Without good site structure, it can be difficult for users to navigate your site. In this guide, we cover the best website structure to appeal to both humans and search engines.
What is Website Structure?
A website’s structure (sometimes referred to as the taxonomy) is a way to organise a website’s content.
When you visit a website with a top navigation menu, this is the website’s main structure from which most of the subcategories and topics will branch out from.
It’s particularly important to establish a solid website architecture if your website has lots of content, whether that is pages, products, blog posts or topics.
Think of a website’s structure as the content page of a reference book. You have the book itself (the homepage), the chapters (categories) and topics (sub-categories, blog posts or pages). A good site structure leaves a user in no doubt as to where to go to find the content they need.
Website Structure Examples
Let’s pretend we run an online clothing store that sells both Men’s and Women’s clothing. We’re going to show you two different site structures; Flat and Deep.
Flat website structure
- Long Sleeve
- Short Sleeve
Deep website structure
- Long Sleeve
- Short Sleeve
- Long Sleeve
The URLs for a flat site structure will look like: myclothingstore.com/mens/shirts/long-sleeve
From this URL you’ll be presented with a larger range of products and will be able to sort and filter. This is probably a better structure if you don’t have a lot of products.
The URLs for a deep site structure will look like: myclothingstore.com/mens/shirts/long-sleeve/cotton/striped/
This is a good website structure if you have a lot of products. One potential issue with this structure if you only have one Long Sleeve Cotton Striped shirt is that if anyone links to this URL and you then remove the product, the URL may disappear (404). Also, it potentially involves a lot of clicks for the user, meaning that the content they want risks being more than 4 levels from the homepage.
In the above example, it’s far better to send people to your Long Sleeve shirts page and get them to browse from there.
Why Site Structure Matters
Having the best website structure possible is crucial to help visitors find and use pages on your site. If structured well, it enables them to search for products and services with greater ease and also helps search engines to understand your site. Check out this article to see if your site is deemed high quality.
How it helps the user experience
Having a great site architecture elevates the user experience; if visitors can find what they’re searching for without having to think too much, then your structure is done well. Categorise the content and items on your site so they’re easier to find and so that new visitors can instantly recognise what they’re looking at.
If a user lands on your page from a search engine and the product isn’t exactly what they’re after, they could leave your page (Bounce) or click another link on your page. If you have a good site structure with a clearly visible breadcrumb navigation, it’s highly likely a user will have the confidence to click your breadcrumb and go back up a category.
For example, a user lands on your page: myclothingstore.com/mens/shirts/long-sleeve/awesome-long-sleeve-shirt and if that shirt isn’t what they’re after, the clearly visible breadcrumb navigation My Clothing Store > Mens > Shirts > Long Sleeve will be present for them to click, in order to step back to the main category and browse more products.
The result? A good user experience and user metrics that Google will read positively.
How it helps your SEO
A well-structured site helps to boost your page rank in the SERPS. Having a clean layout will help Google to understand where the most important pages are and what they are. Doing this will also allow for easier indexing of your pages. It’s not uncommon to have some posts that very similar in the topics they cover; ensure your taxonomy is structure well and internal links are used so that your pages don’t have to compete with one another.
Website Structure Best Practices
So, how should your site be structured?
Here we’ll cover the essential points that will help you achieve the best website structure for your site.
Categorise your pages
Having your pages categorised into relevant and clear categories helps to keep them organised and easy to understand.
Structure your internal links
Internal linking structure helps to indicate to search engines which pieces of content are related and your rank boosting potential. Picture your pages as pyramids; every individual page should link to subpages below effectively making your top page a cornerstone piece. Doing this will make it easier for search engines to learn what these cornerstone content contains.
Tags are an essential aspect to consider when working towards the best site structure possible, with them helping Google to better understand your site. The difference between tags and categories is that categories allow you to create sub-categories and so on, while tags don’t have this feature. Try not to overdo it with the tags; stick to a few, tag relevant content together, and use them more than once.
Have cornerstone content
Cornerstone content are important pieces of content that all relevant articles should link to. When structuring your site, ensure that these pages are placed high with the keywords you want to ultimately rank for. A good rule of thumb for websites is to have at least two articles as cornerstones and no more than ten.
Avoid duplicate content on your site
Having duplicate content on your site could confuse search engines when deciding which of the two should be displayed in the search results. In some cases, there will be an imbalance when it comes to inbound links; you may gain a bunch for one URL and some will link to the other. The chance for better rank position, however, will be elevated for your keyword if they both point towards the same URL.
Throw away bad pages
If you’re an eCommerce site, you may come across situations where your products will sell out. If you decide not to sell that type of product again, make sure you get rid of the page. Similarly, do throw away outdated and non-useful content.
Keep reviewing your site
Websites change over time and your site structure should be designed to adapt to any changes. You should therefore ensure that you regularly review the structure to cater to any adjustments and keep your ever-growing collection of pages from getting out of control.
Business objectives may change overtime and your site structure should be ready to reflect this. You may come across pages in your menu that are unsuitable but still valuable; ensure they’re linked into your sitemap and on pages that are relevant. Doing this will help search engines and users to continue discover these pages.
Always re-submit your sitemap
If you have decided to make changes to your website structure do remember to resubmit your sitemap to Google to keep things updated.
Though specific areas of improvement will vary from site to site, you should consider all of these aspects when optimising your website. You need to address each of the listed factors to ensure you really do achieve the best website structure possible.
How We Can Help
Making a website the best it can be is no simple task. We’re SEO consultants and website auditors. We can identify what works on your website and what can be improved – just drop us a line on 0207 305 55 99 or send an email to email@example.com, we’d be happy to offer our advice.