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Google: No Benefit to An Artificially Flat URL Structure

Google isn't concerned with how many slashes there are in a URL, so there's no need for an artificially flat URL structure.

Google: No Benefit to An Artificially Flat URL Structure

Google’s John Mueller says there’s no benefit to having an artificially flat URL structure compared to one that shows directory depth.

The number of slashes in a URL is by no means an indicator of how important a page is, or how likely Google is to surface the page in search results.

This topic is discussed during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on March 26.

A site owner submits a question about URL structure asking Mueller his thoughts on short URLs versus URLs that show directory depth.

Here is his response.

Google’s John Mueller on URLs With Directory Depth

As it relates to directory depth in URLs, the site owner is of the understanding that it’s not a bad thing to show users where they are in a site.

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Mueller agrees with that presumption, saying “Yes, absolutely.”

The URL structure of a site is something that can be used however the site owner prefers, Mueller says:

“So if essentially the URL structure that you have on your site is something that you can use however you want. Google does not count the number of slashes in your URLs and say: “oh this is like five levels down therefore we will not show it as visibly in search.””

It’s not necessary to have an artificially flat URL structure. That refers to a structure where it looks like every page is one click away from the home page, when in reality they may be several levels deep.

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The fewer clicks it takes to get to a page from the home page is a signal to Google about how important the page is. But there’s no way to fabricate that signal with a flat URL structure.

“You don’t have to have kind of an artificially flat directory structure. So from that point of view, if you have a directory structure that users can recognize and where you can tell that sometimes people are like even typing in the URL, or copy and pasting parts of a URL together, I think that’s perfectly fine. There’s no need to hide that kind of URL structure from users by doing URL rewriting or anything like that.”

Google treats URLs as identifiers of content, not as a way to understand site structure. That’s what Google’s web crawlers are for.

It’s completely up to the individual site owner whether they prefer a flat URL structure or one with depth. It will not help or harm a site by going either way.

“For the most part we treat URLs as identifiers of content. We don’t try to understand the site structure based on the URL. So essentially setting up your URL however you want is our recommendation there. It’s definitely not the case that you need to artificially make it look different.”

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Hear the full question and answer in the video below:

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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