We all know that there are potentially hundreds of factors to the Google algorithm and the impact of each factor ranges all across the board. One of those factors that I’ve been particularly interested in pertains to URL best practices, or more specifically, how many sub-directory (subfolders) levels exist for core SEO landing pages. It’s well known that the deeper the URL depth, the less authority that page will have to rank well in the SERPs. The importance of this ranking factor does depend somewhat on the search phrase. The best way to tell this is to simply search the keyword and compare those URLs to which ones are ranking on the first page. If your URLs are right in line with those ranking, then maybe this isn’t the highest priority item needing attention
However in the case of one of our clients, all the ranking URLs for the majority of their targeted keywords were either at the homepage or one directory down.Because of the way the site was initially built, all the URLs on this site included two additional directory levels, leaving the category and product pages three and four directories from the root. All the competitor sites (while arguably less attractive) were more simplistic in their design and architecture. This allowed competitor’s important categories and product pages to be much more accessible to the user.
Unfortunately our preferred method of a whole re-structure to achieve the same simplicity was off the table. However, we were able to do a URL face-lift, allowing us to remove the two unnecessary levels and make sure that our core keywords were included. With proper 301 redirects in place, the change rolled out in early April and within a week we were seeing some pretty significant improvements.
Before getting too excited, we wanted to wait a little longer to make sure the results were stabilized. What we are seeing now is enough to know that our efforts were worthwhile and that the theory is true: less directory levels is in fact more.
The following data includes 53 primary keywords that have now indexed the new URLs:
- 38 of the 53 keywords increased in rank
- The average rank increase was 18
- Two of the keywords have now reached first position
- Nine keywords that had never ranked on the top 10 pages are now showing up
Even more exciting is the analytics data for these 88 landing pages:
- A 204% increase in total non-branded organic visits, from around 6,000 to 19,000
- One of our top categories increased 1584%, from 500 visits to 8,400 visits
Here’s a snapshot of the top 20 landing page visits from March to April:
It’s great to see such significant direct impact on site changes such as this one. If you have a similar story of success, please share it!