All you need to know about a good website structure: advice and examples
A good website tree structure is a crucial step in building a successful site; no matter how big or small. To help you understand just how important this is, let’s compare a website’s structure to a house’s blueprints.
Although you may have the most beautiful or most expensive siding, if the actual structure of your house isn’t solid, everything will crumble and fall. The same can be said of the interior: you may have 10 or more rooms, but if they are not properly divided, and if you cannot easily move from one room to another, you will have trouble navigating your way around.
We are drawing this parallel to help you understand how a website is built: the easier it is to navigate, the more search engine robots will index your site properly, and the more visitors will enjoy a user-friendly experience.
Why is a website’s structure so important?
Your website’s tree structure is of the utmost importance; in fact, it is precisely what will allow your visitors to explore your website and navigate it easily, knowing where to go and what to see, as if they were following road signs.
In order to organize a website efficiently, it is crucial to first determine how web users will navigate your website intuitively in order to find the information they are looking for. Then, you can build your architecture accordingly, to make their experience as satisfactory and easy as possible!
In the end, the more user friendly your website, the higher your conversion rate!
Just like with SEO writing, a well-structured website will help web crawlers understand the usefulness of each page and prioritize the right pages for exploration (which is limited), thus contributing to a more optimal indexation of your website. This way, you will rank higher and will improve your visibility on Google.
Moreover, a successful website structure will also help gather sitelinks.
Although there are no miracle solutions to help gather sitelinks, you can definitely tip the scale in your favor by creating a successful architecture, thus showing Google that you are reliable and organized.
By doing so, more web users will visit your pages, which will generate more traffic and boost your click rate!
Thinking it through beforehand vs redoing the structure once a website is already online
Organizing a website requires time and resources, but future results will definitely be worth the wait! As we have seen earlier when we compared a site’s tree structure to a house’s blueprints, success will depend greatly on good planning, skills and the right amount of effort!
Don’t forget that natural referencing must always take place before, during and after the graphic and aesthetic creation of a website!
1. Begin with a proper analysis of your target audience
Organizing a website properly requires detailed analysis, not only when it comes to design elements, but also their function. In fact, determining who your products and services are geared towards is of crucial importance, and not only in terms of natural referencing and profit. Having the right keywords is great, but you must also know how to use them and place them within a structure or a whole, in order for them to be as efficient as possible.
To create an optimal tree structure for your website, the best thing to do is to create a customer persona.
What type of elements should be found on your customer persona template? There is no quick answer to this, but generally speaking you will find the following:
- Demography (age, place of residence, income bracket, etc.);
- Interests (what peaks your potential customer’s interest?);
- Objectives (what are your clients looking for on your website and how can your products or services cater to their needs?);
- Feedback (what do your customers think of your products and services? Are they satisfied? Do they want something more that you could possibly add or modify to your products and services?);
- Arguments (what are you willing to do for your clients? How will you convince them to do business with you?)
By creating a persona, it will help you better prioritize your website’s content according to customers’ interests and optimize the user experience. By doing so, you are helping your marketing campaigns significantly by focusing on your target audience and what they are truly looking for.
2. Next Step: Finding the Right Keywords
While preparing your website’s tree structure, keep in mind that it must be SEO optimized according to your current and potential customers’ search habits.
Identify the main keywords for your line of business, as well as long-tailed queries for each main keyword.
However, should you choose the words “Royal Gala apple without pesticides”, the search will be much more focused and competitors much less numerous. Even so, you must take care not to opt for a search that is too complex, for example, “Royal Gala apple sauce recipe without sugar to keep in freezer for a month”; you will probably end up with nothing!
So, you should choose your keywords according to:
- Your visitors’ interests (based on your personas)
- If they are very popular, on a regular or periodical basis
- If the sites that come up generally represent your direct competitors
Once you have completed a full list of keywords you wish to focus on for your website, you are ready for the next step!
Keyword Mapping: One Query per Page
Keyword mapping essentially consists of identifying all of the queries related to your line of business, choosing the most important ones in relation to your products, services or other, and then to link each one of these keywords to one page of your website’s tree structure. Mapping is mainly based on what web users are likely to be entering in the search.
WARNING: Don’t get caught making this common mistake: “Do I have a keyword for every page on my website?”
When you choose your keywords according to your pages, you might actually be missing out on opportunities of creating new and more relevant pages that turn up in the search engine and by doing so, wasting time trying to boost a page that has no actual value or use for your visitors. Instead of doing this, you may want to ask yourself “Do I have a page for each of the keywords I want to target?”
3. Grouping your Keywords in Categories
Grouping your keywords –or clustering- is essential to success. In fact, there are tens of thousands of keywords for one single line of business, which means you must be as efficient as possible in order to obtain the best results. By doing so, you will also remain focused and much more effective.
Create categories and subcategories with the pages found during the keyword mapping, as well as the keywords related to them. For example, if the keywords to be targeted indicate that the pages “long red dresses”, “short blue dresses” and “short black dresses” should exist in an online store, the three pages should be categorized under “dress”, but also the categories “long” and “short” can be added. The number of subcategories will depend on the opportunities behind the keywords for each page.
For each main keyword found during your keyword mapping exercise, you can also place all other related queries that are not unique enough to be targeted by an individual page with it. These will be useful when the time comes for you to create the content of your page. This grouping will also allow you to take the next step!
Keyword Themes vs Complimentary Keywords
When you group your pages by theme and keyword, you might notice that perhaps, although two pages don’t necessarily fit within the same theme, one naturally finds a way or “bridge” towards the other.
