If you’re creating a brand new web site, you’ll want to think about the web site’s structure. Structuring your web site in an organized, hierarchical means provides it the very best probability of rating effectively in Google.
But how do you do that?
Website structure is how info in your web site is structured, interlinked, and designed.
For instance, for an e-commerce web site, it could seem like this:
It might look sophisticated, however a neater means to consider it is sort of a folder system on a pc.
Clicking out and in of folders takes time. But creating an organized, hierarchical construction with well-labeled names makes it simpler to discover what you’re wanting for.
The identical ideas apply when optimizing web sites for SEO.
The structure of your web site wants to be logical to enable Google and human guests to navigate it simply.
place to begin is to add pages that many web sites often have in frequent to your navigation.
- About web page
- Contact web page
About web page
The About web page is your probability to inform your model’s story. On this web page, it’s a good suggestion to embrace the next:
- A quick description of your web site’s goal.
- A photograph of your crew.
- Any social proof, akin to opinions or quotes from clients.
- Locations of your workplace(s).
If you need inspiration, take a look at Ahrefs’ just lately redesigned About web page.
The blog usually houses your most regularly updated content.
The blog is a key part of Ahrefs’ content. So if you’re interested, check out our blog to see how we structure it.
Most websites also have a Contact page—again, you’ll most likely need this page. It’s also good practice to include your NAP (name, address, and phone number) on this page.
State the website’s primary purpose, service, or product
Indicating the main purpose of your website within your navigation is also a good idea.
If you provide a specific service, then you can mention this. If you sell a certain product category, then mention this as well.
For example, we can see below that this website has indicated its services and products within the main navigation.
If you aren’t positive of the precise key phrases to use, you need to use Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to do some key phrase analysis.
Sketch out a simple site architecture (and build it out)
Once you’ve got the basic pages sorted, you can visualize it.
Visualizing your site architecture is important if you work with a team, as it enables you to sense-check your design with colleagues before it goes live.
Here’s an example of a simple website architecture I’ve created using a mindmap tool called MindMeister.
If you have a larger website, you may find a tool like this useful (it’s great for building more complex websites).
I like using this tool, as it’s user-friendly. But you can also use Excel or a pen and a large sheet of paper (if you are old school).
What can we learn from this website’s structure?
- There’s a simple hierarchy of pages – For example, “Cat sitting” is under “Services.” This hierarchical relationship implies that cat sitting is a service provided by this website.
- Similar types of content are grouped – Blog posts #1 and #2 are contained in the blog. This is logical.
- The most critical pages are on the first level – For most businesses, this will at least include an About page and a Contact page.
Flat architecture vs. deep architecture
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s consider what different types of site architecture look like.
- Flat architecture makes it possible to access each page on your website with a minimal number of clicks.
- Deep architecture is where it will take many clicks to access the pages on your site.
Visualized, these structures look like this:
You can see the difference.
For simple sites, a flat architecture may be all that is needed. For more complex sites, you may need a deeper architecture.
You’ll need to pay close attention to internal linking for a deep site architecture.
The bottom line is that you don’t want to hide your most important content deep in the website where no one can find it. Your most important pages should be easily accessible through well-placed, descriptive internal links.
Make it better with keyword research
Once you’ve sketched out the structure of your website, you’re ready to start improving it using keyword research.
It’s important to use keyword research at this stage to understand what keywords your customers are searching for that are related to your website.
For this example, let’s pretend we are building a website about “cats,” and we provide a service of “cat sitting” for our customers.
Using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, let’s plug in the phrase “cat sitting” into the search bar and head over to the Matching terms report.
From the report, we are able to see that there are two location-based searches, in addition to the key phrase phrase “cat sitting rates.”
Let’s add these key phrases to our web site structure.
- I’ve added “Rates” below “Cat sitting” because once you’ve seen the service, you’ll want to check the price.
- I’ve also added “San Diego” and “San Francisco” into a new “Locations” menu to keep the site architecture relatively flat.
If you want to take this further, you can use Keywords Explorer to analyze groups of keywords.
Let’s now say we wanted to add a new section to the site on “cat care.” To do this, enter the keyword and head to the Matching terms report.
Looking down the left-hand column, we see that “sphynx” is listed. Expanding this section shows us how we could structure our website architecture based on what people are searching for this particular cat breed.
Let’s add this section to our site structure.
In this instance, you’ll be able to rinse and repeat this methodology for completely different breeds of cats—or it’s also possible to use it for every other key phrase.
Get inspiration from competitors
Once you’ve completed your keyword research, it’s worth looking at your competitors’ website architecture for inspiration.
The simplest way to check out a competitor’s site structure is to plug their domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and then click on the Site structure report in the left-hand navigation.
Here’s an example of me spying on a competitor’s site structure.
