The term “site structure” is really just another way of describing how you organize the content on your website. It refers to the structure of your website pages, posts, URLs, navigation, categories, and tags.
In short, it’s how both human users and bot crawlers access, crawl and click-through your content.
Every website has a site structure.
Whether yours is intentional or emerged by default depends on the degree of planning that went into developing your website.
Ideally, site structure is something that’s designed and accounted for in the very early stages of development.
In many cases, it happens a little haphazardly. And as such sites grow, they become more cluttered and less consistent.
A website with bad site structure is like an older home that has since been added onto by several different homeowners over the years.
Ultimately, you’ll see a hodgepodge of different flooring materials, random steps into different parts of the home’s additions where there are elevation changes, and a messy mix of architectural elements.
Whether we’re working directly with clients or we are implementing changes as a white label SEO, site structure is one of the first on-page SEO assessments we make in our comprehensive SEO audits. When it comes to SEO, search rankings, and conversions, there are thousands of interconnected factors in play. And while it’s hard to pick out any one element as being most important, there’s certainly an upper echelon of factors that are proven to have a significant and discernible impact. Site structure would be among them.
Here are some of the top reasons why site structure matters:
Let’s start with the obvious: SEO. When you invest in intentional site structure, you’re really making an investment in your search presence and rankings.
Think of site structure as a guide for Google. Remember, as smart as Google’s algorithm is, it’s still just an algorithm. It can’t understand your website in the same way that a human might by taking a quick glance at it and making an intuitive assessment. Google needs structure to understand your website. And the proper site structure acts as a guide.
When your site is structured in a clear and logical way, search engines can identify and understand what your site is about, where your product pages are, which pages are for education, how to find specific elements, etc.
In this way, you can think of your site structure like a blueprint. When in doubt, Google can reference the blueprint and find out where different parts of your site are and how they connect together.
On a related note, site structure ensures you aren’t cannibalizing your SEO results. (Without a decent structure, you’ll inevitably be competing with yourself for search rankings and traffic.) A good site structure allows you to order your content and indicate to Google which pieces are most important, which ones are secondary, and how the secondary ones feed the primary ones. (If you don’t tell Google which pages and content to prioritize, they’ll do it for you. And in most cases, they don’t do a very good job.)
It’s not all technical. There’s also a human side to site structure – an intuitive element, if you will. The human brain is a complex organ that needs sensible outside structures and organization to help make sense of information that it encounters and transmits. Proper site structure makes it easy for the brain to process information in a manner that makes sense.
On the surface level, all of these factors combine to impact the user experience (UX) that takes place on a website. Hundreds of different elements impact UX, but site structure is one of the more critical and overarching factors. And when good UX is present, positive things happen.
At the end of the day, a proper site structure is going to lead to higher conversions. Whether you’re an ecommerce website selling widgets and gizmos, or you run a basic business site for the purpose of gaining email subscribers, any investment you make in the structure of your website will benefit you on the conversion front. It’s as simple as that.
Every website doesn’t have to follow the same prescribed site structure. But if you study most successful sites on the internet today, you’ll notice that they tend to use a fairly consistent framework. It usually looks like this:
i. Subcategories (if a larger site)
1. Individual pages and posts
You can picture it like a pyramid if you want. The homepage goes at the top. The category pages then flow out of the homepage. If you have subcategories, they each connect to a category. Then pages stem from each subcategory or category.
In other words, every individual page or post can be traced back to the homepage. This makes it easy to track and find the right content.
Business-minded people might prefer to think of site structure in terms of an organizational hierarchy chart. The homepage goes at the top, next come categories, and so on.
Again, it’s totally up to you as to how you want to structure your site, but you’ll benefit from being intentional in your planning and execution.
Whether you’re launching a brand new website or simply trying to improve an existing one, there are several steps you can take to create a highly functional website structure that improves your SEO, enhances usability, and generates more conversions. Here are a few helpful suggestions:
Your hierarchy needs to make sense. Anyone should be able to look at a chart of your site structure and clearly see the flow. If people have to ask questions or squint to determine the architecture, you’ve missed the boat.
Simplicity and logic are something that Google’s search crawlers need. Yes, they’re sophisticated and intelligent, but they also require some guidance. A logical hierarchy ensures both users and crawlers can navigate with efficiency.
As a general rule of thumb, you should have somewhere between two and seven main categories. For most smaller websites, this number is likely to be two to four. For larger websites with diverse product offerings, five to seven is a normal landing spot.
