Your site needs to have a defined structure because, without it, it’ll just be a random collection of pages and blog posts. Your users need this structure to navigate on your site, to click from one page to another. Google also uses the structure of your site to determine what content is important and what is less relevant. This guide tells you everything you need to know about website structure.
Why is your website structure important?
Structuring your website is crucial for both its usability and findability. Many sites lack a sound structure to guide visitors to the information they’re looking for. Having a clear site structure also leads to a better understanding of your website by Google, so it’s incredibly important for your SEO. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
Importance for usability
The structure of your website has a significant impact on the experience for your visitors (UX). If visitors can’t find the products and information they’re looking for, it’s not very likely they’ll become regular visitors or customers. In other words, you should help them navigate your site. A good site structure will help with this.
Navigating should be easy. You need to categorize and link your posts and products so they are easy to find. New visitors should be able to instantly grasp what you’re writing about or selling.
Importance for SEO
A solid site structure vastly improves your chances of ranking in search engines. There are three main reasons for this:
- It helps Google ‘understand’ your site
The way you structure your site will give Google vital clues about where to find the most valuable content on your site. It helps search engines understand what your site mainly is about or what you’re selling. A decent site structure also enables search engines to find and index content quickly. A good structure should, therefore, lead to a higher ranking in Google.
- It prevents you from competing with yourself
On your site, you might have blog posts that are quite similar. If, for example, you write a lot about SEO, you could have multiple blog posts about site structure, each covering a different aspect. Consequently, Google won’t be able to tell which of these pages is the most important, so you’ll be competing with your own content for a high ranking in Google. You should let Google know which page you think is most important. You need a good internal linking and taxonomy structure to do this, so all those pages can work for you, instead of against you.
- It deals with changes on your website
The products you sell in your shop likely evolve over time. So does the content you’re writing. You probably add new product lines as old stock sells out. Or you write new articles that make old ones redundant. You don’t want Google to show outdated products or deleted blog posts, so you need to deal with these kinds of changes in the structure of your site.
How to set up the structure of your website?
So, how do you construct a solid site structure? First, we’ll look at an ideal site structure; then we’ll explain how to achieve this for your own site.
Ideal website structure
Let’s start by looking at an ideal situation: if you’re starting from scratch, how should you organize your site? We think a well-organized website looks like a pyramid with a number of levels:
- Categories (or sections)
- Subcategories (only for larger websites)
- Individual pages and posts
The homepage should be all the way to the top. Then, you have some sections or category pages beneath it. You should be able to file all of your content under one of these categories. If your site is larger, you can divide these sections or categories into subcategories as well. Beneath your categories or subcategories are your individual pages and posts.
An ideal site structure looks like a pyramid. On top, you’ll find the homepage, right below that the main sections or categories, possibly followed by subcategories. On the ground, you’ll find all the individual posts and pages.
On top of the pyramid is the homepage. Your homepage should act as a navigation hub for your visitors. This means, amongst others, that you should link to the most important pages from your homepage. By doing this:
Your visitors are more likely to end up on the pages you want them to end up on;
You show Google that these pages are important.
Further down this article, we’ll help you determine which of your pages are essential to your business.
Beware not to try to link to too many pages from your homepage, because that will cause clutter. And a cluttered homepage doesn’t guide your visitors anywhere. If you want to optimize your homepage further, there are a lot of other things you can do. Read the WEBiFeeds article on homepage SEO to find out what.
In addition to having a well-structured homepage, it’s also important to create a clear navigation path on your site. Your site-wide navigation consists of two main elements: the menu and the breadcrumbs.
First, let’s take a look at the menu. The website menu is the most common aid for navigation on your website and you want to make the best possible use of it. Visitors use your menu to find things on your website. It helps them understand the structure of your website. That’s why the main categories on your site should all have a place in the menu on your homepage.
Furthermore, it’s not always necessary to put everything on just one menu. If you have a big site with lots of categories, this may clutter your website and makes your main menu a poor reflection of the rest of your site. Where it makes sense, it’s perfectly fine to create a second menu.
Finally, just like on your homepage, you shouldn’t add too many links to your menu. If you do, they will become less valuable, both for your users and for search engines.
Contextual internal linking
Site structure is all about grouping and linking the content on your site. Until now, we mostly discussed so-called classifying links: links on your homepage, in your navigation, and taxonomies. Contextual links, on the other hand, are internal links within the copy on your pages that refer to other pages within your site. For a link to be contextual, the page you link to should be relevant for someone reading the current page. If you look at the previous paragraph, for instance, we link to a post about tagging, so people can learn more about it if they’re interested.
Your most important pages are probably often very relevant to mention on several pages across your site, so you’ll link to them most often. Just remember that not only the page you’re linking to is relevant, the context of the link is important as well.
Google uses the context of your links to gather information about the page you’re linking to. It always used the anchor text (or link text) to understand what the page you’re linking to is about. But the anchor text isn’t the only thing Google looks at. Nowadays, it also considers the content around the link to gather extra information. Google is becoming better at recognizing related words and concepts. Adding links from a meaningful context allows Google to properly value and rank your pages.
There are just a couple of meaningful ways of adding contextual links to your product pages:
link from a product bundle page to the individual products
- a ‘related items’ or ‘compare with similar items’ section
- a ‘customers also bought section
- a ‘product bundles’ or ‘frequently bought together section.
Website structure: in short
As we have seen, there are several reasons why site structure is important. Good website structure helps both your visitors and Google navigate your site. It makes it easier to implement changes and prevents competing with your own content. So use the tips and pointers in this guide to check and improve your website structure. That way, you’ll stay on top of things and keep your website from growing out of control!