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Google’s Mueller Says Artificially Flat URL Structure Provides No Benefit

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John Mueller recently said that there is no SEO benefit for having an artificially flat URL structure compared to a site with directory depth. The topic was discussed in the Google Search Central Hangout on March 26.

One of the Google Search central participants has submitted a URL structure question and his thoughts on Short URLs versus long URLs with the directory structure.

He also conveyed that many slashes in a URL are not an indicator of how important a page is or how high it will be surfaced in Google results.

Google’s John Mueller on URLs Directory Depth

Mueller acknowledged that it is perfectly fine if URLs directory depth used by the Site owners helps users understand where they are on the website. He goes on to say that a website owner can define the structure however he wants it.

“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.”

He emphasised it is not essential to create an artificially flat hierarchy structure. An artificially flat structure where a page on the website is just a click away from the domain when it is buried deeper in the hierarchy. 

Generally, it is understood and believed when a page is a few clicks away from the domain or close to the domain is a signal to the search engine that it is an important page, but doing so with an artificially flat URL structure is not correct.

Google web crawlers see URLs as identifiers of content on the website, and it does not use URLs to understand the structure of the site. It is up to the website owners to use a flat or hierarchical URL structure with depth. Using either of them will not harm the website in any way.

“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 recognise and where you can tell that sometimes people are like even typing in the URL, or copy and paste 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.”

“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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