SEO Basics: site structure

SEO basics
What is (the importance of) site structure?

What is (the importance of) site structure?

Site structure is a vital aspect of your SEO strategy. After all, the structure of your website shows Google what articles and pages are most important. You can influence which articles will rank highest in the search engines, with your site’s structure. So, it’s important to get it right! It also is a very actionable part of your SEO strategy. You can all start improving your site structure today! In this SEO basics post, I’ll explain the importance of site structure for your site’s SEO, and I’ll give three quick tips on how to start improving your site’s structure.

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As your site grows, it’ll get cluttered

As you’re writing more and more blog posts, or add more product pages, your site will get cluttered. You need to organize it neatly, to make sure you, your visitor AND Google will be able to find what they’re looking for.

Why is that? Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, there was this young woman. Her name is Alice. Alice gets up every morning, sits down at her desk and starts to write a beautiful story. She writes one story every day. Alice types all her stories on this beautiful old-fashioned typewriter. Whenever she’s done writing, she pulls the paper out of the machine and puts her lovely new story on her desk. As you can imagine, her desk will slowly get cluttered with all these sheets of paper. After a year of writing, she’ll have 365 sheets of paper on it. After three years of writing, she’ll have more than a thousand. Alice will not be able to find her favorite story, because of the abundance of stories on her desk.

If you do not structure your stuff neatly, your stories, your blog posts, your product pages will get lost. Your visitors will not be able to find what they are looking for, and, important for your SEO: Google will also get lost.

Why is site structure important for Google?

There are two reasons why site structure is important for Google and, therefore, for your chances to rank in the search engines.

1. Structure is a guide for Google

The way your site is structured will give Google clues about where to find the most important content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine can understand what your site is about and what you’re selling.

Google crawls websites by following links, internal and external, using a bot called Googlebot. And by following those links, Google determines the relationship between the various pages. The structure of your site is a guide to Google and therefore very crucial.

2. Not competing with your content

The second reason why site structure is essential for Google is because, without a decent structure, you’ll be competing with yourself for a high ranking in the search engines. You probably have blog posts or articles on your site that are on the same topic. At Yoast, for example, we write a lot about SEO. We have multiple posts about site structure, each covering a different aspect. But Google won’t know which of these is most important unless we ‘tell’ Google.

Importance should order your content. Think about Alice’s cluttered desk. Alice could clean up by making piles of her sheets of papers. She could order her stories by topic: stories about bumble bees, stories about flowers, stories about fairies. But, if Alice were to make piles of paper, without ordering them, without putting the most beautiful stories on the top of the pile, no one would ever know which story is the most important to her.

If you don’t tell Google which posts are most important, all of your posts will be competing for attention. You’d be competing with your pages for a high ranking in Google. The solution is rather simple: you let Google know which page you consider most important. You tell Google which story you want on top of your pile. To do this, you need a good internal linking structure.

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Read more: Why is site structure important? »

How to get started with site structure?

What are the things you need to do to improve your site’s structure? What can you do to avoid your site structure becoming an issue?  I’ll give three basic tips on how to quickly improve your site structure.

1. Remove old content

Lots of shops will sell a different collection of products (clothes; shoes) every season. If you don’t expect to sell the same product again, you should remove the page. However, you may have had some links to the page you want to remove. And you know, links to your page are valuable for your SEO!  You want to make sure you benefit from these links, even though the page does not exist anymore. That’s why you should redirect the URL.

2. Evaluate your categories

You should ensure that categories are about equally large. Think of Alice and her stories. Alice could categorize her stories by making piles of these categories. Imagine one pile becoming huge, while the others remain much smaller. It would be hard to find a specific story in that big pile, while it would be much easier to search through a small pile. At the same time, that big heap is probably very important, because Alice wrote a lot of stories about that specific topic.

Categories become too large when you write a lot about one specific subject and less about others. At one point, you should divide that one category into two categories. A good rule of thumb for the size of categories is to make sure that no category is more than twice the size of any other category. When one category is significantly larger than other ones, your site becomes unbalanced. You’ll have a hard time ranking with blog posts within a huge category. The pile has become too large to search through.

3. Improve your internal linking structure

You should make sure that you’re linking to your most important articles. A great internal linking structure is crucial. We’ve built Yoast Internal Linking to help you achieve such an internal structure. But you should do some reading and research to get the hang of it. Read Meike’s blogpost about Internal linking for SEO to improve your internal linking structure.

Keep reading: Avoid these site structure mistakes! »

Conclusion: get started with improving your site structure

It’s important to remember that site structure is part of a bigger, ongoing process. Your site will grow and therefore, the structure will require maintenance. Improving and maintaining the structure of a site should be a core aspect of every SEO strategy. It’s a very actionable part of SEO; it’s something you can control and improve rather quickly. So, let’s get started!

Read on: Site structure: the Ultimate guide »


25 Responses to What is (the importance of) site structure?

  1. Rahul Taneja
    Rahul Taneja  • 8 months ago

    Good tips regarding categories and subcategories, really helpful. We should devote equal time to all categories on our site as sometimes we only focus on a single category more while writing posts.

