How to Create an SEO Friendly Website Structure for Better User ExperienceTuesday October 10th, 2017
In this article, we’ll examine how to structure your website to reflect the principles of user centered design. We’ll dive into the strategy with page hierarchy, usability guidelines, keyword research for naming pages, as well as some tips and tools to find how your users search for information and how your website structure should reflect that.
Outlining your website structure is one of the first things you should do when building a website. This structure will become the blueprint for the wireframes, design, development, and user experience of your website. When creating this outline, it’s important to examine how your users think and search for information on the internet.
First, start by creating a general website structure, or sitemap, like the example above. It’s important to simplify your navigation to follow best usability practices. You’ll want to create a predictable website structure with logical hierarchy focusing on top level pages and relevant subpages.
Start with the homepage at the top of the funnel, it’s the most important landing page. After that you’ll want to lay out category pages in order of their importance, then their relevant sub-categories and lastly individual product/service/article pages. This will create strong page hierarchy and depth that will make the site easier to navigate for your users and easier to crawl by search engines.
Catering to Search Engines
The first step to implementing strong search engine optimization is to understand the principle behind search engines. A search engine’s primary goal is to provide the user with the answer to his or her question as quickly and accurately as possible. With that in mind, you should organize your site and its content logically, with a human-first orientation.
When a search engine crawls your website to index it for its search results it mimics a user’s path on a website. If these user paths are better optimized, your website will rank higher, thus showing up higher in search results for relevant keywords. Therefore, it is important to set up your website structure to accommodate for the search engine’s limitations. The simpler the structure and depth, the easier it will be for Google to crawl and index it.
Usable Page Names
Keep your navigation options as short and simple as possible. Don’t say “About Our Company” when “About” will suffice. Also, try to keep the navigation under eight options whenever possible. By focusing on your user’s needs as a first step, you’ll create a better user experience that should result in a higher visit duration time and a lower bounce rate, which search engines view as important indicators of quality and relevance.
Once you have your initial website structure outlined, it’s time to begin researching what your users are searching for to see how this aligns with your website structure. At Brolik, we use tools like Moz Keyword Explorer and Keyword Planner from AdWords for keyword research. First, we start with a top level view of the page or section topic and then we dive into the relevant search terms and related keywords. When we get down to this granular level, we analyze the competition to see if we have an opportunity to rank, or if the search result page is owned by big players like the New York Times or Wikipedia.
At this point, you’ll want to strike a balance between key business goals, user needs, and competition and then begin targeting certain keywords and phrases throughout the website. The keyword research will help you pick strong page names that are in line with what users are searching for, and ultimately infuse the pages with that useful information. You can then begin to prioritize keywords or create pages to give more SEO importance to specific parts of your website.
A search around the keyword term “heating repair” in Moz shows that these same users are also likely to search for “furnace repair.”
Because this term is closely related to the target keyword and receives a decent amount of search traffic, it warrants being included in your website. The fact that it is a more specific topic than the general term “heating repair” indicates that “furnace repair” related content would make a valuable and logical subcategory within the heating repair category.
This is the key point in SEO-focused website design that can make or break your site.
Many web designers do not fully grasp how SEO impacts the overall user experience and user paths.
It’s important to understand how search engines will rank individual pages. Occasionally, a user’s first experience with your site will be a very specific page that is discovered with long tail search. They will then proceed to explore your site backwards, from a very specific topic, and then navigating to the Home and About pages to learn more about your brand. Good website design values this SEO research and doesn’t limit navigation to a homepage or top down mentality.
SEO Best Practices
After getting insight into what users are searching for, it’s important to make sure that each web page is laid out correctly. Next you’ll want to make sure that you are using H1s, H2s, H3s, etc. correctly in terms of typographic hierarchy, and that major keywords are included and repeated within the body copy. Other things such as cross page linking, image alt tags, schema markup and relevant meta information can also improve your organic ranking.
When you focus on SEO friendly website design in the early planning phases, you’ll get a site that is easy for Google to index. But even more importantly, it will also feature keyword rich content, that targets the lexicon that your users are actually searching for, thus creating the best user experience and making your website easier to find and ultimately more successful.