What should you consider when building your site architecture to maximise your SEO? As a start-up, SEO is an important consideration when creating your website. Your site should be well planned out and structured and if you do it right you will get some SEO recognition from search engines that will improve your search rankings. This element of web design is sometimes referred to as the framework on which you build the layers or pages of your website and so we call it the “site architecture”.
What is Website Architecture?
Defining website structure or architecture is a good place to start. The structure of your website is how all the pages and areas connect to each other. Not everyone lands on your homepage as they visit your site, but consider how, for example, the “about us” page would be found from your homepage- the navigation to get to the menu to find it and the internal link you would have to click to get through to the “about us” page and then the URL structures to define that page. How does this relate to SEO?
Why Site Structure Matters for SEO
Firstly, what does Search Engine Optimisation do? It is a way for search engines like Yahoo and Google to rank your website by search terms. It does this by scraping or crawling each website at regular points to decide which is most relevant to the search word(s) that are being queried. Then it knows which websites to display as the most relevant to the user. The ease with which Google can crawl your site and the labeling you give each page gives your site more SEO points and gets you higher up the search rankings.
Good Site Architecture
How easy your site is to use and navigate is the primary concern for a business. If visitors can find the information they are searching for easily, then it serves its purpose to inform. If the user can move progressively along the sales funnel on the site, then it serves its purpose to capture sales. Let’s look at some of the best ways to make your site work for visitors and for SEO.
Use your menus as a starting point for navigation. They should reflect the hierarchy and categories of your business or site content. You should plan this out at the very start and mapping it out visually is a great way to help you design the entire website and keep to a structure. Let’s take an electronics retailer. The main menu may have the product categories listed e.g. shavers, phones, cameras and computers. However, these are quite broad categories, to serve the customer’s needs better, the menu should also have categories such as price ranges e.g. below £10, £10 to £99 and over £100, and shop by brand e.g. Apple, Google, Samsung to help cluster the products into more specific categories.
Don’t bury the pages too deep, all pages should be reachable with no more than 3 clicks as a general rule of thumb. If the user has to navigate and click more than 3 times it is too deep. All pages should link to at least one other page and shouldn’t be what we call “orphan pages” which are only reachable through a direct URL address. By having pages linking to each other, it gives readers more information on that particular cluster and also shows Google that your site has a degree of authority on the subject. That is why external links are also important for SEO, especially if coming from high authority domains as it shows you have something worth linking to.
Using Site URLs
Use your site URLs to cluster the subcategories together. Any related subcategories should have the same URL string, for example, the main category is cameras and sits on electronics.com/cameras then the cluster content would be given URLs like electronics.com/cameras/SLRs and electronics.com/cameras/compact.
Create an HTML sitemap which is a list of all the main pages to lower-level pages and each is clickable. It is usually placed at the footer of each page for any visitor to use and for search engines to index from. There is a handy guide here from Google on how to build a sitemap and what Google expects it to contain to be able to index it.
Hopefully, this article helps you better plan the site you wish to build so that it has a solid structure and serves both the visitor and the search engines. By mapping out the categories, sub-pages and clusters of information that you will have on your site, you will be able to create something that is more ordered and useful for visitors. Ultimately site structure is to help visitors find the information they are looking for as easily as possible.