- Google’s Gary Illyes sheds light on the significance of hierarchical site structure for SEO.
- Flat site structure is deemed suitable for simpler websites, with all pages accessible from the home page.
- Hierarchical site structure offers better organization, allowing Google to treat different sections distinctively.
- The importance of site structure depends on the size of the website and its content.
Google authority, Gary Illyes addresses a query on website structure, detailing the benefits of a hierarchical site arrangement for optimized search engine performance, and outlining the conditions under which a flat site structure might be preferable.
Illyes expounds on why hierarchical site configuration is favored for SEO practices, and reasons why a flat site structure suffices for simpler websites.
Decoding the Flat Site Structure
In a flat site structure, each page of the website is directly linked to the home page, leading to a one-click navigation scheme. Visualizing this linking system results in a ‘flat’ structure with all pages aligned on a single level beneath the home page.
The origination of the flat site structure dates back to the era of web directories and reciprocal linking – a method of link exchange between websites. Notably, this practice led to a proliferation of links to the home page, but fewer to the interior pages. To evenly spread the PageRank, SEO experts introduced the flat structure, maximizing the potential of all pages to rank better.
However, Google later recalibrated the influence of PageRank as a ranking parameter, enabling sites with lesser PageRank but more relevance to get ranked, hence reducing the flat file structure’s appeal.
Understanding Hierarchical Site Structure
A hierarchical structure ranks elements by their significance. For a website, the organization starts with a general topic at the top level, gradually becoming more details or specific the deeper one navigates the site.
This structure helps create categories that fall under a common theme. For instance, a home page representing ‘Science’ could be linked to sub-categories such as Astronomy, Botany, and Geology, each of which can be further broken down into even more detailed sections.
Alternative Names for Hierarchal Site Structure
The hierarchical site framework is alternatively termed a taxonomic or a pyramid site structure. In a taxonomic layout, items are grouped hierarchically, while a pyramid structure visualizes the most general (top-of-the-pyramid) topics linking down to increasingly specific categories and web pages.
The Concept of a Silo Site Structure
Concurrent with the previous three and similarly organized, the silo structure lays out a website by arranging general topics into more specific sub-categories or themes, resembling a hierarchical form.
The user asking the question queried:
“Which category structure: hierarchical or flat structure for my website?”
Gary Illyes responded:
“I think this largely depends on the site’s size.
For a large site, it’s likely better to have a hierarchical structure; that will allow you to do more focused tasks on one section, and will also allow search engines to potentially treat different sections differently, especially when it comes to crawling.
For example, having a /news/ section for newsy content and /archives/ for old content would allow search engines to crawl /news/ faster than the other directory. If you put everything in one directory, that’s hardly possible.”
The Advantage of Hierarchical Site Structure
Illyes elaborates on the advantages of using a hierarchical site structure, particularly its potential to allow Google to regard different website sections differently. Each webpage category can represent a different topic, helping Google segment the site into distinct sections for better understanding.
Indeed, the hierarchical structure is so effective, it bears several names within the SEO community. Hear the full discussion on the Office Hours Hangout, starting at the 1:35 mark.
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