Why Site Structure Matters for SEO
While many people understand how inbound linking can impact search results and small business SEO, it’s important to understand how web design and information architecture come into play. By incorporating the right elements, you can improve the usability and accessibility of a website for both search engines and people.
How Your Site is Viewed
While humans can see a website as a combination of text and images, computers (spiders/robots/crawlers) read the website as text written in a variety of code. They have a limited ability to process the format of a site but search crawlers can’t see a website in the same way as us humans. They have to look at the link structure to understand.
Does your site clearly links to other pages? The robots want to find as much information as they can and the structure of links helps them do that. Internal linking helps the spider to crawl the site quickly and easily, hyperlinks with ‘anchor text‘ tell the search spider where it’s going. If a page is not properly connected, the crawler doesn’t know where to go. It stops.
Create a Clear Hierarchy
Think of your site like a tree. The home page is the trunk; main limbs are secondary or top navigation; smaller branches are individual web pages. In order for the smaller branches to get water from the ground, the moisture needs to be able to travel up, each limb is connected to the other.
A search engine indexes your site the same. Make sure that you build from the most important base then clearly map the structure to individual pages. And for us humans? We’d all agree, if we can’t find the information we’re looking for, we’ll quickly leave the site. Yes, site structure matters!
- homepage is set with intuitive top main categories (I call these Level 1)
- sub-category topic pages under that (Level 2)
- detailed web pages below the sub-category topic pages (Level 3)
Tip: unless your site has 1000s of page, with complex content, you probably don’t need more than 3 levels.
Create a Sitemap
You don’t need to be an SEO web designer to create a sitemap. There are many free tools that will generate both HTML and XML versions for you — one of our favorites is XML-sitemaps.com. An XML (eXentsible Markup Language) sitemap is for search engines to read and allows easy indexing. HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) can be read by humans and is often used to aid navigation on a site.
This is definitely a simplistic view—URL structure, old data, excess pages, site speed, and many, many other factors impact SERP. Individual web pages can exist without a homepage and be found by search engines without proper site structure. But considering the importance of content in today’s SEO world and the ease of creating links … why would you want to?