What is a site structure and why is it important?

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A good website design is more than just pretty graphics and good copy. It is determining your content’s organization in a way that supports your user’s journey throughout your site. You want your user to be able to find the content they are looking for, without having to dig deep through your design elements to find it.

Moreover, site structure helps search engines read what’s on your website. For SEO, or search engine optimization, this is imperative for Google to crawl your website to help you rank high in Google.

Crawling your site means that Googlebot will look at your content on the page and analyze it. Then the site is indexed meaning that the page qualifies to show up in Google search results.

These 3 ways will help improve your site structure and your SEO.

1. Site Hierarchy. 

There are several different ways you can structure your site and organize your content.

User-centered design is probably on your mind when determining your website’s structure.

How you define the relationship between pieces of content will determine how users can successfully predict where they will find information on your site.

Implementing consistent methods of displaying content in a manner where viewers can move from familiar pages to unfamiliar pages will undoubtedly improve your user’s expectations.

There are three different organizational structures for website design. You may use one over another or all three in a complementary manner.  Let’s dive into these different structures to see what suits you best.

Hierarchical Structures:

This structure can be referred to as a tree structure, where there is a parent/child relationship between the pieces of information. Think of this information architecture as a top down approach where users will start with broad categories of information, the parent, and then move towards more refined content within that category, the child.

You may see hierarchies on a daily basis as this is a common way projects and systems are set up. Some examples include your family tree, the military (General, lieutenant general, brigadier general, general, colonel, etc), and even the classification of living things (think science: Kingdom, phylum, class, order, etc). In each of these examples, things are organized in a way that goes from high to low, a “hierarchical structure”.

Sequential Structures:

This website structure guides users through content step-by-step on a specific path. For example, when a user is attempting to purchase something or taking a course online, they are given information sequentially. Take a look at this sales page: diywebsitecopy.com.

You can see that we first identify the problem a person has- trouble writing website copy. We identify the pain points, the frustration, and the realization users come to that they need help. Then we serve them content that solves these problems, giving them the solution to their website copywriting woes. Furthermore, courses offer sequential information as often a user needs to complete one lesson as a prerequisite for the next.

Matrix Structures:

Matrix Structures offer users the flexibility to move within a website as they wish. This is possible because content is linked in numerous ways, allowing for more advanced filtering and search capabilities. Users may choose to navigate through a set of content based on date or topic. News and blog sites are great examples of matrix structures.

It’s important to think about the structure of your website when determining your design. You want to ensure that you have allowed room for growth as your business evolves. Take into account the need to add new content within a section or perhaps the need to add entire new sections!

Find balance with your architecture. If your structure is shallow, you will need large navigation menus that will inadequately guide users throughout the site. On the other hand, if your structure is too deep, users will have to navigate through several layers and levels to find their desired content.

Plan and find balance.

2. Internal Linking and the 3 Click Rule

The further a page is away from your homepage, the harder it will be for your users and website crawlers to find.

If a page is 3 or more clicks away from your homepage, add some internal links to those buried pages on pages that are a click or two away from your homepage. This way, users and crawler-bots can find your content that is buried deep from your surface level pages.

If you already have your website created and want to determine the depth of your clicks, take a manual audit of your site.

At the most basic level, you want every page to give a link to another page, and get a link back from one of your website pages.

3. Create a sitemap

Determining your site structure and the URLS that encompass your site help your content to be found. Creating a sitemap will tell search engines which pages you want them to crawl and index.

Check here to see if you site has a sitemap established: http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.

If you still need to set one up, the Yoast SEO plugin can generate a sitemap for you. Include the pages and posts that are the most important to your site.

Don’t forget to keep going back and checking and updating the map as you add to your site.

You’ve taken the time to create the content, take the time to get that content noticed.

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