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Optimizing Your Site Structure for SEO

Apr 1, 2019
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There are many factors that impact your site’s organic visibility. We often talk about content, links and other optimization tweaks we can use to get great SEO results while overlooking basic technical elements of search. One such area is the structure of the website. Having a well-organized site will not only help your users find what they are looking for faster, but it will also help crawlers better understand your site’s content and purpose.


Video Transcript:

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We're talking about optimizing your site structure. This is an area where you can get a ton of benefits not only from a user experience point of view but also from a search engine crawling point of view and can help you increase the way that your site gets indexed in search and could potentially also help your rankings. One rule that you should stick to is if your site has less than 10,000 pages which I would assume is most of the people watching this video, that all your content should be accessible within four clicks. That's right. Just four clicks. It makes it easier for people to find your content and it also makes sure that the bot crawls deep enough into your page to see all of the important content that you've spent so much time writing.

It really blows my mind but there are a lot of sites that have really poorly designed site structures, and as a result, they lose their crawl budget, which means that the search engines don't crawl very deep in their sites and it means that all of this content that you're creating, it either takes forever to get indexed or could potentially never be indexed. Which means it's not going to show up in the search results which means it's pointless from a lot of standpoints if you're trying to drive traffic organically.

Here's the debate. Do you have a flat site structure or a deep site structure? Well for most intents and purposes, what we're talking about here is a flat site structure. This means instead of just building this one level of navigation that drops down farther and farther and farther and farther and farther, you're going to have everything on this flat plain. And it's going to be divided into sections that make sense based on topics and themes.

If your site is currently set up like a deep site structure, or maybe you're using a flat site structure, but it's not really optimized, we're going to talk about six steps to creating that optimized site structure. The first thing you want to do is inventory all of your content. This is understanding all of your blog pieces, which are your assets, which are your core site pages and then breaking those down into themes. What are the different topics and areas that you cover?

For our site, SEO, inbound marketing, email marketing, social media marketing. Maybe analytics, things of that nature, video production. And we're going to start to put all of our content under these different themes and really understand how it all fits together.

The next thing we want to do is start with our top level navigation. This is things like Home, About Us, Solutions, our Blog, Contact Us. What are those pieces of content, those pages you need at the top level that are usually very visible to your website users? What are those going to be? What are those meta topics going to be for your site? What you want to do then is then work in reverse. So you've got the top set up, now you want to go to your most detailed pieces of content and understand each one of those pieces of content and how they line up. Maybe this is the content that's the furthest down. So if this is SEO at the top, maybe you've got a piece of content that talks about how to optimize every single page on your website. That's kind of crazy right? That's what we're talking about now. So this is a little deeper. This is the more targeted piece of content that talks about one very niche, specific piece of SEO. This is going to be more detailed.

Once you've inventoried your content, have your top level navigation done, you've aligned all those bottom level, highly contextual, highly deep pieces of content, you want to connect the dots. Now you want to build a pathway back to the top. And again, you don't want it to be more than four clicks away. So you don't want to have all these pages in between. But you want something that's going to make sense, right, from a user standpoint and a bot standpoint. You really want to think of Google. Yes it's a computer, but it's going to interact with your page as much like a user as it possibly can. It's going to start reading your content, and if it finds it hard to get to that next level, it's going to stop crawling your content. You want to connect the dots to make a pathway that seems the most logical.

Once you've done that and you've connected all the dots and now you've got your different pieces of content lined up, now you want to see where your secondary pieces of content fit in. This is your legal, this is your About Us page, this is your copyright and all of those pages that need to be on your site. How do they fit in?

And finally, after you've worked the way through this, go to visual hierarchy and look at all of your pages and see how they fit together. You can do this in an Excel map, you can do this in a mind mapping tool. But really, what you want to do is give yourself a visual idea of how your page is going to laid out. How your website's going to be laid out, and then make sure that it makes sense. If it doesn't make sense to you, it's probably not going to make sense to your user and it's definitely not going to make sense to Google. But take the time to optimize your site structure. That's going to make it easier for your users to interact with your content and it's going to allow Google to understand what your site's truly about. If you've got any questions about this, please comment below. We would love to continue the conversation. And until next time, Happy Marketing.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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