While website and URL structure is indispensable to usability and findability, it doesn’t always receive the same attention from an SEO and digital marketing perspective. Yet, if we apply the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle), 80% of business most likely comes from 20% of your web pages.
And because of this, having an SEO-friendly website structure becomes all the more important for both users and search engines. Your website structure has a direct influence on how visitors and web crawlers move through your website searching for content, which in turn influences where it ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Simply put: Google assesses how user-friendly your website is to determine where it ranks. So, let’s dive in and discuss what a good website structure looks like and how you can ensure it’s optimized for SEO success.
What Makes an SEO-Friendly Structure?
It’s good to visualize a website’s structure like a system of folders that organizes related categories of paperwork (content) in a filing cabinet (on a website). The best SEO-friendly URL structure is hierarchical, which moves from general pages, with optimized URLs, to more specific ones.
Hierarchical navigation is tree-like in nature. The home page is at the top, underneath which are category pages that can be further broken into different sub-categories. Typically, there is a link back to the home page via an SEO-friendly url on every page below it.
There are other types of structures (linear, webbed and database) which are useful depending on a business’s products and portfolio. However, we recommend using a hierarchical structure if you want your visitors and search engine bots to instantly grasp what your webpages are about.
Before we get into technicalities, you should always bear this in mind: Google’s algorithms are designed to cater to what’s best for users—the best site speed, content, and site structure. So, if you’re creating a website structure with users in mind, and delivering information in the most effective way possible, then you’re already on the right track.
What Is a Good Website Structure for Ecommerce?
The website structure for eCommerce websites is an integral factor for both humans and search engines crawling your site. Therefore, if your site is structured correctly, it can help both your SEO and UX efforts.
Make sure to maximize the impact of your website by organizing it in a strategic, effective way. We’ve compiled some helpful tips on how to do so.
How to Design an SEO-Friendly Website Structures
A logical website structure creates an attractive flow for users and is easy for search engine bots to index and crawl. Below are a few main pointers to get you started:
Focus on Scannability
Scannability describes how easy navigation and information can be understood by users at a glance. The average visitor will seldom view every facet of a website. Instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and images.
When conducting site audits, you might want to ask the following:
- Does what you see of your site’s content in the first minute correspond to what your target audience expects from the website and its pages?
- Can you understand what kind of information is on a category page within the first minute or two?
Prioritize Visual Hierarchy Best Practices
Visual hierarchy is the principle of arranging webpage elements to show their order of importance. Size, color, contrast, proximity, negative space, and repetition help organize content on the page in the most natural way for human perception.
For instance, we understand a headline is usually in a larger font than the text that constitutes the body of an article. Good visual hierarchy transforms links, images, and the copy into a harmonic scannable system made visible via the page layout.
Additionally, make sure you use keywords in the URL and have an SEO-friendly post title. This is best practice and will improve the page ranking factor, making it easier for both humans and search engine bots to find and access your website.
Be Strategic With the Website Header
A header should improve your visitor’s understanding of what is on the site and reveal how each page relates to each other. If you provide visitors with a bird’s-eye view of what’s on offer, they’ll feel more confident to explore what’s there.
As always, you need to know your target audience’s goals and design your header accordingly. For example, a small house-cleaning agency might not need search functionality to be part of their header, but a large eCommerce store might.
Implement Clear Calls to Action
Every web page typically has a call to action (commonly a button) that encourages users to complete an action, such as requesting a quote or making a purchase. Calls to action should be seen by visitors within split seconds once they land on a page. You should consider tweaking your web page design if you don’t have any or if yours aren’t clear.
Have a Fast Website
Google’s recommended page load time is under two seconds. To quote:
“Two seconds is the threshold for eCommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half-second.”
Evidently, fast matters, and is indicative of good customer service. First impressions are vital on the web, and the internet and users have set a high bar when it comes to speed. It’s elementary psychology, but basically, fast websites translate to efficiency, trust, and confidence.
The fact is, 40% of people will abandon your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Let’s say you have 50,000 visitors every month, that’s a loss of 20,000 potential customers!
