Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) famously offers to enhance online visibility by improving search engine rankings. To do so, it spans on-page and off-page elements and activities and technical website health. But before it can yield results, it needs a solid foundation to stand on; your website’s structure. To explain this and help you do so, let’s explore how to create a site structure that will enhance SEO.
First and foremost, let’s briefly define SEO in more specific terms. Doing so will help contextualize what comes next.
In essence, SEO is a series of practices that optimizes websites for search engines to let them rank on Google. Toward this goal, it splits into the three main subtypes mentioned above, each with its focus:
- On-page SEO; on-page elements such as image optimizations and content structure
- Off-page SEO; off-page activities such as link building
- Technical SEO; practices that ensure technical health, such as XML sitemaps
That said, Google has 200+ ranking factors for websites to cater to – which we can’t explore here for text economy. What’s crucial in this context is that, essentially, all these factors aim to gauge content’s value through:
- Length and depth
- Authoritativeness and credibility
- Relevance to search queries’ intent
- User engagement
- Mobile-friendliness and user experience
These factors cannot be limited to on-page content alone – the primary SEO focus for many. Rather, they also require excellent web design, authoritative backlinks, and a robust site structure to enhance SEO.
What’s site structure?
Now, what exactly is site structure? To explain with equal brevity, the term describes how a website is set up and how its content is grouped. For a visual example, consider the following GlooMaps template:
As you can see, even before considering SEO, a solid site structure will facilitate much easier and more logical visitor navigation. It will tie together your vital page and content types and help weave a proper, satisfying customer journey.
#1 Landing pages
As the name suggests, landing pages are often the first pages visitors will land on. Building such pages that convert visitors is, of course, vital, and you can do it through such SEO-aligned practices as:
- Fast loading speeds
- Excellent web design
However, it’s equally crucial that your site structure facilitates a customer journey through them. The purpose of landing pages isn’t to hard-sell; your visitors are not ready for that yet.
#2 Content pages
The usual SEO candidates, content pages typically satisfy users’ informational intent and continue their journey. Such pages naturally need to be:
- Informative, as opposed to “salesy”
- Valuable and insightful
- Highly readable
But as with landing pages, content pages mustn’t explicitly aim to sell. They’re meant to inform, enrich the users’ journey, and lead them to your conversion pages.
#3 Conversion pages
Finally, conversion pages do intend to sell as they conclude the journey. For this purpose, they should:
- Feature clean, concise copy
- Be highly readable
- Feature a bold, compelling Call to Action (CTA)
But it is your site structure that will best ensure the proper timing for them. They can’t be your first navigation level, or they’ll simply fail; the visitor is not ready just yet.
How to create a site structure that will enhance SEO
It should now be clear that your site structure directly informs your customer journeys. SEO-wise, the main implication of this is engagement; the more engagement your website gets, the better it ranks.
However, your site structure will also affect your SEO in deeper, technical ways. So, let us explore the optimal structure process as we explain them.
#1 Subdomains and subdirectories
This first distinction bears noting here because it’s often beyond your control. Rather, you may need one or the other and can’t decide strictly on SEO grounds.
A subdomain’s URL will look like this:
As regards SEO, subdomains are treated as separate entities from your primary domain. In this example, your blog sits outside your main domain and thus ranks separately. While less than ideal, Google’s John Mueller assures us this is fine:
Still, his suggestions bear noting:
- Make any needed changes to settings
- Verify subdomains separately
- Track performance per subdomain
Instead, a subdirectory’s URL will look like this:
In contrast to subdomains, Google does treat subdirectories as parts of the main domain. This lets your blog directly boost your domain’s rankings. You’ll often see reports of notable performance gains when migrating subdomains into subdirectories.
Still, you’ll often not have a choice between the two. You may need subdomains for different languages, for example, or face server limitations. In all cases, this distinction bears noting for both tracking and subsequent steps.
