How Website Hierarchy Affects SEO

How Website Hierarchy Affects SEOHow organized is your website?

This probably seems like an innocuous question. But did you know that your website hierarchy can affect how it ranks in search?

We’ve all heard about how important content is, and how we should put effort into crafting amazing content on a regular basis. But even something as simple as your site structure can have a dramatic effect on your organic traffic.

You may be under the impression that there’s a logical flow to your website, that your visitors know exactly where they need to go to find the information they’re looking for.

But the pages optimized for your best keywords might be buried deeper than they should be. Your internal linking may need to be improved upon. Furthermore, you may need to beef up the content on your site.

Unless you already have an excellent site structure, you probably have some work ahead of you. But the results will be worth the effort.

First, here’s why you need to improve your site structure.

A Better Site Structure Leads to a Better User Experience

Google cares about user experience. First and foremost, they strive to deliver relevant, quality search results to searchers. They will often deprioritize sites that are slow, aren’t mobile optimized, host too many ads, have thin or spammy content, and so on, in favor of sites that put the user first.

Much has been said about web design. And designs are sometimes complete works of art. But when it comes to creating an excellent user experience, design isn’t just about looking pretty, is it? Your site needs to function correctly and produce the desired results.

Per Neil Patel, “The human mind craves cognitive equilibrium – being able to put pieces logically together, finding things where they’re expected, and locating what they are seeking. Thus, a strong and logical site structure is cognitively satisfying to users.”

You heard right – a properly designed website feels good to its users. And what’s good for the user is good for Google. People will spend more time on your site, which is one of the indicators the content you’re providing is high quality.

There are several other benefits to a solid site structure – it can help you earn site links in search engine results. And, most importantly, it makes your website much easier for search engines to crawl.

So, how do you figure out what your site structure presently looks like, and how do you go about tweaking it?

Visualizing Your Site Structure

If you want to get a better sense of how your site is laid out, it’s worth drawing a map or a tree diagram. Start with your home page and list every page that can be accessed from it. Keep going until you have the whole site laid out in separate tiers.

This exercise will help you determine if there are any glaring issues with your site. As we’ve explored earlier, it could be that some of your most important pages are buried deeper than they should be. Even if you are ranking for your desired terms, improving the placement of these pages on your website can help you rank even higher and drive more traffic.

Once you have your website hierarchy in front of you, you can begin strategizing how to improve upon it. Based on the traffic you’re getting (or not getting) to certain pages, it should become obvious how to move things around to achieve the desired end.

For instance, let’s say one of the services you offer is personal coaching. But your personal coaching page is currently on the “fifth tier” of your website. If you want to get more coaching clients, that’s poor planning. This page should be moved to the second or third tier of your site, depending on the funnel you’ve crafted, or how you want your visitors to find out about your coaching.

This is a crude example but should serve to illustrate how you can boost certain pages on your website.

Another critical component to look at is internal linking or linking structure. Let’s see.

Internal Linking

Internal linking is another critical area to consider when you’re looking to improve site structure.

If you’ve spent any time strategizing, then you already know what keywords you’re trying to rank for. And, you’ve probably built some great content around them too.

But certain pages on your website could be stealing the traffic away from what are supposed to be pillar pages on your site. The home page is typically the worst offender since most businesses prioritize promoting their home page over other pages on their site. They may even have information on the home page that should be on other key pages.

One way to solve this problem is to use exact match keywords on the pages you want to drive the most traffic to, and then link to those pages using other long-tail variations instead of the exact match phrases.

There are certainly other considerations when it comes to internal linking. First and foremost, if you aren’t continually linking to the main pages on your website, you could be missing opportunities. Once the links are in place, you need to look at the anchor text you’re using to link to certain pages. Check and see if your homepage isn’t stealing away all the SEO benefit from other pages on your site.

Content is another area worth exploring as you improve your site structure.

Enhancing Your Content

Another key component to ranking for your chosen terms is content. This doesn’t have as much to do with site structure as it does with providing users with targeted, relevant information. But if you’re going to be linking to your pillar pages more often, you should ensure that the content on these pages is fully fleshed out and comprehensive.

In some cases, you may choose to take the content that’s on your homepage and move it to another page that you want to rank. This is an important consideration when it comes to site structure too, especially since it could mean creating more pages or enhancing existing pages.

Adjust based on the map or diagram you created for your site earlier. Are you missing anything? Is any of your content too thin to be worthwhile? Should these pages be beefed up with additional content? Are there any pages that could be removed or combined?

Conducting a thorough content audit and restructuring your site can lead to amazing results. Per Eric Siu, “A content audit involves taking a look at all the content on your website and assessing its relative strengths and weaknesses to prioritize your future marketing activities. It’s a qualitative assessment and evaluation based on the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you selected beforehand.”

Google likes it when you update content on your website. Updating and thickening up content on an ongoing basis can help drive more traffic.

This site restructuring case study via SEO Reseller is also worth a look. In it, Itamar Gero explains how he increase organic traffic for a client’s website by 300% in six months simply by doing the things we’ve already discussed – restructuring the site, optimizing the internal linking, and improving the site’s content.

But ranking in search couldn’t possibly be that simple, right?

Is it Really That Simple?

Much has been said about SEO. And, to be fair, keeping up with all the changes can quickly become a full-time job.

But site structure is more important than you might think. Organizing your site can help you create a better user experience. It can help you get site links in Google, which can improve click-through and traffic. It can make it easier for search engines to crawl your site. By Google’s admission, their crawlers can’t necessarily find all the pages on your site. This is a good reason to structure your site correctly and create a sitemap.

And, it wouldn’t be an over-exaggeration to say that your SEO success is contingent on your site hierarchy.

So, in a way, it really is that simple.

The hard part is planning your site structure. If you do this before ever launching your site, you can guarantee that your hierarchy remains stable and sound. And, if you remember to keep it simple moving forward, you’ll see great results from your efforts.

But if you already have a site, and you’ve made a bit of a mess, you could end up having to put a lot of effort into restructuring.

If you believe your site structure isn’t as good as it could be, you need to look at it. You could be missing out on some serious organic traffic.

Final Thoughts on Creating a Sound Website Hierarchy

Ranking in search is contingent on a variety of factors, and it rarely if ever hinges on just one thing. Developing a proper site structure just ensures that the effort you put into content and other optimization efforts pay off over the long haul.

Is your website structure in order? Do you think you could benefit from restructuring your website to rank for your desired terms?

Let us know in the comments below.

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