A good website structure greatly enhances your chances to rank higher in search engines. Website all have some type of structure, which might simply be a disorganized group of pages, or a streamlined, rigorous structure. If you design your site’s structure carefully and well, your site will achieve search excellence.
This article shares the best advice on how you can create a powerful site structure that will get indexed and crawled by spiders, and appeal to users, while at the same time deliver the best possible SERP rankings and listings.
Website structure makes a difference
Site architecture is often overlooked and while it is one of the most critical factors that determine a site’s SEO performance, very few site owners and webmasters truly understand what a site structure that enhances SEO looks like.
We’ll first explain why site structure is critical before getting into how to develop your own site structure so that it becomes SEO friendly.
Good site structures deliver stunning user experiences
When you remove fonts, colors, graphics, kerning, images and white space, site design really boils down to a great structure.
Human minds need cognitive equilibrium — the ability to fit pieces together logically, locate what they are looking for and find things where they expect them to be. This makes a logical, strong site structure cognitively satisfying to your users.
It is also true that search engines like sites that appeal to users. Google’s algorithms use data obtained from searchers to rank sites. Sites with low dwell times and poor CTR don’t perform well in SERPs. When users find sites that they like because it has great structure, they tend to stay longer and don’t bounce. Good site structures reduce bounce rates and increase dwell times, will, in turn, lead to better rankings.
Sitelinks are part of a good site structure
SERPs use a listing format called sitelinks that display a website’s main page with several internal links underneath.
Sitelinks are awesome and give a huge advantage in terms of SEO. They point users to the information that is most relevant, make navigation of the site easier, increase user trust, improve brand reputation, increase clickthrough rate, assist you in dominating SERPs, and shorten conversion funnels.
You can’t, however, go to Google Webmaster Tools and request site`s links by filling in a form. This process is done automatically by Google’s algorithms which award a website with site links based on a very logical and strong site structure. Sites with poor site structures are not likely to ever get site links. Sites without site links get less targeted traffic, a lower CTR, and decreased conversions.
A good structure allows better crawling
Googlebot and other web crawlers crawl a site’s structure to index the content so that it can be returned in search results. If the site hierarchy is good, it makes it easy for crawlers to access the content and then index it.
Crawlers are however not always able to discover everything on a website automatically. Sitemaps will help in this regard, but a site with a strong structure will make it easy for crawlers to access, crawl, submit to google index, and return the pages. The very core of good SEO is a good site structure that has been optimized for crawlers.
In summary, a website’s organization is critical for SEO success. It could, in fact, be said that sites that don’t have a good site structure will never be successful with SEO. Sites with the unbreakable SEO foundation of strong structure will get huge volumes of organic search.
How to structure a website
The steps described below will assist you in creating a site with a strong structure.
Plan the hierarchy before developing the website
If you still need to start creating your own website, you’re in a good position to plan the site structure to achieve the best SEO. Before even creating pages in a CMS, your structure should be planned. This can be done on a whiteboard, or by using general software like a spreadsheet, word processor, or a simple graphics tool like Visio.
A “hierarchy” is simply a way to organize the site’s information in an easy manner that makes sense. The hierarchy will also determine how your site is navigated, as well as the URL structure, so everything else is based on it. Get your hierarchy right and everything else will fall in place easily.
When designing your hierarchy, keep the following features in mind.
- It should be logical. Don’t overthink this process or make it more complicated than what it should be. Simplicity is best, both for the ease of users and crawlers and for your own sake. Make the main categories distinct and unique and create subcategories that are related to the main category under which they fall.
- Only use between 2 and 7 main categories. Unless you have a huge e-commerce site like Amazon, you won’t need many main categories and you should only have a few main groups. If your site has more than seven main categories, you might want to have another look at the organization, and trim it down.
- Use the same number of subcategories for each main category. Try to keep the number of subcategories for each main category about the same. If there are ten subcategories under one main category, and only two under another, things could be unbalanced.
A good site hierarchy is the starting point for a strong, great site structure.
Base your URL structure on the navigational hierarchy
The next main element to take into account when developing a strong website structure is the URL structure. If your hierarchy is logical, this should not be difficult as the URL structure should follow the hierarchy.
If your URL structure is organized based on to the site hierarchy, the URLs will use real words, not symbols, and will cover appropriate keywords.
Use CSS or HTML to create the site’s navigation
A shallow navigational structure is best
As the navigation structure will be based on the site’s hierarchy, ensure that pages, especially important ones, are not buried deep within the site where they may be difficult to find. Shallow navigational structures work best, both from a crawler and a usability perspective.
A website that needs only three or fewer clicks to reach every page is far easier to use than a deep one which requires a long series of clicks to reach every page.
The top header should only list the main pages. You can accomplish everything you need by doing this and adding any other menu elements only becomes unnecessary and distracting.
Although dropdown menus with CSS effects or menus that disappear may provide an intriguing, unique user experience, they do not affect SEO. Don’t use a navigational structure based on images. The strongest form of SEO is still provided with text links using appropriate anchors.
Where a footer with menu links is used, duplicate the main links of the top navigational menu in the footer. Adding additional category listings, or changing the order of links will only complicate the user experience and serves no useful purpose.
Use a wide-ranging internal linking structure
Internal linking provides the body for a logical site hierarchy. There are three main reasons why internal links are important:
- Assisting users in navigating the site.
- Establishing an information hierarchy.
- Spreading link juice (ranking power) to websites.
These reasons are all tied directly to creating a well-integrated and tight-knit site structure.
Internal linking does not have to get complicated. The fundamental principle is that every page on a website should have a link from and a link to another page on the site. Although the navigation structure should achieve internal linking to all main and subcategory pages, all leaf-level pages should also have internal links.
Search engines use internal linking to determine which pages are important, and how to get to them. Users have to find internal links easily and they should be relevant to page`s content.
Visual sitemap generator can solve your problems
If you have read this article and understood that your website architecture is not friendly for search engines and users, you can visualize it and detect all the issues immediately. This visual website map will help you to understand what hierarchy is composed in your site. As practice shows, improving the site structure leads to positions rising, reducing bounce rate and increasing traffic.
At Sitechecker website crawler tool page we have visual website structure generator. You need to click on the button “sitemap” and open the whole website map. Here is the example of first depth hierarchy:
A good site structure is achieved by the accurate organization, intentional design and careful thinking. It is best to develop a strong site stricture before the site is created. If a site has to be redesigned, you can reorganize important navigational elements, thereby improving structural SEO.
There are many things that need to be looked at when a site is optimized for search engines. Although site structure is one that is very important, it is often overlooked when selecting the best optimization methods. Great SEO will always follow a great site structure.