The Relationship Between Website Structure and SEO
The Relationship Between Website Structure and SEO
When you think about SEO, the first thing that pops into your head is probably keywords. So much effort for developing your content marketing plan is put into finding the right keywords to boost your ranking. How much do you worry about the structure of your actual web page?
The structure of your website matters much more than you might think in the success — or failure — of your SEO efforts. That is why you need to include it in your list of content marketing methods, whether you work in-house or with a content marketing agency.
What is Website Structure?
What is meant by the website structure? Think of website structure as the foundation or the bones of your website. It incorporates the technical components such as navigation, the links between pages, and more. The design and content exist on top of it, creating what the user sees. Search engine algorithms see the foundational structure and analyze how it affects things like user experience when determining your overall ranking and score.
Visitor Interaction and Experience
One of the most important components of your website is the experience it provides for your visitors. You want to make your website easy to use so that users remain on the page and come back. Plus, Google and other search engines include user experience in their rankings.
For the best user experience, you want a page that features intuitive navigation, easy to find information and landing pages that match the expectations of the user. A website with a sub-caliber structure will quickly lead to a poor experience because the navigation will be difficult, and visitors might not find the information they want.
One reason that you should care about user experience is that things like bounce rates, time on site, and click-through rates are also considered in your SEO rankings. Plus, these metrics correspond with the efficacy of your content marketing methods in converting customers.
How do you know if you have achieved a good customer experience with your website structure? Have people test it. They should be able to get from point to point with ease, even if they do not have much experience with your site or knowledge of your industry.
You want to continually monitor your website to ensure that you do not end up with unintentional duplicate copy, even if you use a content marketing agency. Although there are ways to reproduce your content without punishment, for the most part, any duplicate copy is considered spam, and thus it hurts your rankings.
From time to time, you might decide to reorganize your website or make some changes. This might lead to accidental duplicate copy. Therefore, you want to run an audit to ensure that you do not have more than one page of the same information.
Your structure also helps you avoid punishment for duplicate copy. There are times where you might have duplicate content on purpose, or you might be republishing content with permission of the owner. There are codes you can include in the URL and other elements of the structure that tell Google and other search engines not to index it so it does not affect your rankings:
- Use a 301 redirect to tell Google the preferred page to index
- Set your preferred domain in the Search Console
- Use tags like rel=canonical or meta noindex tags
Navigation and Internal Links
It is essential that you have an easy and intuitive navigation system on your website. This not only improves the user experience, it also helps to increase your SEO rankings. The basic rule of thumb is that your visitors should be at least four clicks away from the homepage. Of course, this might differ depending on the size of your website.
When you develop your website structure, it is important to spend time considering the content hierarchy. This keeps your content organized in a logical way. In most structures, you would have your home page, followed by categories, sub-categories, topics and finally the content. You might have content that links from topic to topic or within each topic.
You want to create a navigation system that makes sense for the hierarchy of your entire site. To start, have an easy-to-use navigation menu on every page. Adding internal links also helps to get users from one place to another without much effort. It also helps you to keep your traffic on your site longer. As they read one blog post, they will see the link to a related blog post and go there.
Internal links also add value to your SERPs. You can use widgets, anchor text and navigation menus to have several internal links on every page. However, you want to minimize how many duplicate links you have on the same page.
Your websites crawlability is one of the most important structural factors that affect your SEO rankings. The crawlability is the ability of a search engine to go through your website and its content to see what is featured. This includes navigating from different pages, including those in different categories in your hierarchy. This informs the search algorithms more about the relationships among the different pages. It is essential that there are no dead ends.
What cause dead ends on your website? A lack of internal links. There need to be ways to navigate from page to page in your website so that there is always a way to move throughout your site. A great way to include internal links is to link to related blog posts on your page, as discussed above.
Your website structure includes your URL, and this also plays a role in the potential ranking on search engines. You want to make sure that you do not have any URLs that do not work on your page. Additionally, you do not want to make it too long, or too short. Quicksprout looked at 1,000 keywords to see the top 100 results. Within these results, there was a range of 32 to 48 characters, with 37 characters the average for the top 10 results.
Additionally, you do not want to have special characters in your URL. This makes it harder for the search engines to go through your website. It is best to use dashes to separate words. Google has stated that it prefers dashes to underscores since its search engine will combine the words if they are separated by an underscore. One thing you do not need to worry about is including a keyword within your URL if it does not naturally fit. Recent studies have found that the emphasis on other search factors makes it not as important.
There is a strong relationship between the website that users, and search engines, see and the underlying structure. Therefore, any discussion about SEO and your content marketing plan with your content marketing agency or your team needs to include the website structure.
Greg Secrist has worked in the SEO and content creation industry since 2009. He is the CEO and co-founder of BKA Content, an industry leading content creation services company. Greg is also a passionate tech geek, web designer, marketing pro and SEO expert.