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Silo vs Flat link structure for large sites
wingslevel




msg:4407302
 3:07 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I searched and it seems like its been a while that we have had a topic on this subject.

Remember the old 100 link per page limit? I am probably old fashioned, but have always tried to adhere to that one. I have built lots of vertical silos (with some cross-linking). Obvious drawback here is lots of clicks for the user, but the benefit is a nice themed path to the destination page - think good scenery along the way.

Just checked target and walmart - both have >1,000 links off of their home page. We can't all afford the usability testing that they probably do, but, you've got to figure they probably don't have it all wrong.

One of the old time issues used to be the navigability of the links for spiders - with dhtml or java flyouts etc. - but, googlebot seems to chew through just about anything these days. So, no issue there?

Then there was PR sculpting/efficiency. But that is a zero sum game anyway, no?

I am about to pull the trigger on one of my sites. Curious about other views and experiences.

 

Simsi




msg:4407358
 5:28 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Personally I wouldn't pay any attention to what benefits big brand sites like Walmart as they probably have a ton of links and authority that would push them to the top anyway.

My experience is that links near the top of content have more benefit than those further down. However spreading those "lower" links around other pages instead means less links with more authority so either way, it strikes me as a balancing act and with that many links, I personally wouldn't worry either way.

Conclusion: I'd say SEO impact was minimal and I would look at the best navigational format to encourage users to hit a "goal" from where they enter the site.

wingslevel




msg:4407363
 5:57 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

thought this was interesting shift - nielsen was historicaly opposed to drop down, but he likes some mega dropdowns

[useit.com...]

tedster




msg:4407367
 6:03 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Then there was PR sculpting/efficiency. But that is a zero sum game anyway, no?

Yes, PR sculpting through the rel="nofollow" approach is now a dead duck. However PR circulation to the most important pages - by selective internal linking (don't link "every page to every page) - well, that is natural, and very much alive and effective.

Simsi has it right, in my opinion. Keep your internal linking focused. Understand Google's evolution in PR. PageRank was originally based on a "random surfer" model, but today it has evolved into the "reasonable surfer [webmasterworld.com]" model. Today, where the internal links appear on the page is a MAJOR factor in how much equity they vote to their target page.

Yes, today Google can and will take into account a 1,000 link internal drop-down style navigation. But you're spreading things much too thin and making the job of judging high priority pages much too challenging for machine-based intelligence.

You really do yourself a big favor by understanding and serving user behavior first.

wingslevel




msg:4407728
 3:12 pm on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for your thoughts Tedster and Simsi - Yes, I think that usability has to drive the decision, not SEO. That said, I think 2 things have changed - new js mega-menus have multi-column, sub-grouped results which help make the large number of links more manageable for the average user. I think that is what Nielsen was saying as he has come around... The other thing is that, the prospect of having so many links off of a home page, for exanple, doesn't seem so wreckless from an SEO standpoint as it once did as exemplified by the comments in this thread from 2008:

[webmasterworld.com...]

tedster




msg:4407746
 3:38 pm on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

that is what Nielsen was saying as he has come around.

I read that, too. But as I've often noted, Nielsen is not an SEO. And I still hate the usability aspects of this new style mega-menu, as well as the SEO.

The only places I see that new style mega-menu apparently "working" at all is for a major brand - and I still maintain they are not a good approach for SEO or for Information Architecture. They are a lazy resort for companies that worry more about their own internal use of the website than attracting new outside visitors.

For anyone who thinks it's a good thing, I suggest tracking the use of those mega-menu links over even a short period. When I do that kin any website audit,I see a bunch of them get clicked on well under 1% of the time. That's really blurring the lines of what matters on the website and what's a backwater.

Planet13




msg:4408024
 7:05 am on Jan 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Off topic (and a bit of a rant) but...

The only places I see that new style mega-menu apparently "working" at all is for a major brand - and I still maintain they are not a good approach for SEO or for Information Architecture. They are a lazy resort for companies that worry more about their own internal use of the website than attracting new outside visitors.


Really, they are often taking the structure of a brick and mortar store and forcing it to fit a web site, whether it is good for the customer or not. And it could be that google is rewarding this inefficiency with the boost it has given big brands.

Think about this: The reason megastores exist in the physical world is because of the convenience of being a one-stop destination. That's great for people who need to drive to get what they want.

But when it comes to the internet, why should you need to visit a web-based mega office supply store, for example, if you are looking for pencils? It would (probably) be better to send them to a site dedicated to pencils than a site that ranks well because it has a boatload of links to pages for office chairs, digital cameras, mp3 players, etc, that are completely unrelated to their pencils section.

Really, the advantage that a diverse product base provides to the customers of a brick and mortar store is more of a drawback for the virtual customer.

Maybe google is loving the crowd sourcing that is on these sites in the form of user reviews, which must mean lots of fresh, unique content.

But how many user reviews of a number 2 pencil equals the same value of the review of an expert in ergonomics, for example?

Maybe google is loving the user metrics, like the click through rate. But CTR doesn't really measure how good a site is; it measures how POPULAR a site is. If the name brand site is well known, it will get clicks (and people will buy from them), because people love the familiar and fear the unfamiliar.

rlange




msg:4408205
 4:58 pm on Jan 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Getting way off-topic. I apologize...

Planet13 wrote:
But when it comes to the internet, why should you need to visit a web-based mega office supply store, for example, if you are looking for pencils?

Because people still prefer the one-stop shop, even online. Sure, the Internet does away with the need to drive, but it also does away with the simplification of an in-store purchase (swipe-and-sign).

Repeatedly filling out all of the information that most online stores require at the point of purchase, or signing up and maintaining accounts on multiple websites, is probably a big enough disincentive for most people.

There's also the issue of how fine you want the separation. I buy all of my personal computer equipment from a single online store. You can argue that since it's all computer related, there's no issue, but I could easily point out that many of the components that make up a computer are actually quite unrelated to each other. Why, then, should I go to this online store for a sound card rather than visit a website dedicated to sound cards only?

--
Ryan

tedster




msg:4408253
 6:33 pm on Jan 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

it could be that google is rewarding this inefficiency with the boost it has given big brands.

Google has been showing a long term pattern of trying to compensate for many common technical and structural "errors". A decade ago, it was widely appreciated that the small business had an advantage over the giant corporation - as anyone who tried fix a canonical problem on a major enterprise CMS certainly learned.

The small business was (and still is) much more agile than a ginat - at least potentially - and they have an easier time being technically sound. Does that mean their content is inherently better or that they are what the average search user really wants? Definitely not.

Giant companies often struggle with how structure their information architecture - any change can take a six or seven figure investment with no guarantee of ROI. That's a tough sell! No wonder they often don't do anything at all and just turn their internal corporate organization into an external public-facing menu structure. "You want to use our website? Then learn our org chart," they seem to say.

These days, the big brand's technical disadvantage has been softened by many of Google's changes. But the small to medium business still does have a major advantage. It is able to do agile development and rapid iteration much more effectively. Time spent developing a user-centric menu and a customer-oriented information architecture can absolutely pay off, for both big and small businesses. And they small business still can do it more easily.

chicagohh




msg:4408266
 6:52 pm on Jan 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

What is the best method to track link clicks on a mega-menu? The first thing that comes to mind is tagging each link with GA link tracking code. Any other suggestions?

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