Click Distance Matters.

As an SEO experiment, a little less than a month ago we:
1. Removed all the categories from the sidebar
2. Listed titles of every post with links every page
3. Got rid of the Google Sitemap.

Because we updated the theme on friday to include a new navigational setup, it’s time for some observations about the experiment.

For the month of September, SEO Black Hat had these search referral numbers:
Google 24889
Yahoo 1047
MSN 503
Ask Jeeves 91
Google Images 82

In August, 2006 with search referrals of
14258 – Google
1603 – MSN
1266- Yahoo
41 – Ask Jeeves
19 – Google Images

and these numbers in July
11995 – Google
1145 – MSN
828 – Yahoo
514 – Google Images
34 – Ask Jeeves

There was a 74% climb in the number of Google search referrals. MSN switched to live – and live hated my old layout because it was ugly (let’s see if that picks up any with the new design).. Yahoo was down slightly and Ask Jeeves up slightly.

Also of interest is that SEO black hat had gone supplemental after 182 results prior to the experiment. Today, SEO Black hat does not go supplemental until 554 results (which is pretty good considering this is only my 334th blog post.)

Of course, all this did not happen in a vacuum. I continued to write posts and people linked to those posts. Also, I took advantage of two internet “trends” with a couple of my posts that contributed to these search referrals:

Keyword Search Referrals
Fortuny 3151
lonelygirl15 715

Those Keywords, which accounted for about a third of the increase, should probably be disregarded.

The private SEO Black Hat forums increased stickyness and number of visits. Therefore, if Google is tracking user behavior, there’s a good chance that SEO Black Hat would be seen as more authoritative site.

My theory is that Google probably does track user behavior and is factoring this into their algorithm. It also seems very likely that Google cares about click distance from the homepage – especially for indexing purposes (as in: what goes supplemental).

What is click distance? Click distance is the minimum number of clicks it would take you to get from one page to another. During the experiment, the click distance from the home page to any post (or from one post to another) was 1.

What does that mean for your site design? Make sure your navigation is set up well. Google sitemaps are not the answer. If a post is 10 clicks from the homepage, it’s going to be a lot harder for that post to rank in the search engines.

I’ll detail what changes were made to SEO Black Hat from an on page SEO and usability perspective throughout this week.

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15 Responses to “Click Distance Matters.”

  1. rxbbx says:

    “Google sitemaps are not the answer. If a post is 10 clicks from the homepage, it’s going to be a lot harder for that post to rank in the search engines.” Interesting.. So a correct made sitemap isnt good enough even when you give them all links?

    I like the post from Boogybonbon about those supplemental results.. works good.. but you should check it. I ve modified his solution in subdomains.

  2. jeanjacques says:

    “Listed titles of every post with links every page”, excuse but i don’t really understand what you mean. Did you replace each title by a link ? sonething like this, instead of having an …you have a …. ?
    Best regards,

  3. jeanjacques says:

    sorry, my previous comment is not complete as i’ve not been able to find the way to display some HTML code.

  4. MrPenn says:

    First, glad you posted these results. I’m not sure its a conclusive result because…well..there are other factors to consider. (Did your site maybe pass some ageing factor/linking cluster point where it is now deemed a stronger authority site?)

    Secondly, jeanjacques– look to your left do you see where it says “related posts” imagine if every single post Quad had ever created was over there in a massive list.

    rxbbx– MSN wrote a paper on click distance a few months ago– check SEObytheSea blog and read through the paper on it. And really, it makes sense that a page 10 clicks deep wouldn’t go there. If a user stumbled to your home page how likely are they to find that page– also, obviously you (webmasterish type) don’t consider the page to be of any real importance either (as it would take a user landing on your homepage forever to find it) so why should Google rank it well?

  5. Brad says:

    The results of your experiment don’t surprize me Quad – I’ve noticed this with PR too! Interestingly, it has implications for both WH and BH sites: the problem of linking to every page from the sidebar is that it’s damn UGLY and messy (consider 500 links). However, imagine if the page links were cloaked so only the SEs could see them (I doubt this, in itself, would be enough for the SEs to ban a site if they became aware of it, of course.)

    I have simple and very effective cloaking script that can do this and much more, and it only takes a few minutes to install! If there’s any interest I’ll upload it to your forum.

  6. QuadsZilla says:

    Thanks brad. I appreciate the offer and had considered doing something like that (homepage=Target Keywords plus sitemap).

    But I’m sure our friends at Google wouldn’t mind a good excuse to ban this site. It’s not Google’s style to censor differing opinions – in genereal they’re a little too classy for that. But I’m not the new york times so i’m not sure I could get away with cloaking here.

    Other sites, no problem. But here, the benefits don’t outway the risk.

  7. [...] Partially related, Quadzilla has made an excellent post at SEO Blackhat that is worth a read for all search engine optimizers. [...]

  8. rxbbx says:

    I ve seen that paper… I am just surprised. Thought a good sitemap etc would be enough in some way. Didnt test it by myself.

  9. lemonsun says:

    “3. Got rid of the Google Sitemap.”

    Soon after i’ve implemented google sitemap, google drop over 2000 indexed pages of mine…..

  10. [...] Today SEOBlackhat, which has been host to some amazing blogging of late, published the results of a Click Distance makeover of their Wordpress template which did away with categorical listing pages and Google Sitemap, while setting up their own basic Sitemap which is a list of links to each blog post. [...]

  11. Muskie says:

    I agree in the importance of click distance, though I’ve heard this phenomenom described as depth, usually to do with directories. Click Distance can be offset a bit by internal linking but ultimately as you post more and more content linking to every posting on the front page will be ugly and affect the human usability.

    One thing I turfed from my blog was the monthly archives, occaisionally these used to show up in my search engine referals but who really cares what I wrote in March of 2005. No one surfs the web like that. I do like category based navigation though. These pages show up in my search engine referrals and allow end users to subscribe to just one category or quickly browse on the one category they might be interested in.

  12. [...] Quadzilla at SEO Black Hat ran an interesting seo experiment on click distance and how it affects ranking. In case you don’t know, click distance is the number of clicks it takes to get to a page on your site from the home page. While it certainly isn’t the most scientific experiment you’ll ever see I think the results make sense and I’ve noticed similar things on my own site. [...]

  13. [...] [SEO Black Hat] click distance , internal structure , seo experiment [...]

  14. [...] If you check out my sitemap above (in yellow), you can easily read every post I’ve ever written. The Visited hyperlink is a different color than the non visited. So, if you want to go from post to post just scanning the headlines that interest you, it’s easy to do so. Plus, with this setup, the click distance from any post to any other post is at most 2. [...]

  15. [...] Quando realizzate un sito, dunque, tenete a mente questi due concetti: click distance e prodondità dell’URL. Se anche SeoBlackHat ne ha trovato beneficio, un motivo ci sarà [...]