A lot of what you’ll read about SEO is focused on keywords and keyword research. While these are definitely important, there are other elements of SEO which are often overlooked, such as website structure. It’s more important than you might think, since the structure of your website impacts your search engine optimization in a variety of ways – but fortunately, it’s fairly easy to fix problems.
What exactly does website structure mean? It’s not at all the same as web design – it’s how the pages of a website are linked together. Good website structure means that your pages are connected in a way that visitors and search engine crawlers can navigate easily. Without further ado, here’s how your website structure affects SEO:
One of the biggest potential pitfalls is a search engine crawler hitting a dead end on your site. Former Google SEO guru Matt Cutts says that crawlability is the most important factor in preventing problems with search engines indexing your site. It’s also one of the most important parts of your website structure. Search engine crawlers navigate through subpages and topics to figure out what your site is about. In order to be considered crawlable, web pages have to give visitors the ability to go to another page on your site. If your site has dead ends, it’s not crawlable and you’ll need to fix this issue.
Improving your crawlability isn’t that hard. You just need to include internal links on each page on your site. One way to do this easily is to use related posts and breadcrumbs.
Users need to be able to go from one page to the next easily. If your site has a large number of pages, the goal is to ensure that pages are accessible with just a few clicks using the site’s built-in navigation. It’s more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule, but experts typically advise being able to get to any given page on a website within three clicks.
Organize your links in a common sense way that makes your site easy to navigate. Use keywords in your content and create internal links using keywords as anchors to other relevant content on your site. There are a number of advantages to using internal links for SEO:
They decrease page depth
They make it easier for search engines to find other pages on your site with keyword-based anchors
They provide a better user experience by making it easy for users to find content they’re interested in
Search engines are starting to give more weight to internal links
People often use internal links to link back to older content, but rarely the reverse. You can make things easier for readers, search engines and your search ranking by linking both ways.
Search engines care more about user experience than they used to and the standards are also a lot more stringent, which makes sense. Visitors won’t spend time on a poorly built site and search engines are doing their best to reflect what visitors want, so bad user experience generally means bad SEO. Google keeps data on how visitors behave on sites (click through rate, bounce rate, time spent on the site, etc.), all of which are accounted for in their algorithm. Keep this in mind as you work on your site structure.
Providing a good user experience means:
- Making sure that click-throughs align with visitor expectations
- Making content easy to find
- Making your navigation as easy and intuitive as possible
Duplicate content is especially bad SEO, since search engines see this as spam and tend to penalize sites with duplicate pages. Google and other search engines like high quality, unique content; and Google’s Search Console tool makes it easy to find and remove duplicate content. You may be able to get away with posting duplicate content on other sites, but it’s not a good idea. If you must post content from your site elsewhere, you should at least rewrite it first to make it as unique as possible.
Last, but just as important as the other elements of website structure we’ve discussed here is your URL.
Avoid using special characters like ?, @, $, &, #, etc. in your URL; it makes your site harder for search engines to crawl. If you need to separate words in your URL, use dashes or underscores instead. However, as a general rule, you should get rid of any unnecessary characters in your URL and focus on the keywords instead.
Structure matters, not only for SEO, but for your visitors. If you’re just starting a site, plan ahead to ensure that your site sticks to a proper structure as it grows. Now that you know how structure affects your SEO, it should be easy to fix problems and make sure that your site is easy to use and search engine friendly going forward. Keywords are important, but they’re not everything when it comes to SEO.
Category Search Engine Marketing