When performing a new build or re-designing an old site, from an SEO point of view the website's structure is the main starting point.
In this post, when I refer to “site structure”, I am talking about the way the pages link together to create the structure seen in the main navigation of a website – this is also sometimes known as “information architecture”.
Why is website structure important?
There are two main audiences you must think about when designing your site structure – the people who will actually use your website, and the search engines, with the humans being by far your most important target audience.
Website Structure for People
When you visit a well constructed website, you almost instinctively know where to go. For example on Amazon there is a menu in the top left corner with links to the main sections, such as “Books”, “Music, DVD and Games”, “Electronics” etc. It is obvious where you need to go to find what you are looking for within the hierarchy.
Once in “Music, DVD and Games”, you can narrow this down into sub-sections such as “Music”, “MP3 Downloads”, “DVD and Blu-Ray”, “PC and Video Games” etc. Within these sections you will find genres or models, such as “Playstation 3” in the Video Games section or “Rock/Indie” in the Music section.
While it may seem completely normal and second nature to go onto a website and navigate it in this simple, logical and streamlined way, this structure has actually been painstakingly thought out by the “information architects” to ensure you use the website without really thinking about it. Imagine if they had put “Horror DVDs and Rock Music”, “Blu-Ray Players and Cameras” or “Playstation 3 and Trampolines” as sections – you would have to think a lot more deeply about how to navigate the website, and how to find what you are looking for….or more likely you would just click off the site immediately and go somewhere with a more logical navigation.
Website Structure for Search Engines
In terms of SEO, the very best thing you can do is to make your website structure appeal to people. If a person can logically navigate a streamlined structure using the navigation, then a search engine will have no problem doing so through the URLs and internal links on the site. In an ideal world, the Amazon URLs would follow the structure of amazon.co.uk/pc_and_video_games/playstation3 etc, which shows the streamlined navigation in URL format. They don’t, but the navigation does the job for them anyway.
SEO Benefits of a good website structure
The main benefits of having a great navigation structure for both search engines and people are:
Indexation - if the search engines such as Google can follow your structure from Homepage right down to the lowest levels, in Amazon’s case products, then it will get to “crawl” (see) every page on the site, meaning that as long as the rest of the site is optimised correctly every page on the site should be indexed in the search engine.
Following on from this, any new pages you add should get indexed more quickly as the site can be crawled a lot more easily.
Usability - it gives a good impression of the website to the search engine due to its usability for humans, which is what Google especially is increasingly looking for, so you will get SEO brownie points for that too!
In conclusion – there is no excuse at all not to have a simple website navigation structure, as the main audience you should be going for is humans, but this in turn influences the SEO too as they are both looking for exactly the same thing. The I-COM SEO and Development teams will ensure your website structure is up to scratch at the beginning of a campaign.