Don't Ignore the Importance of Your Site's URL Structure
Often when a team is involved in building new website project, excitement takes hold and that momentum carries the group forward to complete the project. Lots of new features and functions are developed in a semi-chaotic fashion; fresh sections, widgets and menu items are added after the initial rollout without any planning.
Throughout the big launch, one important thing might be forgotten. While the aesthetics may have been addressed, there may be far less regard for the project’s fundamental core: its URL structure. And this goes a long way to determining the way your site is structured, which has an effect on how it performs in search engine rankings.
Better organization leads to easier crawling. For any website, a logical and easily mapped out structure is desirable. If you were to sketch out how your website’s pages are connected to the home page, you would ideally end up with something that looks like a pyramid, with an increasing number of pages the further down you go. This top-down approach can be seen on a number of very successful websites.
In almost all cases, the next level beneath the home page will be represented visually in the navigation menu. See this approach on the dermatology website amiea.com. Visit any of the menu navigation categories or subcategories; the URL structure is logical and easy to match with the menu item without knowing too much about the site. You could even guess the URL of a page just by looking at the navigation menu.
Logical mapping leads to themed content. By keeping a clear and logical navigation structure, you will make your site more accessible for users to explore, but the organization of the site’s directories will also enable search engine spiders to easily crawl your site. Everything can be contained easily within categories. Inside these categories will be content and pages that are similar and organized around the same theme.
This themed approach will help convince search engines that your categories and content are super relevant for any keyword groups that you are targeting.
By ensuring that you have really specific and themed categories, you’ll be better able to target shorter-tail keywords. With search engines becoming smarter and taking into account a lot of synonyms and behavioral quirks, you’ll find that your products, articles and pages within those categories will cover multiple possible keywords. All of which, at some point, will end up being displayed on those category pages.
Avoid hiding your lower pages. Despite the fact that I’ve been preaching about the importance of a pyramid style of website pages, don’t go too far. It would certainly be a bad practice for you to start including buried treasures beneath your pyramid. Retailers with a large portfolio of products face a challenge in requiring various levels of categories. If your online presence is lucky enough to not have this problem, then make every effort to minimize the number of directories your site has.
You can easily keep track of this by examining your URL structure. Each time there is a forward slash after the main domain, this denotes a new directory, adding an additional layer. It isn't wise to have too many. I believe a maximum of five layers should be sufficient. My website, Trip Tipping, has four layers after the main domain: domain/content type/continent/city/article. This is possibly one layer too many, and I intend to test out having one less layer.
Taking the steps above will not solve all of your search engine problems, but they will ensure that you are on the right track to improving your site's performance.