Website Structure: How to Organize for Optimization
How successful is your website at directing its readers? What about showing Bing, Google, and other search engines’ crawlers where to find the information people are looking for? If you do not know or like the answers to these questions, you should read up on website structure.
If your business has a website, chances are you want more people to find it and use it. While there are many ways to improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), most people overlook the effects the structure of a website can have on their search ranking. While it is not the largest factor in SEO improving how your website is laid out can help drive traffic to your website, and increase your website’s usability.
If you have already tried to improve your search ranking but have not quite met your goals, you might want to try improving your website’s structure. Below are some effective website design tips to help you organize your way to SEO success.
Flat vs. Deep site structures
All websites can be categorized as having either a flat or a deep website structure.
A deep website structure forces a visitor to click link after link in order access the content they are looking for. As you can imagine, a reader looking for a specific page on a website with a deep structure could easily miss it and decide it is not there. Even worse, they could give up in frustration after failing to find it after clicking through the first few pages. Either of these scenarios can leave a bad taste in the mouth of a visitor and damage your brand.
A flat website structure, in contrast, allows visitors to find any page on the website within a maximum of four link clicks. By adhering to this limit, flat structured websites present a simple, easy to understand experience for any visitor.
You can think of the difference between flat and deep structured websites as a difference between picking up something in the shallow end and the deep end of a swimming pool. A flat structure is shallow, proving what you need in two or three clicks, just like only having to reach through two or three feet of water to pick something up in the shallow end. A deep structure forces readers to dive through several links to find what they want.
As a general rule, unless your site has tens of thousands of pages you want to make sure your website is flat.
Building a Logical Structure
Of course, there is more to the structure of a website than simply limiting the number of clicks one has to make on your site. Make sure to set up your website in a way that makes logical sense. Decide what the core categories of your website are, then break those down into smaller subcategories. This process will improve your website’s understandability for both your visitors and search engine crawlers.
Remember, even though search engines are constantly working on improving their crawlers, they are still prone to missing or misunderstanding information. If they were not, web development would be much easier. Building an easy to understand, logical structure can help crawlers categorize and share your website.
Navigation and sitemaps
Another way to improve your website’s organization is with the navigation and your sitemaps.
Deciding how to arrange your navigation greatly impacts your website’s usability for both visitors and crawlers. You should take some time to consider the needs of your website’s users and crawlers weighed against giving them an overwhelming batch of information. Consider using index cards to write out and visualize the flow of your navigation.
Try using a “Top- Bottom-Middle” approach. List out the top, your most important content pages on your website, such as the blog and the store. Then write out the bottom, your more detailed content such as your products and individual articles or blog posts. If your website is large, create middle pages that can connect those first, most important pages to the detailed, less wide reaching pages. Note that smaller websites with fewer pages can frequently function without these middle navigation pages. For example, if you have hundreds of posts on your blog, think about linking them by subject. If you have fewer, you can simply connect them under your blog page.
Make sure to include your stub pages, such as your contact and copyright information. While they might not link to other, large pages, they are valuable information that you do not want your visitors to miss out on.
Although most of your human readers won’t ever see it, you must also organize your sitemaps. Your sitemaps will show search engines all of the pages you want to be crawled, so it is an important step in building your site. If you have already organized your website, creating an HTML sitemap should very very easy. Simply make a new webpage with all of your URLs that you want people to see.
Once you have your HTML sitemap made, there are many tools for converting it into an XML sitemap. Be careful with automatic sitemap builders, as they can include login and other pages that are not meant for the public. Once you have your sitemaps built, you can submit them to most search engines, so they have a better understanding of your site.
Let the Professionals Handle Your Next Website Design
Organizing your website’s structure is an important, common sense step in achieving SEO success. By simply properly assembling your website, you make it easier for people to find your site. You can achieve a myriad of benefits for your website, such as increasing usability and creating a more mobile friendly website design, through limiting the number of clicks it takes to get to your content, structuring your website logically, and creating a strong navigation and sitemap.
While website structure should not be the end all, be all of your SEO efforts, it can help improve your chances of getting a higher search rank. Improving the organization of your website is worth your time.
Of course, many businesses prefer to focus on the work they love, leaving their website design to the professionals. If you are interested in working with a skilled SEO specialist, look into contacting a marketing firm, like Lucid Advertising. Professional help can drastically improve your search rank, without the stress of gambling your business’s success on your ability to make a website.