Successful Site Architecture for SEO
Almost every site has a wealth of pages linked to one other. Even though while visiting a resource, a user evaluates its convenience and content, the quality of pages is directly dependent on their interrelations.
Search systems continue going ahead: they index the resource in the sequence that has been set by the webmaster. That is why they crawl some sites and others slowly and with errors.
Let’s find out which web resource structure is correct, which SEO indices it influences, and how to set it.
What Is Site Architecture
Site plan architecture is the structuring of its pages. To build a house, we need a blueprint. It is the same with web resources: before launching and filling it with content, all the software components should be written, i.e., which pages will be created and what their interrelations will be.
It is essential to understand the difference between site architecture and its design. Site architecture is NOT web page architecture; therefore, it has nothing to do with the location of elements on the page, but it describes the interrelationships of all the pages. Although UX methods are also used for its building.
How Site Architecture Influences SEO
The website structure definition is, first of all, crucial for users. If the architecture is well-written, users can find the necessary information on the web resource. It is what strongly bonds the site architecture with SEO: in fact, they have the same purpose, i.e., developing a site that is convenient for users.
The leading SEO tool is content. If the content is high-quality but placed on an inconvenient site, a user is not likely to read it or might not even be able to find it. That is why the site architecture is directly related to SEO.
Another less apparent influence of the architecture on SEO is how and what pages are filled with, depending on their location and information distribution over the site. To better explain this, let us have a look at the types of websites’ architecture.
- Flat architecture. The design of the flat site hierarchy looks broad. There are a few levels, but every level has its sub-levels.
- Deep architecture. The design of the deep site hierarchy is, on the contrary, long. There are a lot of levels in it, while every level only has 2-3 sub-levels.
The visual difference is as follows:
As the flat structure is more branchy, the site is oversaturated with keywords. The levels are scarce, which is why every page contains a set of keywords that are not related to the brand.
The most disadvantageous architecture has no branches at all or only at the last level.
This site will have a low indexation because the search system and users will have to take too many steps to reach the last level.
On the contrary, if a site has a good structure and well-thought-out SEO strategy, Google will index pages highly, and in the search results, it will add site links that are the links to site navigation elements.
What Structure Can Be Considered Good
Good website architecture has such peculiarities:
- Usability. The more services there are on the Internet, the more requirements are imposed on them. Previously, if users found an inconvenient site, they remained on it because there was not an alternative. Now, users immediately leave such sites.
Search systems read the time spent on a site. If a user has left a site: Google defines this as a negative experience and will decrease the resource rating. Read more information about this in the article What is a Good Bounce Rate?
In other words, you not only need to attract clients but also make them stay. Track how successfully you handle this task, for instance, in Inspectlet.
- Quick and intuitive navigation. The general rule is: a user should do no more than three clicks to get to any page of the site. For this, internal links are used. In the old content, link to new, and vice versa.
Also, try to group similar pages in one category and place them in the menu so that users do not have to search for it. For the most effective assistance, add a search bar on the top of pages.
- No duplicated pages. Google considers repeated pages to be spam. From the very beginning, make sure that you only have unique pages in the site architecture plan and trace duplicating errors in Google Search Console. Read more in the article What is Google Search Console.
Unintentionally repeated content may appear:
- On separate pages for mobile devices.
- Under different URLs.
- As the page version for printing.
- The architecture is similar to the other site in the same niche. Users are looking for products that look similar to something they have already seen. That is why navigation should correspond to their expectations.
The Development of Website Structure in Terms of SEO Strategy
The site architecture plan usually looks like a diagram. It can be drawn by hand or on a PC; it does not matter. It has to precisely and minutely show how pages of the resource are linked with each other.
Step-by-Step Architecture Development
1. The collection and clustering of a semantic kernel
A semantic kernel is all of the keywords that will be used for the promotion of the site, and to define its thematics. To collect it, it is necessary to study the niche and search queries in GoogleAd. From the whole set of collected keywords, remove off-target ones (which are not related to the provided services or contain the competitor’s brand name) and proceed to cluster them: define requests for different categories.
2. Planning of the site hierarchy
It is a sketch of all the levels and sublevels of the service. It can be made using a graphic editor or even in an Excel sheet. The hierarchy should look like the diagrams provided above.
Four points for hierarchy creation:
- Consistency. The elements of one level should be related by their meaning.
- Simplicity. It is not only easier to create a simple structure, but it also helps users understand it and the search system to crawl it.
- The limited number of categories. Use the categories you have at the previous step. There should be no more than seven categories. If you have more, combine some of them or exclude them.
- Approximately the same number of sub-categories. Try to avoid situations when one category has 14 elements, while another one has 2. Like in the previous point, the maximum amount is 7. The remaining pages can be clustered using filters or tags.
3. The Creation of a URL-structure
This structure is built based on the previous. All you need to do is to write a URL for every page. If the hierarchy is simple and consistent, the process is quick, write every level after a slash:
Try not to create URLs that are too long or complicated. In a perfect scenario, they should be real words (not symbols) and used in the content like keywords. Also, by the length of the URL, it is convenient to trace how effective your architecture is: the less the level depth, the easier it will be to promote a page.
4. The development of the structure of internal links
Figure out how to separate pages from different categories that will be interlinked with each other. It will improve navigation and increase the resource’s ratings in search engines.
Do not create a structure that is too complicated. The main idea is that every page should have a link to another page.
Hacks for Effective SEO
1. Using robots.txt
Google only crawls pages of the site that are not closed for indexing. In the robots.txt file, it is possible to write which pages should be closed from indexing. For example, it is possible to limit access to a personal page, pages under development, or at the stage of updating. You can amend this file whenever you need to. It is necessary to use attributes, for example, by index to set limits.
2. The support of a secure view
It is impossible to get to the top positions in Google if you do not acquire the SSL protocol for your site.
What is this? It is a safety extension for the protocol of data transfer HTTP. HTTP is transformed into HTTPS, while the data transferred from this site is encrypted; therefore, they become inaccessible for hackers. Read more in the related article HTTPS vs. HTTP.
3. Using breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs are text lines with links to navigational pages that a user has passed through. They are positioned at the top of the site.
Just like the search bar, this tactic helps users to immediately go to where they initially landed.
How to Improve the Current Site Structure
Commence your site architecture analysis with checking if your site architecture meets the parameters of good architecture. If possible, fix the faults. Also, define how errors in the structure negatively affect SEO indices.
If a site is not new and it has good traffic, there is no sense in changing everything. If a resource has just been launched and has absolutely no traffic, pass all the stages of the structure development from the very beginning, check how your structure looks on the diagram and if it is consistent.
Also, remember that the best architecture site analysis is regular. It is especially crucial for large resources with multiple internal links. They should be checked and updated from time to time.