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How and Why to Master Site Structure

Not all websites, pages and blogs are created (or ranked, searched for or indexed) equally. This is true when it’s a human interacting with it and when it’s a search engine.
If you are a marketer or business owner, you probably know the 80/20 rule of websites: 80% of your business will come from 20% of your pages. If you have a blog of 100 posts, about 20 of those will drive the majority of your conversions (whatever “conversion” means for your business model). This is totally normal and not something that necessarily needs to be “fixed”.

However, because a minority of pages drive the majority of conversions, site structure becomes extremely important, for both visitors and search engines.

When I work with a client, one of the first things I do is audit their website to get a clear picture of what we’re starting with. Having performed hundreds of such audits, I’ve come to realize that site structure if a common issue for many businesses.
Think about it like this: brick and mortar stores carefully layout and display merchandise to make it easy for customers to move around and find what they’re looking for, and to highlight particular items for quicker sale or to draw in street traffic. Site structure is the web equivalent of that practice.

 

Here are the main disadvantages of not having a well-structured site:  

  • Dilution of page strength
  • Site cannibalization (self-competing)
  • Lack of consistency
  • Potential for duplicate content
  • Harder for search engines to crawl and understand

 

Do You Know How to Master Site Structure

 

5 things you can do to get a more structured site:

 

  • Divide content into categories.

There are many ways that the human brain and search engines are similar. One of those is that we both LOVE to categorize things! We like it when information fits neatly into set categories. When someone else clearly defines those categories for us (whether human or search engine), we can find things more quickly.

Aggregate related content and organize it into categories or with tags. When you have a lot of content, it is ideal to create a new directory (subdirectory, NOT subdomain as a new subdomain is much harder to rank for). The content in your subdirectories should be specific and should not overlap with other content.

As you categorize and tag your site, ensure that highly related content is put in the right subdirectory as one of your main goals is to avoid cannibalization.

 

  • Create a sitemap and submit it to search engines.


XML sitemaps are important for your ranking on SERPs (search engine results pages) because they make it easier for search engines to find pages on your site. Rather than have to follow a bunch of links, search engines know to look for your XML file so they can see all the pages in one place. Kind of like those giant maps in shopping malls.

Another key role of the XML sitemap is to tell search engines which pages are ok to crawl. This way, they know right away which pages not to bother with and can quickly crawl the others.

When creating your sitemap, it’s important to know which pages are your key pages, as you will need to organize the map accordingly.

Here is a great tool for creating an effective sitemap: https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/

Once you have your sitemap, add it under your default sitemap URL, which should look like this: https://thecaminowithin.com/sitemap.xml. Use this URL (obviously with your own website, not mine) as your sitemap URL when connecting Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.

 

  • Use canonical tags.


This is one of the most basic and impactful optimization tools. It’s a way of telling search engines that a certain page represents the original copy of a page in order to avoid duplicate content.

The word “canon” means, generally, “authoritative”. When a page is canonical, it means that’s the main one. The original. It’s the one that should be referenced above all others like it. So, if you have different URLs hosting the same content, designate one page as “canon” to instruct search engines to ignore the others. This ensures all search strength is directed towards your one main page, and not diluted among many.

Here’s an example of a canonical page: https://thecaminowithin.com. That’s my canonical homepage, but all these URL structures may be considered variations of that page:

https://thecaminowithin.com/
http://thecaminowithin.com/
https://www.thecaminowithin.com/

To the human eye, we can tell that these are probably all the same page. But, without canonical tags, a search engine will see all these as separate. Use a tag like this to tell search engines which page is your canon page: <link rel=”Canonical” href=”https://thecaminowithin.com”>

 

  • Remove duplicate pages, content or tags.


Duplicate content happens when content appears in more than one place within the same website. It makes your site repetitive and irrelevant for both humans and search engines.

When navigating through a website, both humans and search engines look for (and expect) unique information or content with each new page visit.

Duplicate content makes it hard to figure out what is original and what is not. It confuses search engines in deciding which version should get ranking strength and which should be ignored.

The best analogy is that you are taking a good piece of content and watering it down. Diluting its strength.

Aim for all your content to be unique, concentrating on the following areas:

  1. Duplicate titles and descriptions.
  2. Duplicate headers.
  3. Duplicate paragraphs.

 

  • Interlink properly.


An internal link is a type of hyperlink on a webpage that links to another resource (page, image, document, etc) within the same site.

