-1.

  1. Introduction
  2. Section 1
  3. Section 2
  4. Conclusion

In addition to that, there are separate pages for each item - these have a URL like example.com/topic/section-1 and are not linked from the "full essay" page. They take a "one section/item per page" approach, whereas the full essay puts all related sections on one long page. People find these standalone sections in a different way, and each section does make sense as a standalone page.

I'm interested in how search engines view this type of site structure.

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  • I think it will give confusing results, unless you make the individual pages a bit more unique Feb 19, 2023 at 12:40
  • @RohitGupta That would be one guess, although I'm not sure what a "confusing result" looks like. Maybe it's too uncommon of a structure for anybody to have any real information. Feb 21, 2023 at 4:34

3 Answers 3

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You may get varying results from the Search Engine. For instance, I think that the chances of it deciding that the first and last sections are duplicates, is higher. It all depends on the algorithms it uses.

My feeling is that it will work.

If you submit one such collection and it indexes all pages then you will be fine. If not, then you may have to add additional information on the standalone pages.

In general 'Discovered' - is not useful status for this. At that point the URL hasnt even been crawled yet, so Google doesn't KNOW if duplicate or not.

... in theory duplicate(ish) content MIGHT correlate a bit with 'Crawled' status (ie having found duplicate decided not to index. )

From Google support pages. How to detect Duplicate Content within the new Google Search Console

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Having anchor link content spread across multiple pages may have both positive and negative SEO effects.

On the positive side, having anchor link content on multiple pages can increase the visibility and accessibility of that content, as users may be more likely to encounter it while browsing different parts of your site. This can also potentially increase the number of backlinks to your site, as users may link to specific pages with anchor link content rather than just your main page.

On the negative side, having anchor link content spread across multiple pages may dilute the overall relevance and authority of that content. When search engines crawl your site, they may not fully understand the relationship between the different pages with anchor link content and may not give as much weight to each individual page. Additionally, having duplicate anchor link content on multiple pages may be seen as duplicate content by search engines, which can harm your SEO.

Overall, it is important to balance the benefits and drawbacks of having anchor link content spread across multiple pages and to ensure that the content is relevant and high-quality on each individual page. It may also be helpful to use proper canonical tags and internal linking strategies to ensure that search engines understand the relationship between the different pages with anchor link content.

From personal experience, I can say that, if properly implemented, it gives a tangible advantage, as anchor links you set not only the relevance of the text, and increase user experience, which is also positively evaluated by search engines.

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The anchor text situation is not important here. I would not worry about it.

There are three main questions that Search Engines will have when they visit your page:

  • What is this content about?
  • Is it high quality?
  • What queries should we include this page in the results for?

In this situation, there is important nuance to understand. It has to do with the fact that your content is essays. Within an essay, you are covering a relatively broad topic, with multiple sections that cover specifics.

There are two main types of people are going to find your essays:

  1. People searching for almost exactly what you've titled the essays
  2. People searching for specific information covered in one of the sections of an essay.

Those in the #1 camp will find your content one way or another. You need to be concerned about #2.

The answer to your question is that search engines will be confused about which pages to rank.

They can either rank the essay and show part of the relevant content in the meta description, then page jump users to the section with the answer - chances are you've experienced this before where it's highlighted.

OR should they rank the page that just has the relevant section?

As with most cases of duplicate content, it is likely that both pages will be suppressed because of this uncertainty.

So, if you would like to have those section specific pages you can do so, but use rel canonical to indicate which page should rank in organic searches. This will not interrupt the UX of your website.

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