There seems to be a common assumption, especially among those who are new to SEO, that search engines focus only on the content on your website. Sure, it’s an important aspect of SEO, but what’s just as important is a good website structure.
What does structure mean? The structure of a website can be broken up into three main categories:
- How webpages are separated.
- The relevance of keywords in every page.
- The mode of navigation on your website.
These main pillars of your website is what forms the basis of your overall SEO strategy. Therefore, when you think about the term SEO, don’t assume that it simply entails stuffing your website with a bunch of targeted keywords and beautiful images with meta tags. A clear website structure is essential as well.
You have to keep in mind that when search engine bots crawl through your website, they are not just scanning the keywords and other content on your page, the bots are also taking your website structure into consideration. This is because search engine bots are building a database so that they can quickly call back to relevant pages on your website that respond to a search query. This is the reason why your website’s homepage might rank lower than another page on your website, like a service page or blog post page. This applies vice-versa as well. Those that concentrate a lot of their efforts on blog content could have those pages rank higher than the homepage.
These are some of the reasons why your website should have the correct structure. Help those hardworking search engine bots create a perfect catalog of your website by optimising your structure. Having a comprehensible and easily navigable site structure will directly affect your website’s SEO ranking.
The Basic Website Structure
As with fingerprints, each website is unique, therefore there’s no such thing as a perfect website. However, there are some basic guidelines on creating a good website structure.
First, focus on optimising your homepage. After all, it’s your digital storefront. Search engines like Google will view the homepage first, and then the bots will follow links in your homepage to find relevant pages.
If you sell products and services, you should organise them into categories. Make sure that links to each category page are present on your homepage, whether it’s in the menu bar at the top of your page, within the body of the page, or even as a pop-up side menu. Pages like your contact, about us, and blog should be visible and linked from your homepage as well.
This will help both search engine bots and visitors navigate through your website much easily. It will also make it easier for bots to map out their database of your website, which will result in better visibility in the SERPs.
Categories and Subcategories
Your website should have categories and subcategories, but don’t go overboard with the amount of subcategories you use on your website.
Ideally, you should have a maximum of 4-5 categories, if you have a small website. If your business has a broader operation, you’ll probably have a larger website. For big websites, try to aim for 9-10 maximum categories. Why do you want to rein in your category amount? Because it will make it easier for search engines to crawl through your entire website. It will also prevent pages from burying each other. This is what’s called a shallow structure. Think like a monk practicing Zen: minimalism leads to harmony.
If you can’t avoid creating further subcategories, then each subcategory page should be linked to the relevant category page. You don’t want to jumble up your structure.
Next, create a list of keywords and key phrases that accurately reflect the content for each category and subcategory. This is especially important for the snippet or preview of each page/category. The snippet is what’s going to show up in the SERPs for that particular page. Besides the snippet (sometimes called the description box, depending on your website’s CMS), you should include the key phrases and keywords in the meta description, headers, as well as in the URL.
One thing you should avoid is what’s called keyword cannibalization. Essentially, you want to make sure that the keyword or key phrase only appears in the appropriate category and subcategory. For instance, if you use a certain key phrase for several subcategories, the search engine bots will have trouble deciding which page to display in the SERPs in relation to a given search query. This could affect the page’s position in the SERPs.
Other Factors to Consider
Remember to practice internal linking and you should do so using relevant anchor text. For example, if you have a product page featuring new sneakers, and you wrote a review of those sneakers in your blog, you should link internally to that article page. This will help search engine crawlers map out all of the relevant pages on your website.
Another thing to consider is the URL structure and breadcrumbs. Make sure that your URL has relevant keywords, usually the words in your page’s title. If you publish a page without editing your URL, your CMS could automatically assign it something not relevant or don’t contain keywords relevant to the content of your page, such as random numbers.