Getting your website structure correct is the first step in the on-page SEO process. It’s one of the most critical components.
Get it wrong, and your chances of better SEO rankings are limited. Do it properly, and you’ll see results quickly because you can’t have great SEO rankings without a good web structure.
If you want to see your website at the top of the search engines, you have to plan your website structure which your web design agency must do. Thinking that you need to design a website and presto you rank is the wrong approach. It just doesn’t happen like that. And, with the explosion of DIY websites like Wix, websites have little or no planning and are therefore hampered in the rankings from the day they launch. It’s a real shame because many business owners have a great idea, product or service they want to rank on Google, yet they stumble and fall at this critical stage in the design process. When designing a website to avoid a catastrophe, you need to consider other factors when designing a website, but most reputable web agencies will emphasise the structure.
They fail to plan a well laid out, user-friendly website where both users and the search engines quickly find the content, which is the key to having the best site structure possible.
In this detailed post, I’ll tell you some of the tricks we use to create a squeaky clean website structure that will boost your SEO rankings.
Why is Your Website Structure Important?
There are two main reasons why the website structure is so crucial for the future of your marketing. Firstly it gives customers a better experience which means higher conversion rates and consumer engagement; critical for eCommerce sites. And secondly, it allows the search engines to index the site easily. If any hurdles or obstacles prevent the search engines from crawling your site, this will affect future SEO rankings as pages will not be indexed. Ease of use and a straightforward navigation structure is of paramount importance here.
Enhance the user experience (UX) by having the best website structure.
Smashing Magazine puts it nicely when defining user experience as to how a person feels when interfacing with a system. The system could be a website, a web application or desktop software.
Simply put, it’s the reaction a person has when they land on your website. Do they like it and engage with the site, looking around and perhaps even buy something, or do they leave it quickly? If they exit because of the bad user experience, maybe it’s slow to load or can’t find what they are looking for, then it’s an issue. High exit numbers, also known as bounce rates, can impact your SEO rankings dramatically.
Google places a lot of weight on consumer behaviour on your site, and if their ranking algorithm can detect high bounce rates, they will penalise your site.
I’m not saying that your penalty will be a complete site deindex, but you can expect less than decent rankings with high bounce rates.
Alternatively, the good news is that if your bounce rates are low and Google can detect a high level of consumer engagement on your website, then your rankings will improve.
You can see here the direct correlation between the user experience and SEO rankings. And a massive part of the UX is the site structure, so make sure you get it correct from the get-go!
Good Site Structures Leads to Better Crawling by Google
You want Google’s web spides to be able to crawl and index your site easily. What makes this possible is a perfect site structure and URL formatting.
Let me break this down for you as it’s super simple.
The main navigation headings ( the buttons at the top of the page ) should be your primary services or products. Such as the following pages:
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Services / Products
- Why Choose us
These are your bread and butter navigation points you’ll find on most websites.
The URL primary categories would be:
- Home = www.xyzcompany.com.au
- About Us = www.xyzcompany.com.au/about-us
- Contact Us = www.xyzcompany.com.au/contact-us
- Services / Products = www.xyzcompany.com.au/products
- FAQ’s = www.xyzcompany.com.au/FAQ’s
- Why Choose us = www.xyzcompany.com.au/why-choose-us
You can see how clean the site structure is as well as the URLs. People can easily see what the pages are about through the URL and the page name.
It gets a little bit more complicated as we go through to the services or product pages. Here, the subcategory URL structure will be:
Products = www.xyzcompany.com.au/products/red-shoes
Services = www.xyzcompany.com.au/servcies/blocked-drain-cleaning
Having a web structure like the above makes it crystal clear to both Google and your customers of the page’s intent which is the best site structure possible.
So how do you create the best site structure for your audience and the search engines? Following is a step-by-step guide that will have you in Googles good books and will keep your clients happy and coming back for repeat visits at the same time.
Dummies guide for creating Site Structure
1) Plan ahead
Plan the site of your website structure. You have to sit down with your web designers and go over this at the briefing stage. They will help plan this out in their scoping documents, but this is a simple process for most small businesses, as you can see from the URL and site layout above.
For larger web projects and eCommerce sites, you will need a more detailed site structure, but so long as your design team follows a rigid framework and methodology, it should be easy. The site logic is the same, except it’s just more significant with more headings, products and services.
Design agencies will produce a set of wireframes before they even start designing, which will detail the site structure in advance. At this stage, you can see how each web page interacts with each other and the sites layout. If you can understand it and it seems logical with a seamless flow, this is the ideal layout.
