What is Website Architecture?
The architecture of a website is exactly what it sounds like: how it is built. More specifically, it is the ordered structure of the information on your site. The main goal of site architecture is to build content and pages in such a way that it is easy for users to find what they are looking for. Looking for ways to improve your site architecture is an important step in SEO.
In general, good site architecture means good organization. Content is clearly labeled and arranged in a way that makes sense to the average user.
Difference Between Website Architecture and Sitemap?
Sitemaps are an important part of SEO and can contribute to good site architecture, but the two are not exactly the same. A sitemap lists out pages in a hierarchical fashion that resembles a family tree. Typically, the home page is the first branch on the tree, followed by pages listed on the main menu, and so forth. For example, Serenity Digital’s simplified sitemap looks something like this:
The primary purpose of sitemaps is to present a one-page infographic of a site for crawling purposes. In other words, it is specifically meant to help search engines understand the purpose and functionality of a site.
Site architecture, on the other hand, is intended to facilitate the user experience, not search engine visibility. It does, however, indirectly affect site rankings by focusing on user experience (UX) and relevant content.
Remember that a great user experience is a quintessential part of SEO, and site architecture is a crucial part of the UX. If your site is not easy to navigate, users will go elsewhere. This affects your sites bounce rates, a term used to describe the percentage of users who visit your site but leave without interacting with any other pages. High bounce rates can negatively impact your rankings.
Easy Ways to Improve Site Architecture
1. Optimize Your Site’s Navigation Menu
- Keep Your Navigation Bar Simple. Minimize the number of top-level menu items on your main navigation bar. Limit it to your most important pages and make it exceptionally clear what those pages are for.
- Include a link to the “home” page on the main navigation bar.
- Minimize sub-categories on dropdown menus. Dropdown menus can be useful or they can be daunting. Keep a healthy number of subcategories that allows people to find what they need without having to read through a list of twenty items.
- Keep drop-down menus relevant. Only include pages that are directly related to the parent category. For example, your Services menu should not include links to your blog or contact page.
2. Add a Site Search
The ability to search a site not only makes it easier for users to find what they are looking for, it can also increase conversion rates. A survey by Econsultancy found that a website’s conversions increased by nearly 2% after adding a product search bar.
Most content management systems (CMS) used to build websites, such as WordPress, Joomla, and Wix, allow you to easily embed a search bar onto a page. Depending on the builder you are using, the exact steps will vary.
To install a simple search bar on a basic WordPress site, you click the “add block” symbol, type “search” into the search bar, and click the magnifying glass icon:
3. Clean Up Your URLs
Make sure your URLs are clear and reflective of what your page is about. In general, shorter URLs perform better, but it is more important that users and web crawlers understand what is on the page.
For example, if your website is called https://stlouisbbq.com, the URL to your blog page should look like this:
In this case, we know exactly what the page is just by reading the URL. Again, most CMS’s will automatically generate a good URL structure based on your page title. However, you can always change this by going to settings>permalinks.
4. Utilize Breadcrumbs
“Breadcrumbs” as they pertain to a site are not dissimilar from their famous use in a certain fairy tale. They are essentially another means of navigation that shows the trail of clicks a user has made to get to a certain page.
Breadcrumbs are particularly useful for e-commerce sites or other builds that have a lot of subcategories (sometimes it can’t be helped). They generally appear at the top of the page and take the form of something like this:
Home>Apparel>Women’s Apparel>Sale>Sale Tops
This allows someone to easily go back to a previous page without starting all the way over at the home page.
Breadcrumbs can be installed through various plugins, most popularly YoastSEO. This blog has some great information on how to enable plugins on most sites.
5. Flag Duplicate Pages With Canonical Tags
Duplicate pages can result in a penalty by Google, so you want to signal the crawlers that you are aware that it is duplicate content but necessary to the site. Again, duplicate pages are common on e-commerce sites because they often include a “filter” option that points to the same product under different URLs depending on the filter selected.
Luckily, you can implement something called a “canonical tag” to avoid any penalties related to duplicate content. These tags signal Google which pages are duplicates. The absence of one lets the search engine know that this is the one to be indexed.
To add a canonical tag, simply paste the following line of code in the <head> section of each duplicate page:
<link rel=“canonical” href=“https://website.com/main-page” />
Of course, you will need to change the url to your own. For Serenity Digital, the canonical tag might look like this:
<link rel=“canonical” href=“https://digitalbyserenity.com/blog-posts” />
The YoastSEO plugin makes this step even simpler. Just scroll down to the “Advanced” menu and locate the Canonical URL box. Type the url you want the tag to point to.
Need Help Fixing your site architecture?
Of course, it doesn’t have to be all up to you to deal with fixing things like site architecture. Whether it’s your site’s navigation, content, internal links, or other SEO-related tasks, our team at Serenity Digital can help you improve your site to offer the best user experience possible. Give our office or go online to schedule your free consultation!