This part is all about How to structure a website for better SEO.
Of all the Google Algorithms, User Experience is high on its list and structuring your website carefully is a very important part of User Experience.
The better your site structure, the chances of higher SERPs rankings become a reality.
Why Site Structure Matters
Creating a meaningful site structure is all about keeping the reader in mind.
It’s one of the most crucial aspects of a site’s SEO performance.
I wonder how many times you have found an entry in the SERPs that answers your query, clicked on it only to find a mush of adverts and affiliate links and the answer to your query nowhere to be found, or at best very hard to find.
I’ll bet now that you immediately hit the back button to search for another site.
Keep your site clean looking and uncluttered.
The more captivating your site is to your readers, the better it will fare in the search engines.
Search engines will use information gathered from your visitors as a ranking pointer.
Click Through Rate tells them whether your site was appealing to the user or not.
If your site has a low Click Through Rate meaning people aren’t spending time on your site then you are going to find that it isn’t going to show up well in the SERPs.
On the other hand, if a surfer finds your site aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate and full of quality content, they are going to stay with you and reduce your bounce rate.
Just these 2 factors help your chances of higher rankings.
Navigation of your website should be clear and easy, with a menu system that isn’t overcrowded and navigational labels that give a precise indication of the article it represents.
A good structure or organisation of your website means the search engine bots have an easier task of finding your material which results in better crawling.
There is every possibility that search engine bots won’t discover everything that you publish on your website.
This is due to the vast amount of sites that are crawled every day and unorganised sites where pages and posts are all over the place.
If they find it difficult to crawl a site they will skip over it and the chances of appearing on the SERPs diminishes. (That is the main reason that it is essential to produce a sitemap).
Having said that, search engine bots will find it a lot easier accessing your site, crawling it and subsequently indexing your site with a strong structure.
Visitors to your site expect to find what they are looking for at the drop of a hat.
If your site structure is not explicit for their query they will abandon your site and look elsewhere.
The hierarchy of your website is your way of organising the information that you create.
If you are starting a new website it is advisable to map out your hierarchy before you start.
This will also help you in creating your content.
Generally, a site hierarchy looks like this:
The main top menu should have no more than 7 category headings.
Then you would have subheadings falling from your main categories.
Depending on how deep you want the hierarchy to go adding subheadings to subheadings is fine, but do not leave important categories to deep within your menu.
It is advisable to avoid using images as a navigational structure.
Search engine bots do not have the ability to crawl images, which is why Alt text must be added to each and every image you place on your website.
Adding a caption may well do the trick but text links with the correct anchor text still provides the most positive form of SEO.
Create a URL structure
Your URL structure is another important SEO factor.
If you are using WordPress, which is also the most widely used Content Management System for websites, then you should set up your URL structure before you start publishing any content.
As you can see there are six settings that WP layout for you, but which is the best SEO friendly to use?
Plain: all this does is add a number of the post, which doesn’t do you any favours at all———–Avoid
Day and name: 2016/01/22/sample-post/ this will add the Day the post was published with the name of the post, even if the post is updated the URL Structure remains the same———- Not advisable
Month and name 2016/01/sample-post/ again adds the month/year of publication with the post name and the same as above, the URL stays the same even after updating——————--Not Advisable
Numeric /archives/123 This will only take the number of which has the same effect as Plain, Very SEO unfriendly.
Post name /sample-post/ The most SEO friendly structure as it shows the actual name of the post and surfers can see immediately what the post is about.
Custom Structure, Make up your own URL structure by using the available tags.
For example in the case of a potentially large website, the URL can denote a category/postname.
It would look something like http://www.runninganonlinebusiness.com/%category%/%postname%/
Internal linking is of major importance to the search engines in discovering important pages/posts on your website.
The theory behind Internal Linking is that you are providing the user with a fuller explanation of the anchor text.
The anchor text is a word or phrase within the page/post that you use to link to another post/page on your site.
This allows the user to navigate the website easier than searching for the information.
For example, further down this post, I use the phrase “Optimising your site for Search Engines”, and I have another article which covers that topic in more detail.
So I have highlighted the phrase, clicked on the link icon in the editor and here is the result:
The phrase then becomes highlighted, normally in blue, and it gives the reader more information on Search Engine Optimisation.
It will also tell the search engines that this is an important post/page and shows the user how to get there.
Every page/post on your website should have at least two links to other pages/posts on your site.
It also helps to give ranking power throughout your site. Remember Google will rank pages that are visited most as that is a sign of interest.
A good site structure could provide your site with Sitelinks.
If Google finds your site with a good structure, there is every chance that if you occupy the first spot in SERPs, they are going to show site links.
Sitelinks are an added bonus which shows up beneath the main URL for a website when you search for it on Google.
They indicate links to other pages within your site and are primarily designed to help users navigate your site.
If you are lucky enough to get rewarded with Sitelinks from Google, the benefits are enormous.
Users can pinpoint relevant search queries without clicking through your site, give you a greater cutting edge over your competitors, users will trust your site more and your CTR will increase substantially.
Sitelinks aren’t requested, you have to earn them.
It’s the algorithms that Google set up that denotes if your site is worthy of Sitelinks.
The only way your site will be considered for Sitelinks is by producing a tip-top site structure.
Site structure is no more than a tidy mindset, nice clean uncluttered design, and careful organization. Map out your site structure from the very beginning, it will give you a clearer vision of how your site will evolve as you build it out.
Design a mindmap of your structure.
Set out your top navigational pages first, the most important topics.
Add the submenus that relate to your top pages/posts.
Start to build out your keyword rich content, one page/post at a time.
There are over 200 algorithms that Google have in place for their ranking system, but when optimizing your site for search engines, site structure is up there as one of the most important.
It is also one of the most-overlooked SEO factors.
I hope this Part 5 Structuring A Website has given you an insight of how important the layout and navigational aspects of your site is.
If you have any comments about this or any other part of this series please leave them in the box below.