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A bit off topic, but relevant to the suggestions in this post: a few of my friends are finding it more effective with Google to use a flat file structure rather than the highly nested folder trees that are usually recommended. Anyone have any thoughts/experience with this?



It really depends on how many pages you have. If you just have 10 pages off the domain (/signup, /login, /about, /jobs, /how-it-works, etc) then there's really no benefit of having a hierarchy. If you have > 1k pages, then a flat structure will confuse google/users and do a poor job spreading your site's link equity amongst your pages.

Is that what you're asking?

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From my experience it all depends on the size of the site. If you have less than 200 pages on your site I'd recomment that you try and stick to no more than domain.com/folder/page whenever possible.

But, one other thing I would strongly recommend is to never create extra or redundant folders unless they really add a lot of value to your site usability. And, never, ever, create empty folders ... it seems like a no-brainer but it happens a lot more frequently then you might think with people using them to force a specific heirarchy on their site or for the sake of stuffing keywords into their URLs or just because they think the final URL looks 'nicer' that way.

Last thought on why flat is normally better, homepages are likely to accumulate more links than any other page on your site and often more links than the rest of the site combined. So the closer an interior page is to the homepage the more benefit it will derive from the inbound links pointing to the homepage.

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I don't think the actual urls matter. In terms of site structure, I actually don't recommend having too many nested folders/directories if you don't have a lot of inner pages. I see a lot of sites with category and subcategory pages with just 5-10 links in each. Google won't crawl that deep if your site is new. and the deeper a page is, the less important Google deems it (based on flow of internal Pagerank).

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who recommends highly nested folder trees? i've not heard this and have certainly seen it hurt sites. all things equal, flatter is better. my rule of thumb is go as flat as you can while still having an organized, navigable URL structure.

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I sometimes recommend nested folder trees, but never deeper than 3 folders. 3 folders deep is enough for millions of pages.

I like nested folders for a couple of reasons, some of which are:

- Clarity. A good structure will instantly signal what the page will be about, before a user or searchbot follows that link.

- Bolded keywords in URL in the SERPS.

- Using pages to flow juice to categories.

- Benefit of targetted anchor text, when using the URL for anchor text.

Compare: big-ecommerce-site.com/yoga-pilatus/accessories/yoga-mat/

vs.

big-ecommerce-site.com/yoga-mat/

And search queries like: "pilatus mat" or "yoga accessories". Which will work better for these queries?

- Structure. Your URL's will reflect in your breadcrumbs, allowing users to navigate your site through URLs (By removing a folder and going to a higher level in the site).

- Silo's. After the Panda update, and this is speculation on my part, Google might lower the imporance of "parts" of your website. Let's say only your blog is of very low quality. Google could discount /blog/ when you have nested folders. With a flat structure your removed "parts" or higher level categories from your site, and don't allow for this.

Ofcourse there are benefits to going flat too. But nested folder trees are not neccessarily a bad thing.

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