Simple SEO Tips – Website Structure

7 May, 2013

A good website structure helps search engines find content on your site and provides a natural browsing experience for your readers. There is a lot to balance up between appealing visual design, functionality and aesthetics but at the end of the day there’s no point having the most amazing whiz bang site if no one can actually use it!

So how do you know if your website structure is good or not? Here’s a starting point.

Site navigation

Effective site navigation doesn’t just happen. It requires careful planning. You need to spend some time thinking about exactly what pages you will have and where you’ll ‘put’ each and every single one of them. If you don’t do this first up, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a mess down the track.

Site navigation do’s and don’ts

  • Try to avoid navigation types like pure flash or Javascript because they make it hard for the search engines to crawl your pages. They might look exciting but they come at the expense of SEO efforts.
  • HXTML or CSS based navigation is better because these structures make it simpler for search engines to crawl and index your pages.
  • Pay attention to the number of clicks it takes a reader to get to each of your pages from the home page. The less clicks, the better – aim for three or less where you can. If you have a big website with hundreds of pages, this won’t be feasible and that’s where careful internal linking becomes important.

Internal linking

In a large website, you have hundreds of pages, any combination of potential internal linking opportunities and the task of creating sensible and SEO-friendly page URLs. A website with 100 pages or more which stuck to the three click navigation rule would start looking pretty clunky and cumbersome. But, naturally, there’s a solution. You can decrease the depth (or the amount of times you need to click) by using internal links.

Internal links connect individual pages on your site. Ideally all of your pages link to another. Search Engine Journal provides a good summary of why this is helpful for SEO:

  • Internal links decrease the number of clicks required to access each page on your website, allowing the search engines to use their crawl budgets more effectively.
  • Internal links offer opportunities to use keyword-rich anchor text throughout your pages (though you should be careful to only create internal links to relevant, useful pages, instead of using this as an opportunity to create keyword-stuffed links).
  • Internal links improve the user experience on your website by providing readers with additional materials that may pique their interests. As a result, both average time on site and average pages per visit go up, leading to potential SEO and conversion rate benefits.”

You should try to avoid orphan pages. The dreaded orphan page is one that doesn’t link to any other page on your site. Unless the page is critically required to remain unlinked to any other content, never make orphan pages because search engine bots can’t crawl them and they will simply go unnoticed.

So what can you do to improve your internal linking? Start by taking a minute to look at each of your pages and think about whether there is related information or topics on your site that your readers might be interested in. If there is, get linking!

Folders and subfolders

As websites begin to grow, some webmasters use sub domains to add content to their expanding sites but search engines treat sub domains as separate sites altogether. A better option is to add more content to your website using folders and subfolders.

This is what happens in CMS-based websites, where thousands of pages are added every month and dynamic content is the norm. The proper use of folders and subfolders in a website can lead to search engines recognising it as an ‘authority site’.

From a purely SEO perspective, using folders and subfolders helps you get your keywords in the URL itself. For example, assuming you have a computer store, structuring your content under a folder named ‘Laptops’ and then having a subfolder named ‘Laptop Accessories’ specifically allows you to add the keyword laptop accessories to your URL. What’s more, under ‘Laptop Accessories’ you can have other pages – each named according to its content for example, laptop batteries, laptop bags, laptop adapters etc.

Flat and tree structures

A flat structure is when your website’s pages are all laid out plainly to see. This is mostly followed in simple and small websites. The site navigation is straightforward and a page is easy to find.

Flat Tree Structures

A tree structure is an extension of the folders and subfolders we mentioned above. Pages are categorically placed under folders and subfolders to organise them and make them approachable without overwhelming the site visitor. In general, a tree structure has three levels or more.

A tree structure is more beneficial for a large website, while a small website can survive on a flat structure. For SEO, the tree structure offers more opportunities to name pages clearly and concisely. It’s also easier for webmasters to maintain via a content management system.

Keep Your Online Store Ahead Of The Rest

A simple Google search will return loads of information on website structure and the volume of information can be quite overwhelming. But, the tips above should give you a good starting point, and once you’ve got that down pat – there’s plenty more you can explore to continue to enhance your website structure.

Keep an eye out for the next article in our Simple SEO Tips series – ‘Robots.txt’.

By Nathan Manning
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