When did you last go into the clearance section of a big department store? It was the week after Christmas. I don't know what to say. They have lots of clothes, but the tags are gone; sizes don't match, and departments don't line up. There's no sense of organisation at all.
The way your site would feel if it didn't have good website architecture is like this: Then, what is site architecture, and why does it matter so much for SEO? First, let's make sure we understand each other.
There is a table of contents in this book.
Website architecture refers to the planning and design of a site's information architecture (IA) to make it more organised and easier to use.
How you group your content into themes, and then sort those themes from broad to more specific.
Once the site's structure has been figured out, things like breadcrumbs, URL structure, and navigation help to make it even more clear how the site works.
Site architecture helps visitors, as well as search engines, find what they're looking for quickly. This is very important for SEO.
Information architecture (IA) is about how information is put together. It's often used to refer to "website architecture," but it's actually a much broader term. Website architecture is a subcategory of IA that only deals with websites.
Before we go back to our example of the ransacked department store, let's think of it as a website, so we can figure out how it works. When shopping for men's polo shirts on an ecommerce site without categories, breadcrumbs, filters, or faceted navigation of any kind it would be very hard. Or, maybe those things are there, but they're not put together the way they should be. If you had a domain like that, even the URLs would look like they were made up.
The good news is that most websites aren't that bad. In fact, most ecommerce sites have some idea of how their website should look. Because large domains can feel a little messy. In the long run, this can be very bad for big businesses.
Even worse, a broken website architecture doesn't just cause these problems, but it also hides them from people who search for them, especially if your own website has a lot of pages.
If you thought it was hard to find one polo shirt, imagine having to make a map of the whole website. You have no context at all. Even so, you'll need to look at a lot of web pages to figure out if this is a fashion blog, a photography site, or an ecommerce store.
Then, you need to list each item and where it is. When someone wants to buy a black, size 12 romper, you should be able to tell them where to find it.
This is how search engines work: Google looks at every URL that can be found on your site to figure out what it is about. More disorganised your site architecture, the less search engines know about your site's purpose, and the less likely you are to rank for the keywords you want to be found for.
It also means that crawlers will spend more time trying to figure out the puzzle, which will use up more of their crawl bandwidth. Errors that happen along the way, like long redirect chains or 404s, make the problem even worse.
It's only the beginning when it comes to how site architecture affects ecommerce SEO. Crawlability issues are just the tip of the spear. This isn't the only thing to think about when it comes to organising your content and making your site more search engine friendly:
When people search for things on your site, does each page of your site show up? The keyword research you did: Are there any major gaps in your research? What about content that overlaps and causes keywords to be used by other content? When there is no way to put things in order, Google will have to guess which page is best for each search. SEO equity won't flow well if your site doesn't have a clear hierarchy. This will make your site perform poorly for all of your keywords.
Site design also affects how users feel. More complicated the journey, the less likely the user is to enjoy it or finish it, so it's not as likely that they will. There should be an easy way to find everything on a big website. When people get lost, reach a dead end, or become confused, they are more likely to leave the site and abandon their shopping carts.
There's nothing more frustrating than losing a customer who was ready to buy because your website was poorly organised.
Having a good website's structure looks a little bit like a pyramid. This is how it works: The home page is at the top. It has a few high-level departments, which then have main categories and subcategories, and so on.
Each new category layer is built on top of the one before it, so it's important to get them all right. If you don't, you'll end up with products that don't fit into their parent groups. If customers can't find them at all, they'll have to go somewhere else to buy them.
Do some user research before you ask your web design team to wireframe how your navigation will look. This way, you will know how your target audience will organise your products before you ask your web design team to make it. You can use card sorting to organise your content in a way that makes sense to your customers, and it's a great way to do that.
Cards can be sorted in many ways. You can give your test subjects a list of categories in which to group products. Sorters could be given a variety of products and asked to put the cards together in a way that makes the most sense. Then, the students would name the categories.