#2 Choose a site structure that will enhance SEO
You may now choose a site structure that best suits your website. The four primary types of structures are the following:
- Matrix. A very complex structure and one of the oldest ones as well. This structure best caters to vast websites that primarily rely on search for navigation.
- Database. A similarly complex structure and one best reserved for databases. Still, this bottom-up structure is quite future-proof.
- Hierarchical. The tree structure and one of the most common structures today. This one offers a solid foundation for most websites, and it notably favors eCommerce ones.
- Sequential. The most linear structure is often dubbed the “page-to-page” structure. This one best suits simple sites that don’t require deep navigation to function.
A visual example of the sequential structure employed in eCommerce checkouts you may see below:
Of course, which one your website will need will also depend on you. That said, the hierarchical structure typically offers the safer, SEO-friendlier choice.
#3 Create topic clusters
With these two in order, you may now begin to work on your website’s content structure. The one practice SEO and visitors alike value highly in this regard is topic clusters:
This kind of site structure will enhance SEO, as it neatly groups content together. In this example, “SEO” serves as a content pillar, the center from which you can expand to SEO-related content. MoversTech CRM does this exceptionally well through their blog subcategories, offering content clusters around central pillars. This allows visitors to navigate the content of interest more efficiently and enables search engines to contextualize your content better.
As you do so, you must keep in mind two critical practices.
Reflect your structure in your URLs
First, your URLs must reflect your structure. This also eases navigation and earns Google’s favors – so in the above example, URLs should look like this:
- yourdomain.com/seo /best-seo-podcasts/
- yourdomain.com/seo /seo/seo-tools-extensions/
- yourdomain.com/seo /seo-for-dummies/
Link all cluster content to the content pillar
Second, all cluster content must have internal links to the central content pillar. This will further solidify your content’s structure in the eyes of both users and search engines, as we’ll discuss next.
#4 Consolidate your internal links
On that note, and even beyond content clusters, it’s equally vital that you consolidate your internal links. To explain why that is, let us explore three of the best practices in this regard – and their benefits.
Add at least one internal link to each page
First, you must ensure that all of your pages are linked to and from at least one other page. This prevents “orphaned” pages that may be indexed more slowly by Google’s crawlers and facilitates content clusters. As it does, it also allows for authority transfers among different pages. This site structure will enhance SEO the most as regards individual page authority.
Use relevant anchor texts
Linking alone isn’t enough, however. Your anchor text must also add value. Consider all the links on this article thus far; their anchor texts clearly communicate the destination pages’ content. Users’ journeys aside, Google also uses anchor texts to contextualize your content’s subject and rank it appropriately.
Use internal links to facilitate customer journeys
Finally, strategic internal links facilitate better customer journeys. In this regard, consider the page types above:
- A visitor finds a landing page or content page
- Internal links direct them to relevant content pages, nurturing them as leads
- Content pages eventually lead them to conversion pages, such as product or service pages
Your revenue aside, this also benefits SEO by producing engagement metrics like dwelling time and pages visited.
#5 Provide Google with an XML sitemap
Finally, while you may choose not to provide users with an HTML sitemap on your page footer, you must provide Google with an XML sitemap. Unlike the former, the latter strictly caters to search engine crawlers, not human users:
In this context, XML sitemaps further ensure that Google’s crawlers index your pages swiftly and that no pages are orphaned. Thankfully, Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress offer such options by default – or plugins that do. For WordPress specifically, you may consider such tools as:
- Yoast SEO, pictured above
- XML Sitemaps by Auctollo
Notably, many such tools also come with additional SEO functionalities you may benefit from.
So for this final step, you may use such tools to craft an XML sitemap, evaluate it to remedy any shortcomings, and submit it to Google via Google Search Console.
You may consult Google’s sitemap article for more information on this rather technical subject.
To conclude, it is vital to create a site structure that will enhance SEO carefully. From more efficient customer journeys and the engagement signals they produce to authority transfers and content contextualization, the benefit of a robust structure cannot be overstated. While brief, hopefully, this article convinced you of its value and helped you get started.