Website architecture plays a critical role in SEO efficacy. How a website's pages are structured, presented, and linked together is known as website architecture. A strong site structure simplifies the access and navigation of content for search engines and users. Considering SEO strategies while designing a website enables web crawlers to consistently index the best and most important content on that site.
One of the most important principles to follow is to “make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.” An effective site architecture leads to better usability metrics, including improved organic traffic and conversions. When visitors are able to intuitively navigate a website, the site tends to convert better.
Here are a few simple steps to follow for creating a strong SEO friendly website architecture:
1. Keyword Research and Website Mapping
Since we’re all aware of the fact that keyword research plays an important role in various digital marketing strategies, it’s essential to list out relevant business keywords during the initial phase of website development. It is rightly said that a keyword can make or break a website. Identifying business keywords is imperative to creating relevant landing pages, generating good content ideas, adding categories to the website, and arranging the sub-pages in an organized manner.
Focus on the following three important elements of keyword research:
- Compiling a list of all the web pages
- Understanding the value they add to the website and their priority
- Envisioning the user’s intent for every page
2. Flat Architecture
Flat architecture refers to the structural depth of the website. Flat architecture requires a minimal number of clicks to reach any page of the website. The fewer pages your visitors have to go through before accessing the content they are looking for, the better. Flat site architecture is designed in a way that the users and search engines can navigate through the website with four clicks or less from your homepage. One of your top design goals should be to ensure users find exactly what they want as quickly as possible.
Consider the following factors to help you design a flat site architecture and shorten the customer journey.
- Use a mega menu navigation structure that allows the display of many SEO-focused pages. Mega menus are a type of expandable menu in which several options are displayed in a two-dimensional dropdown layout. You can also introduce images in the navigation through this structure.
- Create an overview of all pages and break the content into core categories. Plan the top-level navigation that will hold various subcategories and content types (supporting content).
- Because site architecture sends link authority around the website, have an extensive internal linking strategy in place.
3. Site Hierarchy (Information Architecture)
Google's main objective is to provide users with the most relevant, highest quality search results based on user intent. This implies that a good site hierarchy should reflect a good user experience as well. Especially when you make decisions as to how best to present and arrange the content on your site, you must keep the user experience at the forefront.
So, when you design the site hierarchy, you must consider a silo structure, also known as “content silos”. A content silo is a method of grouping related content together to establish the website's keyword-based topical areas or themes.
Siloing a website improves website optimization around a topic, and it’s a great visual way to group pages to improve SEO. Search engines focus on the site's structure to evaluate the main topics of the website. It's also important to have enough keywords to support the content. The website needs to have organized content so that it appears relevant for the terms and phrases to help the website perform well in SERPs for broad keywords.
Siloing a website will help in explaining the subject relevance of the website and will set the foundations for high ranking keywords.
Follow these simple SEO steps for designing your site hierarchy in a way that will be beneficial both for your visitors and search engines:
- Keep the hierarchy simple, logical, and balanced. Build the website hierarchy in a way that feels natural to users and does not mislead them or interfere with their use of the website.
- Structure the website content in silos, making your site easier for readers and search engine bots to navigate.
- Use category pages that make it easy to organize the architecture of your website over the long term.
- Leverage the heading hierarchy. Using the appropriate heading hierarchy ensures legibility of the web page, adds to the accessibility of the page, and improves your SEO efforts.
4. SEO-Friendly URL Structure
The URL structure is a key factor in determining how the structure of the website affects SEO. URL structure should follow your site hierarchy.
Following are a few tips for creating SEO-friendly URLs:
- The best URL structures need to be simple and consistent. They should include target keywords and be easy to read both by a user and a search engine.
- URLs should reflect the depth of the page. The URL of the page should be longer as you navigate from your homepage to a category page.
- Use readable words that are enticing to users. Consider using punctuation (hyphens) in your URLs as they are easy to read for humans and are therefore highly recommended by Google.
Here’s an example of an SEO friendly URL Structure:
5. Navigation Menu
Prioritize intuitive navigation that ensures a seamless experience towards achieving desired outcomes. An intuitive web-page design is organized in such a way that users can navigate and access content naturally and effortlessly. It’s important to create a clear navigation path on your site that enables users to find exactly what they’re looking for quickly and confidently. Get the navigation framework right by considering the following parameters:
- Use a flat or shallow navigation structure. The most valuable pages on the website should be reachable in three clicks or less from the homepage. This rule improves both the usability and crawlability of your site.
- The navigation menu should ensure effortless navigation from page to page consisting of straightforward information.
- Avoid format-based primary navigation, which distracts users from their main task of finding information on a topic.
6. Internal Linking Strategies
Linking between pages is one of the most important elements for building a logical site architecture and spreading link equity. Your website's internal linking structure helps crawlers understand the content you want to put on a pedestal. This supports differences in ranking for similar content on search results pages.
How would not having an internal linking strategy hurt your business’s online presence?
- Pages that are not linked to other pages are harder for search engines to crawl. Such pages are known as orphan pages. Search engines cannot find these orphan pages through links, so they often go unindexed and never show up in search results.
- You would be missing out an opportunity to rank on search results by not considering keyword-rich anchors for linking.
- Passing of the link authority between pages on the website would be severely limited.
Including links from the parent page to the child page, and vice versa, will help those pages appear more relevant to that set of terms, increasing the ranking potential of the page to an even greater extent.
In search results, breadcrumbs help users understand where the page lies on your site. Breadcrumbs are the pathfinder navigation tags located on the top of the web pages indicating the specific sequence of pages between the home page and the active sub-category page. They also show users the way to the home page, ensuring easy navigation to category pages. With breadcrumbs, every step of the path is clickable.
Consider the following tips for implementing breadcrumbs effectively:
- Use the appropriate link structure (URL structure).
- Don't make the navigation of the breadcrumb too long.
- Make breadcrumb titles consistent with the page titles.
- Ensure breadcrumb navigation reads from left to right, progressing from the highest level, the Home Page, on down.
- The last webpage should not have a hyperlink in the breadcrumb navigation, so close the trail with the active page.
Breadcrumbs make it easier for visitors to scroll around the site, visualizing its content and overall structure. They encourage users to visit more pages of a website before they leave the site, ensuring reduced bounce rates. It is one of the simplest things that enhances website experience and nurtures user comfort.
A well implemented site architecture should be the foundation of every website. When planned properly, it ensures that the site will be user friendly and easy for Google to crawl. The most important consideration while building the website architecture is that the site be organized, logical, and intuitive to navigate. Ultimately, it determines how successful your long-term SEO efforts will be.