How To
14 min read

How to Plan a Website Structure for Better SEO

Soniya Khubchandani

August 17, 2022

Website structure is one of the most important things to understand when building or redesigning a website. 

Don’t make the mistake of skipping planning your website structure. It will only put more work into cleaning and organizing your website later.

So it’s best to plan your website structure for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes as soon as possible.

What is website structure?

A website's information structure refers to how pages link and whether they're organized into categories or lists. Choosing a structure that makes sense for your business and helps you achieve your objectives is essential.

This article will cover the main types of website structure and how you can plan your website to create the best experience for your users and search engine.

Types of website structures

Websites are built with various structures, so choosing the right one is crucial for your website planning project. Here are 4 common types:

Hierarchical or tree model

The hierarchical structure is used when there are many content levels on your site, with each level having a parent-child relationship. The hierarchical model is suitable for large organizations with many departments or locations. If you have multiple pages that need to be organized into a hierarchy, this structure is perfect for you!

Hierarchical website structure example - Amazon

Sequential or linear model

This structure is like a series of steps a visitor must follow to reach the end goal. With this structure, information is presented in a logical order from top to bottom, with no branching off into different directions. It's useful for sites that want to emphasize one point at a time without allowing users to skip around too much (like an informational site).

Database model

 Database website structure example - Wikihow

This structure uses databases and tables to organize information into categories so users and bots can easily search it. This model works well if you have lots of data that needs to be organized and made accessible for quick retrieval.

Matrix, webbed, or network model

The matrix or webbed model is a collection of related pages that include links to other pages within the same site. This structure makes it easy for users to navigate your site by clicking on links within content areas, such as product descriptions or blog posts. 

Source: Wikipedia
Image: https://share.getcloudapp.com/jkuXwXrK 

It also provides SEO benefits because search engines love links and rank your site accordingly. The downside is that this structure can be confusing for users looking for a specific product or service who don't know how to navigate the related pages.

Why is a good website structure important for SEO?

Let's discuss how a solid site architecture can help your search engine optimization.

Improves user experience

73.1% of web agencies and web designers said they felt that visitors left a site with an unresponsive design. In comparison, 34.6% cited poor content structure as a reason for going.

Reasons why visitors leave a website
Source: GoodFirms

So, it's no secret that user experience matters regarding site structure and web design. The better your site provides an intuitive, easy-to-use interface, the better your rankings in search engines like Google and Bing.

Helps website crawlers

When your site's structure allows search engine crawlers (such as Google bots) to crawl all of your important pages without getting lost, Google has an easier time figuring out what kind of content exists on each page—and ranking those accordingly in its search results.

Make your content more relevant for users' search queries

When you design your website, you must consider what people are searching for and how your content can answer those questions. A good website structure makes it easier for users to find what they're looking for and helps them navigate the rest of your site easily.

Advanced internal linking

With an advanced internal linking strategy, you can ensure that each piece of content is linked to relevant information elsewhere on your site. This makes it easier for users searching for a specific topic to get more information about it without clicking through multiple pages. 

It also makes it easier for Google to determine what's most relevant from page to page within your site.

How to plan an effective website structure

Compile keyword research for your site

The first step in planning your site structure is to compile keyword research for your site. You can do this by creating topic clusters, which are groups of keywords that are related to one another. It helps you understand what people are looking for when they search for content related to your niche and how they're searching for it.

Topical cluster example

By compiling keyword research, you can better determine what types of content to write on your website and how often you should update it. You'll also learn the words users look for when visiting your site. 

By doing keyword research, you'll uncover a lot of helpful information about your target audience that can help inform your content strategy for the future.

Research your competition and market

As you begin to plan your site structure, it is crucial to take some time to research your competition and market.

Competitor analysis

Start by checking out the sites already ranking well in Google for your target keywords. Look at their content, design, and overall user experience. What kind of content do they have? Is it easy to find? How is it organized?

This will help you understand what other companies are doing on their websites and how they are marketing themselves. It could lead you to make changes that may increase your conversion rates or lower the bounce rate of visitors who visit your site.

You should also do some research into how other businesses are using their websites. Are they using video? How long are their pages? How much text is there? Make sure that your site fits into the mold of what people expect from other similar sites in your industry.

This will help with SEO and user experience—more traffic coming back to your site!

