Web site Construction: How To Construct Your search engine optimization Basis

The structure of the website is the organization of your website and the linking of web pages. A logical site structure helps visitors and search engines find and navigate content easily while improving conversions and helping yours SEO Efforts.

A solid website structure is a must when starting a new website or looking to redesign the current one. The bigger your website, the more critical it becomes.

This article shows you how to plan and build a great site structure in the following five steps:

  1. Prepare to map everything visually
  2. Check out how your competitors' websites are structured
  3. Create a logical plan based on your existing pages
  4. Complete your website structure using keyword research data
  5. Mapping Site Navigation Components

First, let's examine why you should care about building a solid website structure in the first place.

Why website structure is important

We all know how closely the marketing activities are intertwined across the channels. It is no different with the website structure. it's so much a SEO As a UX Thing.

User experience (UX)

Imagine you want to buy a cast iron pan. You visit a cookware website, click the Pots and Pans category, and then select Cast Iron as the material.

Regardless of which store you visit, the process is roughly the same as this structure results in a great user experience.

If you had to click tons of pages to find what you're looking for, you'd probably go and go elsewhere.

Internal link

Using intuitive navigation and an internal link structure is not only beneficial for users, but also SEO. This is because the PageRank can be used on your website.

Side Rank (PR) represents the authority of a website based on its internal and external backlinks. It was created by Google in the early days and is the basis of the ranking algorithm. It is still used today as a ranking signal.

By linking relevant pages together, you influence how PR flows around your website which means pages with more internal links are likely to rank better. Don't try to play this – only link to other pages if it is valuable to visitors.

Sitelinks

Google sometimes shows your highly visible pages in the SERP. This SERP This feature is known as sitelinks.

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You have no control over what Google wants to display here. However, in general, these are some of the most important pages and categories on your website. And that meaning is based on your site structure and internal links.

Of course, pages linked from your menu and other main navigation items are most often displayed in sitelinks.

Recommended literature: What are sitelinks? How to influence them

Crawling efficiency

If there are few valuable pages linked on a page, you can't expect people or search engine crawlers to get there very often. Such pages are considered unimportant.

You probably don't need to worry about optimizing crawl efficiency and budget (resources that Googlebot allocates to your website). This is a relevant task only for large websites, so you'll be fine with a solid site structure in general.

Content planning and wireframing

Your website structure can tell you when and where to create new pages or sections. Since this is closely tied to keyword research, some of your existing pages may be better suited to targeting different keywords because of their higher traffic potential.

But that's not all. This is useful for design teams too, especially in the early process of (re) designing a website where wireframes are useful.

A wireframe is a simplified design of a page that is structured without adding graphics or content. It takes into account the needs and journeys of users across the website, which is inevitably related to the structure of the website.

For example, with the present website structure, a designer knows that a particular page is a top-level category and can customize the prototype for two lower levels in the website hierarchy.

Scale your website

When you create new pages, place them in the most relevant parts of your website. However, what seems relevant now may change in the future as you add more content. You may need to restructure some parts of your website and implement redirects.

A carefully planned website architecture will future-proof your website. You will always know where to put your content based on the research behind it.

How to Build a Solid Website Structure

The time and complexity involved in creating a website structure depend on two factors:

  1. How big your website is and will be
  2. Whether or not you have keyword research ready

If you have keyword research and your website is relatively small, building a website structure can be done in under an hour.

So what does it take? Let's get into that.

  1. Prepare to map everything visually
  2. Check out how your competitors' websites are structured
  3. Create a logical plan based on your existing pages
  4. Complete your website structure using keyword research data
  5. Mapping Site Navigation Components

1. Prepare to visualize everything

The structure of the website is all about having a visual foundation that you can share with the team. Here is a little bit from my brief outline of our website structure:

We have a relatively small website but I had to zoom out and slide horizontally to show you the structure. I've seen website structures stretching across huge conference tables when printing. Be ready for it.

For now, all you have to do is choose a mind map software that will create the structure. I used Xmind to create the above design.

2. Check how your competitors' websites are structured

Planning your website structure from scratch can be quite complicated depending on its size. So get some inspiration from your top performing competitors first, as their websites are likely to be nearly ideally structured. Using a structure similar to that of your competitors also creates a sense of familiarity for your visitors.

First, connect your competitor's website to Ahrefs' Site Explorer. Check out how each section of their website is contributing to all organic traffic. Do this mainly for your subfolders:

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Let the structure of your top performing areas inspire you. Take their URLs and repeat the process, looking into their deeper structures with the Top sub-folders Report. Just make sure you've set the "Prefix" option in the address bar to make your selected top-level page your home page.

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If you're into ecommerce, also check out how giants like Amazon are approaching it. There you will find all possible categories. You already did the job well, so use this to your advantage.

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3. Create a logical plan based on your existing pages

The most important thing to keep in mind when visualizing your website is to make your structure shallow, not deep.

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A flat website structure ensures that any two pages on your website are just a few clicks away from each other. This is important for both your users and search engine crawlers.

If you are in the process of redesigning your current website, it is a good idea to check if you are already having problems with the depth of the website structure. Use the Site Audit Tool (available for free on Ahrefs Webmaster Tools) to crawl your website. Then go to Structure Explorer and open the depth report.

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This report shows the distribution of URLs based on how far they are from your home page (usually the home page). First, segment the report so that only the valid status code 200 is displayed HTML Pages by applying the following segment:

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This will remove all of your images, JavaScript files, and other types of URLs that you don't need to check here.

