You can gain a tremendous advantage with SEO and your website by paying attention to how your site is linked together. There are four primary website structure strategies to consider:
- Improve user experience
- Improve “crawlability” of your site
- Increase the ranking of individual pages within your site
- Increase number of pages that are indexed
How to Improve User Experience So They Stay Longer and Buy More
There are three keys to a happy website user:
1. Links: How other sites talk about and link to your site matters. The words that are linked (anchor text) and the page to which your visitor from another site is sent needs to match with what your visitor expected when they clicked the link.
2. Your Home page: You shape the user experience with a Home page that establishes what your site is about and what you offer. Your home page is the page that will be visited first by more people, more often. Your Home page needs to make it easy for people to find what they are looking for. What people want to do at your site — common tasks and questions asked and answered — must be easy to find at your site.
3. Your set of category or directory pages: These pages lead people closer to their goal. They find your categories or directories of products or services easily if you help them with standard navigation elements, logical “chunks” and a site map page. This Roadmap level is any page that’s linked to from the Home page.
4. Your content or destination pages: These pages present detailed descriptions of your products or services (or content topics).Â In an online shopping site, this is where you find the product detail pages. For those selling products, this level contains the pages with descriptions of features, benefits, price, etc. For bloggers and other content marketers, this level contains your articles or posts. This level is usually two clicks away from the home page.
Usability studies have shown that people don’t mind clicking their mouse a few times to get to their goal, as long as they have a clear path to take. (Dan Thies, SEO Fast Start)
Designing for Spiders: Start with Your Home Page and Keyword Strategy
The first and most important aim you should have with your Home page is to:
- avoid linking out to other web pages from your Home page; and,
- link to your site map from your home page.
Dan Thies presents quite a bit more detail about structuring your business website for SEO in Chapter 4 of SEO Optimization Fast Start: Optimizing Site Structure. If you are ready to take these more advanced steps, pick up a copy of this free guide from Dan Thies at www.SEOFastStart.com.
Anchor Text and Link Reputation
…I can let you in on a little secret: Anchor text and link reputation might be the most important part of SEO! Sure, optimizing your page’s content is still important, but to today’s search engine, the words that are used in links pointing to that page are extremely important. (Dan Thies)
This is how it works:
You have a Keyword Strategy (link out to previous article in this series) with key search terms and variations in clusters. In this second part of optimizing your website, create anchor text for every one of those terms and variations at least once or twice. “This means cross linking from one page to another, using keywords in the text of the link.” This is a strategy that you can begin to implement when you have multiple pages created for each level of your site: Home page, category/roadmap pages, and content/destination pages. Here’s an example from Dan Thies:
If you’re trying to help pageA get ranked for “purple monkey hats” then you put a link from page B to A, with “purple money hats” in the text. The code looks like this:
We also offer a great selection of <a href=”a.html”>purple monkey hats</a>.
Now page B has sent some link reputation to page A. Page A should rank just a little higher, when people search for purple monkey hats.
[I’ve followed this practice by linking from the first sentence above back to a previous post in this series using a search term, “keyword strategy” as anchor text for my link. Another way this works in a WordPress blog is to use a plugin to have a list of related posts show up at the end of your post. If you have used a search term in the title, it shows up as anchor text in the link published at the end of your post.]
Increasing Number of Pages Indexed: To Do After the Basics
Taking steps to get more Page Rank into your site — or to get more pages indexed — is an advanced strategy that comes after you have:
1. Developed content and optimized it.
2. Built links to your content from other sites.
3. Started measuring your results.
If you have maxed out your efforts in terms of the basics above, more advanced steps can be found here:
SEO Fast Start by Dan Thies — link here to download page.
Article from Michelle MacPhearson at From Idea to Empire (Be More Than a Blog): The New Content Marketing Keyword Strategy.
An internal link juice tool from SEOMoz: Link here to a “how to” article about the internal link juice tool.
Your First Website Structure Action Step
If you have a website that’s been around for awhile, map it out on paper and see if you can reduce the number of links out from your home page and make sure home page links lead to category/roadmap pages (and then from there to content pages). Use this map to review, and then re-structure your website if necessary.
If you have a WordPress blog, create a static Home page and then link to your blog from the main navigation links. Make sure your Home page clearly states the purpose of your site and what you have to offer visitors. Make it easy for website visitors to find what they want after landing at your Home page. Use your top 2-3 keyword phrases on your Home page. Load up a WordPress plugin that posts links to related posts ( I use YARP–Yet Another Related Post) and make sure the titles contain a keyword/search term so that the link has “anchor text” which is a keyword or keyword phrase.