In Part 1, we covered meta data and other ways to pass site information on to search engines and social platforms from behind the scenes. Part 2 discussed the content actually seen on the page and how we can structure and tag it for easier reading and better indexing. In Part 3, we will look at some best practices for whole site structure and what works best.
I’m not going to get too much into redesigning your website. That’s a larger decision that your company must make and requires quite a bit of detailed work. But it is possible that your current site structure does nothing to help your search rankings. And you may want to consider redesign if you are not ranking well at all. Only 1% of users ever make it to page 3 of a Google search. A total redesign can have a significant negative effect if it isn’t done correctly. However, if you are not ranking on the first three pages, it won’t hurt you to start over. Am I right?
- Navigational Links
- Folder Structure
- Site Maps
- Fresh Content—Keep It Coming
H2: Navigational Links
If your site is easy for a typical user to navigate, it will be easy for the crawling robot to do the same. Thinking about the whole site as a 5-paragraph essay, we might be able to decide whether it is actually easy to follow or not. Your home page can be likened to an introduction. You support what you say about yourself in this introduction with other typical content pages such as the About Us, Our Services, or Our Products pages. You lead readers through this directed learning process toward a contact or purchase page. If you’ve persuaded your reader well enough, BOOM! Conversion. However, if you are not making those conversions, you must analyze your site carefully and find what’s keeping them away. Is the navigation difficult? Does your reader end up on a page without links or content leading them to the next step? Do you have any dead links (maybe you changed a page name and didn’t update the links)? The crawling robots follow links from page to page. If they run into dead ends or dead links, they move on to the next site. The more logical your site structure is, the better the indexing will be.
When it comes to your site navigation, you want to keep navigation as familiar and as simple as possible. Navigation menu items should have clear anchor text (the text you click on) that describes in 1-2 words (Services or Our Services) what is found at that next level into the site. If your site has nested levels (Home > Products > Men’s > Pants, etc.), be sure that readers can easily navigate back a level or all the way back if they want to. This kind of navigational linking also helps the robots understand the navigational structure of the site. The more the robot knows and understands, the better it knows how to index your pages and how to produce the best page in search results.
H2: Folder Structure
Having a solid and logical folder structure does more for the indexing robots than it will for your readers. You could have all your site pages in a single folder and your reader might never even notice. But, the robots sure do. Why do they care? Again, we are talking about doing all we can to make indexing easier and more logical. Much like the headline hierarchy we spoke of in Part 2, and exactly like the nested levels we spoke of in the previous section, folders should follow a hierarchy of levels that have broader meaning at the top and more and more specific meaning further in.
The more complicated your site becomes, the more important it becomes to keep a logical navigation and folder structure. Lead your readers and bots to a products folder where they both can find shoes, pants, and shirts. Lead them to a locations folder where they can find your differing location pages. Having solid hierarchical folder structure can even help promote “site links” showing up in your search results, something you can’t directly make happen but which is something Google decides to do when it see a good site structure.
Side note: You can use Structured Data Markup to leave “breadcrumbs” for indexing robots to follow through your navigational and folder structure, making it as easy as possible for robots to follow. Read more here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/breadcrumbs
H2: Site Maps
Site maps are XML files that list every page of your site in a format that is readable by Google’s robots. They are fairly uncomplicated and most CMS platforms will create them for you either automatically or through an export process. If not, there are plenty of online sources that will create a site map for you. The only caveat to these online sources is that they can miss unlinked pages just as Google can miss them. In any case, your web developer can easily create and submit a site map to Google and the bots will use that file to crawl your site.
According to Google, the crawlers may not always completely rely upon your site map, but it will never hurt to submit one. If your site is new or large, you are better off submitting.
H2: Fresh Content—Keep It Coming
One last thing to know about your site as a whole and SEO. Google loves new content. It devours it like the hungry, crawling, indexing robot it is. Experiments have shown that even just by changing the dates on some old blogs, you can see a temporary bump in rankings. This is how strong the signal of fresh content can be. If you are not producing new content regularly, start now! If you are, but are keeping it stored externally, start adding it to YOUR site. If you are using PDFs for content, have them converted to HTML and add them to your site. Keep it fresh and, above all, keep it useful and your ranking will climb and readers will follow.
H2: Parting Words
The bottom line when it comes to SEO is that there are many moving parts that work together as a whole to deliver that search result. But you can easily and quickly put some of these key ingredients in place to give you a solid foundation from which you can launch further backlink and other SEO campaigns. There’s no reason not to have the steps above working for you on your site already. You can certainly get your home page into solid shape in just a few spare hours. Then ticking away at each of your pages will eventually get your whole site working for you.
If you’d prefer to have us come in and get a look under the hood and get your site optimized for best results, we’d be more than happy to talk about how we can help. Call or email us today! Your competition is already getting your clicks. Let’s get them back.