Structural Decisions to Consider When Creating A Site
A site architecture document is one of the most important and basic documents to create prior to building or asking a developer to build your site and should contain an internal linking and navigational structured plan.
Things to consider
- Which pages are you going to link to from the home page?
- Which pages are you going to use as top level categories that will then lead site visitors to other related pages?
- Do pages that are relevant to each other link to each other.
Why a linking structure is important
For the user: Visitors make use of links to surf around your website
For Search Engines: The navigation structure helps the search engine crawlers determine what pages you consider the most important on your site and it helps them establish the relevance of the pages on your site to specific topics – see rel-canonical & duplicate content.
The first thing you need to do before modifying or developing a website is to obtain a current site architecture document for reference or to build one for a new site. It will be from here that you can begin to understand how your content types, products and topics will be organised.
The most logical way I’ve found of doing this either if analysing a site or building a new one is to use the following model.
Literally sketch out/design on your computer the layout below or download this link and print out many copies!
Using a pencil, give each box a number and each product/content piece a unique number. Some of the numbers will be under lots of categories but it will allow you to see at a glance where the most useful content sits, what links to what and where your canonical tags should be placed. It will also let you see if you are in danger of having/or already do have a potential duplicate content issue.
How to cross link relevant content
When pulling your site architecture together, consider ways tat you can cross-link related items. Internal linking is equally important to pay attention to as back linking and it will help the search engine ascertain with greater confidence how relevant a page is to a particular topic.
How to use anchor text intuitively
With the onset of semantic search, it is imperative that your technical, creative and editorial teams understand how semantics work. Gone are the days where you would use an exact keyword match to create anchor text, the websites are now looking for a more contextually relevant phrase. Search engines really are clever enough these days to know the difference.
How to use Breadcrumb navigation
First of all, what exactly is breadcrumb navigation? In a nutshell it is a way to show the user where he is on the navigation hierarchy. The rule of thumb is to make both the breadcrumb keywords and the navigational structure keyword rich. Helping both the users and the search engine!
Pages that are only one click from the homepage are deemed by the search engines as being far more important than a page which is five or six clicks away and if the search engine even finds it depending on the internal site structure and linking strategy.
Ideally you should keep the site architecture as flat as possible to minimise clicks from the home page to important content. So….. have another look at your site architecture and see how flat you can reasonably make it without compromising on user experience.
See why I said to use a pencil! 😉