Choose an easy-to-read URL structure

Choosing an easy-to-read URL structure is a great way to help your readers find what they're looking for, and it's a great way to make sure your website is accessible.

The best way to do this is to use the URL structure of your site as a guide for creating an easy-to-read hierarchy. For example, if you have a lot of subcategories in your store, consider including "category/" or "subcategory/" in front of each link to make it clear what kind of content is displayed.

Create an internal linking and anchor text strategy plan

Link structure refers to how you organize links across your site. It includes things like:

  • The number of links on each page.
  • Whether or not there are links to other pages on your site or external sites.
  • What links are included (text links, images, videos).

When done correctly, link structure can improve user experience by making it easier for visitors to navigate the site and find what they're looking for. It also helps search engines understand what content is most important on a page and how best to rank it in search results.

On the other hand, anchor text is the words you see when you hover over a link on a web page. It's also called "clickable text" or "link text."

The anchor text determines what search engines use as the link's "target" or destination. This can be a page on your website, another site's homepage, a video, an image, or anything with an associated address.

For example, here is a hyperlink: "Learn how to write an affiliate blog post." What you see in blue is the anchor text for that link. When search engines crawl your site and index its content, they use anchor text to better understand what's on each page.

Pick your website structure and hierarchy

Your website structure depends on your business type, the content you need to include on your website, and how many pages you want to create.

If you run a B2B company, you might want to create different sections for each department or product line. If you run a B2C company, you can create sections based on the audience's needs and interests. If you have many products or services, create subcategories for each one so people can easily find what they need.

Whatever structure you choose, make sure it's consistent across your website.

Also, don't forget about the importance of SEO. It's not enough to simply write good quality content—you also need to structure it in a way that makes sense for search engines. This means using headings and subheadings, writing short paragraphs (about three sentences), optimizing anchor texts, and including keywords where appropriate.

Create your sitemap

A sitemap is a visual representation of the pages and sections of your website. It helps you organize your site's content and keep track of it to ensure everything fits together as you build your site.

It also helps you track where different pages are located—like if you have multiple versions of a landing page that vary slightly (for example, with different calls-to-action or CTAs). You can use a sitemap to plan how these pages will fit together and determine what kind of navigation will be most effective for users.

The best way to create an effective sitemap is by starting with a blank slate. Put all the pages on your site in order from top to bottom, regardless of whether they exist. Once this is done, think about how those pages will work together on the sitemap.

A very simple sitemap could have all the pages and posts on one page, while another basic sitemap could break down posts, pages, and categories into different sitemaps.

Once your sitemap is finalized, create a flowchart of the pages. This will help you visualize how users will move through the site—and where there might be gaps or problems in the experience.

How to set up your website structure

Now that you have a site structure plan, it's time to start building your website.

Design your homepage

When you're website planning, one of the first things you'll want to think about is the structure of your homepage. Your homepage is the first place people go when they visit your site, so it should be designed to guide them through the rest of their experience.

Homepage example - Notion

99% of websites have 10 seconds to capture visitors' attention. When designing a website, it's necessary to keep this rule in mind. Make sure your homepage allows users to understand what your business does and where they should go within 10 seconds of visiting your site.

Here are some tips for designing your homepage:

  1. Put your most important information at the top of the page—the things people will want to see first.
  2. Make sure all links are easy to find and click on, even if hidden behind something else, like an image slider or navigation bar.
  3. Use graphics, photos, and icons to make your site easy on the eyes. Ensure all images are relevant—don't just throw in random pictures just because you can!
  4. Make sure you put a clear call-to-action on your homepage, telling people exactly what to do next.
  5. Don't forget about mobile! Unless your business only serves desktop users (unlikely), you must ensure all your content displays well on smartphones.

The goal of your website is to get people to take action, so make sure that everything on your homepage is designed with this in mind.

Decide navigation

The best way to guide users through your website is to use a clear and intuitive navigation system. The more clicks it takes people to get where they want to go, the less likely they will stay on your page—so don't make people hunt for what they need!

You have a few options when it comes to navigation.

Menus 

Menus are the main or primary navigation options for your site. Your menu structure should be easy for visitors to find and understand.

Try using a top-level menu with submenus under each category title. If you have too many sub-menus, consider combining them into a single menu item or creating a drop-down menu instead of having them all open simultaneously. Also, you should avoid using a mega menu whenever possible. It can confuse visitors trying to find something specific and not search engine friendly.

