Optimizing your website for traffic, sales, and conversion is one of the most important parts of SEO.
In 2021, success means going beyond a neat and shiny design that can sometimes be an obstacle to your website being viewed and crawled by search engines.
Conventional flat construction site structures are always popular.
But last year, Google's John Muller suggested in a webmaster hangout that a hierarchical site architecture could give Google better indicators for:
- What do the pages of your website mean?
- How each side is linked and connected.
Because of the different principles involved in design and website structure, the opinions of a designer and an SEO professional can vary significantly.
The ultimate goal should be to strike a balance between a visually aesthetic website for customers and a structure designed for search engine visibility.
And an organized website structure is incredibly important to SEO.
Without creating something that makes logical sense, your other SEO, content, and even design efforts may be in vain.
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A good website structure should have a significant impact on SEO traffic and conversion.
It should also help your entire company better engage with users and create an experience that is aligned with your business goals, product, and service structure.
In this article, I share some key points to consider as how website structure affects SEO.
1. Site crawling
Website crawlability is one of the most important factors in website structure.
Crawlability refers to the ability of a search engine to crawl all of the textual content on your website to find out what your website is about.
Part of this process is navigating through subpages and specific topics to understand the website as a whole.
A web page must take a visitor from one page to another to another location within the website in order to be considered crawlable.
Search engine robots are responsible for crawling websites.
An important principle for good website crawlability is that there are no dead ends when it comes to crawling your website.
Make a concerted effort to include internal links on every page, creating a bridge from one part of your website to another.
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Breadcrumbs, schemes and structured data formats help here.
Make sure you know and track your Google crawling budget as well.
2. URL structure
One of the major factors in terms of how website structure affects search engine optimization is URL structure.
URLs are also the building blocks of an effective site hierarchy, guiding fairness through your domain and directing users to their desired destinations.
The best URL structures should be easy to read for a user and a search engine and contain target queries so that they are rich in content.
Effective structures replicate the logic across your entire website, and sending an XML sitemap to search engines with all the major URLs you want to rank helps also.
Try to keep URLs simple and not complicate them with too many parameters.
3. HTTP, HTTPs, HTTP2
HTTPS ensures the security of your website. As Google continues to make this a part of the user experience, having a secure website can also help improve your rankings.
Because of this, more than 50% of the world's websites are already using HTTPS.
Switching to HTTPS offers several advantages in addition to better rankings.
- Better user experience.
- Protect your users' information.
- AMP implementation – only possible with HTTPS.
- Effectiveness of the PPC campaign.
- Improved data in Google Analytics.
As of November 2020, Google will be crawling some websites over HTTP / 2.
4. Internal link
The basics of proper navigation dictate that users should move from one page to another without difficulty.
If your website is large and has many pages, the challenge is to make those pages accessible with just a few clicks using the navigation alone.
Usability experts recommend that it only takes three clicks to find a particular page. However, use this advice as a guide rather than a rule.
Internal links help users and search engines discover a page, and much like a messaging house build, it helps provide flow between content and pages.
Unlinked pages are more difficult for search engines to crawl.
Categorize and organize links so that your website structure is not destroyed.
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Internal links are used by using keywords in your content and linking them to other relevant content on your website.
The benefits of consciously using internal links for SEO are numerous:
- The internal linking allows search engines to find other pages using keyword-rich anchors.
- Internal links reduce the depth of the page.
- The internal linking makes it easier for users to access other content, resulting in a better user experience.
- Search engines give internal links a higher value in terms of ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Often people will fall back on old content via internal links.
However, most people rarely do the opposite – they go through old content to link to newer content.
Close the loop by making sure both pieces are connected with internal links.
5. Key content and keywords
Content and keyword research are fundamental parts of search engine optimization and should be an integral part of creating and structuring your website from the start.
Ensuring this will ensure that your understanding of your target audience, search behavior, and contest topics are built into your website structure and layout.
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The best websites make sure they have a great user and search engine friendly experience by making sure that the main content of their website is central to structure and of the highest quality.
6. Duplicate the content
Duplicate content is harmful to SEO because Google interprets it as spam.
A focus on high quality and unique content on the SERP clearly defines how your website needs to be structured for optimal SEO.
The Google Search Console is a useful tool for finding and removing duplicate content from your website.
It may be possible to repost duplicate content on LinkedIn or Medium, but do so with caution.
As a general rule, do not post duplicate content on your website or that of others.
7. Navigation and user experience
The usability standards that today's websites are subject to are much stricter than they were in the early days of the internet.
If a visitor comes across a poorly crafted website, they will avoid interacting with it further.
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Plus, no one wants to waste their time on a website unsure of what to do next.
If a visitor can't figure out how to find the information they're looking for, they're looking for it on a competitor's website.
And bad user experience harms SEO.
How searchers interact with a website is interpreted by Google for future search results.
The click rate, time spent on the website and the bounce rate are all signal factors for the Google algorithm.
Statistics indicating a positive experience validate search results for Google.
Statistics showing a negative experience indicate to Google that the page may not be the most relevant or useful for that query, and Google will adjust the search results accordingly.
The basics of a great user experience include:
- Align click-through with expectations.
- Easily find the information you need.
- Make sure the navigation makes sense to the point of being intuitive.
Do some testing with unbiased visitors to see how user-friendly your website actually is and to make sure you see how real users are interacting with your website.
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8. Core Web Vitals & User Experience
Core Web Vitals are part of the Google Page Experience update. They can affect rank, especially when optimizing images.
Website builders, designers, and SEO professionals should work together to shift the focus to CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) and measure content and visual content load jumps.
Core Web Vitals could become a ranking factor in 2021, and currently less than 15% of websites meet the benchmark standards.
Google has given website owners and SEO pros a chance to prepare for this update. So now is an excellent time to take action beforehand.
Often associated with design, making sure your website is structured for mobile viewers coming from different devices is now an integral part of creating a website.
The workload can depend on your developer resources, IT expertise, and business models – especially if your website is e-commerce related.
On the Google Search Central blog, Google suggests that mobilizing is likely to cost time and money if you didn't take it into account when creating your website.
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This is especially true for websites built with Flash or using old e-commerce platforms.
10. Speed and performance
If the build and structure of your website doesn't favor a quick user experience, your SEO and bottom line results will take a nosedive.
Slow website and page speeds, unresponsive pages, and anything that “takes time” on the part of the user harms the hard work of developers, content creators, and SEO pros.
A one-second delay in loading time by one second can mean fewer pageviews and traffic, as well as a significant drop in conversions, alongside a miserable user.
Make sure you work with your designers and IT departments to choose the right mobile design and website structure – responsive web design, for example – and identify all the pros and cons to avoid high costs and costly mistakes.
For best SEO results, make sure that your website is structured in the hierarchical format that is most appropriate and hierarchical for your users and your business.
Make sure it is designed for search readability.
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Contact your website designers at the time of creation, not after.
Right from the beginning of the conception of a website, it is important to plan ahead whether content is available.
It's not difficult to see how the structure of the website affects search engine optimization.
Make sure to tailor your website architecture and design so that your SEO efforts start and end well!
All screenshots by the author, November 2020