Good website structure lays the all-important foundation for other search engine optimization (SEO) measures. Even if your other SEO efforts are steller — you are using keywords appropriately, correct meta tags, have engaging informational content, and so on — if your site’s structure isn’t solid, those efforts won’t deliver the benefits they would otherwise.
Site structure refers to the URL and internal linking structure. This is most apparent in the navigation of a website.
Read on to discover four reasons why site structure is important for user experience and SEO, ultimately leading to more conversions.
1. A Good Website Structure Makes for Great User Experience (UX)
Think of a website as a large building you are trying to navigate. A clear structure and logical lay-out is reassuring, and makes it easier to find the room you are looking for. Being lost in a website (or a building) is not only frustrating – it can be downright disquieting. You certainly don’t want that for your customers. A visitor to your website should know where they are in the structure at all times.
Search engine algorithms pay attention to user experience as well. If they detect that users are bouncing off a site – one indication of poor UX – they will rank it lower. That means the site will not show up in search results (SERPs) very often, and when it does, it will not be in a prime position.
2. Structuring your Site Well Enables Search Engines to Crawl your Site More Efficiently
…Or, put negatively, a poor site structure will hamper a search engine’s ability to crawl your site. A search engine’s bots “crawl” a site by following the URL and the internal link structure to speed read the site. It files that information in a huge keyword-based database called an “index.”
When somebody makes a search, the search engine flips through the index to find relevant pages to present in the search results. A search engine has a limited time to crawl each site. If the structure is hard to crawl, it won’t be properly indexed. And if it isn’t indexed properly, it won’t show up in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) – no matter how relevant and great the content.
3. Internal Links Distribute Authority Throughout your Site
Site structure isn’t just about the URL’s; internal linking is very important as well. Internal linking has a role in supporting the main navigation, and can also help distribute “link juice” to those pages that don’t have backlinks.
Internal linking helps direct attention to important content on a site as well as content that may be deeper in the hierarchy. By clicking on a relevant link within a blog post, for example, a user can be taken to another page on the site that enriches their understanding of what they were reading that they might not have come across otherwise. The same is true of search engines: Internal linking helps build their understanding of which pages are the most important.
Link equity, or “link juice,” is a ranking factor based on the idea that one page can send value and authority to another. It is like a vote of confidence if a high ranking page links to a lower ranking page. This is true within a site, since some pages of a site rank higher than others, but, as well, internal linking can also help distribute the equity of backlinks (external sites linking to your site). While the page that is being linked to receives the most benefit, with internal linking, that benefit gets spread around to some degree.
The anchor text used for the internal link also contributes to the understanding of the site for both users and search engine bots.
Of utmost importance, as usual, is to make sure the internal links are relevant and useful. And don’t overdo them! That just appears spammy and search engines don’t like it. Too many internal links on a page has diminishing returns.
4. A Well-Organized Website Structure Provides Sitelinks in the SERP
Sitelinks are a neat and tidy display in the SERPs of a site’s main page and several internal links. This matters because sitelinks increase navigability, click through rate and trust — all of which have numerous spin-off benefits. Bottom line: sitelinks are good to have. Sitelinks are like shortcuts to relevant pages and a good indicator your structure is well-organized for both people and bots. The route to being awarded with sitelinks by a search engine isn’t direct, but having a solid site structure is fundamental. From a clear site structure, the search engine will be able to determine the most relevant pages for the searcher and will display those.
Key Takeaways & Next Steps
Pay attention to your site structure! Not only will the visitors to your site be happy, search engines will reward you with higher ranking and online visibility. If you need help improving your website’s structure for a better user experience, get in touch.