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Click Depth Impacts SEO, Users and Navigation

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Click depth is a navigation and user interface term that defines how many clicks a user needs to get to a specific page.

For example, any pages with a link from the homepage have a click depth of one. Obviously, search engines have an easy time of reaching those pages if they begin indexing the site with the homepage.

It is logical to assume that search engines place a high value on the homepage because they recognize it as such and because of the number of pages on the site that link back to it.

Those backlinking pages usually have the homepage in one or more navigation bars. If the homepage has a high value, so do the links on the homepage. Second-level pages by their nature are important.

Important pages such as the homepage have two types of links: static and dynamic. The static links usually stay there for long periods of time because they link to hubs of content or other important, highly used pages.

Dynamic links come and go with site activity. They often link to new, refreshed or timely pages of content.

The Problem With High Click Depth

Sites with a deep content structure may have multiple categories of content. These categories may link to subcategories or even sub-subcategories before reaching an actual document.

In other cases, articles are reachable only through other articles. If the articles with the originating links are deep in the site as well, their linking targets become difficult or possibly impossible to find by search engines.

If they are impossible to find by search engines, they are usually impossible to find by site visitors. The content ends up having no value. As long as people can’t find them, they are wasted efforts.

Even if the search engines find them, their depth signals a lack of value by the site. Why should a search engine rank an article highly if the site itself doesn’t value it?

More to the point, a deep article has fewer user interactions and fewer signals to search engines about how user perceive its value.

How to Improve Click Depth

One easy answer to improving click depth lies with the number of content categories. The WordPress content management system is a good example of one way to solve the problem.

WordPress offers both categories and tags as a way of organizing content. Every article has the ability to get assigned both a broader category and a narrowly specific tag. Site publishers can display both the categories and the tags easily on every page on the site. They also can display them only on some specific pages as another option.

The word “hubs” is a related concept to categories and tags, although not necessarily the same thing. In the WordPress world, a hub is a category or tag, but categories and tags aren’t always hubs.

A site publisher can group content together into hubs that aren’t under categories or tags. For example, a group of five articles about an event might become a hub, but there are not enough articles to justify an entire category or tag.

Publishers can then promote the hubs on the homepage when appropriate or, likewise, remove them when appropriate. In that case, they are temporarily reducing click depth.

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