With the abundance of possibilities for different types of content and media that are available today, it’s only natural that websites are now getting much more complex. That’s why it’s now more critical than ever before to map out a site’s structure so that people find it convenient and easy to browse.
A great analogy to portray the value of an optimized site architecture can be seen in your computer files. When you have all of your files on your desktop or Downloads folder can make finding a particular piece of content very difficult and frustrating. However, when you have your content organized into folders and subfolders can make it much more efficient to find exactly what you’re looking for.
For context, here’s what one of Google’s Trends Analysts said on the topic:
“In general I’d be careful to avoid setting up a situation where normal website navigation doesn’t work. So we should be able to crawl from one URL to any other URL on your website just by following the links on the page…” “… If that’s not possible then we lose a lot of context. So if we’re only seeing these URLs through your sitemap file then we don’t really know how these URLs are related to each other and it makes it really hard for us to be able to understand how relevant is this piece of content in the context of your website. So that’s one thing to watch out for.” – John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google
For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider an example on two ends of the spectrum. Say you have 100 articles and you’re trying to find best practices
How would you find the article faster?
Home > Documents (100 files)
Home > SEO Best Practices > Technical > Site Architecture (3 files)
This is why website architecture can be so useful for your users. Pro tip: search engines love this (more on this later).
What is Website Architecture?
In essence, implementing a website architecture is a process of arranging the content on your site and placing them in areas that are the easiest to find, most often using a maximum of three levels of depth. Like this:
Home > Product Category > Subcategory > Products
It makes perfect sense when applied to an online store, but this concept can be implemented on every website.
With the help of website architecture and the structuring of your content in a logical manner, it’s possible to develop an intuitive and seamless user experience. Even if a site has thousands of pages and caters to different needs of millions of users.
But what is site architecture, exactly?
There are five main aspects that make up the architecture of a website:
- Main navigation, consisting of menus, footers, and sidebars that guide users to the most important and often broader areas of your site, which gradually get more specific.
- Internal linking, directing users to other relevant pages on your site via hyperlinks.
- Content logic, establishing a relationship between “parent” and “children” topics or pages that is intuitive for users to understand without effort.
- URL structure, additional signals that help users know where they are in relation to the rest of your pages and can be easily remembered.
- Technical SEO, ensuring the technical optimization of your website is buttoned up through implementation of an expert SEO audit, you can be sure that your site architecture is as effective as possible.
All in all, site architecture comprises of optimized navigation and organization of your content that makes it easy for humans and robots to find and consume your content in the most efficient manner.
Creating a Website Architecture Plan
When developing your own site architecture plan, it’s essential to understand that the process cannot happen in a vacuum and that you will need to consider your audience, the competitive landscape, the SEO architecture aspects we covered in the previous section, the scale of your content, and numerous other factors (including internal resources) if you’re going to successfully rehaul your site and ensure that you reach your goals.
Luckily, there are website architecture best practices which can help ensure that you don’t miss any crucial details.
Figure Out Your Project’s Scope
Before you can start working on the site’s architecture, you must first clearly identify the scope and scale of the project. In some cases, revamping the structure of a website is part of a whole website migration plan.
Do you want to rehaul an old website, restructure a directory on your site, or are you planning ahead for the future launch of a website?
Knowing this will dictate your approach and will help you gain a better understanding of how much resources and time you will need to allocate, how long it could potentially take, and whether you will need additional resources for future content creation or take inventory of all the assets you will need to consider.
Identify Your Target Audience
Every decision that you make regarding your site architecture should be based on the audience that you’re trying to reach. Keyword Research on a large scale here is strongly recommended so you can get a better idea of how your audience searches for your solutions, services, or products so make sure you bring this up with your SEO consultant.
Site architecture SEO’s importance for your organic rankings is clear, but in the end, its purpose is to serve your site’s visitors and make their experience as convenient and straightforward as possible.
So, when mapping out the plan of your site architecture, you should make sure that it reflects your visitor habits and helps them navigate your site with ease on the device that they prefer, and in a way that coincides with their individual step in the conversion funnel.
Zero In on Your Goals
If you reach the decision that you need to update your site’s architecture, you need to identify why you’re doing it and set out the goals that you want to reach.
Figure out how your site fits in with the landscape of your market, and how an upgrade of your architecture could improve your SEO site structure or other crucial aspects that contribute to your continual organic growth.
Site Architecture Tools
When developing your site architecture plan, you need to be able to make informed decisions about what types of improvements you need to make. Otherwise, you’re basically guessing about what could be beneficial for improving UX, which can make your site architecture worse off than it was before.
Luckily, there are tools that can help you pinpoint the specific areas of your site that users find the most confusing and enable you to make data-driven decisions on what needs to be changed, and why. With the help of tools like Treejack and OptimalWorkshop, you can analyze the behavior of your site’s visitors and identify the exact moments that they drop off.
With data gathered from these tools in conjunction with expert keyword research, you can be sure that the site structure SEO changes you implement are actually meaningful. This translates to top-notch results for your on-page optimizations and delivers the outcomes that your content deserves.
Website Architecture Tips
By now, you probably have a better understanding of what you need to do to execute a successful site architecture project. To make sure that you have the best chance of success, here are some more tips on website architecture SEO best practices that you should consider as you’re preparing your plan:
Use Common Sense
If there’s one takeaway from the website architecture best practice examples, is that it’s crucial to not overwhelm your visitors with different choices and features.
Create simple and consistent hierarchical sections and subsections on your site. The most successful architectures usually include a small number of over-arching sections.
Review Your Existing Content
As you’re taking inventory of the content and other assets on your site, this is the perfect time to get rid of problematic content on your site. As you review the existing content on your website, keep an eye for the following pages:
- Cannibalizing content: Pages that compete against your own pages and hinder you from ranking. Either by consulting an SEO or by manually reviewing your content, consider consolidating articles that may speak about the same topic into one to create less but more valuable pages.
- Non-performing content: Content that has not driven any organic clicks, impressions, conversions, conversion or goal completions may have questionable quality within the purview of SEO.
- Outdated content: If you have events, press releases, or news pages that date back to a few years and don’t drive any traffic or conversions for you, consider deleting the pages.
And so we arrive at our last SEO tip on website architecture changes. It’s imperative to consult an SEO expert to evaluate the quality of your content before you get rid of important relevance signals on your site. Doing so without proper planning can have unintended repercussions during the following months that can backtrack you several months or even years of hard work.
Get Help From Professionals
Finally, you need to understand that executing a site architecture update is a huge project that requires a deep level of knowledge in multiple fields.
Therefore, it can be difficult or almost impossible to do everything on your own, and your best bet is looking for enterprise SEO professionals that can help you avoid making crucial mistakes and ensure that the entire process goes smoothly and on time.
Website architecture is a crucial aspect of succeeding online – with sites becoming more complex every year, it’s now more important than ever to carefully consider the way that your content is structured to make the user experience as convenient as possible.
Furthermore, Google and other search engines are placing a high priority on site’s architecture, content organization, and internal linking when raking sites, so following site architecture best SEO practices is critical if you want to reach your SEO goals.