There are many advantages to interlinking, such as connecting relevant pages, enabling visitors to easily find information and helping them spend more time on your site.

But, when it comes to interlinks, you must stay structured, relevant, consistent and not overdo it.

A best practice is to use relevant and descriptive anchor text that relates to the content of the page or resource you are linking to.

Just like a brick and mortar business, your website needs to be well structured for it to perform optimally. Don’t ignore site structure. Master it.

 

 

 

References:

 

The Easy Audit: A guide to auditing your site SEO without tools or magic

Nobody likes an audit. Any kind of audit! And when it comes to an SEO audit, digital marketing specialists have a tendency to overcomplicate things.

The truth is, most of the big-ticket items impacting your SEO are things you can easily look into on your own to see where you stand and what you need to do to bring your site up to par. You do need to know your metadata from your messaging, but you don’t need to be a digital ninja/guru/magician.

Digital SEO Audit for my business site

Here are the 6 most important factors to look at in your basic SEO audit.

1. Page Titles, Descriptions, & URLs

I said it would be easy. I didn’t say it wouldn’t be a bit tedious! Yes, you need to look at these things for every page you are intending to audit.

The page titles, descriptions and URLs are what appear in Google, Bing or other search engine results pages.

Title

  1. Is it between 40 to 70 characters?
  2. Is it informative (Does it adequately describe what the business does or the content of that page)?
  3. Does it include the keywords you want to rank for?

Description  

  1. Is it between 120-155 characters?
  2. Is it informative?
  3. Does it include the keywords you want to rank for?
  4. Does it intrigue the searcher to click on your search result?  

URL

  1. Is it HTTPs? HTTPs is preferred over HTTP across the whole site.
  2. Is it informative?
  3. Are all characters lowercase?
  4. Are you using hyphens instead of underscores? Hyphens are preferable.  
  5. Is it free of any unconventional characters?
  6. Are all URLs across the site free of inconsistent parameters?

2. Content Quality

Keywords are a start. But there’s more to quality SEO content than hitting the right keywords. Relevancy, consistency and value to the reader are all critical elements of good SEO content as well. When auditing your content, look for the following quality factors:

  1. Is there a consistent use of keywords across the site and in tags?
  2. Is there a good keyword density?
  3. Is there both dynamic and static content?
  4. Is the content relevant to the industry/product/service?
  5. Is the content share-worthy?
  6. Does the content drive value to the reader?
  7. Are you targeting a select number of keywords vs. keyword stuffing?

3. Content Quantity & Diversity

The amount of unique content on your site is also a factor.

  1. Is there a good amount of text on each page?
  2. Is there a good text to code ratio?
  3. Is there a diversity in which content is shown?
  4. Are you capitalizing on text, PDF, video, images, slides, etc?

4. Site Structure and Index-ability

We’re moving into a more technical territory, but everything here is fairly simple to look into without any fancy tools.

  1. Are the pages, posts, and properties mapped properly?
  2. Is there a clean and up-to-date sitemap?
  3. It there a proper interlinking approach implemented on site? (i.e. linking to other pages, and posts within your site.)
  4. Are you using your robots.txt file properly? The best way to check is to type www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt into your address bar. This file will show you if you are accidentally de-indexing your site.
  5. Is the site free of broken links? Broken links are a sign that your site may need technical optimization.

5. Page Speed and Functionality

  1. Does each page load quickly? To see if something is slowing down your site, try the Google Page Insight test.
  2. Is the site free of broken links?
  3. Is everything on the site loading properly? (images, videos, forms, menus, etc.)
  4. Is the site mobile friendly? To check, try Google’s Mobile Friendly test here: https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly

6. User Experience

Last, but not least, ensure your site is easy to use.

  1. Is the site easy to navigate?
  2. Is there proper internal linking?
  3. Is there a call to action and/or a clear message on the site?
  4. Can visitors easily and quickly understand what your business is about?
  5. Do you have the most important elements on your site above the fold?

 

Takeaway:

You don’t necessarily need a specialist or a set of pro-tools to audit your site. All you need is some attention to detail, a little time and to know where to look. The time you invest in your audit and any optimizations based on your findings will pay off, big time. If you are intending to take things to the next level, then consider hiring an SEO expert.

If you are looking for more advice on how to audit your site feel free to reach out :)

Email: triman@captaim.com

Twitter: @tarekriman