If you are even thinking: “What is the best site structure? What should my website pages be and how should they be organised?”, then you are in the right frame of mind to do well with Google and potential customers who visit your site.
Site structure is extremely important for SEO.
As usual, when you are creating and writing pages for your website (to be SEO optimised), you are doing so for two people. The first person is Google. Google needs to see that you are relevant and an authority for your area or search terms you are going for.
The other person you are writing for is the consumer. They are the real people that are actually going to go on your website, so this needs to be useful for them. Whether you want them to buy from you, call you, read you, whatever it is – your website needs good user experience.
So just remember that you are always trying to balance these two things.
Some goofs think that ‘just good user experience’ will rank them on Google. Hell no! Maybe if your good user experience is through writing endless high quality articles. But this is more of a content strategy that ‘user experience’. By user experience, we mean the colours you use, perhaps the WordPress theme you’ve opted for, the images, the button animations and so on.
In this article we will look at the ways you can actually combine good SEO in the eyes of Google with a relevant site structure which will ALSO help the customer with good user experience.
Every customer that visits your site goes on a journey through your site structure.
Sometimes people will get too hooked up in creating a customer process that is poetic, beautiful and abstract.
The truth is: it works brilliantly for the customer. The buttons are all animated, there are loads of mythical website pages that subtly make sense, there are added extras that you haven’t found on other websites, there are pages that act as glossaries, bonuses and so on.
Businesses are always trying things like this to gain an edge over their competition.
So, sure, this can look great in your customers’ eyes – but not Google’s. All they are going to see is a load of irrelevant pages to the search terms you are going to rank for.
In Google’s mind, let’s say you are ranking for SEO throughout Derby, if you have a load of pages talking about your adventures growing up, Google will assume these are irrelevant to the person they actually want to help.
Google actually wants to help the person searching through their search engine. So, they will see random pages like “my adventures growing up” and assume you are speaking about irrelevant things compared to what the user wants to find out or get from Google.
Let’s have a look at ways you can organise your website so that Google thinks it is totally relevant to the topics within the search term you are ranking for – while also helping your customers to go through a successful journey on your website and take action.
This is a strategy we’ve used time and time again, even for ‘difficult’ search terms.
Make sure to follow some of the best practices and guidelines I am about to discuss.
Make your website like a physical store…
A good way of explaining how your website structure should be is like a physical book shop. Even if you are a service only businesses, this will work for you too, not just someone trying to sell products through their website. When person A selling a product can imagine putting their product on a book shelf, just imagine you can turn each of your services into a box with the label of your service on it. It could be “tree pruning” for example.
The two crucial things to think about here are placement and compartmentalising. It sounds complex but it really isn’t.
Firstly, placement. Where does a book shop put its hottest, best selling books? Near the entrance! This makes it really easy for the large majority of people to buy the most sort after books as soon as they enter the shop.
You should do this with your key products and services on your website, just so you make it as easy as possible for the majority if your customers to find the service they need.
Have your different products/services in the navigation bar at the top of your screen, or linking from an in text anchor within your homepage.
Secondly, in a book shop they don’t just place books in a randomised order on the shelf. They are separated into different categories so it’s easy for people who know the theme/genre and can quickly locate what they need. You need to compartmentalise your website.
Let’s look at an example…
For example, if there are services/products that all have an underlying theme, they should be compartmentalised together.
Maybe you sell power drills and there are three types of power drills you sell: electric plugin power drills, gas powered drills and drills that run from batteries.
For each category of electric plugin, gas and battery drills – there are several drills within each category. I.E. there are 5 electric plugin, 5 gas and 5 battery drills.
You would then split up your website into these three different sections. Three separate sections. One for each of the different types of drill: electric plugin with a section and the 5 different drills, a gas section with the 5 different types of drills and a battery section with the 5 different types of battery drills.
Much like these drills would have their own space and layout in a physical shop, you can compartmentalise these pages using headings and subheadings on your website and permalinks.
The urls should then appear as the following www.drills.com/electric-plugin-power-drills/type-1-of-5-electric-plugin-power-drills…
So, you would have one page for electric plugin power drills, but then 5 separate pages for each type of drill.
Again, with one page for the battery powered mobile drill section with a page per type of battery powered mobile drill associated to that ‘battery-powered-mobile-drills’ page.
Think of it like:
/Section-1/ (drill category)
/Section-1/product-a (types of drills within that category of drill)
Do this for each of the different types of drills within each of the specific sections. This is also known as ‘siloing’ your web pages.
Can you see why Google would assume this is very clear?
Think about a Google bot crawling your website. It would be extremely clear to see what relates to what, what is hierarchical over other pages and so on. It is clear to Google so Google believes it is clear for the customer.
