While many website owners strive to get new backlinks, put more keywords in the title and implement a bunch of new SEO tricks, many of them forget about the grassroots. As a result, their websites often look like a messy set of webpages that confuse both – the users and search engines. Talking about grassroots, we mean the website structure.
What are the main rules essential to creating a solid website structure? How should it look from the very beginning and be developed afterwards? And why it’s important for both SEO and UX?
Let’s get started – in this article you will find some simple but crucial actions you have to take to build a good basis for SEO while developing your site.
1. Start from the hierarchy and keyword research
This step will be useful for those who build their websites from scratch or want to enhance an existing one in terms of basic SEO. Moreover, collecting website semantics is essential in developing proper landing pages and generating good content ideas.
What to do?
- Brainstorm and highlight specific categories that describe your products. Also, you can look at other sites covering similar subjects to check whether you’ve missed anything. To visualize it, create your website map using special online tools such as Mindmup, XMind. You will end up with a basic skeleton of the key phrases that describe your product the best. This will serve as a basis for determining your website semantic core.
- Using the list of discovered key phrases, complete them with as many keywords as possible using tools such as SE Ranking keywords suggestion tool, Competitor SEO/PPC research, Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Q&A websites e.g. Quora, etc. Start from general keywords and then go further collecting more and more semantics.
- After you’ve collected and filtered all the irrelevant keywords, adjust your website map – categorize and prioritize the pages to build a hierarchy – from the main sections to the subsections and pages (from the high-volume to low-volume keywords). Remember, the higher page is in your architecture, the more likely it can rank for more competitive keywords. Thus, you will create a basis of simple and good website navigation that all the users love.
- Don’t blindly follow the three-click rule saying that a user of a website should find any information with no more than 3 clicks otherwise he may become frustrated and often leave the website. In fact, a few testings show no correlation between the number of user clicks and their success in finding what they need or page abandonment rate. What you have to do is follow the logic: if you create a separate page for a group of queries, you will help the user to quickly find what he is looking for. Such division is conditioned by the customer demand and positively influences both SEO and UX.
2. Pay attention to URLs, internal linking and sitemap
After you’ve created your website skeleton, proceed with a simple and user-friendly URL structure that follows your website hierarchy. Here are some tips from Google:
- use readable words that are always better and more appealing to users than long ID numbers
(e.g. www.domain.com/home/webpage is better than www.domain.com/home?id=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1)
- consider using punctuation in your URLs as they are more much useful to Google and make sure to use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_)
(e.g. www.domain.com/keywords-research is better than www.domain.com/keywords_research)
- use relevant keywords in your URLs as you need both users and crawlers find your pages. But please avoid keyword stuffing and keep a healthy balance
(e.g. www.domain.com/keywords-research is better than www.domain.com/buy-the-best-tool-for-keyword-research-and-keyword-suggestion-discounts)
- make your URLs shorter – e.g. stripp out such words like “and” or “the” as they only distract and make URLs longer
(e.g. www.domain.com/blog/instagram-stories-guide-small-medium-businesses is better than www.domain.com/blog/instagram-stories-a-guide-for-small-and-medium-businesses)
Find more tips here on how to develop URL structure.
By the way, have you noticed that when searching for something in Google we tend to click the URLs that holds the query we’ve entered.
Internal linking is essential for every website as it helps spread a link juice around the web pages and enhance site navigation. A rule of thumb here is that every website page should have a link to and a link from another website page. Google’s bots find and index websites following one link to another link so a smart internal linking will help them to find new content on your website.
While interlinking your website, follow the hierarchy (main categories and subcategories) so all the pages will be linked at different levels and among each other. Here is an example of how the internal linking may look like.
Sitemap helps search engine crawlers keep track of all new pages that appear on your website. Search engines can also use the sitemap as a reference when determining canonical URLs. By the way, Google indexes websites with sitemaps faster than those without. Good reason to have one, eh?
Read more on what is sitemap.xml and why do you need one, how to create XML sitemap and place it on your website, how many sitemaps do you need and how to set the indexing priority and frequency correctly and after creating one make sure to test it.
3. Watch your competitors
For the finale, I would like to share a little lifehack with you. In order to use the strategies that already work, use the Competitor SEO/PPC research tool. The tool will help you find your main competitors and discover the most ranked pages/subdomains of their domains in Google’s top 100 organic and paid search results. Analyze what’s been done by your rivals, which pages show the greatest results and what their place is in the website structure. After discovering the insights, use this knowledge to adjust your structure and linking appropriately.
4. What you get as an outcome
- Higher rankings and traffic growth
If you have a solid website structure with smart linking, both users and Google will “understand” and love your website. What does it mean? Definitely, higher rankings, lower bounce rate, more web pages per visit and higher conversions. To track your website progress after restructuring your website, constantly monitor its rankings and respond to all changes in time. To keep all the data in one place track your website rankings with SE Ranking.
- SERP features
Having a solid website structure is about the website reputation and a good CTR as well. That’s why it’s so important to get the Google sitelinks – the SERP block that shows your domain along with several internal URLs grouped below. This is how it looks like.
The sitelinks block affects your website reputation, helps users navigate, points the most relevant information and separates your website from others in the search results. So how to get these sitelinks as a part of your snippet? Create a good site structure, and Google will automatically reward you with this SERP feature. By the way, you can track the keyword rankings in the SERP features with SE Ranking and get a notification right when your website hits the sitelinks block – find a detailed guide here.
- Happy users and better users’ behavior
If you have not dived into heat maps yet (for example, Hotjar and Crazy Egg), it’s time to discover these efficient tools to test usability and track users’ activity. How did the visitor move around the site? Where did he click? Where did he stop by, and which parts did he miss? The heat maps give you all the answers. Also, you will be able to watch the video records of visitors’ sessions, understand what they are actually watching, and what is missed. Analyze their behaviour, draw conclusions and use them to adjust your website structure.
Building a solid website structure is not only about sections and links – it’s about user experience and design as well. Make sure you invest time and resources in creating a solid website structure before you build the site itself. And if your website is already running, do analyze it from the structure perspective, create “to do” list and start from small but needed changes. Don’t overlook this opportunity as it’s your chance to enhance your website rankings and an overall SEO.