Good site structure helps search engines understand your site, and it makes it more user friendly. Making the search engines’ job easier helps websites rank better.
Site structure refers to how you organize your website’s content. It deals with how this content is grouped, linked and presented to the visitor. If this structure is clear, your audience will easily find their way around your site.
Structuring your website is crucial for both its usability and findability. It should be user friendly, easy to navigate, and serve its job, which is attracting new customers and ultimately getting more revenue.
What Search Engines Do
Web crawlers like Googlebot crawl a website’s structure. Their goal is to index the content in order to return it in search results. The better your site structure, the easier the crawlers can access and index the content.
Search engines are basically a big index. The index includes all the discovered URLs along with a number of relevant key signals about the contents of each URL such as:
- The keywords discovered within the page’s content – what topics does the page cover?
- The type of content that is being crawled (using microdata called Schema) – what is included on the page?
- The freshness of the page – how recently was it updated?
- The previous user engagement of the page and/or domain – how do people interact with the page?
Web pages get added to the index when crawlers literally crawl your site. If it’s difficult to crawl your site, there are fewer pages that get indexed.
When a search query is entered into a search engine by a user, all of the pages which are deemed to be relevant are identified from the index. An algorithm determines the relevancy of those pages, and returns the results in a hierarchical order.
Our goal, as website owners, is to make the crawl easy on the search engines.
Creating a Good Site Structure
The ideal time to lay out the structure of your site is when you first create the website.
Plan out a hierarchy before you develop your website.
A hierarchy is nothing more than a way to organize your information. It will become your navigation and your URL structure.
Keep the following things in mind:
- Make your hierarchy logical.
- Your hierarchy should be no more than 2 or 3 levels deep. All pages of your website should be accessible from the Home page in less than three clicks.
- Keep the number of main categories between two and seven.
- Try to balance the number of subcategories within each category.
- Make sure all pages of your website can be reached through internal links.
Site structure is one of the most important things to do when optimizing your site for the search engines. It’s worth the time it takes to think carefully, be intentional in the design, and organize your content.
If you have an established site, there is more to consider since it is already indexed with Google and has some rankings. You will need to add 301 redirects, which instruct search engines that a URL has changed.
Service Provider Website
For a service provider’s website, the structure typically consists of a few “standard” pages:
- Home – or the front page of your site
- About – where you talk about yourself
- Testimonials – good things previous clients have to say about you
- Services – what you do and for whom you do it
- Contact – how potential customers can get in touch with you
- Blog – where you create content potential clients need to know
Your Home page should let readers know instantly what your site is about. When a new visitor lands on your site, you have only seconds to tell him or her what your business does, so make sure it’s very clear by creating a short, meaningful tagline, using graphics wisely, and prominently displaying your site navigation, so visitors can find what they really need.
Your homepage should act as a navigation hub for your visitors. This means, among others, that you should link to your most important pages from your homepage.
Next to your Home page, probably the most read page on your site is the About page. For a service provider, it’s important to share a little about yourself, but even more about what you DO. Don’t make the mistake of telling the world that you’re a stay-at-home mom or that you’re only doing this to earn some money while you look for a real job. Keep it professional, with just a touch of personality thrown in. And don’t forget to include a photo of yourself.
Next, it’s important to include a services page so visitors can see exactly what you do. A simple list is fine. Keep in mind that it’s often better to show your expertise in one area than to have a list of 101 things you can do. Potential customers want to know that you’re an expert, not a “Jill of all trades,” so don’t worry that your services list is too short.
You’ll also want to provide a variety of ways people can reach you. On your contact page, it’s a good idea to include a form they can fill out. Include an email address as well, and if you can, a phone number. Potential clients will find you much more trustworthy if they know they can reach you by email or phone.
Finally, if you are going to blog on your site, make the commitment to consistency. The last thing you want is for visitors to find an abandoned blog on your site. It will only make it look like you’re no longer in business.
One more word about your blog – keep in mind who your audience is. Chances are, it’s not other service providers, so avoid writing blogs about how to get clients, how to market your site, and how to learn new skills. Instead, write about topics of interest to your ideal client. And remember, you don’t have to have a blog to have a successful website, but it is a great marketing tool if you use it correctly.