Why Is An SEO Friendly Site Structure Important?
This is an area that SEO training resources and articles often gloss over, but in fact, it is one of the most important parts of your SEO strategy. At the moment, your website could be efficient and streamlined, with webpages that are logically categorized and well placed like an organized filing system. On the other hand, your website could have grown organically without much initial thought to it’s structure, and has now become a scattered and intangible mess of pages. But if you give some careful thought to your structure as you grow, it could become an integral part of your SEO success.
There are 3 key reasons that you should give careful thought to your underlying structure:
- Prioritizing Keywords and Pages
By placing certain webpages and categories of webpages to specific parts of your website, you can place emphasis and SEO Weight on to these pages. This means that search engine crawlers will give preference to these webpages and your website will rank better for the keywords and pages that you prioritize.
- Making It Easy For The Crawlers
The simpler your site structure, the easier it is for search engine crawlers to read and index the content of your site. If the crawlers cannot find content, then how much chance do you have of ranking?
- User Experience
You can never forget your users. These guys are the whole point you have your website right? The easier it is for your users to navigate through a simple and well thought out website, the more likely they will dwell on your site, and the lower the bounce rate. Google loves a high dwell time and a low bounce rate! User Experience is more important to SEO now than ever.
The 5 Steps
1. Plan Your Site Hierarchy
Your site hierarchy should generally look something like the below diagram to the right. The most simple hierarchy is to have the most important search ranking pages at the top, and to filter down to the less important pages. There are pages that will be an exception to this, and these pages will be unavoidable so that navigating around your site will be clear and simple, but this is the general rule.
It will begin with your homepage at the top. This is usually your most important landing page, and it is important for simplicity that there is a homepage that you can always navigate back to. This is why it is at the top. The next layer will be your category pages, or your most important landing pages. Following this will be sub-categories, and lastly your articles/products etc.
It is important to plan your site hierarchy before creating your site, so that your pages don’t become a jumbled mess. If you are unsure where you will be going with your website in the future, then try to follow this general structure as you go.
2. Your URL Should Match Your Site Structure
You should also ensure that your url structure matches your hierarchy. For example, if you are selling a cute pink summer dress on your clothing website, your url may look like this:
The url is clearly broken down into Category → Sub-Category → Product. This is easy for the crawlers to read and easy for your users to navigate.
3. Create A Low Depth Website
Another key element of your structure is to have a shallow website. What this means is that every page on your website is accessible within a few clicks of your homepage. For good SEO, you should be looking to make your website 3-clicks deep or less. It’s easier for your website to be crawled, and the easier the crawlability, the easier Google can find your content and rank it.
The other reason for a shallow website is for a good User Experience. If a user is having difficulty finding the information they want, then they can easily get frustrated and move on. And as we know, a high bounce rate means bad SEO.
4. Use Internal Linking
Although creating a low depth website is a good strategy, this can be difficult, especially for an extremely large site with hundreds of pages. Assorting your pages into a limited amount of categories can be impossible, or just doesn’t make sense. This is where internal linking can help.
An internal link is an internal connection between two pages on the same website, and they have a number of advantages that are good for SEO. The first is that they provide a useful way to navigate through your website, which reduces the number of clicks needed to reach any page on your website. Considering those crawlers love a low depth website, Google loves it. This, again, creates a better user experience for our visitors.
The other main advantage is that it provides and opportunity to use keyword anchor text. If you dont’ know what anchor text is, then Moz.com provides a good explanation in this article.
5. Distribute SEO Weight With The Site Navigation
The Site Navigation is often just seen as a tool to navigate around a website, but in fact it can be used as a tool to give SEO weight to your preferred pages.
What we need to remember about the links on our navigation is that they are in fact internal links, as they link to other webpages on the same website. Our internal links behave in a similar way to external links – the more links that point towards a particular webpage, the more importance that search engines will give that page. If a particular webpage is on the navigation, this means that EVERY page on the website has an internal link pointing towards it. This tells search engines that this is a very important page on your website, and that this is a page that should rank.
Your website as a whole will have a certain amount of domain authority. If you have an individual page on your navigation, then a greater portion of the website’s authority – or SEO weight – will be given to this page. Therefore, the strategy you should take is to put the pages you want to rank for on your navigation.
All this within moderation of course. You still want to your navigation to be effective in it’s primary usage, which is providing a simple and obvious way to navigate through your site.
So for example, if you had the same clothing e-commerce store and your obvious categories were:
Dresses Shoes Jeans T-Shirts
However, your most popular products, and the products you want to rank for are:
Summer Dresses Leather Boots Pink Bejeweled Gladiator Sandals Cocktail Dresses
Now as these are the products you want to rank for, you may consider putting all these products on your navigation instead of your categories, but this would be unreasonable. If a user came to your site and only saw the above products in your navigation, it would be impossible to navigate around your site. The user would soon give up and move on.
What I would suggest is to use the categories in your navigation, and perhaps just one important product, the product that you want to rank the most. If that was Leather Boots (although I do enjoy a nice pair of Pink Bejeweled Gladiator Sandals), then your navigation would look like this:
Dresses Shoes Jeans T-Shirts Leather Boots
Now that seems reasonable. You have your main categories so that your site is easy to navigate, and now you have your most important product in there so that as much SEO weight is shifted to this product. Seems perfect. You can vary this ofcourse, perhaps using 2 important products, but the key here is to find the right balance.
So there you have it. This is often a very overlooked part of SEO, but it is actually a very important part. If you can get your site structure organised properly, it can be a very solid foundation that the rest of your SEO strategies can be built upon.
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Author: Ben Duffield
Ben is the Director of Marketing and a Project Manager at Supreme Optimization. He has a passion for helping his clients find their customers through the search engines. He specializes in developing SEO-friendly websites.