Why is a guide about making the perfect website architecture referencing a movie about someone who builds a baseball pitch on his own corn farm? The immortal words from Field of Dreams of “If you build it, they will come” actually have a lot of resonance when thinking about a new website build. The key to getting your website discovered starts with strategic planning and producing a solid technical foundation from which your organic visibility can grow.
In this guide I’ll take a look at website architecture – what it is, its benefits and how you can unlock lots of potential traffic, revenue and leads by making sure your website architecture is well researched and carefully constructed.
What Is Website Architecture?
Words like ‘architecture’, ‘structure’ and ‘technical’ can often put key stakeholders off when they are planning a new website build or redesign but they really shouldn’t.
Constructing a flawless website for your brand or services isn’t just about creating a stylish design and hoping the traffic will come. There are many important factors that work alongside design and UX that will help your website reach lots of users and more importantly the right users.
One of the biggest and often overlooked areas is website architecture, or the structure of your website. Essentially, this is the mechanics and set-up of all site pages and how they are prioritised across navigation elements, internal linking and URL structures to determine their overall importance to your website.
Why Is Website Architecture Important?
For indexation purposes and better results, search engines need to be able to crawl your website efficiently. In order for this to happen, web crawlers need directives or a list of parameters that help steer them in the right direction when they search and discover your web pages and content.
If you think of a website as a library of information and a web crawler as someone who has entered the library but doesn’t know where to find new books or specific categories. Your website should help users and search bots find relevant sections with clear and effective signposting across the mechanical elements mentioned above.
Building the Perfect Website Architecture
Plan Before You Build
It sounds simple but it’s surprising how often the planning phase is left until long after a website has been built and indexed. Although there are solutions for retrospectively improving a website structure, it can involve inflated budgets to effectively right the wrong’s of a primary build. This can lead to the possibility of needing a website migration or complete rebuild depending on the scale of the project.
Starting with keyword research is fundamental to any technical construction of a website. Understanding how your target audience is searching will help define the pages you will and will not need to create. Unless pivotal to your business goals and/or to user experience, it’s not worth building lots of pages that have no search intent behind them.
You should be using important metrics such as search volume to understand broader keyword targeting vs. long-tail keyword targeting. Beating your competition to coveted positions on SERPs relies on how you form sections with broad keyword intent and build pages with long tail intent to support them. The relationship between your broad landing pages or categories and more specific landing pages or sub-categories will now need to be represented in site navigation, internal linking and URL structures.
Measuring Click & Crawl Depth
After concluding your initial keyword research and building a framework of the pages you want, it is important to understand where ideally you should place these pages within your website’s hierarchy.
Your homepage or root domain is the page automatically allocated the highest priority by search bots. With web crawlers regularly crawling your homepage, they’re looking to find pages linked from this page in order to find the next depth of pages and so on.
With this in mind, it’s vital that you keep your website concise, even if it is complex in nature. Make sure that pages with highest priority are linked directly from your homepage so that search engines can reach them as early as possible in their crawls. This will help all search bots understand relevancy and priority of these pages in relation to the highest priority page on your website, your homepage.
Try to bring all good content out and not have it buried at a depth level of four, five and six. I often recommend having website structures with a maximum depth level of three. Sometimes this is not possible but keep in mind, the further down the chain a page is, the less likely it will be crawled and indexed favourably.
URL & Navigation Structures
For good SEO benefits, your URL and navigation structures should mirror each other. What do I mean by this?
If you have high priority pages at a crawl depth of one, ideally these should form directly off of the root domain e.g:yourwebsite.com/priority-1
Subsequently, these pages should be directly visible from the main site navigation, again to highlight the order of priority within the website hierarchy. Not doing this, will provide search bots with a mixed hierarchical structure signal and could spell longer term implications for your keyword rankings and visibility.
The Complete Website Architecture
So you’ve built a website which has followed the website architecture guidelines based around good research and a solid technical foundation but will the traffic come?
The short answer is yes, but not without a helping hand from other key areas of SEO. Just like in the movie Field of Dreams, it will take time, belief and investment but you have just elevated your website above hundreds of others that haven’t spent time researching properly and constructing methodically.
By supplementing your technical efforts with a great content strategy and link building campaigns, your organic visibility will continue to rise and consequently the traffic will come. You’ve just made sure that when it does, your website will remain at the top and ahead of the competition.