The better your site structure, the better your chance of being ranked higher in search engines. Each & Every website has some “structure.” It might be a rigorous & streamlined structure, or it may be a disorganized jumble of pages. If you are careful with your site structure, you will create a site that achieves 100% search excellence.
In this article, I share some of the best advice on creating a nice and powerful site structure. The guidelines below will help you create a site that appeals to users, gets crawled and indexed by spiders, and delivers the best SERP listings and rankings possible.
Why Structure Matters alot
As I’ve worked with so many clients for some time, I’ve been surprised at how often site structure is overlooked. On the one hand, it’s one of the most crucial aspects of a site’s SEO performance, but on the other hand, few webmasters/bloggers and owners understand what it means to have a site structure that enhances SEO.
I’m going to share some of the reasons why site structure is so crucial, and then get into the how-to of developing your own SEO-friendly site structure.
1. A good site structure displays a great user experience.
When you take away the colors, the fonts, the kerning, the graphics, the images, and the white space, good site design is really about a great structure indeed.
As you know, the more appealing your site to users, the more appealing it is to all search engines, too. Google’s algorithm uses information from searchers to rank your website. If your site has poor CTRs and low dwell time, it won’t perform well in the SERPs. By contrast, when a user finds a site that they like — i.e. a site with greater structure — they don’t bounce and they stay very longer. An accurate site structure can reduce bounce rate and likewise improve dwell time, both of which will lead to improved rankings on search engines.
2. A good site structure provides your website with sitelinks.
Sitelinks are a listing format in the SERPs that show your site’s main page along with several internal links shown below. You all have seen them before.Sitelinks are huge SEO advantages. They increase the navigability of your site, point users to the most relevant information, increase your brand’s reputation, improve user trust, help you dominate SERPs, increase clickthrough rate, and shorten the conversion funnels. Basically, sitelinks are great.
But how do you get sitelinks? You don’t simply go to Google Webmaster Tools and fill in a few fields on a form to get sitelinks. You can’t issue a sitelink request at all. Instead, Google’s algorithm automatically awards all websites with sitelinks. And they do so based on well designed site structure.
If you have a poor site structure, it’s very likely that your site will never receive site links from search engines. The absence of sitelinks could be depriving your site more targeted traffic, higher CTR, and increased conversions.
3. A good structure, better crawling.
Web crawlers like Googlebot crawl all website’s structure whether you want it or not. Their goal is to index the content inorder to take it back in search results. The better your site structure, the easier the crawlers can have access and index the content.
Crawler’s don’t just automatically discover everything on your website.
4. A good site structure is at the very apex of good SEO — optimizing for the crawlers.
To sum up, your site’s structure paves the way for SEO success. In fact, it could be argued, that without a good site structure, you will never have SEO success Strong site structure gives your site an unbreakable SEO foundat indeed.
Six Steps to Creating Site Structure
Now, I’ll tell you how to create a nice site structure.
1. Plan out a hierarchy list before you develop your website.
If you’re starting a website from scratch, you’re in a great position to plan out site structure for the best SEO. Even before you start creating pages in a CMS, plan out your site structure. You can do it on a whiteboard or on a spreadsheet program (Excel, Google Drive Spreadsheets), most word processors, or something like Visio or OmniGraffle.
A “hierarchy” is a way to organize your information — something that is simple and makes sense. Your hierarchy will also become your navigation and your URL structure, so everything important begins from here.
2. Create a URL structure that follows your navigation hierarchy as you created earlier.
The second main element in developing strong site structure is your URL(universal resource locator) structure. If you’ve logically thought through your hierarchy, this shouldn’t be too difficult for you. Your URL structure follows your listed hierarchy.
Your URL structure will be organized according to your website hierarchy. This means, obviously, that your URLs will have real words (not symbols) and indeed appropriate keyword coverage.
3. Create your site navigation in HTML/CSS.
4. Use a shallow navigation structure.
Your navigation structure will obviously follow your site hierarchy indeed . Make sure that your pages, especially important ones, aren’t buried too deep within the site. Shallow sites work better.
A shallow website (that is, one that requires three or fewer clicks to reach every page) is far more preferable than a deep rooted website (which requires lengthy strings of clicks to see every page on your site).
5. Create a header that lists your main navigation pages.
Your top header should list out your main pages. That’s it. My website, Neilpatel.com uses a very simple top navigational header with three subcategories. This accomplishes everything I need.
Adding any other menu elements apart from your main categories can become distracting and unnecessary. If you’ve designed a parallax site, be sure to provide a persistent header menu that displays through each scrolling phase.
While dropdown menus using CSS effects or disappearing menus may provide a unique or intriguing user experience, they do not enhance SEO. I advise against them. I also advise against using an image-based navigational structure. Text links with appropriate anchors provide the strongest form of SEO.
If you have a footer with menu links, be sure to duplicate the main links of your top navigational menu in your footer navigation menu. Changing the order of links or adding additional category listing will complicate the user experience.
6. Develop a comprehensive internal linking structure in your site.
Internal linking puts adds to logical site hierarchy. Moz’s article on internal links showed three reasons why they are so important:
They allow users to navigate a website/blog.
They help establish information hierarchy for the given website/blogs
They help spread ranking power around website and blogs.
Internal linking tells the search engines what pages are more important, and how to get there easily. The more internal linking you have across all pages, the better ranking and SEO.
Site structure requires careful thinking, intentional design, and accurate organization. The best time to develop a strong site stricture is before you create your website. However, if you’re redesigning your website/blog, you can rework the design and reorganize some navigational elements to improve the structural SEO.
There are a lot of things to have in mind when optimizing your site for search engines. Site structure is one of the most important, but one of the easily and most-overlooked optimization methods. If you have a great site structure, then great SEO will follow all day long.
What other advice do you have for improving a site’s structure?
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