The trick here is to make the site logical. You don’t want your customers to get lost on the site or make it overly complex with too many navigation points. Use the KISS principle; nice and simple, and it will work; even if your business has many products or services, you need to keep them in hierarchical order under the main headings, which keeps the site nice and tidy.
Hopping Mad Designs Tip: Do not exceed six primary categories as this start to become a little confusing to the user, and try to keep the subcategories consistent. For example, if one category has seven products or services and the other four, this may seem uneven. Keep them balanced if possible.
2) Develop a URL Structure that Matches with Your Navigation
For the perfect site structure, your URL’s have to match the navigation. I detailed this above, but I need to emphasise this point as critical for your SEO rankings. In addition to the above, if you are looking at targeting a local area such as Manly or Bondi to reach customers, you would add a locations main navigation page and have as the subcategories the separate suburbs such as:
Remember, each page would have to have content unique and specific to that area, as you never want to duplicate content or web pages.
3) Create Your Site with a WordPress Content Management System ( CMS )
We love WordPress as a CMS and use it for all our websites. WordPress websites allow developers to create a world-class hierarchical structure and customise URL’s. For SEO purposes and user experience, you could not ask for a better solution. The dashboard where you can control the sites structure and URL’s are straightforward and easy to understand, but your web team will set this up for you in the first place.
Hopping Mad Designs Tip: There are many other CMS platforms, but WordPress dominates the CMS landscape for so many reasons. When choosing your web design agency, make sure you go with the agency that builds sites using WordPress. Avoid at all costs using their proprietary CMS platforms as there are hidden dangers.
4) Three-click rule
Wikipedia tells us that the three-click rule or three-click rule is an unofficial web design rule concerning website navigation design. It suggests that a website user should find any information with no more than three mouse clicks.
The above makes perfect sense, especially when you are creating your site structure. Your customers should be able to find what they are searching for within three clicks. Any more, and you risk losing them.
With the above example
Services = www.xyzcompany.com.au/servcies/blocked-drain-cleaning
You can see that the user has been able to find the page about blocked drain cleaning in 2 clicks only. They went from services then to the blocked drains section. A third click would be more services related to blocked drains, such as:
Services = www.xyzcompany.com.au/servcies/blocked-drain-cleaning/ commercial
Which would relate to the business showcasing their commercial block drain cleaning service. Any deeper navigation, as you can see, would start looking clunky and confusing.
5) Create a Main Heading Menu for your Primary Pages
The most efficient website structures will have their primary services and business information front and centre at the top of the page, making it easy for your customers to access the essential information quickly. I detailed the typical top-level navigation above, so try to stick to less than six headings. Anymore will look like you’re trying to cram too much information at the top, which may turn users off and become too distracting.
Hopping Mad Designs Tip: Avoid animated menus as they add no SEO value. You might also like to have a small pop-up window as we do on this site when you hover over the navigation button explaining what the page is about in a bit more detail. You can see when you hover over the services tab, a small pop up window appears saying: graphic and web design services by hopping mad designs. It’s a bit gimmicky, but it’s just an added cool feature you might like to consider.
6) Create Internal Links
The last tip for creating the best website structure to help with your SEO rankings is to create internal links between pages. You can see that some of the links I have created for this article link to other pages within this site.
Ahrefs tells us that most people don’t realise is that—when used strategically—internal links can significantly boost a site’s performance in search engines. Google even tells us that linking pages are an excellent way for your website to be reindexed and ranked.
Reasons why internal linking is essential:
i) Adding internal links will allow you to create a website hierarchy, drive more traffic through your entire website and encourage visitors to spend more time on your site, which helps reduce bounce rates. In turn, boost SEO rankings.
ii) If you link from your home page to an internal subcategory, you pass page rank helping boost the value and trust of this page. But don’t overdo this, as it may appear spammy.
iii) Helps users navigate to specific pages. Plus, you can drive people to where you want them to go. A great example of this is mentioning a particular service offering on a page and linking to that specific service page. If a person clicks on this link, they will be redirected to this page.
Now you’ve read this; you may feel like you’re ready to create your link structure. This article is not intended for that purpose, as you should leave it to a professional web team to map the structure out. I’ve written this article to educate you on the many nuances that can affect your SEO rankings; the structure is a biggie! Often it’s too overlooked by agencies who want to churn out a website and get paid. Attention to the site structure is a critical element in the success of your business which is why the team at Hopping mad Designs will make a clear site map outlining the structure for you.