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What Is Click Depth And Why Is It Important?

Click depth is critically important to how well your rank on search engines. Sadly, page depth is an often neglected ranking factor. Thankfully, it is easy to fix. Improving your website structure can impact not only on where you show up in search engine results but improves your user’s experience.

Let’s dig in a bit deeper.

What Is Click Depth?

“Click depth” is a term that describes how many clicks it takes to reach a specific page, starting from the homepage. Often information on the homepage is considered cornerstone material. Information on the first page and other pages linked directly to the homepage symbolizes the essential content on the site.  

Other pieces of optimized content may rank high on search engines. Your goal is to make it easy for people who visit your website to find their way to the best content on your site.

Throughout the rest of this blog, imagine we are looking at a website for a new and used bookstore located in upstate New York. Using only clicks (not the search bar), let’s consider how we could find the title IT by Stephen King. 

Example:

    • Home Page
    • First Click – Used Books
    • Second Click – Fiction
    • Third Click – Stephen King
    • Fourth Click – ‘It’  

Example Homepage> New Books(1)> Fiction(2)> Stephen King(3)> It(4) 

It took four clicks to find the book within this hypothetical website. 

Website click depth flow chart
Example Homepage> New Books> Fiction> Stephen King> It

What is the optimal click depth of a page?

Ideally, your most important content should be within three clicks, at a maximum of four clicks, from the homepage. Any further than this and it becomes more difficult for users and bots to locate these pages. User experience best practice states you must make it easy for users to find the content they need, as fast as possible.

Click depth is one of the many search engine ranking factors, clearly stated by Google’s John Mueller. Mr. Mueller openly said that Google judges the importance of a page by how easy it is to reach it from the home page. 

Of course, he assumed that your home page is the “heaviest” and most important page of your website. So, if it takes more clicks to get to the desired page, Google bots will think the content on the page is less critical.

Moreover, Google doesn’t value the number of slashes (“/”) your URL contains that much; it values click depth more than that. However, that doesn’t mean URLs are unimportant, as they improve user interface, and how your page looks in the search results. “…com/bog/click-depth” looks much better than “…com/location/blog/articles/2019/11234312135112511235“.

google search engine page showing results based on click depth

How Much Will Click Depth Help Me Rank On Google?

Honestly, results differ depending on the age of your site, how pages you started with if you consolidated or eliminated pages, and how effectively you can network all of the content. 

A brand new website lacks the history to show how much you’ve improved. Consolidating and eliminating pages cuts dead weight and encourages more comprehensive content for users. Adding these factors together with strategy and execution- results can and will differ website to website. 

Algorithms and artificial intelligence power sites like Google and often use over 200 different metrics to rank sites. Although Google gives us instructions and insights from time to time, the algorithm itself is top secret. The reason is simple—if people knew exactly how it works, they would manipulate it, trying to get to the first page of Google, even if their site doesn’t deserve that.

Some ranking factors are public and are very valuable for SEO. Google itself publishes one of the best SEO 101 documents and its Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide.

What Is The Best URL Structure?

Your URL should contain logical category & sub-category names. You can use sub-directories to structure content and logically direct viewers around your site. To best exemplify this model, let’s go back to Tina’s little Adirondack bookstore.

  • Root – www.tinasbooks.com
  • Category page: www.tinasbooks.com/used-books
  • Sub-category page: www.tinasbooks.com/used/fiction

As you work to link pages together, you’ll want to find different creative ways to include links for your users without ruining their experience. One of your goals is to help your potential customer find your best information quickly and expose them to the content they didn’t know they needed.

categories and subcategories of website click depth
Use logical categories and sub-categories to help your users find the content they need.

Do Internal Links Matter For SEO?

Absolutely. You want to link your best content together and make it as accessible as possible to users. There is a concept among people who work in search engine optimization called “link juice.” Often this is when a well-performing page contains a link to a page that isn’t doing as well to help boost the underperforming page’s authority.

In layman’s terms, your cool, trendy, hip pages are vouching for the authority of the pages linked to it.

So not only do you have to consider ways to make all content available within four links of the homepage, but you also can pass authority from really great content to thin content pages (often service pages).

Improve click depth with links to accessories and other produts
Promote different categories

Does It Matter How I Link My Blogs And Articles For SEO?

Every article you write is an excellent opportunity to link to other pages of your site. Create calls-to-action by creating a link to different blogs and articles you wrote. You will want to develop ways to connect to your highest-rated content so you can get a boost from their high ranking.

If you have an established blog with hundreds of pages, it will take some time to improve your internal link structure. The first thing you want to do is review your sitemap and identify all the pages and their performance.

What Are Strategies To Improve The Click Depth Of A Page?

Your goal in improving click depth is to make all content within a maximum of four clicks to the homepage while utilizing high ranking pages to boost underperforming page’s authority.

