How and Why to Plan Your Site Structure
One of the biggest components to an effective content strategy is your website's site structure. However, all too often, bloggers and business owners neglect to map out their site structure, opting instead to simply add pages and menu items without considering traffic flow. Mapping out your site structure isn't simply one more thing to add to your never-ending to-do list. You need to learn how and why to plan your site structure, then make the time to get it done.
I want to offer a bit of encouragement before we even get into this whole site structure discussion, because I know what's going to happen: You're going to read through this, get overwhelmed, then freak out because your website has been in existence for years and you think you can't possibly start over!
You don't have to.
It doesn't matter if you've had your website for 15 minutes or 15 years, you can create or update your site structure TODAY.
WHAT IS SITE STRUCTURE?
Great question. I guess we should start there before we talk about how and why to plan your site structure, right?
Site structure is an organized layout of your site's content - pages, categories, blog posts, etc. - in a way that improves user experience and traffic flow. An effective site structure makes visitor's to your site happy, and makes search bots happy, because they can easily find what they're looking for.
WHY IS SITE STRUCTURE IMPORTANT?
Another great question. It's not just "busy work".
When you have an organized site structure, two main things happen, as I mentioned a moment ago:
- Readers have a better user experience because it's easy to find whatever they need.
- Search bots can crawl your site a lot easier and find more of your content.
Ok great, so why is that a big deal?
SEO, my friend. Here's the thing: there's a metric in your analytics that should be of utmost importance to you, and that metric is a little thing called "bounce rate".
If you understand bounce rate, go ahead and scroll on down. I'll cover it briefly just in case you're not familiar.
Bounce rate is the percentage of your website visitors who check out one page on your site, then leave without reading anything else. So if someone comes to your website from Pinterest, reads that one post, then exits your site, that's a bounce.
So what does site structure have to do with your bounce rate?
If you have an organized site structure, you are essentially giving readers paths to follow from one article or page on your site to another related piece of content. The more pages they click through in one visit, they lower your bounce rate becomes.
And guess what else happens?
As your overall bounce rate goes down, your overall ranking in search potentially goes up. Search bots and search algorithms use various factors to determine which pieces of content come up when someone types in a search term. If you have excellent content on your site related to that search term, but you have a really high bounce rate and very few links going into that piece of content, you most likely won't show up on the first few pages of Google.
And that sucks.
Bottom line: An organized site makes it easier for your readers to keep clicking through to more content, which lowers your overall bounce rate, which potentially increases your site's chances of showing up on the first page of Google search.
HOW TO PLAN YOUR SITE STRUCTURE
#1 - Start with pen and paper.
We're going old school, friend. Before you make any changes to your existing site structure in real life online, you need to map out how you think things should go on paper.
You don't want to create random categories or tags, add or remove menu items, or anything else. Sit down with pen and paper and make a flow chart, keeping in mind the path you want your readers to take to get to your most important content.
#2 - Know your business/blog goals.
If one of your goals is to grow your email list, you need to be sure you are leading visitors to an opt-in page often. If your goal is for visitors to turn into clients, make sure you're sending them to your services page so they can hire you.
Your content should be setting you up as an authority within your niche and driving traffic to help you meet your goals.
#3 - Create paths for your readers & search bots to follow.
Remember what we said about bounce rate and all that stuff, right? Every post and page on your site should link to other posts and/or pages on your site of related content.
And it should be intentional. If you have one piece of content that you would consider the most important piece of content in each category, link to that piece of content from every other piece of related content on your site. (More links into it tells search bots it's a big deal, and it will help it rank higher in search.)
#4 - Outline your main categories, subcategories, and tags.
This is the part where a lot of people get carried away. You should limit yourself to 3-5 main categories of content. If you absolutely have to have subcategories, keep those limited as well.
For example, if you are a DIY and craft blogger, one of your main categories might be "home decor", with subcategories like "bedroom decor", "seasonal decor", etc.
Finally, we have tags. Bloggers are guilty of abusing tags, thinking more is better, but that's not the case.
Quick Tip: USE TAGS SPARINGLY.
Every time you create a new tag, it creates a new link, which is a path for search bots. If that link dead ends at one post, they stop crawling your site and miss other important content.
Tags should be considered sub-subcategories. Does that make sense? Tags are meant to link related content together, not describe your content. They aren't adjectives. If you have several related pieces of content related to sunflowers, for example, "sunflowers" could be the tag that connects them together, even if they are in different categories.
I feel like a lot of people just went, "AAAAHHHHH! I get it now!" You're welcome.
#5 - Use backlinks with anchor text.
Backlinks are links that take you to other pieces of content from within a blog post or on a page. I mentioned in #3 that each piece of content should link to another related piece of content. Those links are called backlinks.
Each main category on your site should ultimately have one post or page (a written piece of content) that serves as an overall guide or resource for that category.
Every other post I write about content strategy should link back to that page. That tells search bots it's a super important page & I should rank high for "content strategy".
Make sure these links are FOLLOW links, meaning both readers and search bots can follow them. (You'll only use no-follow links if money is involved, like in a sponsored post when linking to the brand's website, or using an affiliate link.)
And make sure you use anchor text with keywords in those backlinks. Anchor text is a fancy term for the text that's linked to something. Just make sure the keyword for the content you're linking TO is in the anchor text.
HOLY CRAP THAT'S A LOT OF STUFF!
You know what you need? You need an SEO + Site Structure Intensive workshop!
You get lifetime access to the masterclass + worksheets to use during the training. This workshop will show you exactly how to map out your own site structure and use SEO tactics to improve your organic search and be more visible online.