SITE ARCHITECTURE SEO

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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PORTFOLIO

Reworking an existing site's structure is the perfect opportunity to find and fix keyword cannibalization issues. Our guide on this defines keyword cannibalization as:

Before we dive into how to define your website structure, here's what a well-organized structure looks like:

A great website architecture should make it easy for both search engines and users to find your site's content, and that means that pages shouldn't be hidden deep within your site.

Think about it as how pages on your website relate to one another, specifically how they branch off your homepage and are grouped within deeper directories.

Ready to plan out a site structure that works great both for your users and search engines? Here's a step-by-step guide to defining your website structure:

Consider the Depth of Your Site's Key Pages.

We've already defined that a good site structure should:

You can also use the Keyword Gap Tool to see where opportunities exist between your site and your competitors or crossover topics and keywords between two or more competitors.

As a final step to putting together a solid website architecture, consider generating an HTML sitemap.

Think carefully about how you structure your navigation menus and use these as an opportunity to place your main pages in front of your users.

The right website architecture helps you highlight your most important pages (often called pillar pages or hub pages) and position them as the pages that should rank for competitive, high-volume keywords (think generic terms).

The right site structure helps you to do this effectively.

Whether you have a small website or a large site, website architecture is an important component for success as your site structure impacts both users, in terms of its accessibility and user-friendliness, and for search engines, in terms of crawlability and technical aspects.

However, this isn't the only method. If you're unable to group all of your cluster content within the pillar page's subdirectory, that doesn't mean you can't use this method of website architecture.

Internal linking is key to planning an effective site structure, and if you're not familiar with these, they are links that point from one page to another on your site.

Take one of the ideas generated during topic research and do your research:

Topically Grouped Content.

A good website architecture makes it easy for users to navigate between pages and search engines to crawl your content and understand what your site is about.

You can use the Semrush Site Audit Tool to discover pages on an existing site that need more than 3 clicks to be reached or are orphaned.

At this stage, you want to think about:

You'll be able to see shared keywords, unique opportunities, and more, helping to steer your keyword strategy and ensure you're covering all your bases (even if this means planning for future content).

After all, to plan a structure that works, you need to know the topics you'll target and the primary keywords within these topics that you're trying to rank for.

Here's a great example of the importance of getting navigation right. The second image clearly helps users navigate the right products as easily as possible, whereas the first one goes no deeper than top-level generic categories.

Since one of the key functions of content on a website is to help push prospects through your sales funnel, it makes sense that you'd want to make it as simple as possible for a user to flow through the sales funnel by improving your navigation.

Consider Your Site's URLs.

Structure your site in the right way, and it's easier for the search engines to understand and rank your content higher on the SERPs.

Once you've mapped out your site's structure, this can make a great reference point as you build out content and continue to grow.

The easier it is for someone to find what they landed on your site for, the higher the chance that they'll become a client or customer.

Specifically, we'll look at:

Getting your website architecture right is one of the most important technical SEO basics, yet it's often overlooked.

Let's say your pillar page is yourdomain.com/pillar/. That would mean all of your cluster content sits on URLs like yourdomain.com/pillar/cluster-page-1/.

Developing your site structure is the key to success. It makes sense to define your topic clusters, determine your pillar page for each cluster, and then expand to plan the supporting content.

In an ideal world, your site's structure would sit cluster content within the same subdirectory as that topic's pillar.

This rule is applicable not only for interactive elements such as menus but also for static content such as images. It’s vital to use appropriate alt text for images and anchor texts for links. By doing that, you will help search engines index and comprehend them better.

The three-click rule suggests that a user of a website should be able to find any information with no more than three mouse clicks. While industry experts often criticize this rule, one thing is for sure—search engines use the site architecture to understand what pages are most important. A page that is only one click away from the home page is important. A page that is ten clicks away is less important. In fact, the search engine spider may never even find a page that is ten clicks away from the homepage if you have low site link authority.

The site engine decides what links will become a part of sitelinks but your information architecture has a significant impact on this. Well-defined IA makes it easy for search engines to understand the structure of your website.

If a website has well-defined information architecture mapping, the search engine’s algorithm might recognize this and reward it with sitelinks. Sitelinks are a list of most visited web pages that appear along with the target page whenever someone searches for your website on a search engine like Google. This small detail has a huge impact on how visitors perceive your brand. The presence of sitelinks increases your brand’s reputation and improves trust among customers.

Great site architecture is all about improving how users and search engines find their way around your site. It’s about knowing the users and giving them the most relevant content where they expect to find it with the fewest clicks possible. For search engines, an optimized site architecture helps web crawlers find and index all of the pages on your website.

