Improve your site structure in 4 simple steps

Optimizing your site structure should be an important aspect of your SEO strategy. A good site structure is of crucial importance for your SEO, as it makes it easier for both your users and Google to navigate your site. But how do you improve a site’s structure? Where do you start and how do you keep an eye on the structure of your site if it’s growing? In this post, I’ll teach you to improve your site’s structure in 4 simple steps.

Why improve your site structure?

Google follows links. And these links are also part of a great site structure. If a URL gets many links (whether it’s internal or external links), it must be an important page and search engines might rank it higher. But you shouldn’t just place links for Google. Readers also love sites that are easy to navigate and show suggested readings that make sense. That’s why it’s time to invest a bit in your site structure!

If you want to improve your site structure, the steps below will explain how you can do it ‘the long way’ using the features of our Yoast plugins. Alternatively, if you’ve got Yoast SEO Premium you can now improve your site structure more easily than ever with our new SEO workouts. Checking your cornerstone content and making sure it has enough internal links? We’ve got a Cornerstone content SEO workout for that! Dealing with orphaned content and rogue pages? We’ve got an Orphaned content SEO workout for that too!

Step 1: Update and improve your cornerstones

Your cornerstone content consists of the most important articles on your site. The ones you want people to read; the ones you want to rank with in Google. They should be the most complete and well-written articles on your website. In this first step, you should take a closer look at them. Are they really of outstanding quality? Informative and easy to read? If not, start improving them!

If you use Yoast SEO, you should check the box in the Yoast SEO sidebar for all your cornerstone content articles:

Mark your most important content as cornerstone content in the Yoast SEO sidebar

Once you’ve checked that box, the content on this page will be assessed more strictly by our readability analysis. You may wonder why we’re so fussy about cornerstone content. The answer to that question is this: for cornerstone articles you should raise the bar because they’re very important! They should be better than your other articles and, therefore, demand more of your writing skills. Our cornerstone analysis will help you to raise your standards (and stick to them). It will be harder to score that green bullet. You have to do all the important things right!

Read more: How to use Yoast SEO for your cornerstone content strategy »

The second step to improving your site’s structure is to ensure that blog posts about a certain topic all link to your most important article about that topic. Checking this might be a lot of work, but fortunately, Yoast SEO is here to help!

In Yoast SEO, you can use the text link counter to see whether your cornerstones have enough links. In your post overview, you can select your cornerstone articles:

The text link counter in the post overview instantly makes clear which posts need more internal links.

In our example, the Ultimate guide to small business SEO has fewer internal links to it (9, to be exact) than our other two ultimate guides (16 and 31), so we should look into that. It’s easy to lose sight of your internal link distribution, but this tool allows you to steadily work through your cornerstone posts. Use your internal search function and search for the keyword of your cornerstone article. The posts that come up in this search query should be linking to your cornerstones. So, check if that’s the case and add links if they’re not there yet!

Even easier internal linking with Yoast’s internal linking tool

Looking up relevant posts manually probably sounds like a bit of a hassle. Luckily, Yoast SEO Premium makes it even easier with its internal linking feature! It works in two ways. Of course, first and foremost, it reminds you to link to your cornerstones as you’re writing new content. But you can also open cornerstone articles with few links and look at the suggestions of the Yoast internal linking feature. The posts and pages that you’ll find in our internal linking tool are great suggestions to add links to your cornerstones. You should go through these articles one by one and add these links to your cornerstone post for a relevant passage, with a good anchor text.

internal linking suggestions in Yoast SEO sidebar
Do these articles relevant to your cornerstone post also link to it? Time to check and add links!

Once you’ve improved your cornerstone articles and made sure you’ve added links from all related posts to those cornerstones, it’s time to make sure that there is no orphaned content on your site. Orphaned articles are posts or pages that don’t get any internal links. They are hard to find on your site, for both your audience and Google. To easily identify orphaned articles, Yoast SEO Premium has the orphaned content filter, which instantly shows you all posts without internal links to them. Alternatively, you can use our text link counter to see which posts have no internal links to them.

improve your site structure by adding internal links to your orphaned content
The orphaned content filter shows you all posts that need some internal links.

Open these posts and check if they’re still up to date and useful. If you use Yoast SEO Premium, just check the suggestions of the internal linking tool. Using the tool, you can make a list of posts that should be linking to your orphaned posts. After that, you can open those similar posts and add links to your orphaned posts. You can also use the search function to find relevant posts to link to your orphaned article.

Step 4: Avoid those dead ends!

