What is site structure and why is it important?

Site structure is a vital aspect of your SEO strategy. Why? Because the structure of your website shows Google which pages of your site are most important. This means you can influence which content will rank highest in the search engines with your site’s structure. And good news: You can start improving your site structure today! In this post, you’ll read why site structure helps SEO, and we’ll give you three quick tips on how to start improving it.

What is site structure?

Site structure refers to how you organize your website’s content. In other words: the pages and posts on your website. These often have a variety of – related – topics, and site structure deals with how this content is grouped, linked and presented to the visitor. You can use taxonomies, like categories and tags, but also internal links, your navigation, and breadcrumbs as tools to improve your site structure. If you do this well, your users will find their way around your website more easily. Plus, Google can index your URLs better!

Learn how to do this well. Our site structure training teaches you how to set up the best site structure for your visitors and Google!

As your site grows, it’ll get cluttered

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

Conclusion: If you don’t structure your stuff neatly, your stories, blog posts and product pages will get lost. In addition, your visitors won’t be able to find what they’re looking for, and Google will also get lost (which is bad for your SEO).

Why is site structure important for Google – and users?

There are three reasons why site structure is important for Google and, therefore, your chance of ranking 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 essential 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 internal and external links, using a bot called Googlebot. By following those links, Google determines the relationship between the various pages. In other words: Your site structure is like a guide to Google, and therefore very crucial.

2. Not competing with your content

You probably have blog posts or articles on your site that cover 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.

A good tip is to order your content by importance. Think about Alice’s cluttered desk. She could clean up by making piles of her sheets of papers. She could order her stories by topic: bumble bees, flowers, and fairies. But, if Alice were to make these piles without any kind of structure and without putting the most beautiful stories at the top of the pile, no one would ever know which story is most important to her.

In conclusion: If you don’t tell Google which posts are most important, all of your posts will be competing for attention. You’ll be competing with your own pages for a high ranking in Google. Luckily, the solution is rather simple: Let Google know which page you consider to be the most important. To do this, you need a good internal linking structure.

3. Site structure is important for UX

Did you know that your site structure is also important for your User eXperience (UX)? After all, when people can easily find their way on your website, they’ll have a better browsing experience. This will also increase your chances for people to convert: buy your products; subscribe to your newsletter or return for another visit. And Google likes sites that perform well too! So make sure your site structure is reflected in the navigation of your website.

How to get started with site structure

What do you need to do to improve your structure? And what can you do to avoid your site structure becoming an issue?  Read on for three basic tips on how to quickly improve your site structure.

1. Remove old content

Lots of shops sell a different collection of products (clothes, shoes, etc.) every season. And when the season is done, the item pages are removed. This is a great practice if you don’t expect to sell the same product again. But what about all the links that point to the deleted product page? As you know, links to your page are valuable for your SEO! That’s why you should redirect the URL. This way, you still benefit from the links, even though the page doesn’t exist anymore.

2. Evaluate your categories

You should ensure that categories are about the same size. Think of Alice and her stories. Alice could categorize her stories by making piles. Now imagine one of these piles 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 can become too large when you write a lot about one specific subject and less about others. At some point, you should divide the big category into two smaller categories. A good rule of thumb 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. In this case, you should evaluate and optimize your categories; perhaps merge or split some of them.

3. Improve your internal linking structure

You should link to the most essential content on your site to show Google that these are your best and most complete articles. But it makes sense to users too. You want them to read your best posts, right? Read Meike’s blogpost about Internal linking for SEO to learn how to improve your internal linking structure.

Read more: Avoid these site structure mistakes! »

Yoast helps you out!

Yoast SEO premium can really help you set up and improve the structure of your site. The redirect functionality will allow you to easily redirect pages you deleted (so you’ll pass on the linking juice to another page). And our related links functionality will make sure you are interlinking articles with similar topics.

On top of that, we have a site structure training. This can be especially helpful if you need some guidance when starting with site structure. This training will guide you through the process. So, take a look!

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, because it’s something you can control and improve rather quickly. So, let’s get started!

Keep reading: Site structure: the Ultimate guide »

Coming up next!

12 Responses to What is site structure and why is it important?

  1. Uma
    Uma  • 6 years ago

    very nice and useful information and the explanation is very good with Alice’s example. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Adrian
    Adrian  • 6 years ago

    Awesome post. Structured pages will play a big part in SEO come 2019! Thanks for the great insight Yoast.

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 6 years ago

      We fully agree, Adrian. Thank you!

  3. sumit
    sumit  • 6 years ago

    I have 69 posts on my website with green SEO score..but still not getting traffic

  4. Floria lena
    Floria lena  • 6 years ago

    It is really necessary to understand concepts of SEO in order to increase rank of websites..

  5. Tony flyod
    Tony flyod  • 6 years ago

    Exactly ! the things happens as you mentioned in your post, we should very caring about site structure, Yoast helps us a lot to figure out this issue,, thnx

  6. Nick
    Nick  • 6 years ago

    I’m really glad to have read this article, I have found the 3 tips on how to improve site structure to be very helpful.

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 6 years ago

      That’s great to hear, Nick!

    SKYFRIENR TECH AUTHOR  • 6 years ago

    My SEO Score is Grean But Visitor Not Coming What i DO?

    • Gramenerit
      Gramenerit  • 6 years ago

      Awesome post. Structured pages will play a big part in SEO come 2019! Thanks for the great insight Yoast.

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 6 years ago

      You could check out our post on “My bullets are green, but my post doesn’t rank” here: https://yoast.com/green-bullets-post-doesnt-rank/. We discuss a few possible reasons why a post doesn’t rank, even though the text has been optimized with the Yoast SEO plugin. Hope it helps!