Make links relevant and useful for your visitors.

Keywords are the foundation of SEO. By carrying out keyword research, you can determine not only typical search queries that your visitors use but also what categories, subcategories, and even filters they need.

Sitelinks are a bonus benefit that you get from a strong site architecture.

Searching for keywords “meal delivery” and “pizza” in Google Keyword Planner.

Clear and consistent writing simplifies the process of interactions for your visitors. UX writing plays a key role in bringing clarity to design, and it takes a central role in SEO architecture. It’s impossible to provide good UX without good copy. Thus, make sure you use not only clear but also consistent terminology across the website. Users should understand the meaning of UI elements before interacting with them.

The more duplicated content you have, the less happy your visitors and search engines are. Duplicated content not only requires more moderating effort, but it can also easily frustrate or annoy your visitors (especially if it’s auto-generated content by a content management system). Thus, conduct a content inventory and identify places where you have the same or similar content. Tools like Copyscape or Siteliner will help you conduct a duplicate content check.

Here are a few things that you need to do during this phase:

Amazon offers a section with customer questions and answers.

The success or failure of any modern business is very often directly proportional to the rankings of its website in search results. If your target audience is unable to find your website, you risk losing qualified website traffic. That’s why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of website architecture.

“Flat” site architecture is better for SEO because it helps to minimize the number of clicks from the home page to important content. A flat architecture means that users (and search engine crawlers) can reach any page on your site in 3 clicks or less (the three-click rule).

In this article, I want to show how SEO experts utilize information architecture skills to help their site be more successful.

Offer information in context.

Review all pages on your website and specify the appropriate page type for all pages. Each type of page should be optimized for a different kind of content and user task.

Breakdown of IA working with SEO for keyword-targeted content.

It’s also recommended to create a site structure that will clearly define a website’s various page levels, priorities, categories, and hierarchies. Combine closely related content onto a single page, and every time you want to create a new page, evaluate it according to this structure. If you already have a page that serves the same purpose, there is no need to create another one.

Building a sitemap is an important part of information architecture mapping because a sitemap is a great way to increase the “crawlability” of your website. Creating a sitemap is especially resourceful for content-heavy sites with dozens of different pages because sitemaps help search engines locate pages. Google recommends following this simple process to create and submit a sitemap to search engines:

SEO today is heavily concerned with engagement. That’s why the goal of SEO specialists is not only to have a higher ranking but also to make visitors stay on a website and consume the content. IA helps to achieve this goal by having an effective information infrastructure. This means that a website has a clear and defined structure that makes it easier for visitors to find information. And this happens when the content is organized according to the user’s mental models (explanations of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world).

When users look at a link, they need to understand why they see this link and where it will take them. Don’t stuff keywords into the anchor text of your links. This approach rarely adds value to visitors, and it can hurt your search ranking. Search engines are also against this approach because they see it as attempts to optimize for better ranking.

Provide all required information such as help text to make sure users can complete tasks without confusion. For example, if you design an eCommerce website, you can provide a section with frequently asked questions about the product on the product details page. By doing that, you will make your page more valuable for your visitors and reduce the interaction cost (visitors won’t need to search for the answer).

How to utilize IA skills to create better website architecture.

Information architecture plans for the library website for Duke University. Image by Duke University.

Duplicate content check report. Image by Siteliner.

Start by understanding what search queries people use when searching for products or services similar to yours. While it’s possible to use both online tools (like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush) and offline methods, I recommend starting with offline methods such as user interviews and contextual inquiries. Start by listening to your clients. You can reach out to them directly through social media and dedicated surveys. Focus on the language they use, match it with information from your analytics tools and note the best expressions that fit your website.

When we create user-centered websites, we want to have an information architecture that is focused on users. The logical structure of your navigation and individual pages should match with the mental model of people who visit your website. It’s vital to invest in user research and conduct a series of card sorting and tree testing sessions to understand how users categorize information.

Even in a perfectly organized website, there is always a chance of moving content, and you need to undertake URL changes with care. There are two types of redirects you can use – 301 and 302. A 301 redirect means that the page has permanently moved to a new location while a 302 redirect means that the move is only temporary.

Here are a few things you can do:

Before implementing information architecture mapping (creating new or optimizing existing content), you need to take a step back and think about your website. Ask, “What is my site about? What do I want to achieve?” The answers to these questions will determine the main goal(s) of your website. It’s important to frame everything you do on a website around goals, especially when you decide to create new or optimize existing content to achieve these goals.

There are generally three types of pages:

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