A lengthy loading time also affects how search engine spiders read your website. The longer they take, the lower your website will rank. On the contrary, when a website is fast, Google can crawl multiple pages at the same time.
The speed at which a page loads depends on the hosting server and web page design, i.e., the number, type, and weight of elements on the page. Other factors include user location, device, and browser type.
You can test your website speed for free using Pingdom.
Another important aspect to mention in the context of users and search engines is having a mobile-friendly website. This is for two reasons. Firstly, over 50% of people search online using mobile devices, and secondly, Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. So, make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices.
Use Keywords to Plan Your Web Page Structure
A workable and relevant website structure uses main target keywords on pages that are at the top of your site’s hierarchy. These keywords are chosen based on their search volume and traffic potential.
How does this work? Think about it like this: your home page is at the top, and probably the least focused page on your website, only because it’s not tied to a specific product or service, and it attracts the broadest audience.
As you progress through the website, the types of content and keywords used become more refined the closer the consumer gets to a purchase. In this sense, it’s not just about following SEO best practices and using target keywords. You also have to ensure their placement aligns with your website architecture and is attuned to the buyer’s journey.
To rank higher in search rankings, you should place relevant keywords in the following places on your website:
- The URL: Make sure you include one or two main keywords here.
- The title: This shows up in search results, so titles need to be keyword-rich, and encapsulate the page content.
- The description: This blurb is what gets casual users to click through to the web page and become site visitors. Try including main keywords relevant to the page they’re linked to.
- Page Headings: While these carry less SEO weight than other metadata elements, everything adds up. Including high-volume keywords in h1 tags, and keywords with lower rankings, can make a site rank higher.
- Content: Lastly, a mixture of keywords, and related terms, should be used throughout the website copy.
Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Ahrefs Keyword Explorer are excellent tools to aid keyword research. Conducting a competitive analysis is also useful to determine what keywords your competition uses, and helps plan your keyword selection.
A word of caution: It’s easy to become overly enthusiastic and insert keywords wherever possible; however, you should avoid keyword stuffing, as this is viewed negatively by search engines.
The point of keywords is to make your presence visible to users who will benefit from your products and services, not to manipulate your website’s ranking in Google searches.
Google can penalize your website if it catches you keyword stuffing, which can result in web pages being demoted in rankings or removed entirely!
Create SEO-Friendly URLs for Search Engines
Even though URLs seem like an afterthought, they’re actually significant for your website’s UX and SEO. SEO-friendly URLs help your website gain exposure and qualified traffic. Creating SEO-friendly URLs that are to the point is the way to go. URL length should be short and include a target keyword if possible.
For example, a URL that reads “https://cleanyourhome.com/768698w9” isn’t nearly as helpful as an SEO-friendly URL like “https://cleanyourhome.com/blog/granite-countertops.” Using familiar keywords, creates a better impression, and improves rankings.
You might want to spend time on URL optimization if your URLs have incoherent numbers and symbols. URLs matter because they give weight to the overall authority of your top-level domain and are a minor ranking factor. A well-crafted URL uses hyphens to separate words, as well as lowercase letters, and avoids underscores and spaces.
When you create URLs, you chart a clear path for users and search engines to follow. To paraphrase marketing software company HubSpot, you always want your dynamic URLs to reiterate the progressions of your website by representing the folder order.
In other words, after the root domain, you can put the second tier or main category, followed by the name of the page. Complex websites will have a more complex URL structure, i.e., folders and subfolders, but the main idea is to create SEO-friendly URLs, with relevant keywords, for each page.
Create a High-Quality User Experience (UX)
Your website must provide a meaningful and relevant experience to users, and simultaneously be attractive to search engines. Below are some suggestions to enhance UX and rank higher on search results.
Your website should be appealing to both Google and searchers. Here are some tips to improve the user experience on your site.
The Menu Should Contain Important Categories
A menu exists to help users find content on your landing page or destination page. It is supposed to be simple and intuitive. Primary navigation should stand (Remember visual hierarchy?) and be consistent throughout the site.