If you don’t believe us, check out any vast company and the way they break their site structure up. It is not a case of being random with your link structure. Make it clear. Make it logical.
It’s also an easy structure for the customer to understand.
So, you are ticking boxes for Google’s SEO expectations, and you are making it easy for the customer to understand where they are on your website and how the pages are made up.
To create your site structure correctly, you need to include valid and relevant themes to your industry and service/product offering.
If you have pages with subject themes completely unrelated to your main theme (what you are trying to rank for), it’s going to be confusing for a customer and probably create a bad experience for them. You don’t want go to a website about tree surgeons and find a load of stuff about windows, lighting, tables and chairs.
The same goes for physical shops. You would not expect to see Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook in the Sci-Fi section at the book shop, let alone his latest signed cutlery set. You would think: “what the hell is going on here? Is this a book shop or a cooking shop?!”
Naming your pages
Not only should your pages be relevant to your search term and product/service offering, but they should also be relevant to the exact keywords you are trying to rank for.
Sometimes exact match page names against the keyword you are trying to rank for are the most effective. Let’s say you are trying to rank for builders in [location], you could create a page called exactly that. Then you might have silos coming from the page like ‘builders-in-location/reviews’ and ‘builders-in-location/prices’.
Make sure of free tools if you are not already paying for softwares like Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush, Google Keyword Planner and more to help you name your pages. They will give you information on which keywords get searches related to your product/service and area.
Of course, you should have keywords within your page, not just in the site URL. This used to be a much stronger tactic than it is now, but it still holds some power. It certainly at least tells Google which search term you are most trying to associate your page with.
Fixing a client’s pages
If you are working on a site rather than creating is from fresh – their pages might now seem like a mess. It is likely because plenty of amateurs do not pay attention to site architecture.
You’re going to have to make a decision about the pages. Specifically, which should stay (good content, good relevancy to the search term etc., performing well), which pages should be renamed (perhaps good content but the page name is canonicalised so it isn’t ranking well) and which pages should be completely removed (poor content, poorly named, bad links). Keeping bad pages will take Google’s bots away from your good pages. Google wants quality over quantity and both if possible. But quality is always better than quantity. When deleting a page, it is likely best to redirect this old URL to a new URL because you might have internal or external links pointing to it. Not repointing URL’s could mess up everything in Google’s eyes, so do a quick search on that before sporadically deleting pages.
Remember. Relevancy, relevancy, relevancy.
Google will not reward your rankings if you have an irrelevant structure because they assume your site would create a bad experience for the market as you are irrelevant to what the consumer is looking for .
Relevance is key to Google.
It wants to help people searching, not you. You need to show you are the authority and the most relevant according to what the person is searching.
Help Google help you!
Overall, you should aim to get as many detailed and relevant topical themes on your website as possible and natural.
Good quality and relevant content will begin to show you as an authority for your service/product offering in a world where people are randomising their pages. Over time this will make you a very relevant search result for the search terms you are trying to rank for.
This is also a great foundational starting point for your website. Because, if you create a good and clean ‘website architecture‘ from day one, you avoid over optimisation or canonicalisation issues with your website. Website canonicalisation refers to the scenario where you have two pages ranking for the same keyword. Google does not know which you are suggesting is more relevant and is less likely to promote either as being authoritative to the search. However, when you have a good site structure you should not encounter this problem and generally avoid the penalties that are endured as a result of this scenario.
You have created a site where each section is purposefully its own section and has been selected because it’s a relevant topical area in your service. So feel free to take on this advice when creating your site structure or even querying with your web designer/developer in the process of creating your site.
Conversion and user experience
This deserves it’s own post entirely as taking someone from a relatively unknown customer through to taking action is a sweet science in itself. You are trying to create as few barriers as possible for your potential client to take action. The more blockages you put in the way of them getting to take action and the
On the other hand, you can’t just have a website with a button saying ‘call here’. It’s all about balance, giving the customer enough to logically conclude calling or buying is the best option without sending them through an online obstacle course that makes them click off your website.
Obviously, a clear conversion path is going to be determined by your market, the action you want them to take and loads of other reasons. Therefore, we cannot give you a good general guideline at this point in an article.
Basics include making a contact button easy to find at all times, linking content together, having everything easy to find (from products to services), site structure as mentioned before, a fast website and so on. Just remove the barriers to the customer actually taking action because they get lost, but give them enough so they actually want to take action.
Google won’t give you any extra points for how the website looks to the human eye. They perceive a website differently to us so don’t think your SEO will be booming because your Mum said your first website looks good. Sure, getting the website right for the user is crucial, but if you need traffic and to rise through the search engines, you need to give Google a good experience.
Thank you and that’s it for now.
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Also published on Medium.