Going a step further, let’s see another more advanced method I use to spy on my competitors’ website structures that already rank well for certain keywords I want to rank for:
- Go to Keywords Explorer and enter your keyword (e.g., cat sitting), and hit search
- Scroll down to the SERP overview and click on a competitor in the list
- Click on the downward-facing chevron and click on Site Explorer’s overview
- In the search bar, change Exact URL to Domain and hit search
- Then click on Site structure in the left-hand column
- Click on the chevron next to the domain to show the full path
If you like a competitor’s site structure, you can hit the “Export” button in the top right-hand corner to analyze it.
Using the knowledge we’ve gained about these competitors, let’s make some alterations to our site architecture plan based on what keywords we want to target.
I’m going to add an “FAQ” page and combine my “Services” and “Cat Sitter” categories and change it to “Book a Cat Sitter” to make it more structurally competitive with a website that’s already ranking on the first page.
Spying on opponents’ web site constructions is a robust course of that we are able to repeat with any competitor to enhance how we construction our web site structure.
2. Add these elements to the pages
If we define site architecture as the total design and build of the site, we need to take into account a few more structural elements for it to perform well in search engines.
We’ve looked at designing the hierarchical structure of the site, but what about ensuring the necessary on-site architectural functionality is there?
Here’s what I think you should include:
Add title tags and meta descriptions
If you’ve read any SEO articles before, you’ve probably seen title tags and meta descriptions being mentioned. You’ll need to include these on every page, so it’s worth being aware of them.
The title tag is positioned above the meta description in the Google results.
Breadcrumbs are not a replacement for your website’s main navigation, but they’re great at visualizing the hierarchy between pages.
From a user perspective, breadcrumbs are helpful in two use cases:
- They help you navigate the website when you land on a deep page.
- They act as a helpful shortcut to get back to the main category page.
Use descriptive SEO-friendly URLs
Once you’ve established your site structure, it’s important to use descriptive URLs to enable search engines to understand what your website is about.
Check out our guide below for more information on creating SEO-friendly URLs.
Use a table of contents
Table of contents (ToCs) enable your guests to navigate your content material simply. ToCs are helpful for navigating a web page, and I like to recommend including one to your weblog publish’s template.
Use internal linking
Internal linking is an important part of your website architecture, as it helps search engines understand the relationship between pages on your site and helps visitors navigate it.
Check out our guide below for more information on internal linking.
Use associated hyperlinks
A more recent addition to the Ahrefs Blog is related links. These are at the bottom of our blog content under “Keep Learning.” Related links are a relatively low-effort way to improve your internal linking.
Use writer bios
Ahrefs’ blog makes use of author bios, and they help to provide trust with Google and visitors. Author bios typically include social links. They can also provide credibility if used correctly.
This helps both Google and visitors to see that it’s (most likely) a real person behind the article. If you have a team, it makes sense to use author bios.
3. Get the technical bits right
Technical SEO is one of, if not the, most important parts of SEO. There are a number of factors that you need to consider when building and designing a website’s architecture.
Here are some of the most important things to consider.
Use sitewide HTTPS
It shouldn’t come as a shock that your web site ought to use HTTPS. Google made HTTPS a ranking signal all the way back in 2014. As a consequence, it’s now uncommon to discover an HTTP-only web site.
Add a sitemap.xml file and submit it to Google Search Console
Once you’ve created your website and are happy with its structure, it’s worth creating and submitting your sitemap.xml file(s) within Google Search Console.
Here’s where the sitemap.xml file should be located on your website:
Check out Google’s guide below for more information on building and submitting a sitemap.
Add a robots.txt file
A robots.txt file tells search engines where they can and can’t go on your site. It’s another file that you must have in your website architecture.
And here’s where the robots.txt file should be located on your website:
Check out our guide below for more information on robots.txt.
You need to ensure your links are easily crawlable for Google. Here are a few examples of what is acceptable and what isn’t for Google.
See Google’s guide below for more information on links’ best practices.
Make it mobile-friendly, use responsive design
Check out our guide below for more information on mobile SEO.
Use canonical tags
Canonical tags are a snippet of HTML code that defines the main version for duplicate, near-duplicate, and similar pages—and yes, you’ll need to include them on your website’s pages.
Here’s what the snippet of HTML looks like:
Check out our guide below for more information on canonical tags.
Use structured data
Structured data is a standardized way to provide information about a webpage. It helps search engines like Google to better understand what your content is about.
It’s a good idea to ensure you have structured data in your page templates from the start, as Google uses it to enable search result enhancements, which can mean you get more focus on your result on the SERP.
Here’s what structured data enhancements can look like in Google:
The way these enhancements are presented is generally more prominent than a standard organic result, often making it worth implementing.
Audit your site’s structure
Once you’ve decided on your site’s architecture and set it live, it’s tempting to leave it.
But it’s worth doing a periodic review using a tool like Site Structure in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer or Ahrefs’ Site Audit to ensure your site’s architecture is still in good order.
Getting your website’s architecture right from the start takes time and requires a lot of research. But if you design it with SEO in mind, it will pay dividends for your website in the long run.
Using tools like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and Site Explorer helps give you a competitive edge on the SERPs, as you can see what’s already working.
Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.