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I run a forum like website and I would like to make certain pages in it appear less prominently in Google search results. Is there a way to inform Google that I consider some pages to be less important than some other ones?

Specifically, there are some situations I have 2 different pages containing similar information that I want both to be indexed by Google, but I would also like to ensure that the first one appears above the second one in Google searches.

Edit: As to why I would want something like that, imagine that you had a website with information about geographical places (e.g. cities, states, countries, etc), having one page per place. Then you might want the page about New York state to have higher rank than the page about New York City, e.g. because the state is a larger entity than the city. The problem is that both places are called "New York" and that will confuse Google.

  • Are you open to changing the content on the pages? Rewriting titles and changing some words in the text? – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 5 '16 at 17:01
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    It would also be useful to know why you want a different page to rank. Is the content more relevant on the other? Are the pages duplicate? Is the other page better in some other regard? – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 5 '16 at 17:02
  • Agree... why... would help. Also, if you want one to rank better than the other then its rather simple... just get people buzzing about the page you want on top. – Simon Hayter Jul 5 '16 at 18:57
  • Yes, I would consider changing the pages. As for the why I am asking for this, please see my edit in the question, – psxls Jul 6 '16 at 9:57
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You can not enforce a page to appear over another one in Google, you can only suggest to Search Engines that you think one page is more important that another one.

Using the sitemap protocol. The priority tag definition states:

The priority of this URL relative to other URLs on your site. (..) it only lets the search engines know which pages you deem most important for the crawlers.

Please note that the priority you assign to a page is not likely to influence the position of your URLs in a search engine's result pages. Search engines may use this information when selecting between URLs on the same site, so you can use this tag to increase the likelihood that your most important pages are present in a search index.

So you will simply have to add both pages to the sitemap and specify one with higher priority than the other one.

If you have two pages with similar content, there is a high chance that they can be categorized as duplicate content, using the priority tag would increase the likelihood that the one you specify as more important be present in SERP when looking for something present in both pages.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
   <url>
      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>
      <lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>
      <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
      <priority>0.8</priority>
   </url>
   <url>
      <loc>http://www.example.com/catalog?item=74&amp;desc=vacation_newfoundland</loc>
      <lastmod>2004-12-23T18:00:15+00:00</lastmod>
      <priority>0.3</priority>
   </url>
</urlset>
  • As far as I know, search engines completely ignore the priority tag in sitemaps. webmasters.googleblog.com/2008/01/sitemaps-faqs.html: "priority only indicates the importance of a particular URL relative to other URLs on your site, and doesn't impact the ranking of your pages in search results". Also: seroundtable.com/… – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 5 '16 at 18:56
  • Priority within a sitemap only helps search engines determine what pages to fetch first. Nothing else. It has nothing to do with the search engine index and query processor. In fact, priority is largely ignored except to order the unknown pages when submitted to the fetch queue. – closetnoc Jul 5 '16 at 19:35
  • Thanks for the suggestion, I was already aware of the priority parameter in the sitemap. I was hoping that there is something similar to that but for the ranking of pages. – psxls Jul 6 '16 at 10:01
  • @StephenOstermiller I said based in the official sitemap protocol: Please note that the priority you assign to a page is not likely to influence the position of your URLs in a search engine's result pages. However, in this particular case, we have two similar pages,specifying that one has more priority than the other we are giving a (small) suggestion of which one we prefer (the final decision is always up to search engines) – marcanuy Jul 6 '16 at 13:38
  • Search engines may use this information when selecting between URLs on the same site, so you can use this tag to increase the likelihood that your most important pages are present in a search index. Another possibility would be to only include the page with the higher priority in the sitemap to select it as the preferred one in the case of duplicate content. That doesn't guarantee anything, are just small hints that may help in the final decision. – marcanuy Jul 6 '16 at 13:39
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The best way to get the appropriate page to rank for any particular query is to target that page to what users are actually looking for.

Let's take your example of "New York". You have two pages for it:


New York

New York is the third largest state in the US. It has...


New York

New York is the largest city in the US. It has...


You say you want your state page to rank better when the user searches for "New York". You think that this would be appropriate because New York State is larger than New York City. However, Google ranks pages for a query based on user intent. Some users that search for "New York" may be looking for information about the state, but many more are probably looking for information about the city. Still other may be looking to find out why the two are named the same thing. Google usually ranks the page that more people are looking for first. It uses click through rate "CTR" to determine which of the pages on your site actually match the query better. If people are looking for the NYC page, Google tries to make them happy.

You can help by differentiating your pages. Especially the page titles:


New York State (NY) Geography - MyBrand

New York is the third largest state in the US. It has...


New York City (NYC) - MyBrand

New York, NY is the largest city in the US. It has...


Clarifying in the title what the page is about really helps users. They won't have to click into the page to find out if it is the one they are looking for. They will know before they click.

Putting full information into the titles can also help the pages rank for a variety of queries. There are a ton of things that users may actually be searching for that your page could answer:

  • new york
  • new york city
  • new york state
  • ny
  • nyc
  • new york, ny
  • new york geography
  • new york size
  • new york mybrand

Google is generally very good about getting the correct page to come up for each of these queries when you describe the page in the page title appropriately for users. When Google is getting it wrong, think about what users are actually looking for and try to describe it better for them so they click on the right thing. In many cases user intent may not be clear. In some cases it might be an opportunity to write a new article addressing any confusion:


Why Do New York State and City Have the Same Name?

New York was named in....

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