Posted by Morgan Griffith | Posted in PageRank, SEO, SEO Best Practices, folder structure, internal linking, naming conventions, search engine optimization, sitemaps | Posted on 27-04-2010
People often forget to consider how and in what order they are serving up content when dealing with SEO. A logical site hierarchy and a thoughtful folder/sub-folder structure for site content is critical. Use of a strong sitemap, fairly shallow website depth, thoughtful keyword driven folder names, and a good linking strategy (including use of menus and context navigation) will drastically improve SEO and PageRank results. Let’s discuss each of these pieces in a bit more depth.
Sitemaps - Even if your website is one with thousands of pages, making a well-organized sitemap available from each page of your site ensures that every page on your website will be within just a few clicks away. This also means that these pages will be only a few crawling steps away for search engine spiders. In general, it is a best practice to make every page on your site reachable within just a few clicks.
Website Depth - When you run a search for the pages indexed on the Apple.com site by Google you can see there are over 7,000,000 results listed. Even with this immensely large number of pages, Apple does a great job of making every page available within just a few clicks of the mouse. In Apple’s sitemap, there nine available top-level headings under the About heading. However, once you arrive at Apple’s About section, you can see that it is not necessary to drill down further on the page to access anyone of these headings. Furthermore, each subheading under these top-level headings are available within just one additional click (all listed at the bottom of the page). The faster a user can get to each page, the easier it is for search engines to do the same.
Folder Names - For sites that use a content structure that matches their hierarchical folder directory structure ( i.e. – www.companyxyz.com/about/management rather than www.companyxyz.com/management), using keyword driven folder naming conventions is key. This allows for easy navigation of content in hierarchy driven sites. Furthermore, it affords a more keyword infused URL while allowing users to easily identify the location of the content they’re viewing. As a naming convention best practice, when multiple keywords are in any portion of your URL, use hyphens to separate these words rather than underscores.
Linking Strategy - The organization of your site and use of menus such as breadcrumbs will provide a strong internal linking structure. By providing a link to every top level section of your site from the homepage (via a top navigation menu, for example), not only do you pass along PageRank from your homepage to pages beneath it in the hierarchy, but you also provide automatic internal links that help users navigate your site with ease. For pages a bit deeper in your hierarchy, using breadcrumbs that display a backwards path from the current page to the homepage will accomplish this same effect. Wherever possible, use menus to improve site usability and navigation; doing so will automatically afford you some great internal link juice.
These are just a few things to consider when evaluating your site structure and how your organization is serving up its content. We recommend researching each of these pieces in more depth to consider what strategy is best for your organization. Remember, every SEO step you take should benefit your end-user. When you keep your users in mind, your SEO rewards will always follow close behind.