The SEO benefits of developing a solid site structure
Columnist Ryan Shelley explains why a good site structure can be highly beneficial for your search engine optimization efforts -- and your users.
When a user lands on your site for the very first time, do they know where to go? Can they find the information they are searching for quickly, without having to search deep into your site? While site structure may not be a large factor when it comes to most ranking algorithms, search engines use the structure of your site to better understand your content and the relationships between subjects on your site.
There are so many factors that impact your site’s online visibility. We often talk about content, links and other optimization tweaks we can use to get results. One area that we often overlook is the structure of the website we are working on. Having a well-organized site will not only help your users find what they are looking for faster, but it will also help crawlers better understand your site’s content and purpose.
Flat vs. deep site structures
The two most common types of site structure are deep and flat. Deep sites create a long path of links to access detailed content. Flat structure requires a minimal number of clicks to access any page.
According to “The Art of SEO” by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer and Jessie Stricchiola, “For nearly every site with fewer than 10,000 pages, all content should be accessible through a maximum of four clicks from the home page and/on sitemap page.”
With deep site structures, not only does it take a user longer to find the content they are looking for, but it can also take the search crawlers longer to find your content. A flat site structure makes it easier for search engines to find and index your site, and it has great benefits for the users as well. It limits the number of pages a user has to pass through to find the content they are looking for (which, in theory, results in greater engagement with your site).
Building a structure that makes sense
When building a site structure, there is a lot more that goes into it than just making it “flat.” SEOs are tasked with structuring the site in a way that helps crawlers understand the content of your site. Search engines are collecting huge amounts of data every day and are working to make sense of it all. Instead of having them “guess” about the relative importance of pages on your site, you can direct them with the proper site structure.
While search engines are getting more advanced and can build semantic relationships between topics, the more we can help them the better. Break down your content in a way that makes logical sense. Start by breaking your content into core categories, then work your way down into logical subcategories from there.
This, again, has a positive impact for crawlers and users alike. Your users can more easily find the content they need, and search engines can better understand your site.
Navigation and sitemaps
The two most visible representations of your site structure are found in your navigation and your sitemap.
When creating your site’s navigation, you want to think about both your users and the search crawlers. As we shared above, a flat site structure will help both your users and the crawlers find your content faster.