Sidebars and footers

Sidebars and footers are good places to put secondary navigation options. If you have a lot of content on your site, consider using a sidebar and a footer for navigation. You can also use these areas for social media links or contact information. These are not the primary way to get around your site, but they can quickly help visitors find what they need.

Breadcrumbs

 

Breadcrumbs let people know where they are in the website hierarchy and where they can go next. Usually, they appear at the top of the page as text links. The most common use for breadcrumbs is to help people find their way around large sites with lots of pages and content. You can also use breadcrumbs on mobile apps or websites with multiple sections.

Breadcrumbs on Amazon
Image: https://share.getcloudapp.com/d5uO7Omk 

For example, if you have an e-commerce site, breadcrumbs can let people know where they are in the buying process. They can also help them navigate between multiple products and brands.

Taxonomies

Taxonomies help you define the information you will have on your site and where it will be located. For example, if you sell shoes, you'll probably want a category for each type of shoe (like running shoes, dressy flats, etc.). Then each shoe type could have subcategories for different styles within that category (like "black" or "cushioned").

Categories and subcategories

Categories should be broad enough to allow for various types of content. If you're selling running shoes, you might have categories for men's and women's running shoes and categories for different types of running shoes (like trail running or treadmill). Then, within each category, you could have subcategories for specific styles (like the color of the shoe).

Subcategories should be narrower than their parent category; this allows users looking for something specific to find the most relevant information quickly and easily. For example, if you're selling running shoes, a user looking for a pair of trail running shoes might click on the "trail running" subcategory. This will take them to another page with a list of your different trail running shoe styles.

It's okay to have a few subcategories that don't fit into any of the categories. This can be useful for content that doesn't quite serve anywhere else, such as guides and tips.

Tags

Tags are labels that categorize content based on specific keywords or phrases. They help add context without creating a whole new category just for one piece of content. A tag could be something like "running shoes" or "women's dress shoes," and it would apply to any content within the site that uses that specific keyword.

You can use tags to organize any kind of content. You could use them to highlight specific pieces of content within a main category,  subcategory, or even as standalone labels for the various types of website content you create.

The best way to use tags is to ensure each has a relevant definition. The more specific your tags are, the easier it will be for users to find what they're looking for.

Develop landing pages

A landing page is a single page on your website where you want visitors to go. It typically includes specific information about a particular topic or product.

Landing pages are meant to be quick and easy to read so that visitors don't get distracted by anything else on your site. They can also be specific in their purpose. Suppose someone comes looking for an explanation of what makes a particular product different from its competitors. In that case, they should be able to find precisely that information—and nothing else—in one place on your website.

Determining how many landing pages you need depends on what kind of information or services you're looking to share with your audience. If you're working on an eCommerce site, then it's likely that you'll want more pages than if you're a local business owner who wants to provide information about their company and products.

If you're just starting, it's best to start with one or two pages and then build up from there—you can always add more later, but you don't want to overwhelm a potential customer by giving them too much information all at once.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you're creating landing pages.

  • Have a clear hierarchy of pages on your site.
  • Keep your landing pages well-organized.
  • Don't forget about mobile users!
  • Add a clear call to action.
  • Keep your landing page simple.

A well-organized and visually appealing website makes your site more user-friendly but can also help boost your rankings in search engines.

Plan your blog section

Planning your blog structure is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your website is effective. Here are some things to consider when planning your blog section:

  1. Who are your target readers? What do they want to see?
  2. How many posts per month should you put up? How frequently should they be posted?
  3. What kind of content will you include in each post? How long should it be? Will there be images, videos, or audio files?
  4. How will all of this be organized so that it's easy for users to find what they need when they visit your site?

Adding a blog section on your website can help you rank in search engines, but it's also an excellent way to build a loyal following of readers interested in your niche. The key is creating high-quality content to help them achieve their goals.

Creating enough content for your blog can be difficult if you have a small team and limited resources. Luckily, an AI writing assistant like Copy IA can help.

You just have to enter the topic, automatically generating several paragraphs of text ready for your review. You can also use Copy.ai for other tasks such as social media posts, emails, and more!

Optimize internal links

Internal links are one of the most important things to get right regarding SEO. You can use tools such as Ahrefs to see which pages of your site have the most internal backlinks, then optimize these pages by adding more relevant content. 

