Why Is Good Website Structure Important For SEO?
18th June 2021
Good website structure is the foundation of your website SEO, user experience (UX) and conversion rate optimisation (CRO). There are so many benefits to building a website that is logical, tidy, hierarchical, easy for visitors to use and ultimately turns users into customers. In this article, we’ll explain exactly why good website structure is important for SEO, so you can please Google as well as your visitors, and reap the rewards of better rankings, more clicks, and happier visitors.
What is Website Structure?
If you’ve read some of our previous blog posts, you may have seen us say before that good SEO strategy is comprised of architecture, content, and links. As you might expect, website structure focuses on site architecture, but it’s about linking, too. And in a way, it’s also about content because that’s the thing you’re organising by structuring your website. You could say that your entire site – and subsequently, everything you do in relation to it – hinges on the structure you build.
Essentially, website structure is the way in which you organise your website content. It’s deciding what goes on what page, how you split up your content in a way that makes sense, and how pages are linked together for a seamless user journey.
Why is Website Structure Important for SEO?
Your website structure needs to make sense to your users so they can navigate it easily, and it also needs to help Google find its way around so your pages can be indexed. And whatever helps users to get around your site could also help bots to crawl it. Gone are the days of pleasing search engines at the expense of user experience. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander – what’s good for Google is good for the user in many cases, and vice versa. Here are five reasons why website structure is important for SEO:
1. It Helps Google Understand Your Website
A good website structure will help Google to index your pages, by helping Google to understand your website’s purpose, its content, and your offering. When Google understands your site, it can provide more relevant search results for people who are looking for your products or services.
2. It Helps Google Find Your Site Pages
It will also help Google to find the pages of your website – if Google knows one page on your website exists, it should be able to move from this page to all the others with the help of your site structure and internal linking. Google might not always find everything on your site, but you can make it as easy and likely as possible in the way you structure your site.
3. It Helps Google Determine the Importance of Each Page
Not only do internal links help bots to crawl the site, but they also help improve SEO by indicating the importance of a page. The more internal links you have pointing to a page, the more important it will appear to Google and it may therefore be ranked more highly. For example, your homepage should be linked to on every page through a link in your header menu, but a blog post you wrote two years ago will have much fewer links back to it, indicating that it’s a less important page. By telling google which of these pages is more important, you can help your important pages to rank more highly, and also avoid competing with yourself in search rankings – especially if you have several pages on similar topics.
4. It Helps Users Navigate Your Site
Clear navigation is important for users, and without it you may find people bouncing off the site. Your site structure should help them to get around, reducing bounce rates and avoiding any confusion they may otherwise have had, and ultimately leading to more conversions. Plus, Google likes sites that perform well, with good click-through rates and average page durations. So by improving user experience, you’re making the site look better to Google, too.
5. It Helps You Keep Your Website Organised
Over time, your site will grow. You may be blogging regularly or adding more product pages or case studies, and if you don’t have a good site structure in place, things could start getting messy. When you start with a sensible structure, everything will have its place and it will be easy for you as the site owner to place or categorise pages, and for users and bots to find them.
Tips and Best Practices for SEO Site Structure
Now that we’ve determined what website structure is and why it’s important not only for SEO but also for UX and CRO, let’s take a look at some things you can do to ensure your site structure is as useful as possible to you, your visitors and search engines.
1. Plan your site hierarchy in advance
In our blog post “Five SEO Tasks You Can Complete Before Building Your Website”, we explain that planning your website navigation is one of the things you can do before building your website – and it’s essential that you put some thought – and probably diagrams – into the relationships between your pages. You can start by listing the pages you need on your website and mapping out how they will sit next to, above or below each other in your site’s hierarchy. Planning this in advance will help you to keep your site organised and avoid headaches later on.
2. Ensure your site navigation is intuitive
Important information on your site should be easy to find, and you can help with this by ensuring your navigation is intuitive. Users shouldn’t have to think too much about how to use or move around your site because it should feel natural to them even if they have never visited it before. Don’t forget to consider navigation on mobile and tablet, as your layouts for these devices will be different to desktop.