Every post should have suggestions for further reading. After all, you want people to stay on your website. But don’t just go adding random links to every post: suggestions should always be on topic. People reading about ballet shoes are probably interested in ballet shoes. So, offer them more reading material on ballet or on ballet shoes, but don’t bore them with posts about karate.

Open your post overview and sort your posts by the number of internal links in the post, using our text link counter.

Open the posts with fewest internal links. Add links to similar posts using our internal linking tool, in the same way as described above. It’s easy and will increase the time people spend on your site considerably.

If you want to easily add related links to hierarchical pages, you can use Yoast SEO Premium’s sub-pages or siblings block in the WordPress block editor. As child pages are often related to each other and their parent page, this makes sense most of the time. Of course, always check if this is the case, as you know your audience best!

Keep reading: Internal linking for SEO: why and how »

Time to improve your site structure!

Agreed, it is a bit of work. But if you set to mind to it, follow these 4 steps, and use the Yoast SEO (Premium) site structure features, you’ll be able to improve your site’s structure significantly. Which will definitely result in longer visits by your readers and higher rankings in Google. Well worth the effort, wouldn’t you say?

Pro tip: If you want to make maintaining your site structure easier, use our SEO workouts for Yoast SEO Premium users! In the cornerstone content workout, you can check up on your cornerstone pages and make sure they’re getting all the links they need. Then in the orphaned content workout, we’ll identify pages with no internal links pointing towards them and help you to either improve them or remove them. Give our workouts a go and get your content SEO fit!

Read on: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

Coming up next!

18 Responses to Improve your site structure in 4 simple steps

  1. Ramon Olivencia
    Ramon Olivencia  • 4 years ago

    Thanks for the great info!

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      You are welcome, Ramon!

  2. Nerada Turner
    Nerada Turner  • 4 years ago

    I have a question? Should we delete orphaned content or pages that are very out of date?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Hi Nerada, great question! Orphaned content doesn’t necessarily need to be deleted from your site. I think it’s important to check whether the content is relevant enough to start linking internally to this content. If so, this is easily fixed by linking to it from other pages on your site!

      This article can help you decide what to do with older (and perhaps orphaned) content:

  3. Denver Nario
    Denver Nario  • 4 years ago

    I just started my website and articles like this helps me a lot. Thank you Team Yoast!

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      That’s what we’re here for :) Lots of luck with your site!

  4. Sandra
    Sandra  • 4 years ago

    I’ve just found this blog and it’s so good! All the post I’ve read so far were really interesting. I’ll definitely come back again!

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Thank you, Sandra. We love hearing that and hope to welcome you back soon! :)

  5. Pura Gyan
    Pura Gyan  • 4 years ago

    I just want to know that external links are good for seo or not ? What else if we are not adding any external links to our site? I am worried about my site I dont Know whether it is good by SEO purpose or not.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Hi there Pura! Adding outbound links is definitely something we recommend :) You can read more about why and how to do this here:

  6. khan1597279269
    khan1597279269  • 4 years ago

    Hello, Thanks for your information. I am using your Yoast SEO Plugin. Seems like its fantastic, easy to navigate. I created my blog page by your Yoast SEO Plugin guidance. Its already been 25 days. But still now its not ranked yet. I don’t know why. Would you please see, what’s wrong with it ?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Hi there! Thanks for using our plugin :) It can take a while for a new blog page to start ranking, so don’t be discouraged! But just to be sure, have a look through this article to see where you can further improve your site for SEO:

      Good luck!

  7. Irwan
    Irwan  • 4 years ago

    I’m starting to use Yoast SEO on my website.

    When the number of articles on the blog is still a few, I think it’s still difficult to get data to optimize.

    But with this article about optimizing website structure. This can be helpful even if there are still a few posts on the blog

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Hi there, Irwan. Great that you’re using our plugin, hope you like it! It’s true that it’s easier to use our internal linking tool when you have more than a few blogs on your site. Maybe you could use that as an extra incentive to write a few new articles? :)

      And lots of luck with your site structure, you’ve got this!

  8. bcutprice
    bcutprice  • 4 years ago

    Your blog was quite helpful , but I have a question which back link is most useful in off page seo?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Thank you! I’m not quite sure I understand your question, could you elaborate on it?

      Or this article might have the answer:

  9. Rocco
    Rocco  • 4 years ago

    Great tips about internal linking but i have a doubt regarding the Pillar page.. How many pillar page do you think is good?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Thank you, Rocco! There isn’t a set number of cornerstone articles you should have, but try to have at least four or five of them about subjects that are important to your business or blog! This article can tell you more about it: