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SEO 101: Why Site Structure is Crucial for SEO

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Creating a solid website structure is critical for SEO success. If you want your website to rank high on Google, it needs to have a user-friendly structure. The better the site structure, the greater are your chances of appearing on the top.
Imagine working day and night designing your website, crafting content for each page, and planning the layout, only to find out that it hasn’t even made it to the first three pages of Google! How disappointing must that be!
If you’re spending 8 hours building your website, you should at least be able to generate leads and encourage crawlers. But if that’s not happening, then let us drop a truth bomb on you: You’re lacking a thorough, well-planned SEO strategy.
Search Engine Optimization is your biggest weapon to get sales, customers, better indexing, and ultimately, higher search engine rankings. The only actionable way to checklist your SEO goals is to build a well-organized site that is easy to navigate, is user-friendly and contains top content.  
Google uses your website structure to streamline important content and overlook anything that seems irrelevant. If your customers are finding it hard to navigate from one page to the other, chances are Google will too. Lack of structure and usability can spell the death of your website.
It’s no longer about throwing pages together and waiting for the users to figure out what you’re selling. Giving your site a structure by creating meaningful categories is crucial to make a customer feel welcomed.    
Organizing your site may seem like too much work. Thankfully, you will realize the answers are quite simple. In this guide of SEO Basics, we discuss the importance of website structure and how to make the most of it to achieve SEO success.  

site structure that improves SEO

Simply put, site structure determines how you organize and lay out your website’s content. You could have heaps of research or life-changing products to share with your customers, but if they’re not communicated through a well-structured platform, you won’t generate a response.  
Every website has content that falls into a variety of categories, presented across different pages or posts. Site structure determines how the content is categorized, interlinked with other pages, and ultimately, presented to the end-user.

Organizing Your Website Clutter

Your website will quickly become cluttered as you increase product pages and publish more and more blog posts. If you want your customers to quickly find what they’ve come for, all the pages, products, and services must be organized neatly.
Take an example of Sarah, for instance, who built a website blog for new mothers. She started out her online journey with friendly blog guides, teaching moms how to ease into the new experience. Slowly, she decided to introduce products and tips for colic babies.
If she’s posting a blog every few days, in a year’s time, her website will have at least 50 great, well-researched articles. In 3 years, the number could be far greater. Everything is going well, except now her website is terribly cluttered and haphazard.
Chances are a visitor who’s looking for tips to soothe a colic baby might have to go through a dozen products and irrelevant articles before they find what they’re looking for. Lack of structure on Sarah’s website will draw away plenty of potential customers because it’s not fast, user-friendly, and easy to navigate.
Even Google won’t be able to analyze and understand Sarah’s content because it will get lost. Her website could be advertising the most effective products for new mothers, but the clutter will block any potential leads. This is nothing short of a disaster.
Thankfully, the damage can be reversed! And, that is through building a simple and easy SEO-friendly website architecture.

Importance of Site Structuring

Structuring your site is important for usability for the customers and findability for the search engine. Websites that don’t have a sound structure can’t generate leads because their visitors quickly get lost.
Having a clear and straightforward site structure allows both visitors and Google to understand your website. Using a sitemap generator, for example, can help you create easy to navigate pages that Google immediately understands.
You can probably connect the dots by now. If you structure your site well, your users will instantly understand the product/service you’re selling and be able to find their way on the website easily. This way, Google will also index your pages better.
This immediately hikes up your site’s ranking on the search engine. Therefore, in order to kill two birds with one stone, you need a site structure that improves SEO. Let’s delve in and understand the crucial connection between website structure and SEO. 

Site Structure and SEO

how to achieve SEO success through site structure

The structure of your site is integral in many ways and extremely important to Google. Making your website SEO-friendly increases its usability for the search engine and the visitor. If you want to create favorable content that ranks high on Google, you need to create a website structure the search engine can easily grasp.
An SEO-friendly website architecture will give you all the things you need – a user-friendly, fast website, new customers, more e-mail subscribers, greater sales, and revenues from advertising. To break it down, here are 4 crucial reasons why site structure is indispensable for SEO success. 

