How to Build the Perfect Website Structure for Better SEO
If you want to earn a high ranking on the search engines, you can’t ignore your site structure. A jumble of disorganised pages can ruin the user experience and make it challenging for Google to crawl and index webpages.
Conversely, a clear site structure with organised pages helps people and crawlers navigate your website easily. You need to make sure users can access the information they want quickly, which means you need a clear hierarchy of webpages and a good internal linking structure at the minimum.
In this article, we’ll look at why creating a clear site structure is vital for search engine optimisation (SEO) and the user experience (UX), which often go hand in hand. Then, we’ll tell you how to perfect your site structure so that you can achieve search excellence.
Why Does Site Structure Matter?
Too many business owners overlook the structure of their website and instead focus solely on publishing new articles, inserting keywords into their text and making their websites appear unique and dazzling at first glance.
Unfortunately, if your new blog posts are almost impossible to find from your navigation menu or your product subcategories are buried deep within a disorganised cluster of webpages, all your SEO efforts may go to waste.
Some people think they just need to submit a sitemap to earn a high search ranking, but that’s not the case (though creating a sitemap is essential).
Before we explain the ins and outs of structuring your site to improve your SEO, let’s look at why site structure can have such a dramatic impact on your ranking.
Enhance the User Experience
Your readers want to find information where they expect it to be and be able to put the pieces of your website together logically. They don’t want to spend hours clicking links to find a particular product or article. Therefore, your website structure needs to be cognitively satisfying to your readers.
The more appealing your website is to users, the higher it will rank on the search engine results pages, especially now that Google uses searcher information to rank your site.
If your website fails to generate click-throughs or retain readers, you’ll fall from your position on the search results pages quickly.
You need to concentrate on minimising your bounce rate. If a reader finds your website and returns to the search results instantly, your bounce rate will increase, decreasing your ranking in the process. However, if you encourage users to remain on your website, you’ll raise your ‘dwell time’ and your ranking.
There are many ways to enhance your website’s user experience, but creating a straightforward site structure is arguably the most important aspect of UX. Make sure readers enjoy browsing through your webpages (without facing any difficulties), and the search engines will reward you.
Help Google’s Crawlers
Google uses ‘crawlers’ to navigate and index the pages on your website. Its aim is to index all the content on your site in order to determine its position on the results pages for particular search terms. The clearer your site structure is, the easier it is for Google’s crawlers to access your content. Consequently, a good site structure can improve your search visibility. On the other hand, a poor site structure may prevent some of your webpages from being indexed at all.
You should remember that crawlers don’t discover all your website’s content automatically, which is just one reason why submitting a sitemap is essential. Nevertheless, if you organise your webpages and content correctly, you’ll make it much easier for Google to index your site without having to rely solely on your sitemap.
You might have noticed that some results on the search engines feature links to other pages within a website. For example, if you head to Google and search for ‘ABC News’ you’ll see a link to ABCs homepage as well as links to News, TV, Just In and Sport just beneath. The links underneath the homepage are called sitelinks.
If your listing on the search engine results pages features sitelinks, users can find the content they want easily. Sitelinks not only enhance the user experience and your ranking but also make your search engine result listing stand out on the page, enabling you to entice more click-throughs.
If you want Google to feature sitelinks with your website listing, you need to create a clear and simple site structure.
How to Perfect Your Site Structure
Now that you know why developing a good site structure is vital, let’s take a look at what you need to do to perfect yours.
Create a Clear Hierarchy Before Developing Your Site
The best way to develop a good website hierarchy is to plan it out before you start creating webpages. You don’t need to plan the hierarchy of your website using a CMS – you can do it with pen and paper, a whiteboard or a spreadsheet programme.
Essentially, in terms of your website, a hierarchy refers to how you organise your information. When you create your website, your hierarchy will determine your navigation menus and URL structure, making it essential to keep things straightforward. Everything just needs to make sense.
Your homepage will sit at the top of your hierarchy. Next comes your main webpage categories, and finally your subcategories. If you can, you might want to stick to one menu of webpages without any subcategories. However, if you sell thousands of products, you’ll need to think about how you can order them in a logical way by creating broad categories. Individual product lines or groups can be subcategories.
Keep these features in mind when developing your site’s hierarchy:
Ensure your hierarchy is logical
Don’t overcomplicate the process of creating a hierarchy. Your primary objective is to make your website easy for users and crawlers to navigate. Each of your main categories should be unique, and every subcategory should be directly related to the category under which it is located.