  2. Graciousstore
    Graciousstore  • 8 months ago

    This is very helpful article. It is very important to have a good site structure so help both your visitors to find what they want in your site and also for the search engine robots as they crawl the sites

  3. Jonathan Kobler Realtor
    Jonathan Kobler Realtor  • 8 months ago

    Thanks for the info. I’m pretty new to SEO, and there’s so much information out there that it can become confusing. Thanks for the concise explanation! On another note, your WP Plugin has been tremendously helpful!

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      great to hear!

  4. Francesco
    Francesco  • 8 months ago

    I have learnt the importance of internal linking from your Yoast site, thanks! I still don’t understand how my homepage has a MOZ page authority of 20 while articles linked from there have an authority of 1. I was wondering how much does internal linking “distribute” the page authority

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      I cannot give you an exact number on that, sorry…

  5. Tycho
    Tycho  • 8 months ago

    Hi Marieke,

    Really helpful post, thank you for sharing!

    Right now I’m looking at the site structure of my site (huisdierentips.nl) and would like to improve it. I already bought Yoast SEO Premium and started work on the internal link structure.

    Now I want to make sure that the categories are in optimal health. In your article you talk about “equally large” categories. Right now my categories are definitely not equal in amount of posts. But I do think the current categories (2 main categories and 16 sub-categories) are well chosen. I don’t see how splitting those up make the menu or structure better for my readers (maybe for Google?). Can you suggest how to move forward?

    1. Write more for the “smaller” categories?
    2. Split the categories?
    3. Remove the categories that only hold 1-3 posts?

    And finally… is there a maximum amount of posts a categorie should contain, in your opinion? I mean: if keeping all categories equal in size, can 1 categorie contain more than 100 posts? Or even a 1000?

    Thanks for bringing awareness to site structure and keep that awesomeness coming :)

    All the best from Holland,
    Tycho

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Hi Tycho! My sons name is also Tycho! I would advice you to write more for the smaller categories. The problem with categories only starts if you have written too many articles (100 + at least).

      I think a 1000 posts asks for a very eloborate linking structure. But it’s not impossible. Your search function should be top notch, you should use lots of tags etc etc.

  6. Scott
    Scott  • 8 months ago

    I understand the importance of internal linking to allow the search engines to find the most important articles. Do you think having more internal links to a page potentially increases its ranking in search engines?

  7. Adrien JORGE
    Adrien JORGE  • 8 months ago

    Hello,

    We are looking to give our site a structure that would be great for international business. We are thinking about keeping “.com” for all countries but then to have country specific homepage and other pages per country, for SEO reason.
    – What structure would you advise? {country}.domain.com ? domain.com/{country}? Something else?
    – How would you advise to manage this? Is it a good idea to manage that with a plugin like polylang to create all those country specific pages? In some cases the language would change but in some other cases, it would be english for 2 languages/countries but with country specific content.

    Thx,
    Adrien

  8. bettingofferstoday
    bettingofferstoday  • 8 months ago

    After reading this article I think I should upgrade my Yoast seo plugin to get help with my internal linking, its so surprising how much google counts on internal linking.

    Thanks :)

  9. Suresh Dubey
    Suresh Dubey  • 8 months ago

    Hi Marieke,
    Maintaining category size is a new thing I learned today. Does it really matter for SEO?
    I will definitely implement these things on my tech blog
    Thank you for the great article.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Hi Suresh! I cannot guarantee any quick changes in your rankings, but maintaining your category size will definitely help with your rankings in the long run. Good luck!

  10. LARRY SPENCER
    LARRY SPENCER  • 8 months ago

    This article comes at the perfect time for me. I’ve been working on site structure but need a way to check that structure. Are there any tools to do this?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Yoast SEO premium has the internal linking tool. I think that’s very helpful :-)

    • Curtis Hays
      Curtis Hays  • 8 months ago

      From SEO Powersuite I use Website Auditor which now has a visual tool to allow you to see how your pages are linked together.

      You can also do a search for R Tools which will explain how to use Screaming Frog to export your site links, calculate page rank and then plot your pagerank in R-Tools. It’s not as useful as the new Powertools tool though.

  11. Jonathan Sanders
    Jonathan Sanders  • 8 months ago

    Very interesting. For some of our clients, sometimes we link from their page services to a blog posts and the other way around as well. One thing that makes a difference is that we add main pages in to the main menu and the footer menu. Usually we don’t add blog posts in to these two menus. I guess that will tell Google that page services are more important that blog posts.

  12. Curtis Hays
    Curtis Hays  • 8 months ago

    For every client I’ve worked with that I’ve done a site restructure they’ve had significant boosts in ranking.
    Going through this process on a large site can be time-consuming but it can be well worth it.
    I merge search console data with analytics data to see which pages are not receiving impressions or clicks/page views and those help us decide which pages to remove/301 or just set to noindex.
    The yoast sitemap is also a huge help. Make sure you setup your taxonomies properly so you’re not indexing and letting the google bot crawl pages you don’t want to be indexed. Like, Thank You pages.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      thanks for your feedback!

  13. neha
    neha  • 8 months ago

    nice! this blog gives really useful basics for SEO.

  14. download
    download  • 8 months ago

    building site structure does it include writing long detailed articles with enough keywords ?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Site structure is a content SEO strategy as SEO copywriting. I think these two tactics cannot do without each other!

  15. Priya Rai
    Priya Rai  • 8 months ago

    Great insights. Thanks for such valuable inputs.


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