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Url Structures: Deep Pages = Weaker Ranking?


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28 replies to this topic

#1 JayMcDonald

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 01:50 PM

If deeper pages get weaker rankings, what constitutes "deeper"?

Is it url structure? Is site.com/products/product-name considered deeper than site.com/product-name even if site.com/products is not a page? Also - I'm using Drupal, so this is just an arbitrarily created path, so it doesn't even represent folder structure. So /products/ is not a folder, either.

I often like to structure urls to provide a sort of "wayfinding signage" to users that reveals the conceptual hierarchy of pages. Do well-organized, hierarchical urls hurt SEO? Or is it only when each level in a multilevel/path/to/content is its own page (or folder?) that a spider calculates depth? I hear that flatter structures are better for SEO, but if a large informational site is structured with each page as something like: site.com/page-name, that is kludgy and you miss a huge opportunity for organizing.

Either way, what then of the standard blog practice of structuring post urls to be date-hackable like site.com/blog/2011/11/17/my-new-blog-post where lopping off any of that url drops you into a page showing a list of posts for the remaining date criteria? Useful for visitors. Bad for SEO?

Is nav structure an issue? Does placement of a page within the nav determine depth? Are there other factors?

#2 Jill

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 02:04 PM

QUOTE
If deeper pages get weaker rankings, what constitutes "deeper"?

Is it url structure?


Not, URL structure, but the linking structure.

QUOTE
Is site.com/products/product-name considered deeper than site.com/product-name even if site.com/products is not a page?


Nope, it has nothing to do with the way your URL looks.

#3 JayMcDonald

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 02:17 PM

QUOTE(Jill @ Nov 17 2011, 02:04 PM) View Post
Not, URL structure, but the linking structure.
Nope, it has nothing to do with the way your URL looks.


So if a page is *only* reachable via links within a particular page (as opposed to pervasive nav links) then that is considered a child page, and hence "deeper"? (Not being thick here, there is just so much bad info out there, so I am wanting to clarify). If so, this makes me wonder about second level contextual nav. What if a second set of nav links appears in the sidebar of a certain section? Those links are on nav, and on multiple pages, but only a subset of the overall pages (maybe 3 or 4 pages out of 3 dozen).

#4 Alan Perkins

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 02:21 PM

QUOTE(JayMcDonald @ Nov 17 2011, 07:17 PM) View Post
So if a page is *only* reachable via links within a particular page (as opposed to pervasive nav links) then that is considered a child page, and hence "deeper"?

Yes, think of depth as "number of clicks from the home page".

#5 JayMcDonald

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 02:28 PM

QUOTE(Alan Perkins @ Nov 17 2011, 02:21 PM) View Post
Yes, think of depth as "number of clicks from the home page".


Alan: That's the key I was looking for smile.gif

#6 Alan Perkins

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 02:53 PM

Great!

#7 JayMcDonald

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 03:02 PM

QUOTE(JayMcDonald @ Nov 17 2011, 02:28 PM) View Post
Alan: That's the key I was looking for smile.gif


Hmmmm. So now I'm thinking... does having a sitemap page that is linked on the footer nav make every page in the site 2 clicks from the homepage?

#8 Alan Perkins

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 03:03 PM

No, disregard the sitemap to keep things conceptually simple.

#9 Jill

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 03:45 PM

That's why I don't like talking about it in terms of how far away from the home page it is. Since any deep page could be linked from the home page. But if it were only linked from the home page and from nowhere else, it wouldn't mean that much.

Think about it in terms of pages linked to from your global navigation. Those pages are linked to from every other page of the site, so they will be given the most weight by search engines (in terms of internal link popularity).

#10 Alan Perkins

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 03:58 PM

QUOTE(Jill)
That's why I don't like talking about it in terms of how far away from the home page it is. Since any deep page could be linked from the home page. But if it were only linked from the home page and from nowhere else, it wouldn't mean that much.


I disagree! It would mean a lot. It would mean it was important enough to be linked from the home page and, in depth terms, there's no other way to describe it than one deep.

Jay's original question was...

QUOTE
If deeper pages get weaker rankings, what constitutes "deeper"?


Clicks from the home page is what constitutes "deeper" on the premise that "deeper pages get weaker rankings". But that's a single premise - there are other considerations than simply depth, such as "quantity and quality" of links, number of links on the page, location of link on the page, whether nofollow is used, etc. These other premises are the reason we can disregard sitemaps - since the sheer number of links on a sitemap page, and the quality of those links, means they tend to cancel each other out and can be disregarded in information architecture terms.

#11 Michael Martinez

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 02:20 PM

You can have multiple meanings/contexts for "deep content". Technically, you can bury a page 10 folders deep on your site, not be able to navigate to it from the home page at all, and it would still receive traffic through inbound links from other sites and search engines (this is the concept on which PageRank traps and ISP user Websites are built).



#12 newhat

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Posted 20 November 2011 - 08:24 PM

This post explains the quandary I have and the immense frustration I have with SEO - how it is important and how it still stinks to be a webmaster if true because your users will know the obvious but search engines might take the long way home. In short, I always had a great dropdown navigation for many of my sites because it allowed users to get to a page with very few clicks. Despite this being the case, search engines may take the long route.