This will also help to find pages that don’t have internal links. Therefore, you should look at relevant content on your website that you should internally link.

If you have an eCommerce site, ensure that your products (including variations) are linked to or from other areas of your site. This will help Google's bots crawl through your content easily, improving rankings for each piece.

When optimizing internal links, you should keep a few things in mind:

  1. Don't overdo it! Too many links within your text can make your content look spammy and unprofessional.
  2. Use anchor text that makes sense! You want people clicking on those links to find what they're looking for—not just some random page on your site. Ensure the anchor text is clear and descriptive so that people know exactly where they're going when they click on it.
  3. Use keywords in your anchor text. This will help your site rank for those keywords and make it easier for people to find what they're looking for.
  4. Make sure your broken links are set up with 301 redirects. Whenever you link to another page on your site that isn’t found, ensure there's a 301 redirect to send users directly to a relevant destination instead of being given an error message.
  5. Include a "nofollow" tag on any links that a Google bot shouldn't follow. This will help prevent search engines from associating your website with the destination link, reducing your site's rankings.

Tips for setting up your website structure

You can do a few things to ensure that your website is structured in the best possible way.

Avoid cannibalizing keywords

Keywords are essential, but you shouldn't use them to the point where they're repeated on multiple pages as the focus keyword with similar content. Instead, focus on creating informative and exciting content for your readers in interlinkable clusters.

Keep crawl depth low

If a user clicks on one of your blog posts and then clicks through five other pages before they find what they're looking for, Google may decide that those pages aren't relevant based on their search results and not show them anywhere. Hence, you want to ensure that your site is structured to keep the crawl depth of Google as low as possible.

Don't overdo links

Your website should have links to give users easy access to more information on other pages within your site, but too many links can confuse users and make them feel lost on your website. If you have too many links on a page, Google may think those pages aren't relevant and not show them in search results.

When you have internal links, you also pass “link juice” from one page to another. By having too many internal and external links on a certain page, you are reducing the “link juice” power those links give to the page they are linking to.

Utilize schema markup

This is a coding language for websites that tells search engines what type of content is contained within each page to better understand what your site offers and rank it accordingly in search results. Schema markup is significant for e-commerce sites as it helps Google understand your products and how they work.

Optimize your heading hierarchy properly

Headings are one of the most critical elements on a page, as they help search engines determine what your site is about. You should have at least three headings on each page, with H1 being the most important and H2 being secondary. Make sure that these headings reflect the content of your pages — don't just fill them in because they're necessary; use them to create an outline of your site's topics so that search engines can easily identify what you're trying to say.

Structure your site for the best user experience

It's not enough to just make it look good — you also need to ensure it's easy for people to use. When designing a website, think about how users will interact with its content and structure the page accordingly.

Test and audit your website

Your website is live, but it's not done yet. You should constantly be testing and monitoring how well your site performs so that you can identify any issues and make the necessary changes. Test your site with different browsers and devices to ensure it displays correctly across all platforms, including smartphones and tablets.

Use tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to get insight into how people interact with your site: what they're clicking on, where they're coming from when they're visiting, and more.

Frequently asked questions about website structure

What is the best website structure for SEO?

The structure of your website will largely depend on what kind of site you are building. While choosing any layout is possible, it is best if the format aligns with your core ideas and how visitors expect to interact with a website like yours.

How does website structure improve SEO?

With a good site structure, you'll be able to tell the search engines what information is on each page so that they can index it properly and show that page's content when someone searches for something related to that topic.

What is a top-down website structure?

A top-down website structure is when you start with the homepage and then work your way through the site, creating sub-pages. This works well if you want to give a complete picture of your business or product right away.

With a top-down structure, planning is essential. Once a website is up, it's very time-consuming to change the overall design of the site.

What is a bottom-up website structure?

A bottom-up website structure is when you start with the most specific page of information and then work your way up. This works best if you need to provide more detailed information on particular topics.

A bottom-up website structure lets you adjust your site over time and build it piece by piece. While this type of structure works well for the owner, it can make search engines and users have a difficult time navigating.

Final thoughts on planning a website structure

A website is an investment in digital marketing. It's not a one-time purchase but rather an asset that will need to be maintained and updated over time. If you want your website to be successful, don't skimp on quality or design. A good website architecture with optimized content for SEO will help draw in new customers and keep current ones coming back.

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