When you card-sort, you can get rid of your own bias and look for patterns in the way your user personas think.
The words "flat vs. deep" are frequently used to describe site architecture. This simply relates to your site's structural depth. In other words, the number of categories and subcategories in your URL, as well as the number of folders. A flat ecommerce website architectural diagram is shown below.
A site with a deep architecture, on the other hand, frequently needs many more clicks to reach pages. This style of architecture has a lot of subcategories and doesn't provide the greatest user experience. Here's an example of a complex website architecture.
Flat architecture is said to be better for SEO since it makes it easier for both search engines and visitors to traverse the site.
Even huge, sophisticated ecommerce businesses with a lot of subcategories can use faceted navigation to keep their website design flat. Consider the case of Target. Users may utilise faceted search to browse straight to the men's polo shirts category page from anywhere on the site, bypassing categories like "men's apparel" or "men's shirts."
The most crucial factor to keep in mind while designing your website's information architecture is that it is well-organized, logical, and easy to traverse. We do not desire architecture that like this:
To put it another way, don't force clicks if you don't have to.
One of your main user interface design goals should be to make it as easy as possible for people to locate exactly what they're looking for. So, if finding a casino exit is simpler than finding your product pages, use these methods to reduce the client trip.
Navigational components assist search engines comprehend your top priority pages by reinforcing the hierarchy inside your website architecture. Navigation, on the other hand, establishes obvious paths for customers to reach their objectives on your site. As a result, navigation might be considered one of the most significant design components on the website.
Internal links offer context through page relevancy, link purpose, anchor text, and even the language surrounding the link when you connect to pages within your site. Internal links also convey essential link equity, or PageRank, to your site's main lead-generating landing pages.
With authoritative backlinks, link to your most significant URLs regularly, especially from your homepage, navigation, and other relevant pages. It's time to invest in your internal linking structure if you've previously emphasised backlinks.
short, and to the point. For consistency, the URL structure should match the navigation and breadcrumbs.
Remember how we used Target as an example earlier? Let's have a look at the polo shirt category page in more detail. Take note of how the breadcrumbs correspond to the navigation path we used to arrive at this page:
The URL structure, on the other hand, does not match the breadcrumbs or navigation:
A more acceptable URL structure would be as follows, based on the navigation and breadcrumbs:
If a buyer is merely browsing your site, they are unlikely to make a beeline for the goods they desire. Instead, they'll consider a variety of possibilities and switch back and forth between items and categories.
Breadcrumbs show users where they are in your site's hierarchy while also giving a simple way to return to a parent category. Additional breadcrumbs provide search engines with extra information about your site's hierarchy. As a result, create a breadcrumb structure that corresponds to your site's navigation.
Should a long list of items or places be paginated? Should you load additional material when the user scrolls or presses the "load more" button? It is debatable. Infinite scrolling may be a useful approach to assist users avoid clicking, and it's especially useful on mobile devices. Pagination, on the other hand, allows the user more control. The page numbers also assist them in maintaining a "mental map" of where the merchandise was located. This allows them to swiftly return to something they enjoyed.
Pagination should be used on most websites. Infinite scroll, on the other hand, can be ideal for your blog.
Some of the most user-friendly tools, such as faceted search and pagination, need a double-check on canonical tags to avoid creating duplicate website content. Use absolute (not relative) URLs to ensure that all versions of each web page canonicalize to their parent page.
Finally, if you do decide to update your website architecture, make sure you do your homework to ensure that your modifications will not harm your SEO.
A site migration would include tearing down and reconstructing your complete site structure. Even the best 301 redirects can't totally compensate for the SEO impact of such a significant shift.
Work with the architecture you've got and gradually incorporate adjustments. Before removing or relocating a page, look at its SEO success metrics. Use redirects and update necessary internal links when moving pages.
If you're confused about the SEO implications of changing your website architecture, contact our team of specialists for help.