For example, your ecommerce website has a products page for red boots. You have just realized that today’s fashion trends link red boots to jeans, which you also sell.
These two products do not focus on the same keyword themes and so must not be clustered or grouped at this building stage of your website structure. When the time comes for you to establish navigation and internal links, you will have to utilize good strategies in order to fill the navigation gaps between related pages, which fit under different themes. This is why analyzing your users’ probable search behaviors, current search trends, as well as your users’ needs and psychographic data is an important step that should never be overlooked.
4. Organizing levels (more general to more specific categories)
We have all visited a website and clicked on different links to get to the information we were truly looking for. For example, from any given site’s homepage, we have clicked on a tab to get to a specific section of the website, where we have also found a variety of choices or extra subsections. This is what we refer to when we mention “levels”. With the categories and subcategories found in step 3, you can now classify your pages into levels, always keeping in mind the desired organic flow of a visit.
However, it is important to avoid having too many levels in order not to get lost! Let’s take a clothing store, for example. The welcome page represents level 0 and the different tabs –Men’s Clothing, Women’s Clothing, Shoes, Accessories, etc.- would represent level 1.
This is where the search gets more specific. Under the “Women’s Clothing” tab, you could find categories such as Pants, Skirts, Dresses, Nightwear, etc., which would then constitute level 2.
Finally, when you click on the ‘Dress’ category, you could also have the choice between Dresses for Work, Evening Dresses, Cocktail Dresses, Casual Dresses, Short Dresses, Long Dresses, etc. This would be the 3rd level, where web users can take a look at the actual products that correspond exactly to what they are looking for. Take note that it is important to avoid having more than 3 levels.
PRO TIP: Find a good balance between all of the categories and subcategories. If your website only has two main categories (level 1) but in each of these there are twenty or so subcategories, then it is possible that the pages on your 1st level are focused on queries that are too general and not targeted enough.
For example, if your online store only has “Women’s Clothing” and “Men’s Clothing” as level 1 pages, then chances that they come up in ratings with such general keywords are rather slim. In this case, you will want to break these keywords into several subcategories in order to create a more balanced level 1: “Winter Clothing for Women”, “Sports Clothing for Women”, etc. It will also make it easier for your users to navigate your site.
If your website has numerous main categories, while each of them including only very few subcategories, this could make navigating your site rather difficult too. It could also make it harder for you to manage deleted pages in the future.
Take note that the more important the keyword on a page, the closer the level should be to the homepage. If you are unsure which level a page should be on, then you should always refer to the keywords you want to target and the opportunity they represent.
Your website’s tree structure and your URLs
URLs are an important referencing factor and should be considered along with the organization of your website structure. In order to improve your website’s User Experience (UX), it is a good idea to define a template for your URLs, especially if you have numerous pages. Just like important pages should be placed close to the homepage, important keywords must be placed closed to the domain name in the URL. If your URLs are organized in the same order as your site’s pages, there are greater chances that they will be optimized, even if they are generated automatically.
Avoid these common mistakes
Even when you have the best possible intentions, some design mistakes are easy to make when creating a website structure.
Your pages are targeting keywords that are too precise (or not precise enough)
As mentioned above, if your pages are too general, the chosen keywords will often contend with too many competitors, making it very difficult for a new website to target them successfully. Inversely, keywords that are much too precise will also significantly reduce the amount of users driven to your pages.
A tree structure with too many branches
A website’s tree structure that has too many branches, for example by using too many levels, could easily deter a user. In fact, no one wants to have to click on 10 different subcategories in order to find the information they are looking for!
Moreover, too many levels will harm your referencing. Don’t forget that search engines limit the exploration of a website to a maximum amount of levels.
Organizational taxonomy can make the web crawlers’ work easier when analysing and indexing your website, as long as it does not generate extra URLs.
Our tips and tricks
Here are a few tips and tricks that will allow you to create an ecommerce design that is state of the art, and by doing so, you will also be creating an optimal user experience.
A pillar page contains all of the general information related to a precise subject. It incorporates different links that provide specific information on the subjects that appear on the pillar page, generally redirecting the user to a blog article that is directly related to the subject of the search. They are very useful when it comes to targeting several long-tailed keywords that are intimately related, in order to consolidate the traffic that could be generated individually.
Breadcrumbs, or breadcrumb trails (referring to the story of Hansel and Gretel), allow users to see the road they have traveled to get to a certain page, and help search engine robots to better understand your website’s tree structure. This trail also allows them to easily go back to a page without getting lost in a labyrinth of pages.
In order to have a bird’s eye view of the order in which pages are structured, you should use a tool that can give you a clear idea –through the use of a graph or other means- of your website’s exact tree structure. You will be able to see, at a glance, all of the different sections of your website and make sure that all of the categories and subcategories are grouped together the way they should be.
PRO TIP: Don’t complicate things; an excel worksheet does the trick!
In order to provide your visitors with an excellent user experience, they must be able to navigate your site easily. In this sense (and keeping with the house analogy), the navigation menu becomes the front door to the rest of your pages.
This means that by having level 1 links on your homepage –About, Services, Products, Contact, etc.- users already know that navigation will be easy; they know exactly where to go in order to find the information they are looking for. Don’t forget to follow through with an optimal tree structure for the rest of your website!
By surrounding yourself with referencing and Web marketing experts –like our LeadStream specialists- you are putting all of the odds on your side. Take advantage of our knowhow and expertise!
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