Ryan Johnston

By

Ryan Johnston

Published on

March 15, 2018

Tags

digital

Site structure is one of the most crucial elements of a site’s technical SEO performance, and is often overlooked. Here at LEWIS, we have found that sites with well-aligned SEO site architectures rank better, and for more non-brand keyword terms, especially among category-level pages. We see many companies struggle to rank for many keyword terms they seek, often forgetting to evaluate their site’s UX and information structure. If users or search engines cannot easily find or access relevant pages, a site will never rank well. This post will provide insights into why you should create an optimized site structure and how it produces a cohesive user experience and higher rankings in SERPs.


SEO Chart

What is SEO Site Structure and Why is it Important?

The structural layout of pages or page groupings on a site, specifically as it applies to the arrangement and hierarchy of the pages and their associated information. Essentially, it is the way users and search engines navigate a site to reach their intended destinations.

When users land on a site, they should be able to easily navigate and identify information to satisfy their search query by following logical paths of navigation and content succession. If not, they will bounce and abandon their site engagement and/or purchase path. Search engine bots crawl and index pages based on this same logic; spiders will crawl each page, parsing logical information succession based on context and internal linking among pages. A well-structured site will provide bots differentiated page experiences that are easy to crawl and understand, thus, indexing these specific pages and matching them to user queries. Now that search engine algorithms utilize machine learning and contextual cues, site and information  structure is essential to SEO visibility and rankings for targeted user queries.

Benefits of an Optimized Site Structure

Creating a solid site structure can be extremely beneficial for users, search engines, and your bottom line. First and foremost, improving structural flow of a site can dramatically enhance the consumer decision journey from upper to lower funnel. Providing logical and organized on-site paths helps users discover and learn about your products, getting to their point of interest more quickly and efficiently. By enhancing the consumer journey with clear information paths on your website, you have created a more enjoyable experience for users to interact, engage, and consume content on the site.

SEO Chart

Additionally, an enhanced site structure with proper internal linking mechanisms can help to boost both upper-level keyword rankings and long-tail keyword rankings on the site. The idea here is that pages on a site should link appropriately to and from other relevant pages, helping search engines understand the relationship between categories and more granular sub- category or product pages.

A great example of this implementation comes from our client, Skullcandy. Their broad level category page for earbuds leverages internal links to relevant, granular earbuds pages such as “wireless earbuds” and “sport earbuds”, effectively boosting rankings for the top-level queries on the earbuds page as well as long-tail rankings for these granular pages.

Skull candy

Along with these on-page factors, internal links are known to pass valuable link equity and authority between interconnected pages on a site. The value of this link equity passed among related pages contributes to the internal page rank on the site, one of the numerous factors search engines consider when rankings pages in SERPs.

Attributes of Good SEO Site Architecture

The diagram below exemplifies the desired attributes of a good site structure. These attributes include:

  • Using no more than 3 clicks to reach the most important page information
  • Leveraging relevant links to cascading information areas on different category pages
  • Employing internal links to boost vertical and horizontal link flow, improving page rank of your internal pages.

The impact of this site design includes an optimized distribution of link flow, easy crawlability for bots, and strong correlations among page content and rankings for keywords.

SEO Chart

Example of Poor Site Architecture

The diagram below is a an example of a poor site structure. Attributes of the site include too many clicks to reach important pages, isolated pages, and strictly vertical link flow. The impact of this site design includes distributed link flow, easy crawlability, and strong rankings for keywords.

SEO Chart

Best Practices/Things to Keep in Mind
  • Build the site’s structure with the user in mind, not to manipulate search engine algorithms.
  • The URL structure of pages should match the site’s hierarchy.
  • Anchor text of internally linked pages contain valuable keywords.
How to Evaluate Your Own SEO Site Structure?

So, how can you tell if your site’s structure could use a facelift? Here are a couple of red flags to look for when analyzing your site that may be caused by a poor SEO site structure.

  • The site’s navigation and linking structure is flat.
  • High bounce rates or drop off rates at specific pages.
  • Users have to click more than 3 times from the home page to get to the site’s most important pages.
  • URLs on your site are not ranking well or for the intended keyword query.
Conclusion

The way a site is organized and structured lays the foundation that many other SEO initiatives are built on. Here at LEWIS we believe a technically sound site structure helps to promote optimal SEO visibility; because content cannot be viral if it is not visible! While it is entirely possible to optimize a pre-existing site structure with the right strategy and resources, it is best to map out a site’s hierarchy as early as possible during a site’s build, specifically ahead of content planning. Of the many technical SEO tactics, this one rests at the top of our priority list for our clients and we think it should be for you too.

 

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