Try to limit the number of categories
You should try to make your website’s structure as straightforward and ‘common-sense’ as possible, which is why we recommend limiting the number of primary categories on your website to seven at the maximum. If you currently have over seven main categories, now might be the time to rethink your site’s structure.
Strike a balance with your subcategories
Where possible, you should try to keep the number of subcategories within each category roughly even. You don’t want one of your categories to have 20 subcategories and another category to have zero subcategories.
Think about your target keywords
You might want to carry out some keyword research to decide how to name your categories and subcategories. Learn the most common terms people use to search for your services, and make sure the names of your categories reflect those terms. However, keep the names of your categories simple instead of attempting to target niche phrases. For example, if you offer content marketing as a service, one of your main categories should simply be called ‘Content Marketing’ rather than ‘Best Content Marketing Service 2019.’
Develop a URL Structure that Matches Your Website’s Navigation Hierarchy
Now that you’ve defined a clear site structure, you need to create a URL structure that reflects it. Let’s say that your company name is “Alan’s Restaurant,” in which case your homepage URL would likely be:
Now, let’s imagine your main categories are: Menu, About, Opening Hours, Contact. In this situation, the URLs for each of your webpages should be:
All those URLs make sense to users and let Google’s crawlers know exactly what information they’ll find on each webpage. Next, let’s look at the Menu category and imagine we have these subcategories: Starters, Mains, Desserts. The URLs for your subcategories should be:
Again, these URLs enhance the user experience and your SEO efforts. In most cases, you should avoid using capital letters, underscores and special characters when creating URLs because they make your site structure look clumsy to both readers and crawlers.
If you have a blog, which we highly recommend, you might want to think about how you can organise your posts into categories and subcategories. This will enable users to find content quickly and help Google’s crawlers make sense of your information.
Before we move onto the next step, we should give Tags a quick mention. If your categories represent the contents of your website, tags represent its index. You can use tags to help Google group content together in a logical way. For example, if you publish a blog post that details 10 gluten-free recipes, you might want to include tags such as ‘Food,’ ‘Gluten-Free,’ and ‘Recipes.’
You might want to speak with an SEO expert before implementing tags because if you use them incorrectly, you could do more harm than good.
Stick to Simple Coding
Use a Shallow Depth Structure
You need to make sure your important webpages aren’t buried too deep in your website. Ideally, users should have to follow a maximum of three links to find the content they want. Shallow sites refer to websites that don’t have too many subcategories buried within secondary categories buried within primary categories.
Sometimes, especially for e-commerce sites, having a deep website is a necessity. If you need to create a deep depth structure, we highly recommend discussing your overall site structure with an SEO company.
List Your Primary Navigation Pages in Your Header
The header at the top of your website should only list your main pages. If your primary menu bar features product categories, you might want to add your Contact, About and Testimonial pages to the header. These pages should be repeated in the footer in the same order to avoid complicating the user experience.
Again, we don’t recommend using effects such as disappearing menus because such features can prevent search engine crawlers from navigating your site. Plus, the simpler your website is, the less likely things will go wrong.
They allow your readers to navigate your website easily
They establish an information hierarchy for your website
They can increase your website’s ranking power
Creating an internal linking structure doesn’t need to be complicated. You just need to make sure each webpage on your site has ‘to’ and ‘from’ links. Internal linking allows you to increase your click-through rate by leading readers to other pages that may be of interest to them. It also tells the search engines which pages are important.
Learn More about Our SEO Services
Whether you’re creating a new website or redeveloping an existing one, you can’t afford to neglect site structure if you want to rank highly on the search engines. The most straightforward way to create a clear site structure is to plan it before developing your website. However, if your current website is a jumble of disorganised pages, you may need to rethink its structure with the help of our professionals.
At Smart Traffic, we’re a leading SEO company based in Sydney that helps companies from a broad range of industries achieve search engine excellence. From content marketing and paid advertising to site structures and coding, our experts can do it all. If you’d like to learn more about how we can remove the stress from your online marketing efforts, don’t hesitate to call us.
About the author
A specialist in Google Ads, and with a wide range of SEO skills and experience, Michael has a particular interest in Local SEO strategies for small to medium sized businesses. When Michael is not working hard increasing conversions for clients Paid Advertising campaigns he enjoys traveling, dining out and watching Formula 1 and football.