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Does URL structure influence page authority?

View profile for Andrew Gray
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Site structure is one of those topics that Webmasters sometimes agonise over. For example: will the fact that my content is on level 3 rather than level 1 influence how it is treated by Google? The short answer is “no” and this post tells you why.

SIte structure

The bad old days of SEO-witchcraft

Google has consistently encouraged Webmasters to think about the user and spend less time second-guessing how the Google algorithms work. During the early years of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) the topic was treated more like witchcraft than the social science it is today – in those early days Webmasters would spend time working out how certain aspects of the algorithm worked and then spend even more time dreaming up ways to take unfair advantage of this knowledge. For example, it was common for people to advocate building lots of back-links to a site even if the quality of the sites offering those links was extremely low. Although commonplace a few years ago, advice like that if given today would be treated like toxic waste and the adviser promptly fired. The market has moved forward enormously and very positively: I for one am very pleased to see the death of those crazy SEO schemes designed to take advantage of some temporary advantage over Google. All that black-magic...was just that.

The idea that site structure might impact on page authority was another popular misconception.

Better days are here again

Fortunately the SEO industry has grown up a lot in the past five years, the emphasis nowadays is on content creation, social media and outreach rather than any black-magic solutions such as back-links from dubious sources. However, some clients still worry about URL structure - but they shouldn't.

Does URL structure matter?

The short answer is no – even back in 2010 Matt Cutts was explaining why it is that Google doesn’t bother about URL structure but only about link structure – and there are numerous other Google videos all emphasizing the same thing: the way you link content together matters but where a page sites within the site structure does not.

If you link from your homepage to a particular target-page then Page Rank will flow to that target-page regardless of whether it is linked as /target-page.html or linked as /site/services/target-page/. The point it that Google doesn’t care - and why would it? Clearly it would be a nonsense to assume that one page sitting at level 2 in a particular site should be favoured over some other page that happened to be sitting at level 4, particularly if the page sitting at level 4 was being linked to from the homepage. Google doesn’t work like that and my advice to anybody worrying about such things is to re-focus their energies on the question of content because the content and what you do with it certainly does make a difference.

Does the existence of /site/ in URLs matter?

The Conscious technology platform uses the existence of /site/ in the URL to control various technical aspects of page creation. Is this a problem from an SEO perspective? Definitely not - for the same reasons as listed above. In summary, Google cares a lot about LINK STRUCTURE (i.e. what you link to and from where you link)..... but not about DIRECTORY STRUCTURE (i.e. the way you have chosen to use directories and sub-directories to organise your content).

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