It Helps Google Understand Your Content Better

A well-structured site can make it that much easier for Google to understand what you’re selling and where the most relevant content is. If a search engine can easily comprehend what your website is about, you’re in for a clear win.
Google essentially does this through search engine crawling. Crawling is a process in which search engines use intelligent robots to find new content on the internet. It could be any sort of content, from WebPages and images to PDF and videos. Regardless of the nature and format of the content, crawlers discover all sorts of new and updated content.
Crawling allows search engines to understand how each post and page is related, and ultimately, which pages of the website are more valuable than others.
Google uses an intelligent bot called Googlebot to crawl websites and follow both external and internal links. By following these links, Google is able to decipher the relationship between different pages of a website. Here, the structure of your site will determine how quickly and easily Google detects new content.
Your site structure is a guide for Google and therefore, a crucial component for successful SEO landing. Search engine crawling happens in three steps – crawl, index, and rank. Index is the process of storing and organizing new content that is found. Ranking is the most important stage as this is where the search engine ranks the most relevant content that best answers a searcher’s query.
When your site structure is organized and optimized, Google can easily grasp the relation between all the pages and posts. This increases the usability of your content, which means better exposure. With relevant, easy to read content, your website will automatically rank higher on the search engine.
If, however, your site structure is poor, Google will still index the pages but won’t have sufficient clues to understand how each page is related.
In short, what you’re essentially aiming for is a decent site structure that makes crawling, indexing, and ranking an easy job for Google.

It Improves User Experience (UX)

From the visitor’s perspective, the importance of your website’s usability is extremely important. How the website is structured will have a significant impact on the visitor’s experience. If they can’t locate a specific product, service, or information, they’re not likely to become regular customers.
In short, if the website doesn’t allow user-friendly navigation and customer search, it will rank low on usability.
Google knows when a website is poorly structured through a low bounce rate. Bounce rate is a unit that shows how many visitors landed on a webpage and left without interacting with the site. A higher bounce rate is bad news for your SEO strategy.
For search engines, bounce rates are the yardstick that determines whether users are happy with your website or not. If the bounce rate is persistently high, it will automatically lead to lower search rankings.
A good site structure can easily undo this. When you create simple and easy categories that prioritize customer solutions, your website will quickly begin to attract visitors.
A thorough and well-planned site structuring allows visitors to instantly grasp what you’re selling and how it can benefit them. It will also decrease the time spent on the website – all of which will gradually decrease the bounce rate and lead to higher rankings.

Preventing Competition with Your Own Content

Website structure best practices

A decent site structure is incredibly essential as it prevents competition with your content. If your site doesn’t have a structure, you’ll be competing against yourself for a higher ranking on Google. If your blog, for example, has multiple high-ranking posts on ‘Project Management’, Google wouldn’t be able to identify the most important blog unless you inform it.
And, the only way to do this is by lending a sound structure to your website. The Google algorithm for SEO can’t determine which post on your website is the most relevant. When you organize your content from the most important to the least relevant, it will allow Google to show the most pertinent content to the visitors.
If you don’t organize your content on the website, neither your visitors nor Google would know which piece is the most important. This way, all of your posts will be competing for attention. You will be rivaling against your own pages for ranking on the search engine, even though some of them may not be as relevant to a visitor’s query.
Hence, the solution to all this is extremely simple. Just tell Google which page or post is the most important and needs to be on top of the pile. Site structure that improves SEO prevents the most outstanding content from getting lost in the pile. For this, you need good internal linking and a solid taxonomy structure. This way, Google will begin to work in your favor.  

Increases Chances of Site Links in Google Search

Website structure best practices

Site links are the links that appear underneath the description of your website in Google Search Results. These links point to other main pages on your website that the visitor might be interested in. This is a highly effective way to give your site a neat structure and make search listings more visible. Site links also increase your CTR (click-through rates) – a metric that determines how often visitors click on your ad.
However, site links aren’t determined by the website owner. They are auto-selected by the Google Algorithm, which is why good site structuring is crucial. If you want your site link to have desirable search listings, you need to create a well-organized and easy to navigate website.
An engaging and user-friendly SEO site structure will allow you to procure customers, sales, revenues, and above all, a higher ranking on Google.
Now that we’ve discussed the necessity of site structuring, here’s a quick brief of what the ideal site structure should look like. 

What Does an Ideal Site Structure Look Like?

Setting up a relevant site structure from scratch is better than re-doing an existing one. So, how should you organize your website? A good way to figure this out is by ordering the website pages. You can draw a flow chart or a pyramid to organize the various listings and posts on the site.

Home Page

The first page is obviously the Homepage, which is all the way at the top. The homepage is the main navigation hub for visitors. This is where you need to link your most important pages along with your star products and services. This way, your visitors will click on the pages you want them to end up on and Google will know exactly which pages are important.
However, be careful not to create clutter on the Homepage. With multiple customer solutions and services, it can be hard to sift out the most relevant. But keep in mind that linking too many pages to the homepage will defeat the point of site structure. Your visitors will just get lost. A good rule is to keep it simple with a few main services/pages at the front.

