Website size can vary from a few pages to millions.
To the uninitiated, all pages on a site are equally important and anyone searching online should be able to find them.
However, click depth plays a role in helping or preventing people from finding information. So is it a Google ranking factor?
The Claim: Click Depth as a Ranking Factor
Click depth is the number of clicks it takes to go from a homepage to another page on a website.
We can assign numerical values to the different pages on a site, based on their distance from the homepage.
The homepage can be assigned 0. Any pages linked on the homepage have a depth value of 1. Any links on a 1 page will have a value of 2. Any links on a 2 page will be a 3, and so on.
The claim is that pages with lower click depth values tend to rank better in search results.
The Evidence for Click Depth as a Ranking Factor
In a 2018 Google Webmaster Central hangout, John Mueller addressed click depth explicitly.
He cautiously indicated that Google places a small amount of attention on how easy it is to find content on a given website. If the homepage is the strongest page on the site, he said, Google gives a little more weight in search results to pages that are one click away than pages that are multiple clicks away.
This makes sense with what we know about search engine crawlers.
Brendan Bennett of Selesti says Google’s web crawlers are unlikely to browse pages over three clicks from the homepage (unless your site is considered to be extremely authoritative). This means that pages beyond three clicks will likely not be indexed by Google, attract organic traffic, or earn rank.
Botify recommends positioning your most strategic webpages at a depth of no greater than 5, though individual sites will vary for crawl and PageRank.
Google’s PageRank algorithm determines the worth of webpages by determining the number and quality of pages that link to it.
While PageRank can use the merit of other websites citing the page in question, internal PageRank is the rank of the pages within a given website.
On most websites, the homepage is the most linked and valuable page – and also the most authoritative.
Pages directly linked from the homepage are typically viewed as more important and will get the most link equity. As links get further away from the homepage, the potential for a ranking boost diminishes.
Click Depth as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
Click depth likely is a ranking factor. But even if it is, it probably isn’t a factor that is going to make or break your rankings.
What is more important here is your consideration of the user experience, and ensuring that all content is easily accessible for site visitors.
Our verdict is ultimately based on Mueller’s careful remarks about the relative importance of click depth.
Featured image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal