In response to a question about site structure, Google’s Gary Illyes provided insight into the benefits of a hierarchical site structure for SEO and when it is appropriate to use a flat site structure. A flat site structure involves every page being one click away from the home page, whereas a hierarchical structure organizes content by order of importance, creating thematic categories and subcategories.
The flat site structure was popular during a time when link building through web directories and reciprocal linking created an abundance of links to the home page but not to inner pages. To ensure equal distribution of PageRank to every page, a flat structure was utilized. However, with the diminishing influence of PageRank as a ranking factor, the necessity for a flat structure decreased.
On the other hand, the hierarchical site structure, also known as a taxonomic or pyramid structure, allows for the organization of topics and subtopics, enabling Google to differentiate between content sections. This structure is ideal for larger websites as it allows for different sections to be treated differently, aiding search engines in crawling and categorizing content effectively.
Illyes recommends a hierarchical structure for large sites, as it permits specialized treatment of different sections and enables search engines to crawl specific directories faster. Additionally, it allows for the segregation of content into distinct sections based on topics.
In conclusion, the hierarchical site structure is favored for larger websites, while the flat structure may be suitable for simpler sites. Illyes emphasizes the importance of structuring a website in a manner that allows search engines to effectively understand and categorize its content. Ultimately, the choice between a flat and hierarchical structure should be guided by the size and complexity of the website.
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