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According to Google’s John Mueller, the number of slashes in a URL has virtually no effect on search result rankings. In a Google Search Central SEO hangout on March 26, Mueller pointed out that Google does not prioritize URLs with fewer slashes.
Therefore, flattening URLs is not a necessity. He agreed that a URL with more depth, i.e., more slashes, is not bad in any way because it shows users where they are on the website. It seems like the flattening of URLs is purely aesthetic.
What is a Flat URL?
Flat URLs are the ones that make it seem
as if every page is one click away from the homepage. For example, if you go to a website and navigate to About us -> Portfolios -> Project1, instead of showing https://www.samplesite.com/about_us/portfolios/project1, a flat URL would show https://www.samplesite.com/project1. For an average user, the latter looks cleaner; however, the number of slashes is not considered by Google when ranking webpages.
Are Flat URLs Better?
The fewer clicks it takes to reach a webpage signifies the importance of the page to Google. However, even if the flat URL is https://www.samplesite.com/project1, the user needs to visit the About Us and Portfolios pages to reach the Project1 page.
Case in point: There is no way to convey this information to Google using a flat URL structure. Therefore, using a flat URL structure for a website is up to the site owner; it does not affect Google’s rankings in any way.
Your website’s ranking will not be affected if you choose between normal URLs or artificially flat URLs. It is purely a preference.
One person may find flat URLs pleasing to the eyes. On the other hand, another person may prefer the depth data provided by normal URLs.