So what do you do when your topic covers 200 categories? In human land, much easier to break it down to 10 main topics, 10 subtopics and 10 sub-subtopics. Well organized, worth the deeper navigation for order. In search engineland, I'm told that it's better to put 100 on two levels and no sub-subtopics (no grandfathering.) Makes me absolutely crazy because it might mean moving tons of things to subdomains solely because search engines might not understand.

e.g. site dealing with athletes' injuries and what they did to recover. The sport isn't really important, just to navigate to find the player you want. Structure:

Home > sport > team > roster > player.html

This makes sense since the site is about sports player injuries. What sport they play is just an easier way to separate the players to find them. The injuries are much the same, e.g. sprained ankles. Now despite that a good dropdown will allow you to get to the team and/or roster quickly, I'm told that search engines would rather have:

team.site. com/ roster / player.html

You could spend all day making subdomains for no other reason than search engine rankings. Not sure if this is valid and I'd certainly enjoy hearing from other users what they've done. This site really should be.

#13 Michael Martinez

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 02:09 PM

QUOTE(kgerson @ Nov 20 2011, 05:24 PM) View Post
So what do you do when your topic covers 200 categories? In human land, much easier to break it down to 10 main topics, 10 subtopics and 10 sub-subtopics. Well organized, worth the deeper navigation for order. In search engineland, I'm told that it's better to put 100 on two levels and no sub-subtopics (no grandfathering.) Makes me absolutely crazy because it might mean moving tons of things to subdomains solely because search engines might not understand.


Whoever told you that nonsense doesn't know what they are doing. If you have 200 topics, for each of which you are creating valid content (multiple pages/URLs), then you have 200 categories. The human mind cannot cope with 200 options so you MUST sub-categorize.

QUOTE
This makes sense since the site is about sports player injuries. What sport they play is just an easier way to separate the players to find them. The injuries are much the same, e.g. sprained ankles. Now despite that a good dropdown will allow you to get to the team and/or roster quickly, I'm told that search engines would rather have:

team.site. com/ roster / player.html


That is a load of crap.

The search engines don't "prefer" anything. They take what you give them and work with it.

#14 Alan Perkins

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 03:09 PM

Sorry, I wasn't notified of extra posts to this thread until that most recent one from Michael for some reason.

QUOTE(Michael Martinez)
You can have multiple meanings/contexts for "deep content". Technically, you can bury a page 10 folders deep on your site, not be able to navigate to it from the home page at all, and it would still receive traffic through inbound links from other sites and search engines (this is the concept on which PageRank traps and ISP user Websites are built).


Yep, I was just trying to keep it simple (and accurate in most situations) for the purposes of clarity. We could try to cover every eventuality but I'm not sure that would be helpful to someone looking for a simple definition of "depth". A page you can't reach by clicking from your home page is technically an orphan and doesn't have a depth.

QUOTE(kgerson)
You could spend all day making subdomains for no other reason than search engine rankings. Not sure if this is valid and I'd certainly enjoy hearing from other users what they've done.


As Michael says, whatever you've heard, it sounds a load of nonsense.

Organise your content as you see fit. One thing I noticed about your description is that you said it was a sports injuries site but sports injuries didn't form part of your hierarchy. You said:

Home > sport > team > roster > player.html

But, depending how you wanted to emphasise things, it could just as easily be:

Home > part of body > injury > player > team > roster

And you might choose to use tags rather than breadcrumbs once you got down to a certain depth, e.g. injury.

However you do it, do it in a way that makes sense for your human visitors first. After that, if the search engines need help because of some implementation issue, you can provide it. But search engines shouldn't dictate the Information Architecture, your human visitors should.





#15 newhat

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Posted 21 November 2011 - 03:20 PM

QUOTE(Michael Martinez @ Nov 21 2011, 02:09 PM) View Post
Whoever told you that nonsense doesn't know what they are doing. If you have 200 topics, for each of which you are creating valid content (multiple pages/URLs), then you have 200 categories. The human mind cannot cope with 200 options so you MUST sub-categorize.
That is a load of crap.

The search engines don't "prefer" anything. They take what you give them and work with it.

It's not crap at all. You can tell me all day about MUST categorizing but SEO experts (everyone is, lol) have repeatedly told me that the lower down the level closer to the root/home, the better results you'll get. Hence you might make decisions you don't want to make but they might be better if your main money is coming from those categories.

For example:

home >> sport >> leagues >> teams >> players

You might cut out the leagues for some sports:

home >> sport >> teams >> players

While each sport could have 5 leagues (let's just say), a site may get rid of leagues and have 100 teams, alphabetical order, to create a flatter structure that is one less click away. Call it stupid but I have seen several articles on this very issue.

QUOTE(Alan Perkins @ Nov 21 2011, 03:09 PM) View Post
Sorry, I wasn't notified of extra posts to this thread until that most recent one from Michael for some reason.
Yep, I was just trying to keep it simple (and accurate in most situations) for the purposes of clarity. We could try to cover every eventuality but I'm not sure that would be helpful to someone looking for a simple definition of "depth". A page you can't reach by clicking from your home page is technically an orphan and doesn't have a depth.
As Michael says, whatever you've heard, it sounds a load of nonsense.

Organise your content as you see fit. One thing I noticed about your description is that you said it was a sports injuries site but sports injuries didn't form part of your hierarchy. You said:
----

However you do it, do it in a way that makes sense for your human visitors first. After that, if the search engines need help because of some implementation issue, you can provide it. But search engines shouldn't dictate the Information Architecture, your human visitors should.


ht tp://tiny.cc/ kfdxc

This is just one of numerous examples I've seen (came up at the top.) I have been trying to get to the bottom of all of this. I've had numerous SEO companies tell me all different things about why Panda hit my site hard and most were grasping at reasons why since our site is supposedly pretty good all things considered. Some things I did notice from my own research and it was frightening how Panda could appear to be fooled so easily at times.

I completely respect the opinion of both of you. I absolutely agree and would believe that human separation and organization should be number 1 and hypothetically deep linking and SE's should ignore the depth as rank. But there you go and I've in something of a search engine quandary. smile.gif




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