Main Categories

Divide your content into main categories that deal with different customer problems or solutions. For example, an online grocery store can have About Us, Grocery Shopping, Blog, and Contact Us pages. These will be enough for visitors who land on the page to buy their monthly groceries.

Sub-Categories

Taking the same example, you can divide the Grocery section into various sub-sections like poultry, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, canned foods, etc. Although sub-categories are ideal for larger websites, you can add them if you think it improves the website structure.   
Adding categories is just a quick way to organize your site into a clear hierarchy for both your visitors and Google to understand. It establishes coherence between different pages of the website.

Individual Posts

Lastly, you can add individual pages or posts under each sub-category. For example, under “poultry”, you can have individual informational pages on free-range eggs, organic eggs, omega-3 eggs, and standard brown eggs.
The purpose of these individual posts is to further clarify and inform your visitors about your services. With a set hierarchy, they will be able to appreciate the most valuable aspects of your products and services.  
In short, the ideal site structure typically looks like a pyramid with each category leading to a sub-category. The intent, however, is to prevent clutter and minimize distractions for both your visitors and Google.

How to Create Site Structure that Improves SEO

Everything that we’ve learned about site structure up till now helps us understand how it can readily improve search engine rankings. A powerful site structure creates appeal for customers, gets crawled and indexed quickly, and above all, delivers the best SERP rankings.
With that said, it’s time to get to the meat of this blog post – how to organize a website structure that enhances SEO. Here we’ve curated the top, highly effective website structure best practices that will instantly get Google to notice you!

Drafting a Coherent Hierarchy for Your Website

Building a hierarchy for SEO site structure

While we already discussed the ideal site hierarchy above, this tip specifically deals with how to make the most of it. You can use plenty of tools to plan a hierarchy before developing your website. An Excel sheet, Google sheet, OmniGraffle, or word processor is a good place to start.
The hierarchy makes user navigation extremely easy and allows Google to crawl, index, and rank each page quickly. It also improves your URL structure, so it’s important to plan a logical, coherent hierarchy. Here are some quick tips to get the most of your Home Page and sub-categories.

  • Keep the hierarchy simple and logical. Don’t over-complicate by squeezing all the possible options for a visitor. It will end up doing more harm than good.
  • The number of main categories should ideally range between 3 and 7. Remember, they are called “main categories” for a reason and should only comprise the chief services.
  • When it comes to the sub-categories, try to balance them out. Each section should have roughly the same number of sub-sections to create a balanced hierarchy. If a certain category is too big with plenty of blog posts, it’s best to break it down.
  • Always keep your categories visible and prominent as well as linked to the home page. Make sure they’re not hiding when a visitor clicks on your site.
  • Use your categories to build relevancy. This will allow Google to know exactly which topics to identify your website.
Opting for Taxonomies

Website taxonomy is the classification of different website pages under a common name. This increases user experience as visitors looking for information under the same topic will find it easily. Content can be grouped in different ways.
Taxonomies are often confused with categories. However, all the categories and tags you add for a product or service come under taxonomies. If you’re using Wordpress for website building, you can create ‘custom taxonomies’ to add personalized options for visitors.
For example, a website that sells shoes can create a gender section, which further divides into sports, casual, and formal footwear. Any sub-sections or categories like style, material, or color can come under these sections.

Enhance Your Categories with SEO

 Every time you create a new category, enrich it with search engine optimization. Doing SEO work can help you ensure that not just the homepage but each individual category has a higher chance of ranking.
For example, use SEO tools or software to optimize the title and description of the specific category. Include all the high-ranking keywords in an intelligent and engaging way. You can even go a step ahead and prepare a short introduction for each section.
Keep the slug descriptive yet concise with a high-ranking keyword so that Google can easily identify what the page is about. Add the slug URL in your sitemap to keep visitors updated. Adding internal links that point to other popular pages on your website is also important as it allows better crawling. And, lastly, enhance all your posts with colorful images and info-graphics – all with meta-description included.
All of these variables will work together to give your site a sound structure.

Building an Easy Navigation Path

Along with a well-structured homepage, having a clear navigation path is necessary. The level of ease in navigating across different pages determines how good the website structure is. Site navigation primarily depends on the menu and the breadcrumb trail. Here we discuss each of them in detail.