Any fewer than two categories and you won’t have enough site content and structure. You basically have a one-page site. Any more than seven categories and things get confusing and hard to make sense of.
Generally speaking, it’s a wise idea to balance the number of subcategories within each category. (And remember, not every website will have subcategories.)
In other words, you don’t want one category to have two subcategories, while another has 14, and another has 25. They should all land in the same basic range. This prevents one part of your site structure from becoming bloated, while the others stay small.
Site structure goes beyond hierarchy. There’s also something to be said for optimizing the more intuitive, user-facing elements – like branding.
Although broadly defined, branding is basically the use of specific icons, favicons, mottos, text, and graphics to cultivate a unique image for a business. The end goal of branding is to create memorable, consistent concepts regarding the business’s goods and/or services so that prospective customers are enticed to make purchases.
Companies have many opportunities to use branding strategies for the purpose of increasing conversion rates, and this opportunity should not be missed during the construction and maintenance of a business website. This is the case for several reasons, including the fact that the implementation of effective branding techniques gives your website a structured, orderly look.
Many people don’t recognize this reality, but oftentimes individuals who visit websites are more interested in staying on the page if there is a clear and consistent theme or idea that gives the site shape and structure. When you design your website with a central logo that appears on each page, this form of branding can contribute to facilitating the interest of your prospective customers.
Adding share buttons to your website is a great way to improve its design. This is the case for several reasons, including that the graphic can be added to the site in a plethora of different ways.
There are a million different ways that share buttons can be placed on your website, including in a cluster or as several individual icons. You also have the ability to select share buttons in unique color formats that contribute to the cultivation of an aesthetically appealing look for your website.
In addition to helping you create a web design that your visitors will find visually appealing, share buttons increase the likelihood that your content will go viral given that your visitors can do things such as tweet links of your product pages to everyone within their social networks.
One of the most frustrating things that website users cite when discussing their experiences online is that many of the sites they visit are dysfunctional. Although the term “dysfunctional” is used broadly and often vaguely, in the context of web design it generally refers to a website that does not have features that make it easy to move through the pages.
For example, if a user navigates away from your home page and to another page, she or he may want to return back to the home page once they attain the information they were looking for. Websites that were not designed with a “Home Page” icon make it more difficult for the visitor to accomplish this objective.
Yet another example of website architecture that isn’t particularly functional would be the placement of ads in a highly conspicuous area of the website, such that the reader is distracted by the goods or services being marketed. In some cases, web designers will allow pop-up ads to be integrated into the architecture of their website, meaning that viewers can be perpetually interrupted from reading your content as a result of the ads.
There are several solutions for the challenge of web designs that include poor placement of ads. One such solution is to format them such that they are relatively small. You can also place ads to the far right of the screen. Both of these solutions ensure that your ads are still noticeable by your viewers while simultaneously decreasing the likelihood that they become distracting. With respect to pop-up ads, it’s safe to say that avoiding them entirely is a great web design strategy to implement.
In addition to implementing website architecture strategies to improve the look of your website, business owners who are interested in optimizing their sites should note that the development and integration of great content should also be an aspect of the web design strategy. This is the case for several reasons, including the fact that your website content can determine whether your prospective clients purchase your goods or services and subsequently become loyal, life-long customers.
Content should be developed with site structure in mind. This can be done in a variety of ways, including:
You always want to develop content for humans first and search engines second. However, as these tips show, it’s usually possible to do both at once. Don’t settle when you can kill two birds with a single stone.
Internal link building is one of the best (and most underutilized) methods for giving users and search engine crawlers the content they want.
Internal links are not only good signals for users and crawlers, they also help pass authority from pages that may earn links naturally to pages that could need a little authority boost.
If you are serious about using your website to catch and keep the attention of your prospective consumers, note that strengthening your website architecture and content can help you accomplish this objective.
By implementing some or all of the strategies outlined above, you can ensure that you develop an aesthetically appealing website with content that is interesting, informative, and easy to read. Once this happens, your business will likely experience the continual growth and expansion that you want.
At SEO.co, our passion lies in helping other businesses grow and accomplish their goals by scaling organic traffic, improving search rankings, and connecting brands with motivated customers who ultimately become raving fans.
If you’re interested in giving your website a boost in traffic and conversions, we’d love to chat with you about some organic and sustainable strategies you can leverage to win big today, tomorrow, and indefinitely. And, if you’re an SEO agency yourself and looking for an SEO reseller, we have you covered there as well.