Your website architecture is important both in terms of its target audience usability and also when taking search engines into consideration.
Focusing on the search engines for this post remember that your site architecture may influence and affect your page rank and traffic, particularly for inner pages. A higher page rank doesn’t necessarily ensure a higher ranking in search results, but it helps. It also tells your users that the information on your page is reliable, having passed the Google test.
So what does ‘flat architecture’ mean? Flat architecture is the alternative to ‘deep’ or ‘nested’ architecture. A deep architecture refers to a long chain of links, leading to inner pages, while a flat architecture refers to a system where practically no link chains exist and each page can be reached in one, two or three links.
Having a flat website makes it possible to access each page on your website quickly. From a search engine’s perspective less clicks translates into higher importance and fewer clicks into diminished importance. This is also based on the logic that the more clicks it takes to reach a page, the fewer the viewers who will reach it. This doesn’t mean you should put all your content on one page. Keep in mind that the logic behind Google’s algorithms is to target improved usability, if all your content is on one page and assuming that you have enough content to fill in several pages, will clog the page and make it harder for users to understand where and what to look at.
Here is a sketch of what was traditionally considered the best practice for an SEO structured website:
Here is a sketch of a modified web architecture, based on the flat structure theory:
This modified web structure is a good idea for websites. If you have hundreds of pages you may find that you’re clogging your homepage with links and damaging the usability of your website, not to mention that Google traditionally does not crawl over 100 links on a specific page.
In terms of transferring the ‘link juice’ and improving the ranking, the more links on a page, the more the potency of the link juice is diminished. Most experts agree that the typical algorithm for link juice is something along the lines: .85 * (1/X), with ‘x’ representing the number of links on the page. Even so, homepage links are stronger and more valuable than deeper links and the further away a page is (in terms of links) from the homepage, the lower its page rank and importance.
Please remember that this is referring specifically to small websites. Websites with thousands of pages will have to utilize a completely different strategy that will be compatible with their size and subject. If you would like to read further on this subject, you may enjoy Sergey & Larry’s original paper on Page Rank.
Good luck with your new Flash website!