Pardon me if this has been discussed before but Microsoft, in Dec 2011, filed a patent [patft.uspto.gov...] that covers "click distance" which is described as an added ranking factor that measures a pages link distance from a perceived root or index page.
Interesting notes within the patent
- there is a maximum value - click distance values are merged with other factors upon ranking - each document receives a score - a "Uniform Resource Locator" depth property smoothes the effect of the click distance on the relevance score - arranged in a descending order of relevance
With the above in mind it is seemingly important to make a lot of pages easily accessible from links on the index page and that the links had best lead directly to pages that are highly related to the index page.
The possible impact of this on sites that simply post the latest content on their index page, along with a list of categories, are being held back because those posts aren't always highly related and the category page is in effect a middle man between the index and additional content.
Best practice? link your best and most on topic content from the index page, within the context ?
I think this was something that has been around for a while (even though the patent is new). Used to be you linked to deeper important pages you were trying to get to rank from the homepage. It was an old SEO trick that I think got discounted or lost in the shuffle (at least for me) a long time ago. The idea was to flow more PR to that page since the homepage had the most authority and highest PR on the site.
It seems to be a bit different than pagerank sculpting per say which has been heavily discounted thanks in no small part to Matt Cutts saying it doesn't work. The patent mentions nothing in terms of rank flow really, just distance from index. I see a lot of sites with archives that you'd need to click on 100+ next page links to get to the archive page with the article link.
And what about incoming links from other sites? The patent is worded to mean links from your own sites index, or is it?