Google’s John Mueller answered a question about whether poor ranking factors in one section affected the rankings of the entire site. Mueller answered the question but also shared insights into how Google’s algorithm handles factors on a sitewide, section-wide and granular basis.
Background of Question
The question was by a publisher that has a forum on their site that has poor core web vitals score while the rest of the site enjoys a higher core web vitals performance.
The publisher wanted to know if the forum section would cause the rest of the site to suffer in rankings once the Core Web Vitals become a ranking factor.
Core Web Vitals Ranking Factor
Core Web Vitals are a group of speed and user experience metrics that together show whether a web page presents a poor user experience or gives visitors an ideal web browsing experience.
The core web vitals metrics are set to become ranking factors sometime in 2021.
Will Poor Ranking Scores in a Section Affect Rankings of Entire Site?
This is the question that was asked.
“We have a large site and a section on the site we have a forum. This forum is an old CMS and it’s difficult to optimize for speed. We’re looking to make sure that we have good core web vital scores before 2021.
If we’re unable to improve the speed of this forum will this only affect the keywords that rank on the forum pages or could it affect the ranks of the pages that aren’t on the forum and that are faster.
Basically is speed looked at on a page by page basis or could slow speed on some pages of your site affect how Google sees your site as a whole?”
John Mueller Answers How Sections Can Affect Sitewide Rankings
Google’s Mueller began is in-depth answer by asserting that Google tries to rank web pages and sections of websites in a granular manner.
What John Mueller said:
“So in general, with our algorithms we try to be as fine grained as possible. So if we can get granular information for your site and recognize the individual parts of your website properly then we will try to do that.”
Mueller Shares How Chrome Might Aggregate Core Web Vitals Scores
Mueller than shares a caveat about how Chrome collects aggregate data as a sample.
“However it depends a little bit on your site and how much data we have for your site, especially when it comes to speed where… it will be based (because it’s not live yet), it’ll be based on the core web vitals on the Chrome user experience report data which is just a very small sample of the people who visit your site, aggregated.
And that’s something that doesn’t have data for every URL of a website.”
Meaningful Site Architecture Helps Google Rank a Website
Site architecture is a reference to how web pages are linked and grouped together within a site. Good site architecture groups web pages together in meaningful ways, so that similar topics are bundled together within sections of a site.
Mueller mentions that if a site makes it easy for Google to understand the different sections of a site, that they are separate, then that will help Google understand that different sections are not a part of each other and then understand (and rank) them better.
How Google explained it:
“So depending on how much data is available there and how easily it is for us to figure out which parts of your site are separate, and then that’s something that we can do easier or that is a little bit harder.
We have… similar mechanisms across various other signals that we use in search, one of them for example is with adult content where if you have a part of your website with adult content and a part of your website that has… normal content or other content on it then the easier we can recognize that these are separate parts and separate them out individually the more likely it is that we can just treat that one part slightly differently.”
This is where Google mentions the role of site architecture for helping Google understand what the sections of a site are about.
“And you can do that with things like making sure you have a clean sub-directory structure on your site or using subdomains if that makes sense for your website.
In your case it would be for example to split out the forum from… site where we an tell oh, slash forum is everything forum and it’s kind of slow and everything else that’s not in slash forum is really fast- if we can recognize that fairly easily that’s a lot easier.
Then we can really say everything here in such forum is kind of slow, everything here is kind of okay.”
Poor Site Architecture May Negatively Affect Rankings
There’s a theory of site architecture called a Flat Site Architecture. It is based on the idea that since most of a website’s links go to the home page (not always true!) that all pages of a site should be directly linked from the home page.
So if you create an organization chart diagram of the linking patterns of a flat site it will look like the home page on top followed by hundreds or thousands of web pages on the next level down, one click away from the home page.
The goal of a flat site architecture scheme is that all web pages of a site equally share in the PageRank that is directed to the home page. The idea is that the rankings of all the web pages will benefit from receiving a share of the PageRank that is directed to the home page from links.
John Mueller’s answer presents a case that maybe the flat site architecture scheme is not a good idea.
What Mueller said:
“On the other hand if we have to do this on a per URL basis where the URL structure is really like we can’t tell based on the URL if this is a part of the forum or part of the rest of your site, then we can’t really group that into parts of your website.
And then we’ll kind of be forced to take an aggregate score across your whole site and apply that appropriately.
I suspect we’ll have a little bit more information on this as we get closer to announcing or… closer to the date when we start using Core Web Vitals in search.”
Google Search Console Can Show How URLs Affect Rest of Site
John Mueller then recommended using Google Search Console to see how individual URLs affect the rest of the site.
“But it is something you can look at already a little bit in search console. There’s a Core Web Vitals report there and if you drill down to individual issues you’ll also see this URL affects so many similar URLs.
And based on that you can already kind of tell… is Google able to figure out that my forum is grouped together or is it not able to figure out that these belong together.”
An important takeaway from Mueller’s in-depth answer is that good site architecture can help Google understand what the different parts of a site are and what they are relevant for.
Implied in his answer is that a flat site architecture scheme may work against the ranking aspirations of a publisher.
Sites that make it easy to understand the different sections of a site may not suffer a sitewide Core Web Vitals ranking effect.
Watch John Mueller Answer Question About Core Web Vitals Scoring