Website architecture: best practices for SEO

Christina Ageli is a SEO specialist working for travelplanet24.com, one of the top OTA in SE Europe, and tripsta.net international websites. Her activities among others include on page optimization, link building strategies planning and implementation and conversion optimization.

search engine optimization

As SEOs, we mostly spend our daily tasks for link building and reports. Finding new link building resources, checking our website’s linking profile regularly for anything unnatural, spying on competitors tactics and strategy, building links, checking if links are published, checking rankings, compiling reports…Is that it? Of course not, SEOs are busy people!
SEOs also perform keyword research, copywriting, on page website optimization, check for indexing/crawling issues and so on. But there is one task that all SEOs should perform from the very beginning of each project and which is strangely somewhat overlooked. And that is, defining good website architecture from an SEO perspective.

What is website architecture?

Website architecture is the approach used to design and plan your website. It is the way we organize content in our website. It consists of two basic components, technology decisions and structural decisions.

Best technology decisions for good website architecture

  • Avoid dynamic URLs.Yes, Google can index dynamic URLs pretty well nowadays, but remember the users! Do they really like those lengthy parameters? I certainly don’t!
  • Avoid session IDs. If your CMS adds a session ID for each user at the end of the URL then you need to change that as soon as possible! Different URLs pointing to the same content means duplicate content. And we all know what that means.
  • Content/links in Java/Javascript/Flash. It is always better to use plain and simple HTML. Some search engines find it difficult to read content in Flash or JavaScript. Let’s make their life easier.
  • 302 redirections. Make sure all redirections are 301 and not 302. A 302 redirection may redirect the user to the new page but does not transfer any “link juice” from the old version of the page to the new one. 301 redirection should be your default type of redirection if SEO matters to you.

website architecture

Best structural decisions for good website architecture

Provide a great user experience. So, you have written this awesome content for your users, wouldn’t you want them to find it quickly while navigating your website? Here are a few tips on how to achieve this:

  • Website hierarchy should match the way users search. Start with your home page, and work your way to all the internal pages as you want to make sure that the flow of navigation makes sense and is easy to follow. Create categories and subcategories if necessary. You can use a “card sorting” technique to create your category tree.
  • Cross-link relevant content. This way you “cluster” all relevant content, you pass “link juice” to all thematically relevant pages and make your user happy, as he may find easily whatever he has been looking for during his visit in your website.
  • Use proper anchor text. Internal linking is pretty powerful, especially if your website has thousands of pages. Take advantage of it and use targeted keywords as anchor text instead of “more”, “click here” and other generic terms. Prepare yourself to train designers as well. Yes, they will be the first to complain.
  • Use breadcrumb navigation. My personal favorite. Personally, I find it very convenient when I can navigate a site via its breadcrumbs instead of clicking sidebar menus or large navigation menus. This is where the “use proper anchor text” tip can be applied to. Extra PRO tip: Use proper format to produce rich snippets which affect CTR.
  • Minimize link depth. Rule of thumb: No page should be deeper than 3 clicks away from your homepage. Make you site architecture flat. The deeper you “bury” a page, the less “link juice” is passed, the less “link juice passed” to a given page, the more difficult will be for a page to be kept in Google index. As we know, if a page has an amount of “link juice” which is below a certain threshold, then Google is very likely to drop this page from its index (or not index it at all).

In a nutshell

Website architecture has to be taken seriously and should be designed from the very beginning of the project, after keyword research is completed. Design poor website architecture and you will most probably face crawling and indexing issues or non converting pages. Arrange training sessions with your design and development team, follow the above tips and always have the user in mind

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