What happens when a user clicks on a link should also be intuitive. For a good user experience, lower bounce rates and improved CRO, make sure the link a user clicks will take them to a page that meets their expectations based on the anchor text and general context of the link.
3. Bulk up your internal linking
Pages should be discoverable from other pages, so if Google is only aware of your homepage, it should be able to get to every other page on your site simply by following links from one page to another.
Improve internal linking by ensuring important pages are linked well. For example, are all of your important pages, such as your about page, top-level category pages, contact page and so on, all linked in your header and footer navigation menus?
Don’t forget about your other pages, too – they may not be your main pages, but they need to have links going to them in order for Google to find them. You can use Ahrefs to find “orphan” pages. These are pages that are on your site but don’t have any links going to them from your other pages.
4. Remove content that is no longer serving you
I don’t advocate for removing content unless it’s absolutely necessary – for example, a blog post from years ago about an event that has now passed may seem irrelevant now and fine to remove, but it may still be useful for users to know the event happened, or perhaps it tells people something about the culture of your company or the way you engage with your community. However, if your company has changed direction and you’re now focusing on different services, or no longer selling certain products, it might make sense to occasionally remove content. Just make sure you set up redirects so users don’t land on an error page if they do stumble across the old link.
5. Tidy up your categories, tags and attributes
You may have tags and categories in your blog, or product categories and attributes or features. Practise good housekeeping by tidying these up. Check for empty categories, duplicates, or categories that are worded differently but are essentially the same, and delete anything you don’t need, moving content around where necessary. Are your blog categories aligned with your product categories or services, and do they make sense from a user’s perspective? All of this is related to your site structure.
You should also ensure your categories are relatively even – for example, you might have one category with twenty pages in it, and another with just three. Could the bigger category be split into two or three smaller ones?
If you’re creating new categories, remember to keep it simple and logical, and don’t overwhelm users.
6. Create logical URL structures and breadcrumb trails
Your URL structure should follow your website hierarchy. For example:
Keep URLs simple without too many parameters.
Similarly, your breadcrumb trails should also follow your website hierarchy, helping users and bots to find their way around. Breadcrumb trails are also good opportunities for more internal linking. An example breadcrumb trail for the above might be:
Home > Products > Tables > Coffee Tables
7. Opt for shallow over deep sites
To make your pages easier to find, don’t bury pages - especially important pages - too deep in the site. Shallow sites work better and generally have three or fewer clicks to reach every page. Deep sites take more clicks to find pages and they may not be as easy for bots or users to navigate.
8. Keep an eye on your crawl budget
The number of your website pages Google decides to crawl is known as your crawl budget. Crawl budget helps Google to prioritise which sites and pages it crawls – after all, there are so many websites on the internet, it would take a lot of time and be very expensive for Google to crawl every page in existence, so it doesn’t. Google uses an automated process to decide which sites to crawl, how often to crawl them, and how many pages to crawl. Every website has a crawl budget, which is determined by Google and differs for each site. It is influenced by your server resources, bandwidth, site size, and how often you update the site. Google’s bots could overwhelm your server if they crawl too much, so crawl limits prevent this from happening.
There are some things on your website that may reduce its crawling potential, including infinite scrolling, dynamic pages, duplicate content and spam – so take this into consideration when planning your site structure. Add to this, your server needs to be stable (Google won’t want to crawl your website if it often crashes). Crawlers such as Google prioritise new sites, changes to sites, and dead links. If your page is particularly popular and is regularly updated, Google may also favour crawling it because it has good “crawl demand”.
Crawl budget won’t matter too much if your website isn’t huge, but if you want to change the limits, you can do so in Google Search Console by looking at your Crawl Rate Settings. You can track your crawl budget using your server logs or looking under Crawl Stats, found in the Legacy Tools and Reports section of Google Search Console.
Is Your Site Structure User and Bot Friendly?
Website structure is an essential component of designing and building a website, and whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to improve your current site, structure should be considered with both Google and users in mind. Done well, your website structure can help search engines to crawl and index your site, help users get around, and ultimately improve your chances of reaching your digital marketing and business goals.
If you would like any help with your SEO or website development, get in touch with SilverDisc.