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Depending on the complexity of your website, you might want the number to increase until three or four clicks away from the home page and then decrease quickly. In general, you shouldn't be more than six clicks away. This would result in fewer visits from both visitors and search engines.

It's also worth checking to see if your website has any orphaned pages. Orphaned pages are those that have no internal backlinks, making them inaccessible to anyone who surfs the site.

You can also check these in the Site Audit tool. Just make sure you add sitemaps and backlinks to it Url Sources in the project settings.

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After the website is crawled, open it Page explorer and apply the following filter to the segment used previously.

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If you find valuable pages there, you should link to them from your other pages.

Once you have identified these issues, you can start visualizing the structure. Design it based on the information we have so far:

  • Pages that are of crucial importance for your company (homepage, info, contact, functions, solutions)
  • Subfolders and pages that perform well for your competitors
  • Problems with deep and orphaned pages
  • Product feed attributes such as categories when you run Google Shopping ads

You may have created the entire website structure by this point. But it would certainly miss some pages and not be backed up by a lot of data. The following step solves this problem.

4. Complete your website structure using keyword research data

Keyword research can help you refine and complete your site structure. You can choose main keywords for pages that should be at the top of the hierarchy based on their search volume and organic traffic potential.

You should do some keyword research first if you haven't already. It ensures that you follow the steps below systematically and with all the information available.

Categorize your keywords to create a content hierarchy

It's handy for filtering your keyword research master sheet into groups of keywords linked by common words or their meanings. This is a must have for larger ecommerce websites.

Following our cookware examples, here is a small keyword example that I have classified:

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The above image has keyword data exported from Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer and classified by hand. Since manual classification takes a long time, an automated tagging system is vital.

I use Open Refine and its word facets to tag many keywords at once. However, this is nowhere documented in English and is not very user-friendly. You can try or have a no-code automation like this one SEO Experts do your keyword research. In the following step, I'll also show a more beginner-friendly alternative to this.

Categorization allows you to select the main keywords in each category, determine the type of page, and create hierarchies – sub-categories, sub-pages, or filters.

Identify the main keywords for your top-level pages

Whether or not you have this data from your existing website or competitor analysis, make sure you choose the most appropriate keywords.

For example, it makes sense to create two separate top-level cookware categories: one for pans and one for pots. But it's probably a better idea to group them together under one "Pots and Pans" category. Here's why:

Let me explain.

"Pots “is a very ambiguous keyword. Google will have a hard time personalizing your search results. It can't be certain whether you mean pots related to cooking, gardening, or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. It's not a worthwhile keyword to target.

This leaves us with "pots and pans" that have a specific search intent and even double as many clicks as "pans" alone in the US.

Back to the keyword classification …

A more user-friendly, but less systematic, approach is to go through your main keywords in the Keyword Explorer.

There you can collect data from reports such as "Have the same terms", "Rank for" and "Also talk about" by clicking on Terms or the keyword grouping "Parent topic" in the sidebar.

The grouping of keywords "terms" acts as a category filter from my previous Google Sheets classification example. In contrast, the Parent Topics grouping allows you to identify different main keywords and which pages that target those main keywords can also be ranked.

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Expand your top-level pages into the lower levels required

Your top-level pages fall into the following categories:

  • Independent page This does not require subsequent pages on deeper levels (e.g. solutions, tools, prices, contact).
  • Category Page (e.g. blog, product categories, knowledge database, career page)
  • Content hub page– High-level content on a topic with many sub-topics (e.g. a page on marketing that links to sub-pages on market research, marketing strategy, and marketing tactics)

You can use your industry knowledge, common sense, and keyword research to decide if and how you want to expand your top-level pages.

Your keyword categories (topic clusters) indicate what to target when expanding your main keywords.

5. Map the site navigation components

Top-level navigation is important so that visitors can easily switch between your most important pages. These pages represent the highest level in your website structure.

It can be as simple as here in Ahrefs:

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However, it can also get quite complicated when you have a large website. However, it can still be done in a user-friendly way:

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Many websites add a footer to their header navigation. You will often see sites like T.&C, privacy policy and other boring things.

Many visitors don't scroll down, but can treat the footer as another important navigational element. You can link to the top-level pages that didn't make it into the header and even repeat some from the header menu like we do:

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There are also a few other "unusual" navigation components such as breadcrumbs.

Let's take a look at it without going into its etymology:

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From the user's point of view, breadcrumbs are useful in two use cases:

  • They help you navigate the website when you land on a deep page.
  • It's a handy shortcut to return to a category page. It is possible to provide history-based breadcrumbs that take into account your applied product filters.

In general, if you have a relatively small website with a flat structure, they are not required. The deeper your website structure gets, the more critical the breadcrumbs become.

As a rule of thumb, consider providing breadcrumbs when you have a lot of pages at the third and lower level that your header navigation may not be able to cover. Medium and large ecommerce stores fall into this category.

Speaking of e-commerce: the final navigation component of the website is the faceted navigation.

This is how it looks:

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Since faceted navigation is quite a complex topic, made up of many things that can go wrong, you should read this guide to faceted navigation if it is relevant to you.

Final thoughts

The importance, impact and complexity of the website structure grows with the size of your website. You should now be ready to tackle this problem for any small to medium-sized website.

However, there are other aspects to consider for larger websites. I have already mentioned the crawl budget and efficiency, but also the optimization of your internal PageRank and the validation of your structural ideas with your target group through user tests.

Do you have questions? Let me know on Twitter!

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