Does Your Website Need a Directory Tree

Does Your Website Need a Directory Tree=

Credit: Flickr

One of the questions that seems to be asked regularly is does my website need a directory tree structure and should I change it to eliminate the directory. For clarity, when I talk about a directory tree, I’m talking about sites that are set up like this:

The core question is, Is there any difference between these two URL’s?

In my opinion the second URL structure is preferable because it allows you a lot more flexibility. That said, there are some caveats to be aware of. When you go with a directory tree structure, it’s really essential that you get the directory names as short as possible. If I had a nickel for every keyword-stuffed directory name I came across, I’d spend the rest of my days swinging from a hammock in Tahiti. Most people can’t resist the temptation to add in one or two extra keywords … don’t do it. When you go with a tree-less structure you aren’t forced to use names from higher in the tree, but that means there is more temptation to keyword stuff. Keep it as short as possible by using essential keywords only. I recommend the 3-5 word range with no stop words (a, of the, is, etc). With the example we are using I think this structure is too long:

It could just as easily be any of the following:

Personally I’d go with I think adding “Ford” as a KWD is important, but every implementation is going to be slightly different.

A second thing to remember: when you use a directory structure, the hierarchy is forced upon you. You can’t put “/ford/” at the end without creating a 404 error page. However, when you eliminate a directory structure, you could very easily end up with something like this:

Yes, the page will still work, but it’s going be a whole lot more confusing and harder to maintain the website if you let it happen.

Just because you go with a tree-less structure doesn’t mean you can’t have middle level pages either. I would 110% recommend having these pages with some editorial content and a link to each of pages beneath it:

The next question is should I change my existing website to this new format. In my experience, radically changing a URL structure is never fun or painless and should only be done if something is wrong, broken or needs to be fixed. If your current site implementation has low traffic, has session ID’s and lots of other parameters in the URL, and you decide to fix it, yes it’s something to consider. However if you are an established website with good rankings and traffic, changing the URL structure because it’s what all the other cool kids are doing isn’t a a smart move. IMHO, of course.

One last thing to consider is using a directory structure to limit crawling. Sometimes you have a section of a website that you don’t want crawled for whatever reason. If there are multiple pages, it’s a lot easier to block crawling using a directory/tree structure than making multiple entries in a robots file.

via flickr cc

Enjoyed this Post?

Recommend it to friends and colleagues!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *