Website structure can refer to two things. The first is the way in which a website is structured visually for the user. The second is the way each individual subpage on a website is connected to the wider network of pages across the whole URL structure of the site. These two concepts both affect each other, but broadly speaking the first is more associated with navigation and UX, whilst the second is more associated with SEO.
Without a clearly defined navigation structure, a website will be nothing more than a random assortment of webpages, making it very difficult for the user to find what they are looking for. A poor website structure is likely to contribute to a high bounce rate, which will ultimately impact the ability of a site to drive valuable leads, sales and conversions.
When it comes to the URL structure of a website, this affects how search crawlers (sometimes called search spiders) crawl and index a site. In this instance the way URL hierarchy is arranged will affect the way a search engine understands the various themed or topical areas of a website. For an ecommerce site, this might be as simple as making sure all your shoes are under the /shoes/ folder and all your t-shirts are under the /t-shirts/ folder.
To ensure that a website is visible in the most relevant search engine results pages (SERPs), search engine crawlers must be able to access every subpage easily and efficiently in order to properly interpret and index each piece of content. Taxonomy and internal linking structures are key here and will help to ensure that content on a site won’t be competing unnecessarily with content on the same site.
Creating Content Silos
Many websites contain articles and blog posts that are centred around a very specific subject, as this is one of the best ways to showcase industry expertise. A powerful URL hierarchy will not simply put these individual posts under the /blog/ folder but will instead add them to the pre-existing folders on the site (so an article about the best Nike shoes on our aforementioned e-commerce site will have a URL that looks a bit like /shoes/nike/top-nike-shoes-2021/). This is referred to as content siloing.
So a carefully organised website will look a little like a pyramid with several, clear-cut levels. This structure will likely include the following:
– A homepage
– Sections or categories
– Subsections or subcategories, which will bring organisation to large websites
– Individual posts and pages, which fit into one of the above subcategories
What Does a Good Site Structure Look Like?
Ultimately, site structure should simplify the process of navigation. This means that a user must be able to easily find products, services or informational articles that will answer their questions and/or help them to move through their purchasing journey. Site structure should also help new visitors to quickly understand the purpose of a website because it should never be difficult for them to determine the ethos, values and drivers that make up a brand.