The structure is one of the most important aspects in the construction of a website making access to information quicker and more effective. A quality structure is also an extremely important factor to create a website optimized for search engines (SEO). In this article we will address some aspects to take into account when planning the structure of your website:
Travelers, cities and websites
Those who like to travel are aware of the challenge faced when it comes to finding a location among the winding streets of an ancient city, even looking at a map. On the other hand, when visiting a modern city and using a map, its streets drawn in a geometrically harmonized way allow the traveler to understand where he is, understand the elements that compose it and quickly find what he is looking for, almost intuitively. But what do travelers and cities have in common with websites? The answer lies in the organization.
Why should a website have a good structure?
1. Increased probability of SEO success
A website with a good structure is more easily indexed and recognized by search engines as something that makes sense, which may lead to being privileged in search results to the detriment of others.
2. Better user experience
If a website is well organized, the user can navigate it easily and finding what he looks for quicker. And in a world where the user is always at the center, his experience is the most important thing.
3. Better strategic orientation in terms of content
It's easier to create relevant content to the website and know in which areas to bet on when it's best organized.
When should a website’s structure be thought of?
The concern to develop a good structure for a website should be present from its planning.
In the case of an existing website, it's necessary to assess the impact that a change in the structure of the site and the format of the URL can have in terms of rankings and traffic. If you still come to the conclusion that changing the structure is the best policy, it is necessary to check which pages are changed so that the landing pages are the links (and possibly ranking) of the pages that already existed, through a redirect 301.
How to develop a good website structure?
1. Define the website's goals
The way the information is organized will depend essentially on the goals/ purposes it serves. When designing the structure of your website, its objectives must be well-defined.
2. Define the website's organization
By defining a hierarchy of a website it should be taken into account that it should be simple and balanced, with few pages in the main menu, that makes sense to those who see it, and that it has a number of contents per menu page that keeps the site balanced. A good idea is to make the site look like a “flattened” pyramid. An example of hierarchy with these characteristics is:
Example of a balanced hierarchy of a website
- Pages and Contents
The main pages should be defined based on the strategic terms (keywords) that define the website. These pages, due to their importance, will be part of the menu, are directly linked to the domain and are usually important in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The number of these pages shall not be over 8.
The ramifications of these pages will have more specific contents regarding the main page, which should be organized according to their order of importance and specificity. A website should preferably and at most have 3 pages (counting from those that are part of the menu = 1), since the relevance of the pages to the search engines is diluted depending on the distance they're from the homepage (hence the need for the pyramid to be flattened).
A well-structured website allows you to offer a great experience, to define the terms for the most important pages and the content strategy of the site, which are relevant ranking factors in the search engines.
3. Definition of URLS
The URLs should follow the structure set for the website. Let us assume that the website you intend to build is an association for animals (amigosparaadotar.com) whose goal is to get people to adopt animals. The website for animal adoption has mostly cats and dogs, but it also has other animals.
The main pages for this business may be “Dogs to adopt“ (Cães para adotar), “Cats to adopt“ (Gatos para adotar), “Other animals to adopt“ (Outros animais) and “About us“ (Sobre a Associação). Following the guidelines defined above, an example of a balanced site structure for this example is the following:
Figure 1: Example of the structure for the animal association website
The URLs would be built based on this website structure, with “exemplar” 1 in the following format:http://amigosparaadotar.com/caes-para-adotar/raca-1/1, and so on and so forth.
Rules for the construction of URLs
- No accentuation or special characters
- Terms separated by hyphen
- Conveys a meaning in as little words as possible (text)
- Max. 74 characters
Well-constructed URL’s make a page more relevant to search engines.
4. Internal Links
A well-structured website should also have internal links between the different pages- pages that address similar themes, and whose link adds value to the information provided.
Internal links facilitate both navigation and the identification of related content.
After creating the structure of the website it's important to submit it in the main search engines (mainly Google and Bing). Each time the website is changed it’s recommended to insert a new Sitemap.
The presence of a sitemap allows search engines to index their website quicker.
A quality structure benefits your website in terms of SEO because:
- It allows search engines to index your website more easily.
- Helps to identify which pages (and keywords) of the website are the most important.
- It is a sign of quality for search engines.
- Contributes to the creation of an improved URL structure.
- Contributes to a better user experience.
- It lets us know how the contents of the different pages are related to each other.
A website that follows these recommendations (to think strategically, to define a balanced and simple website structure, to highlight the important content and create secondary topics around them, to develop a sitemap, to create friendly URLs based on the structure of the website, and create internal links) becomes more organized, provides a good experience to the users, allows us to know which strategic direction to follow and is more likely to occupy a better position in terms of SEO.
Someone who already has a website but considers that the information may be better presented can also do this exercise and decide, based on the analysis of the impact that these changes may have on traffic (changes in websites with rankings can lead to the loss of those rankings), if it's worth to modify the structure of the website.
And, returning to the city analogy: like a modern city, a website must have a harmonized structure, which allows the user/ search engines to know its location within the site and what elements make it up, quickly finding what it’s looking for. And that experience can be improved if you have a map that any user, regardless of their characteristics, can easily understand.
By Bruno Cea