Creating a site structure for navigation and SEO is as important as the keywords and landing pages you add to your site. A good site structure (sitemap) will help search engines understand what your site is all about. Because the search engines understand your site, and can easily find and index content relevant to the mission of the site, it will tend to rank better.
If you are consistently adding content to your site, navigation becomes more important. Users need to be able to easily find the information they are looking for easily. I think about the early design of the ipod – the design had to make it so a user could find any song with three or less clicks. Apple solved most of this issue by adding the scroll wheel – on your site you’ll solve it with structure, hierarchy and links. With more and more content on the web, and your site, the find-ability of your information becomes more of a challenge. Designing a site structure for navigation and SEO should address these issues.
Building a Site Structure for Navigation and SEO
Step One – Mind Mapping
Keeping your companies mission in mind, write down everything you want your site to do. Write down everything no matter how trivial it is. Ask yourself: What services/products are we marketing?, What helpful resources can we provide?, Do we have testimonials? If you’ve ever participated in a mind mapping exercise, this is basically what you are doing. Don’t worry about where that content goes yet, that will come next. Don’t focus on where that content goes in the sitemap just yet (Step #4). Give yourself the freedom to think openly
Step Two – Organize Your Data
Take all the different things that you wrote down from the first step and organize them into groups of similar items. If you have already done keyword research add these to your groups. Each of these groups will become sections on your site.
Step Three – Draw your Site Structure
It’s helpful to see visual representation of your site structure. You can use a spreadsheet like excel or Google Sheets. If you would like something a little more visual there are several free tools to help you draw your sitemap. Try gliffy.com or creately.com. Just use a tool that you are comfortable using. Your sitemap should start to look like a pyramid and be balanced. At the top should be your top level navigation – somewhere between 2 – 7 main sections. No section should be twice as big as another to keep your site balanced. As your build your map just make sure to keep the most important or traffic rich sections near the top.
Step Four – Naming your Sections
Next, name the sections. The names should be short and focused on the main keywords that people search for. If you need more information on keyword see our post Basic Keyword Research. Do the same for your pages.
Step Five – Link Structure
Your almost done! Creating the internal link structure will do two things. It helps users navigate around your site – just like the scroll wheel on the ipod, and helps search engines correctly index the pages and sections on your site. Each page in the top of that pyramid should link to all its sub pages, and vice-versa. Within each section you should have pages that content-wise are closely related to each other. Linking them will help your site rank better.
Creating a site structure for navigation and seo takes time! A well thought out and designed site structure will help you site rank as much as your keywords.