Site architecture is an important on-page SEO factor. If you get it right, both search engines and visitors will understand what your site is about and find the information they need easily.
So if you’re planning a new website (or reorganizing your existing one), work on its structure to improve its SEO as well as the overall user experience. To do so, you need to work on 3 things:
- Your content organization,
- Navigation, and
- Internal linking.
Let’s now see how you create a SEO and user-friendly site structure.
3 Steps to Build a Site Architecture that Improves SEO
Step #1: Plan (and organize) your site content
The first thing to do when planning and organizing the content for a new website is to list the different content categories the site will cover.
Once you’ve identified the content themes you'll be covering, coming up with relevant content ideas, creating the content, and placing the content pieces in the right organization gets easy.
Real life scenario
Let’s take an example to see how you can choose the right content categories.
Suppose we want to build a website about Feng Shui plants. Our site will have a blog that will discuss tips about buying, placing, and maintaining Feng Shui plants. It will also have a store.
So, to find the different content categories for this site, we’ll start with some basic Google searches.
Obviously, our seed keyword will be“Feng Shui plants”.
Looking for it brings up the following related keywords:
As you can see, 2-3 good content categories emerge from this: indoor feng shui plants, office feng shui plants, and feng shui plants for wealth (or feng shui money plants).
Let’s create a list and add these keywords to it.
Note that when you come across two similar ideas like “feng shui money plants” and “feng shui plants for wealth”, don’t count them as two topics because they’re essentially the same.
In such cases, compare both the terms using Google Trends. And choose the more popular one.
In our example, it’s clear, the idea “feng shui plants for wealth” is way more popular than “feng shui money plants”. So we’ll go with the former.
To do some more digging, we’ll use a free keyword research tool from SERPS. This tool will give more insight into the content to cover on our site.
As you can see below, SERPs suggests some long-tail keywords for our seed keyword:
From these, the content theme around “artificial feng shui plants” looks interesting. Let’s add it to our list.
To get more ideas, use the newly found content themes and repeat the process.
Another way to find content themes is by looking at questions and answers websites like Quora and Answer the Public. As mentioned by Pardeep Goyal
Search queries, especially the ones that are in the form of questions are a great way to look for seed keywords.
Each of these queries have motivations & emotions of people behind it. Often, the queries are specific and centered around a users problem and so provide new keyword opportunities. Perhaps, one of the best but very underutilized sources of research for your keyword ideas.
At the end of this exercise, you’ll have a list of content categories to cover on your blog. To keep this example simple, I’m going with just 3 categories for now:
- Feng Shui Office Plants
- Feng Shui Indoor Plants
- Feng Shui Artificial Plants
At this point, you’ll know what content you’ll be covering, and where each post would go. For example, if you write a post called, “Top X air purifying Feng Shui plants for your home”, you’ll know which category it would go under.
Step #2: Create a site navigation that reflects the content organization
Now, if we were to create the navigation menu for our example website, we’d include the obvious pages like About, Blog, Store, and Contact. But in addition to these, we’d also add two more pages “Feng Shui Office Plants” and “Feng Shui Indoor Plants” right inside the main menu.
This is how our main navigation menu will look like:
Now why would we add those two pages to our menu?
Well, because doing so will help us rank our website for those target keywords.
With the help or cornerstone content.
Cornerstone content, as Yoast explains, is a critical part of the SEO big picture. This cornerstone content is nothing but a “one single page that is the center of the content about that topic.”
So on our cornerstone content page for “Feng Shui Office Plants”, we’d write some simple content on the topic and link to each and every article that we have on our site under this category.
If a user searches for “feng shui office plants” there’s a great possibility that Google shows our cornerstone content page for it. And when the user clicks through and lands on our page, they will find links to the most relevant articles around the topic they were searching for.
When planning your site’s information architecture, remember to follow a pyramid-like style.
In the image above, we’ve the ‘Homepage’ and below it there are different pages (and the following sub-pages).
Moz states that such a structure:
“… has the minimum amount of links possible between the homepage and any given page. This is helpful because it allows link juice (ranking power) to flow throughout the entire site, thus increasing the ranking potential for each page.”
Step #3: Build a rich internal link network
Once you’ve planned your content and set up a solid architecture to hold it, your last step is to use internal links to glue it all together. Users and search engines will use these links to learn more about the related content on your site.
Both Yoast and Moz recommend the same linking strategy: They suggest linking each content piece to a resource that’s present one level higher and lower in the information hierarchy.
Site link architecture design
Look at the following image to get an idea. As you can see, the homepage links to the page about Feng Shui office plants. And this page, in turn, links to the various content pieces on the topic. Likewise, these content pieces or posts all link back to the cornerstone page.
By doing so, Yoast explains that you boost your SEO “Because you’re linking from pages that are closely related to each other content-wise ….”
Each time that you post anything new in any of your categories, refresh your cornerstone content page on that topic with a link to the new article. Also, link to the cornerstone content page from the new article. Zac Heinrichs from Portent tells how this step can enhance the SEO of newer content pieces. He says:
“You can get search engines to naturally index new content more quickly by linking to it from high value pages like your home or category pages.”
Wrapping it up…
So that’s about it for building a SEO-friendly site architecture. I hope you have learned something useful from this article.