Without a well-planned site structure, your website is missing out on one of the most crucial aspects of SEO. Site structures ensure that both your users and search engines can navigate through your site and find the information they need, and the better the site structure, the better your chances of ranking in search engines.
We’ve seen many website owners overlook planning out their website structure, which should be incorporated from the beginning of the development.
In this article, we’ll explain how to create an SEO-friendly website structure, and why it’s important.
Why is site structure important for SEO?
Having a sound site structure is crucial for both the usability and the crawl ability of your site. It’s one of the most often overlooked parts of web development, we find.
Site structure for crawlability
The way a site is structured gives Google vital clues about what content is on your site. Web crawlers like Googlebot crawl a website’s structure, indexing content so it can be displayed in search results.
A great site structure should let both users and search engines find and index content quickly. Crawlers don’t automatically discover every page on your website, so having a clearly defined website structure will help bots more easily access, crawl, and index your website, leading to better search engine rankings.
Site structure for UX
Website structure also has a significant impact on your user experience. If your website visitors can’t easily find the products or information that they’re looking for, it’s not likely they’ll become a regular customers, or even convert.
UX and SEO go hand in hand, so navigating your site should be easy not just for crawlers, but for humans, too. By categorising your posts, products and more, new visitors should be able to instantly tell what the purpose of your site is, and where they can find more information.
Site structure for site links
Site links can be a huge advantage to SEO. They help increase site navigability, take up more real estate on search engines results pages, increase brand reputation, improve user trust, improve click-through rates, and more.
While site links have SO many advantages, they don’t come easy. You can’t issue a request with Google or make on-page tweaks to make them appear.
Google rewards site links to sites that have good site structures. If you have a poor structure, likely, you won’t be seeing site links on your search, costing you valuable rankings, traffic, and increased conversions.
Steps to Create an SEO-friendly Website Structure
1. Plan your site hierarchy
You should consider your site hierarchy from the beginning of development so that you can make your site structure benefit your SEO. Before you start creating any pages, you should plan this out.
Organise your information in the simplest way possible, and do not overcomplicate the process. Each category should be unique and any subcategories should be directly related to the main category.
Also, avoid too many main categories, as this just complicates website structure.
If you’re starting a new website from scratch, you have the perfect opportunity to plan this right. If not, you should consider taking a look at your site hierarchy to ensure it’s
2. Use a logical URL structure
The second part of any strong website is the URL structure. This will come directly from your site hierarchy, so if you’ve done this logically it should be a breeze!
Your URL structure should logically follow your categories. A common URL structure might look something like this:
It’s okay if your URLs don’t follow this pattern, but they all must follow the same structure
3. Avoid making it too deep
Your navigation will follow your site hierarchy, so your key pages mustn’t be buried too deep below subcategories. Your visitors should be able to see the most important ones with little trouble.
Sites with a more shallow hierarchy tend to do better, both from a usability and an SEO perspective. These tend to follow a “Theme Pyramid”. The top of the pyramid is the home page, while the bottom consists of specific topics or your long-tail keywords.
John Mueller shared some insight on the importance of a logical site structure, saying:
“In general I’d be careful to avoid setting up a situation where normal website navigation doesn’t work. So we should be able to crawl from one URL to any other URL on your website just by following the links on the page.
“If that’s not possible then we lose a lot of contexts. So if we’re only seeing these URLs through your sitemap file, then we don’t know how these URLs are related to each other and it makes it hard for us to be able to understand how relevant is this piece of content in the context of your website. So that’s one thing to…watch out for.”
Having a logical site structure is essential to SEO performance.
4. Create a clear navigation path
A clear navigation path is the cornerstone of a good website structure. There are two elements of navigation that will aid your users and search engines: the menu and breadcrumbs
Your website menu is the most important element of navigation for your users. Every website user will be familiar with them and will use them as the main source to navigate through your website. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them.
Your main categories should have a prime spot on your menu. For even more ease of use, you should also display your subcategories so visitors can get the full scope of what your website offers, and easily access exactly what they’re looking for.
However, you don’t always have to have just one menu. Large eCommerce websites, for example, may have a top menu where you can find company information, delivery info, contact info, personal account info, promo pages, and more. While the secondary menu will have the main product categories and subcategories.
If you have a large site, having two menus to split your company information and product or service pages can help declutter your website and create a more clear navigation path.
You can make give your site’s structure even more visibility by adding breadcrumbs to your pages. Breadcrumbs are clickable links that are visible at the top of a page or post. Breadcrumbs display the structure of your site and give visitors a clear representation of the path they took to get to the page their currently on. They both improve both the user experience as well as the SEO of your site.
If you use a WordPress site, you can use one of the many breadcrumb plugins that are available to easily get this implemented!
5. Have a thorough internal linking strategy
To help Google better understand which of your pages are the most important, you should have a well thought out, thorough internal linking strategy.
On your site, you might have pages or blogs that are around similar topics. If, for example, you write a lot about online banking, you might have multiple blog posts covering different parts of it. To let Google know which of these is the most important, and prevent yourself from competing with your content on the search engines, you should use a strategic internal link to point Google to the page you think is the most important.
It’s important to note that Google uses both the anchor text, or the text used on the link, and the surrounding content to understand what the page you’re linking to is about. So you should only add links to meaningful content so that Google can properly rank your content.
6. Create a sitemap
Having a sitemap is an absolute must. It’s both a great way to increase the crawl ability of your website and improve your SEO.
If you have a thorough internal linking strategy, Google may already be able to access all your website pages, but having an XML sitemap will ensure that absolutely nothing is missed.
For example, if you have a brand new website, having a sitemap is a huge help in letting Google get your website crawled and indexed. Same for large eCommerce websites. Unless you have a perfect internal linking strategy, a sitemap will be necessary for large scale websites.
Having an SEO-friendly website structure is a tricky, but necessary element of website development and SEO performance.