Google’s John Mueller Takes on Best Website Structure

Site structure is now one of the most important ranking factors as far as technical SEO is concerned. Not that other factors don’t matter, but with more than 100 ranking factors, where should one start? During a Webmaster Hangout with John Mueller, he took on a question about a website where conventional site navigation is nonexistent. Such a website is built upon a flat site architecture which means it is dependent on the site map for URL discovery. The website lack folders or categories.

Mueller in his answer lays emphasis on how important it is to have a meaningful website architecture as a potent way to inform Google what your website is all about. Given the internet users addiction to instant gratification, they prefer being lead straight to their end goal instead of aimlessly wandering about your website considering the fact that more than 55% of visitors to a website spend just 15 seconds engaging with a site.

How do you identify a Flat Site Structure?

A website with a flat site architecture has all its pages at just a click away from its homepage. This has been a long existing strategy.

Here is how Brett Tabke the founder of Pubcon referred to flat site structure in his tutorial article, “Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone”, he talked about arranging the site in a logical way with the directory names hitting the right keywords or just putting it all in the root folder.

Putting everything in the root is what we know today as a flat website architecture, the root stands as the home directory of a site which houses your homepage. This kind of idea was successful on some specific search engine back in 2002, however, this has always been an edge strategy and not mainstream.

Theme Pyramids

The kind of orthodox site architecture that we now have today in which a website topic changes from a general phrase into more specific topics and pages was called a Theme Pyramid. At the top of the primed you have your homepage and progressing downwards at the bottom, you have several pages with specifics topics with keywords also known as long tail phrases.

Tabke suggested the creation of category pages built to rank for your website top keyword phrases before narrowing it down to a more specific keyword which is now known as the Theme Pyramid. This idea of his was published way back in 2002, although the initial article is no longer available there is summary and expansion of the original article at “Search Engine Theme pyramids and Google.”

Mueller takes on the Best Website Architecture

In his webmaster hangout, Mueller advised that you should use a website architecture with sensible categories which Tabke referred to as directories in his post.

He said:

“In general I’d be careful to avoid setting up a situation where normal website navigation doesn’t work. So we should be able to crawl from one URL to any other URL on your website just by following the links on the page.”

Mueller went further to expatiate on the idea:

“If that’s not possible then we lose a lot of contexts. So if we’re only seeing these URLs through your sitemap file then we don’t really know how these URLs are related to each other and it makes it really hard for us to be able to understand how relevant this piece of content in the context of your website is. So that’s one thing to… watch out for.”

To further stress the importance of the right website architecture

The Context of URLs and Thinking in the Form of Nodes & Edges

In Mueller discussion, he seems to be describing a hierarchical site architecture (Theme Pyramid) and the way it communicates semantic relatedness. What he is implying is that for a site to be viewed as hierarchical, it should be structured in a way that the homepage carries the main topic followed the sub-topics at the next level downwards.

Google in a way look at your site in a series of nodes and edges, the pages of your website represent the nodes which are interconnected by appropriate topics. The edge is the link between these pages. This better represented in the diagram below:

Mueller points out the benefit of organizing directories semantically, by using sensible and relevant names, you are able to point out the context and meaning of the content within your pages to Google search engine and visitors.