Menu

One of the most effective website structure best practices involves creating a user-friendly menu. The menu is the first page visitors land on and it is where the main categories lie. The menu helps visitors latch onto the structure of your website.
If visitors can find what they’re looking for within the first few seconds, they’re likely to revisit your website in the future. Effective navigation punches up page views, increases revenues, and enhances user experience. So, yes, your website’s menu is the first impression-maker.
Ideally, all the main categories of your website should have a place on the menu bar. If, however, you have a large website with umpteen services, there’s no harm in creating a second menu. The intent is to avoid clutter at all costs as that will reflect a poor image of your site structure.
A few responsive and engaging designs are horizontal and vertical navigation. This one by Petersham Nurseries offers a great display of options for visitors. A user will immediately know where to click for a specific product.  
Horizontal Navigation for Websites

Another great example of engaging navigation is Arbor restaurant. With a top-down menu, the website offers a clean and easy navigation with decent space between each category. The menu appears in a sliding container, which adds a unique flair to the website.  
Arbor restaurant Vertical Menu

Although there isn’t a perfect template for the best menu, you should ideally start with two key questions:

  • What kind of menu structure is best for my site?
  • How many items/categories at a minimum should the menu contain?

The rule of thumb in every case is to keep the menu simple and clear to understand. Avoid too many links and pages as that will thwart the value of your website. The best SEO site structure is easy to understand for both the visitors and the search engines.

Breadcrumb Trails

Breadcrumbs are easy-to-understand, clickable pathways that help a user know exactly where they are. They give visitors a clear overview of where they are on the website and how to return to a specific page. Breadcrumbs can make navigation ten times easier and enhance the SEO and user experience of your website. You can use many breadcrumb plug-ins, depending on the layout of your website.
Three styles are popularly used in websites. Location-based ideally tell a visitor where they are in the site’s hierarchy.
Attribute-based are typically used when a product has different sub-categories. So, a website with electronic services can use a breadcrumb trail to identify electronics made by different companies. The name of the company will be the distinguishing attribute.
Path-based bread crumb trails simply display all the steps a user takes to arrive at a given page. The advantage here is that it shows all the pages the visitor clicked on before landing on the current page.
When adding breadcrumb menus, always make sure that they reflect the site structure accurately. For example, a path-based menu for a product page should look like this:
Homepage > Main Product Section > Sub-section > Product Page
The menu should show all the levels the user has clicked on until they return to the Homepage. Google, especially advises breadcrumbs for a good SEO site structure, which is all the reason to add it!

Set up the Navigation in CSS or HTML

When creating a navigation path, always use CSS or HTML to keep the code simple and easy to understand. Using Flash, JavaScript, or AJAX can restrict the crawler from covering your website’s navigation and hierarchy.

Use a Shallow Navigation Path

Another great tip for responsive menus is to keep their depth shallow. When planning a site hierarchy, make sure the most important pages aren’t too deep into the website. You want them to appear on the top so that they’re easily accessible.
Shallow sites are easier to crawl and rank for the search engine and have greater usability for SEO success. Ideally, your website needs 3-4 clicks to reach every page. That will be easier and less time-consuming for the visitor and the search engine.

Tags

Adding tags for each product category can greatly help your website structure. Tags are not the same as categories in that they don’t have hierarchies. There are useful when you think a certain quality or property about a product/service could be interesting for the visitor.
Instead of following a hierarchy of categories, the visitor can simply click on the tag to access what they’re looking for. Tags are more accessible and can be readily used by users, thereby enhancing the usability of your website.
However, try not to create a lot of tags while making sure that each tag is used at least twice. This will increase the chances of the visitor or the search engine actually spotting the tag. All the articles, products, or services that belong together should have common tags.
You can add them at the bottom or to the sidebar – somewhere your visitors can see them and would like to read more about the topic.

Building Comprehensive and Strong Internal Linking Structure

Comprehensive internal links

We saved the best tip for the last. A strong internal linking structure is the cornerstone of a high-ranking SEO site structure. Internal links establish an information hierarchy within the website. An article with clickable links to other relevant articles provides a learning experience for the visitor.
It also helps search engines crawl easily and help spread the ranking power across the website. Having comprehensive internal links is the backbone of a well-integrated and tight-knit site structure. However, you don’t have to rack your brain hard with this one.
The basic rule is to have a few links to and a few links from the page the visitor is currently on. They should always have the next great ‘service, product, or tip’ to click on. While all the main categories will have internal linking with the sub-category pages, you should ensure that leaf-level pages are enriched with internal links too.

In a Nutshell

A well-structured website is the bedrock of high search engine ranking. When you lend a simple, fast, and easy-to-navigate structure to your website, visitors and crawlers will start coming automatically. Use the guide above to learn how to organize a website structure and achieve SEO success!

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