For any business website, visibility is key. As more people visit your website, you have higher chances of gaining new customers, building a prominent brand, and increasing your sales. While social media is already an essential avenue for making your website known, all businesses with online presence rely on something even more fundamental: search engines, especially Google.
With good search engine optimisation (SEO), relevant pages of your website will rank high on relevant Google searches, leading people who may never have heard of your business before right into your website. Good SEO doesn’t happen overnight and the finer parameters of search engine algorithms can and do change over time, but what has stayed consistent is that search engines reward popular, well-organised websites with quality content. For this reason, your website structure is a heavy determinant of its search ranking.
What is Website Structure?
Website structure is all about how the pages of your website are connected to each other. For example, the homepage can bring you to your company blog, store, or description with a single click, and within those pages are further subpages, such as separate blog posts or product categories.
Good website structure makes your website easy to navigate, connecting related pages and offering a pleasant user experience. Although website structure is often planned out from the start, it might become chaotic as the website expands, or it wasn’t designed from a SEO perspective. It’s not uncommon to come across websites with confusing navigation, pages buried so deep in the website they’re hard to reach, links to non-existent pages, and other website structure issues.
How Website Structure Affects SEO
When Google scans websites to determine ranking, it relies on automated web crawlers or spiders. These web crawlers comb through each page of your website, assessing the topic, past traffic, content length, and other variables. Because the crawlers use algorithms to determine these, they can read your website better if it follows a certain format, such as adding certain HTML tags or dividing your blog posts into topics–in other words, having an organised website structure.
At the same time, it’s not just about pure SEO strategy. Improving your website’s user experience is another key consideration because engagement plays a huge role in your search rankings too. For this reason, your website must not only be machine-readable but also human-readable. Web crawlers look at overall metrics like:
- Bounce rate – how many visitors leave your website after only one page
- Click-through rate (CTR) – how many visitors click a certain link in a page vs. how many visitors saw the link in total
- Dwell time – how long visitors spend on your webpage before going back to search results
Proper structure makes your website more enticing for users, who will be satisfied about quickly finding the information that they were looking for while possibly getting interested in other pages of your website.
Core Components of Good Website Structure
A well-structured website involves at least these three components:
Silos group together related pages of your website into themes, which are based on search keywords that you want to rank for. For example, an entrepreneurship-based website might choose the keyword “resources for building a business,” and it would create pages that revolve around this topic. The pages might be connected through links from one page to another. Alternatively, you could also put them under the same category or menu heading.
Aside from helping with content planning, this will make your website much more SEO-friendly because search engine crawlers can clearly grasp which themes your website is focused on and they’ll give it a higher score in terms of authority and expertise.
Websites generally follow this hierarchy: Homepage > Category > Subcategory > Content. Every page on your website can be classified in this way, and regularly checking how the current hierarchy is will keep your website well-maintained. A rule of thumb is to make each page accessible with only four or fewer clicks. The more layers you add, the more clicks it’ll take to reach a page, and the less likely a website visitor will be able to find it.
For the main categories, seven or less would be a good number. While you can have a different number of subcategories under each category, the overall structure has to be fairly balanced. If one category has ten subcategories while another only has two, you might want to make some adjustments.
Internal linking is what connects pages in your website structure. It’s so important for high search rankings that every page must have at least one internal link to another page, usually from the same silo. Internal linking helps spread “link juice,” so that a page with high authority can pull up the search ranking of whatever page it links to. Beyond this, internal linking further informs the web crawlers how certain pages are related.
From the user end, good internal linking will boost engagement because it encourages users to view more pages on your website and makes it easier for them to find related information. Of course, internal linking must also be logical and human-friendly. A few links per page is enough, and they have to blend in seamlessly with the content.
Improving your Website Structure
Planning out the website structure is usually one of the first steps done when creating a website, but if you already have a website with existing content, you can also work on it step by step rather than doing huge overhauls all at once. Here are some ways you can improve your website structure:
- Map out your website structure and make sure that it’s balanced while remaining “shallow” (or requiring four or fewer clicks to reach a page)
- Perform a website content audit and remove duplicate pages while merging or beefing up excessively short pages
- Perform keyword research and build pages around those keywords, connecting these through internal linking or putting them under the same subcategory
- Check if each page links to another page from the same silo
Even small tweaks to your website structure can make a huge difference in user experience as well as your website’s SEO rankings. In fact, it’s best to keep track of it as your website grows, and no digital marketing strategy is complete without factoring in website structure.
Guest post courtesy of Paul Morris the Managing Director of Bristol based SEO Agency, Superb Digital.