The main menu usually contains the most categories and will sit along the top of the page in the centre or aligned to the left or the right of the page.
For example, the main menu might contain categories such as “about us,” “services,” “blog,” and “about us.” In some instances, giant eCommerce retail websites or manufacturing conglomerates have mega menus.
These large navigational panels fly out from a global navigation bar. While not appropriate for every business, they do create an easier user experience when well-designed—their main benefit is the facilitation of multiple options. Giant global fashion retailer SHEIN is a good example.
In general, we recommend keeping the drop-down menu option to a maximum of seven items. This is the optimal amount of information the human short-term memory can retain at one time. Fewer items also help users find what they’re looking for much quicker.
There are two useful tools that offer an easy-to-understand indication of how close or off-track you are to creating a user-friendly website; heatmaps and behaviour flow.
Include a concise and easy-to-navigate menu to help consumers effectively get to the right pages.
A website heatmap is a visual representation of how visitors interact with each element on your website. It shows which sections get more clicks and hold your visitor’s attention. Heat maps help you visualize how far people scroll on your website and where their cursors hover.
Behaviour flow reports provide a visual aid showcasing how long visitors stay on your website and where they end up before leaving. These types of reports are basically a click path of how your users interact with various pages on your website.
Add Contextual Links
Every website wants to rank high in search engines. A common and necessary tactic, besides on-page SEO, is through links. A “contextual link” is any link on a website to a relevant site within a body of text.
There are three types of contextual links: external links, internal links and reciprocal links. Contextual linking is excellent for building backlinks from high-quality sites while generating exposure for your businesses and getting your website to rank higher in search engines.
Links increase brand credibility for both customers, Google, and other search engines. How exactly? Well, linking to other optimized URLs means you admit to not having the answers to everything and care enough to send users to the right factual place.
At appropriate locations in content, links can build user interest to explore other internal web pages. Naturally, not all information can be put into a single URL. In this case, contextual links can piece together one subject or topic scattered across your website.
Some contextual link building best practices include:
- Using the main keyword as an anchor text
- Using long-tail keywords
- Keeping it natural (not forcing readers to engage with the content)
- Linking to authoritative sources
Delete Old Pages
Index bloat is when your website has low-quality pages that are indexed by Google but don’t serve a purpose to potential visitors. This just wastes crawl budget and resources, forcing bots to index irrelevant pages.
Crawl budget is the maximum number of pages a search engine can and wants to crawl on a website. It’s determined by page speed, the popularity of your pages and how fresh or stale they are.
Part of making sure Google crawls your website efficiently is to clean up old content. So, go through your web pages and decide if you want to update, merge or delete them. Keeping a clean website means search engines will only index URLs you want them to find.
Deleting web pages can affect SEO; however, it shouldn’t harm your ranking in search results if the pages:
- Don’t get much traffic
- Contain duplicate content
- Have poor link equity (backlinks)
- Don’t rank on the first page of Google for any keywords
- Are irrelevant or not up-to-date with current businesses practices
If are deleting web pages, make sure there aren’t any backlinks pointing toward them; otherwise, you’ll be left with a return 404 (page not found) error. While a 404-page error isn’t bad in itself, it can be looked upon negatively if you have other pages linking to the page you have removed, resulting in broken links.
If the above doesn’t apply, then look at either updating the content or completely rewriting it.
Website structure is the foundation of SEO, user experience and conversion rate optimization. Whether you are building a website from scratch or improving your current website, you’ll want to pay careful attention to everything we’ve mentioned.
Remember, design hierarchy, duplicate URLs, keyword stuffing, a secure connection and page titles all affect the ranking of your primary domain. If you’re sitting with a great business web address but lack the marketing acumen to implement a strong URL structure, we can help.
Our team at Comrade Digital Marketing Agency has a robust track record of delivering results with a high ROI, we also provide high-performing SEO technical audit services and SEO consulting services. Contact us today for a no-obligation, free consultation to learn how we can work together to achieve your business goals.