Strategies to improving the accessibility to your site include:

  • Add links within the text to link to additional relevant resources 
  • Use sidebars to include links to top-performing pages and articles
  • Use cross-promotion of products often sold together on checkout pages. 

There are a lot of different strategies to structure websites. E-commerce sites may use different strategies than a website for a small-town brick and mortar store in Burlington, VT. 

How Do I Link Top-Performing Pages to Under-Performing Pages?

Creating a place to showcase your best products and content isn’t merely good for business; it also improves search engine rankings. The links you place on your highest performing pages can help boost underperforming pages on your website.

While you should always work to make all of the pages on your site rank in their own right, sometimes product and service pages just don’t rank high. These pages do not do as well because they do not feature extensive information on a specific topic. You want to educate the user about your service, without exhausting their energy reading SEO non-sense.

By linking your highest-ranking pages to your products and services, they can pass what in the industry is called “link juice.” Generally, hyperlinks from a high-authority and trusted of the page can increase the ranking of a low authority page.

For example, Tina’s bookstore may have an excellent article on their website about the importance of selling used books. The article shares the environmental and financial benefits of selling used books. They have a sentence in their blog stating, “A best-selling book, regardless of original print date, can be sold multiple times as long as it is in good condition.”

In this example, Tina can use the words “best-selling books” and create a hypertext link to a specific book like Stephen King’s “It” or to a page that features best-selling fiction. You want to make sure the words you choose to create the hypertext link lead to a relevant page. Tina would be wrong to use the “best-selling book” hyperlink to send their users to the contact page. Google doesn’t like this deception, and neither does the general user.

Click depth can be improved linking to top products
Promote your best content

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How Do I create an SEO Friendly URL?

To create a search engine friendly URL, you need to have a clear website structure and forecast how each page will link together. From your homepage, determine what the main categories or pages you need. Often these are your service/ product categories, an about page, and a contact page. Next, identify which specific products or services need their own unique sales page; these will be your sub-category or sub-pages. 

In this example, you see that Tina’s Book has a basic homepage with links to top-level categories and contact information. Tina’s basic categories are Used and New books. On Tina’s site, if you click on ‘used books’ you will see specific book categories such as fiction, thrillers, biographies, and more. On this site, the particular types of used books are the sub-pages of their website.

How your structure can help you rank on specific search queries as well. For example, imagine you visit Google and use the search query ” used fiction near me.” Google will search both the content of the page, and the structure of the URL to find “used fiction” and geolocation queues to find the best results. Because Tina’s site starts with the umbrella category of ‘used,’ then links to the ‘fiction’ page, her URL will look like tinasbooks.com/used/fiction. As you can see, the term “used fiction” is directly in the URL of the site.

URLs and click depth can be improved with a 301 redirect
301 redirects can share rankings from an old page with a new page

What If I need To Delete A Page?

It is common to delete out of date content if you are working on a pre-existing site. Often pages need to be removed when their content is obsolete or the URL needs a refresh. You don’t need to worry about ruining your URL structure or creating a 404 error. What you will need to do is create a 301 Redirect. There are various types of redirects, but 301 is what you need more often than not.

Will A 301 Redirect Hurt MY SEO Rankings?

Generally, No, as long as you place them correctly, you should not see a significant loss of traffic when you create a redirect for a page. It may take some time for bots and page crawlers to follow and index to your new page. Thankfully, via 301 redirect, backlinks and rankings for the old page are transferred to the new page.

Why Would I want to Use a 301 Redirect?

When you perform routine maintenance on your site, you will want to review which pages are performing and those that are not. You will either want to combine (and improve) similar underperforming pages or delete them altogether. Pages that you delete will need a 301 redirect, meaning that the content permanently moved.

It is essential that when you are performing routine maintenance to have a plan for the content you are going to delete, otherwise users will land on a 404, not found page. 404 errors can dramatically hurt your website as it is a sign that the owner has neglected the site.

If you delete content that you have no intention of redirecting or replacing, simply give it a 401 saying you have permanently removed the content. You can even redirect entire domains if your domain no longer suits; just be sure to make a plan before you get started.

301 redirects can share rankings from an old page with a new page

Can I Use a 301 Redirect to move my site from HTTP to HTTPS?

Yes. Having a secure website is a well-known ranking signal for search engine results pages. Adding an SSL certificate adds increased security, and are often included free in your hosting plan. 

To get an HTTPS URL, you must install an SSL certificate, which will turn your website from HTTP to HTTPS. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and the S at the end means secure. Once you convert your website to the more secure form, you will notice that a little lock will appear to the left of your URL 

Conclusion

Click depth is a simple concept that can improve your search rankings if done right. It is easiest to implement a click structure strategy in your site’s planning phases; it is still possible to improve the click depth of an existing website. Consider how users will search for your product or service and plan accordingly with the site structure and URLs. These simple changes can significantly improve your website’s ability to reach the right users at the right time.