Site Structure & How It Affects SEO
Find out how site structure improves SEO and what you need to do to clean up your website.
How Is Your Site Structure?
If I were to ask you for an email you sent three years ago, could you find it?
What about the handwritten notes from a business meeting last July?
Most of us have some sort of filing system for our office paperwork. If we didn’t, we would have no hope of success. We have to be able to find information quickly and we accumulate a LOT of it. Think of your website as another filing cabinet. Most of us throw content in there without a single thought about site structure. Without labels or links to indicate site structure, it’s going to be pretty hard to navigate all your information. This creates a problem for both you and Google.
A good site structure improves SEO because without one Google won’t give your content the attention it deserves and you won’t show up in the search results.
Site Structure for a New Website
If you are lucky enough to have found this article before you build your website, then you are in an enviable position. Rather than ‘remodeling,’ you can build your website on a rock-solid foundation and reduce the need for maintenance in the future.
Every website is going to start with a Homepage. If you think of your website as an office, then your Homepage is the reception area. What are the characteristics we notice?
- This is where clients enter your business.
- We decorate it for eye appeal (and keep it clean).
- You won’t find files or salespeople working.
- There is a receptionist or signs that points visitors to where they need to go.
Keep your Homepage simple. Use beautiful images and text that explains your unique value proposition but don’t try to close the deal there. Instead, you want to take them to an ‘office’ or further into your website, so you can have a more detailed conversation regarding their needs and wants. Make sure your homepage is optimized for your primary keywords and your business name. This helps Google identify your business and what you do.
Primary Landing Pages
If the Homepage is the reception area, then your primary landing pages are the offices or the stations of your marketing funnel.
We are all familiar with the lines at the DMV. Last month, I took my son to get his driver’s permit. First, we went to one window where they checked his paperwork. Then, they sent us to another where he took his eye test. Next, he took the test. Then they graded it.
He failed – so we went back to the waiting room and started down a different path, and he retook the test. This time he passed and we moved to another window for the picture and payment.
Your site structure needs to move people around your website along a logical path.
5 Landing Pages Every Website Should Have
Not every website is the same and yours should meet the needs of your clients, however, there are typically five landing pages found on every site.
- About Us
- Blog or FAQs
- Contact Page
All of these should be in your Main Menu or linked to from your Homepage. They serve as the foundation stones of your website.
In addition to your primary landing pages, you need blog posts or secondary pages which serve as cornerstone content. I know, the word ‘cornerstone’ makes you think it should be a primary page. Instead, think of it as a data repository.
This article is cornerstone content. Why? Because it is in-depth and will serve as a resource for any number of additional articles I might write. Every time I reference site structure in an article, I will link to this one for an in-depth explanation.
Google LOVES cornerstone content! Invest whatever time it takes to write it up correctly. You have then created a source for yourself (and others) that can support your other content.
Don’t forget to give your visitors a door OUT of your cornerstone content. Getting in is easy but never let it be a dead end. Make sure there is a clear path to another landing page, blog, or to your conversion point.
Site Structure and an Existing Website
It is always easier to prevent a ‘mess’ than it is to clean one up but no website is beyond redemption. There are specific steps you can take to clean up your website structure and improve your SEO.
One of my web agency partners asked me to help his clients improve their local rankings on Google. We put together an SEO Content Package that focused specifically on that goal. To accomplish this, I started with local optimization and blog development. Almost all the sites I looked at had orphaned and dead-end pages. Their internal linking structure made no sense and there was a lot of old material on the site that hadn’t seen traffic in years. Without thinking about the ramifications, I started cleaning things up. My primary motivation was just to make it easier for me to work with their content.
Their Google rank immediately started to climb.
Not only that, two of the Google listings went from a basic one line listing to one with site links. The only way to get this type of listing is to have a site structure that Google can clearly follow. It has to be able to tell which of your pages are your primary pages.
Steps for Cleaning Up the Site Structure of an Existing Website
Here are the steps for cleaning up your site structure and website content.
- If you have a WordPress site, install the Yoast plugin and activate the link counter (this is in the plugin’s general settings). Identify any orphaned or dead-end pages. An orphaned page won’t have any links coming in and dead end pages won’t have any going out.
- Next, use Google Analytics, JetPack, or my favorite, Web Dorado Analytics to identify pages and posts which have not had any traffic for the past 6 months. If the content has been orphaned, add links to the page from other pages. If the content is outdated, then get rid of it. You will need to redirect traffic from that page to another page with relevant material. WordPress has several plugins that can help you create 301 Redirects.
Note: Consider republishing an updated version of old content. You can redirect to the new article from the old one and save any ‘link juice’ you might have acquired.
- Once you have cleaned out the old content, make a list of what is left and how they link together. If you have an overly large website, start with your primary landing pages and your cornerstone content. Make sure they link together logically. If you draw a diagram, it should resemble a web or a net (not a tangled ball of yarn).
Here is the site structure or funnel I created for a client’s website. It’s just a picture of how a visitor (and Google) will progress through the website through links.
- The next step is to evaluate your categories. Regardless of what you think, they do matter. When you group pages and posts together, Google assumes they relate to one another. If you want your site structure to help with SEO instead of hurt it, you need to make sure you have an even amount of content in all your categories. You do not need to have hundreds of categories. Instead, identify your primary divisions (usually this aligns with your products or services). When they get too big to search through, then subdivide.
- Finally, turn on your breadcrumbs! What are these? Breadcrumbs show the path your visitors have taken through your website. Google also uses breadcrumbs to determine your site structure.
Improve Your Site Structure and SEO
Even though the process for creating a good site structure is pretty straight-forward, it does take time. If you are not good with details, then it’s best just to leave it to a professional. KDGS Works offers a free content and site analysis that identifies ways you can improve your site structure. The plus to this is that it also shows you how you can improve your SEO. Once you have the plan outlined, you can tackle it yourself or we can do it for you. Sign up now for your free Website Analysis and get the most from your content.