Google’s John Mueller answered a question about important of links from the main page. John’s answered the question and shared how to signal which pages on a website are important.
Site Architecture, also known as Information Architecture, is a strategy for organizing web pages in a way that is intuitive for users and makes it easy for site visitors to find information.
There are two approaches to site architecture.
Flat Site Structure
A common approach is to create a navigational structure that makes it easy for search engines and users to find all or almost all published pages.
This approach becomes difficult for users when a site is large. It also creates what’s called a Flat Site structure.
A flat site structure is the situation where every web page in a website is within one to two clicks from the home page.
What happens is that every page has the same amount of importance and is easily reached by search engines. The downside for a search engine and the publisher is that every page contains a virtual site map of the entire site.
For search engines, this means that groups of related pages are difficult to understand as belonging to a particular topic. That makes it harder for search engines to understand what a page is about and difficult to rank individual web pages.
A flat navigational structure results in an unusable navigational structure. This means that site visitors will have a difficult time finding their content.
Taxonomical Site Structure
The second approach is a taxonomical site structure. Taxonomy in the context of site architecture means a system for classifying information.
A taxonomical site structure divides the site according to topic categories and then keeps sub-dividing these topic categories into ever more specific categories.
This results in a site structure that can easily be understood by search engines and easily navigated by site visitors.
The first approach is motivated by the idea of shifting as much PageRank/Link Equity from the home page to the inner pages to help the inner pages rank better.
But that’s not how search engines rank pages anymore. Search engines TEND to rank web pages that have links from other sites. This isn’t true across for all keywords.
Competitive keywords tend to need links to prove they are authoritative and relevant for a particular topic. This is true regardless if a site is built with a flat or taxonomical site structure.
The key difference between the two approaches is that a taxonomical site structure makes more sense to both users and search engines while a flat site structure makes it easier for a search engine to reach all web pages in a site but at the expense of a meaningful site structure.
This is the background behind the question that was asked.
Related: How to Improve Your Website Navigation: 7 Essential Best Practices
Is it Important for Pages to Be Close to the Home Page?
The question that John Mueller was asked was about the importance of how far a web page is from the home page.
This is the question:
“Is it important that all pages of a site are accessible… from the main page. For example some news from 2015… is accessible in ten plus steps. Is that okay?”
This is John Mueller’s answer:
“That’s perfectly fine. Usually… what happens here (or where this comes from) is that on a lot of websites the home page is the most important part of the website. So we re-crawl that fairly often and from there we try to find new and updated pages or other important pages.”
Many sites have more links to their home page than they do to any specific web page. Google crawls the web from link to link.
So for most websites Google will begin crawling a website from the home page. There’s a little bit left unsaid. The reason Google may start at the home page is because that’s the page that is linked to the most.
“So what will happen is, we’ll see the home page is really important, things linked from the home page are generally pretty important as well.
And then… as it moves away from the home page we’ll think probably this is less critical.”
That pages linked directly from the home page are important is fairly well known but it’s worth repeating. In a well organized website the major category pages and any other important pages are going to be linked from the home page.”
Important Content Signals
Mueller then explained:
“So that’s something where you might see things like this where it’s like someone will say, well some amount of steps is… the minimum steps from the home page. From our point of view that’s less about SEO and more about, well we have to discover all of these pages somehow.
So if news articles from 2015 are behind some archive where you have to kind of like find the archive, find the year and then look at the month and look at maybe a category and then find the news article, usually that’s perfectly fine.
On the other hand, if there’s something that you really really care about, you think is really important and you hide it away like that, then probably we’ll think it’s not as important.
So if you think it’s important then make sure it’s really easily findable within your website.”
That’s a great explanation of how to signal to Google that any particular page is important to the site by giving it a link straight from the home page. That link could be to a popular category, to a trending topic or a page that describes a service your business provides.
Clearly not every web page in a website is as important as every other web page. But that’s the signal that a flat site structure sends.
In my experience, dividing a site according to topics then making deeper pages accessible from those topic pages is the best way to structure a web site, both for Google and for users.
John’s advice to link important pages from the home page is good advice.
Watch the John Mueller answer the question here:
Related: What to Do When Google Is Ranking the Wrong Page for Your Keywords