A common focus in terms of SEO revolves around keywords and keyword research. As important as these pieces are, technical considerations like a website’s structure can fall to the wayside in SEO efforts. There are numerous ways how website structure affects SEO. Fixing these issues is often much easier than you’d expect.
But what makes up a website’s structure? To be clear, the structure of a website, or how a website is set up, is an entirely different focus than website design. Instead of thinking about how a website physically appears, consider how a website’s individual pages are linked together. These pages should be organized in a manner that’s easy for a user, and Google’s spiders, to navigate.
Having an organized website structure is incredibly important for SEO. Without creating something that makes logical sense, your other SEO efforts may be for nothing.
Here’s how website structure affects SEO.
If a search engine robot encounters an unexpected dead end, it can cause problems for your SEO. According to Matt Cutts, formerly of Google, crawlability is the number one factor for preventing indexing problems on Google.
Site crawlability is one of the most important factors when it comes to website structure. Crawlability refers to a search engine’s ability to crawl through your website’s entire text content to figure out what your website is all about. Part of this process is navigating through subpages and individual topics to understand the website as a whole. A web page has to be able to take a visitor someplace else within the website, from one page to another, in order to be considered crawlable.
Search engine robots are responsible for website crawling. An important tenet of good website crawlability is that there are no dead ends while crawling through your website.
So how does one improve site crawlability? The easiest way is to make a concerted effort to include internal links on every page, which creates a bridge from one part of your website to another. Breadcrumbs and related posts can automate the process of site crawlability and internal linking.
The basics of proper navigation dictate that users should be able to get from one page to another without any difficulties. If your website is large and has many pages, the challenge is making these pages accessible with only a few clicks, using navigation alone. Usability experts claim that it should only take three clicks to find any given page, but use this advice as a guideline instead of a rule.
Categorize and organize links in a way that won’t wreck your website structure. Internal linking works by using keywords within your content and linking these keywords to another relevant piece of content on your website.
The advantages of consciously using internal links for SEO are numerous:
- Internal linking allows search engines to find other pages through keyword-rich anchors.
- Internal links decrease page depth.
- Internal linking gives users an easier way to access other content, which can result in a better user experience.
- Search engines are giving greater value to internal links with regards to ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Oftentimes, people will link back to old content through the use of internal links. However, most people rarely do the reverse — going back through old content to link to newer content. Close the loop by making sure both pieces are connected to each other through the use of internal links.
The usability standards that today’s website are held to are much stricter than in the early days of the Internet. If a visitor comes across a poorly built website, they will make efforts to avoid interacting with it further.
Additionally, nobody wants to waste their time on a website where they’re not sure what to do next. If a visitor can’t figure out how to find the information they’re after, they will seek it out on someone else’s website.
A bad user experience can have a negative effect on SEO. How searchers interact with a website is interpreted by Google for future search results. Click-through rate, time spent on site, and bounce rate are all signaling factors to Google’s algorithm. Statistics indicating a positive experience validates the search results to Google. Statistics indicating a negative experience tells Google the page may not be the most relevant or useful for that query, and Google will adjust the search results accordingly.
The basics of providing a good user experience include:
- Aligning click-through with expectations
- Making desired information easy to find
- Ensuring that navigation makes sense to the point of intuitiveness
Run some tests with unbiased visitors to determine just how usable your website actually is. Or, use a tool like Inspectlet to determine how real users are interacting with your website.
Duplicate content is really bad for SEO because Google interprets it as spam. A focus on high-quality and unique content on the SERP clearly defines how your website must be structured for ideal SEO.
Google’s Search Console is a useful tool for finding and eliminating duplicate content on your website. It may be possible to repost duplicate content on LinkedIn or Medium but do so with caution. As a more general rule, don’t post duplicate content on your website, or anyone else’s.
One of the most basic factors relating to how website structure affects SEO comes back to the URL structure. A few things to know for proper SEO:
Have you ever encountered URLs with characters like: &,$,#,%, or @?
If the URL has a lot of these special characters, it makes it difficult for search engines to crawl the website. For better SERP rankings, use underscores and dashes to define individual words in your keyword phrase. Using dashes in between words separates them, while using underscores will make two words into one word. In general, eliminate any unnecessary characters to focus on the keywords in a URL.
- URLs ranked in the top 10 results on average contained 37 characters.
- URLs ranked in the top 50 results on average contained 36 characters.
- URLs ranked in the top 100 results on average contained 38 characters.
There are outliers, but these character counts serve as a general rule for ideal website structure with regards to optimal URL length.
For best results, build in proper website structure when it comes to SEO efforts. Even at the beginning stages of a website’s conceptualization, it’s important to plan ahead for content to come. It’s not hard to see how website structure affects SEO, so make sure that your efforts don’t begin and end with keywords!
If you have additional thoughts on how website structure affects SEO, we’re continuing the discussion on Twitter. Tweet your thoughts at @SEJournal, and we’ll share our favorites!
Featured image source: Pixabay
Screenshots taken February 2017