One thing you’ll often hear about when building out a new site or even fixing a site is the importance of having a strong site architecture. One of the potential benefits to having a good site architecture: increased traffic. A site’s architecture is its foundation – start strong from the bottom and work your way up. This blog post will outline the importance of site architecture.
What is Site Architecture?
Site architecture is all about making your site easy to navigate for both users and search engines. Think about site architecture from a accessibility standpoint – you want to make your content easy to access for the users. To create a wonderful user experience, your site should be organized with relevant categories pointing to relevant subcategories. And in these inner pages, you might even have links pointing to related pages.
A great site architecture allows the user to move about freely throughout the site without being impeded. For example, if you were on an e-commerce site browsing for men’s shoes, you should be able to click on the ‘Men’s Shoes’ category and then browse into sub-categories such as ‘Sports Shoes’ or ‘Dress Shoes’. This simple click-path is not only beneficial for people, it’s beneficial for the search engine spiders.
You’ll often hear the term ‘flat site architecture’ thrown around. So what exactly is flat site architecture? Check out this old-school (but very relevant) video from Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz:
In short, a flat site architecture is all about keeping the click depth shallow on your site. You don’t want search spiders to have to crawl too many folders deep. This reduces the probability of your other pages being crawled and that means lost traffic.
Going back to the e-commerce shoe store example:
Which one is easier to remember?
- Create a shallow click-path throughout your site.
- Try not to go over 4 levels
- Consider using HTML sitemaps to also help funnel the link juice throughout your site
- Use internal linking to funnel link juice throughout your pages
Imagine how annoying it would be if you had to manually click 6 levels deep to get to the desired page. Now imagine how annoying it would be for search spiders that have to do this throughout your whole site. They’re allocating a bit of their crawl resources just to bounce around through the different levels of your site and will eventually stop at a certain point just because your structure is so deep.
Key Takeaway: Make things easier for both users and search engines by flattening your architecture. The next section will show two examples of what a good structure looks like.
Compared to the previous example that required 6 clicks to reach the target page, this example only requires 3 clicks to reach the target page.
This next image is an example of what a cell phone site’s structure might look like:
Linking related content in a category in this manner is also referred to as ‘siloing’. Siloing allows you to funnel link juice from the top of your site to the bottom. Think of your site as an ant hill where all the tunnels should be filled with link juice goodness. You can also think of each category page as a ‘parent’ and each sub-category page as a ‘child’.
The tough thing about large sites (e-commerce sites in particular) is that they have so many different product pages. Not every product page will receive links so it’s important to use internal links to funnel the link juice across pages.
For example, let’s say you own Los Angeles Lakers fan store and you are the only online retailer that sells the new Kobe Bryant shoes that everyone wants. Let’s also assume that there are various sites linking to the new Kobe Bryant shoe page because you are the only one carrying this item.
You can make the most of these links by cross-linking to related items in the sub-category. For instance, an example might be linking to related Kobe Bryant jerseys, cards, or shirts. By doing this, you’re spreading out some of the link juice you received to the new shoe page.
In essence, you are strengthening those other related pages.
Here are some good examples of sites that use internal linking well:
Amazon smartly links to products that sell well after viewing a particular product page. That not only helps strengthen those relevant pages, but increases sales because the relevant items being linked to perform well statistically.
Zappos employs a similar strategy to Amazon. If you own an e-commerce company and don’t have internal linking for your product pages, you should jump on it. There’s a good reason these two internet giants are doing the same thing.
For blogs, you can link to related posts or popular posts to funnel link juice and traffic to your other posts. Just take a look at the 4 links at the end of the post.
Although search engines are getting smarter these days, they still need a little help. It’s up to you to craft a great site architecture for both people and search engines. Like any house, a strong foundation needs to be built to support everything inside.
Key Takeaway: Take a look at your site architecture and clicks it takes to get to the deepest page. A good rule of thumb is not go beyond 4 clicks. Find ways to maximize your link juice across categories and sub categories. If you aren’t using internal linking much, start taking advantage of it.
What are some other good reasons to have a great site architecture?