How to plan a website structure customers (and Google) will love

Did you know that 38% of people will leave a website if they don’t like its layout? Layout goes beyond visual design. Knowing how to plan a website structure that works will help you to impress users and improve search position, as this article explains:

What we will cover

What is a ‘website structure’?

At its heart, a website is simply a collection of individual files we call web pages. Your website’s structure (or information architecture) governs how those web pages link together.

There are three basic website structures that web designers use when building sites.

The linear website structure links one page to another in a sequence with no other internal links. This can be useful for some highly targeted advertising campaigns, where you want the customer to go from an ad to a landing page to a payment page and then to a thank you page. Linear websites don’t work for most businesses, especially when it comes to SEO (search engine optimisation).

The network or web-linked structure links every page to every other page on your website. This can be useful for small websites, where user navigation is the priority, but this structure is also poor for SEO and can lead to confusing search results as Google has no idea which pages are the most important.

The hierarchical website structure is by far the most common and SEO-friendly choice for most websites. This is where web pages are organised into groups of pages and subpages.

However, it is the responsibility of the site owner and their design team to create a hierarchical structure that works for both search engines and people. At Vu Online, we prefer a pyramidal structure with a small number of main pages resting on a foundation of hundreds of supporting pages.

Read on to discover exactly how to plan a strong pyramidal website structure:

How to plan a website structure for fantastic SEO

In a nutshell, we recommend following a few simple but powerful rules when designing your website structure.

First, you want to group your business into the individual services you offer.

Next, you want to create powerful landing pages focused on converting visitors to leads or buyers.

Third, you need to churn out as much high quality content as possible, linking each piece to the relevant landing page. This can include blog articles, case studies, white papers and other information pages.

Finally, you want to ensure that all pages are three clicks or fewer away from your main landing pages.

What about the ‘About Me’, ‘Our Vision’, ‘Our Team’ sections, I hear you cry! The brutal truth is that unless you are a celebrity, your visitors are much more interested about what you can do for them, than who you are. While you should definitely include these pages – and link them to your home page – they are of minor importance when it comes to driving sales and leads.

What benefits can you expect?

Clearly, the main benefit of an optimised website is that it will appear higher in search engine results for the keywords that matter to your business.

Although Google ranks pages individually, they do take into account each page’s position in your website’s structure. Poorly integrated pages are unlikely to rank as well as others.

Not only will individual web pages rank higher in a well-organised website, but there is a greater chance that your website will feature as sitelinks in Google search results. This is where subpages appear underneath your main listed page, given you a lot more prominence on the search results pages, and often increasing clicks.

Managing technical SEO (those techie tweaks that make sure your website is stable and running quickly) is also easier with a well-organised website. If you know which are your most important webpages, you can prioritise them when it comes to optimising and testing.

And there’s more. When a search engine indexes your website, it deploys web crawlers (automated web applications) which use internal links to navigate your pages. You are given a time ‘budget’ after which the crawler stops indexing. An organised site will be efficiently crawled, leading to fast indexing and updating.

Helping users find their way

Knowing how to plan a website structure for Google web crawlers is one thing, but making your visitors happy is a separate challenge.

Users interact with websites in a different way than search engine browsers. For a start, the design of your menus and links between pages must be visually prominent and clear to understand.

Options should be reduced as much as possible to keep your visitor focused on the task they were there to achieve, whether that was to research a plumbing problem, compare shoe styles or book a facial.

Providing a satisfying user experience (UX) provides its own SEO benefits. Happy visitors will tend to stay on your web pages for longer. They will also arrive where they expect, reducing the ‘bounce rate’ of your web pages. Google is thought to use these metrics to calculate a ‘dwell time’ value which, according to Backlinko, forms one of their 200+ ranking factors.

In addition, positive UX enhances your branding. Visitors will associate their website experience with your business. If you give them a clear, easy to follow website structure, they are likely to assume doing business with you will be an equally positive experience. In fact, according to SWEOR, three quarters of consumers admit to judging a company’s credibility based on the design of its website.

Need more guidance on how to plan a website structure?

There is a lot more to creating a website that drives sales than sorting out the structure. From keyword research to competitor analysis to measuring results, we can help you learn those SEO ropes.

And when it comes to understanding the customer journey there is nothing better than engaging with a customer journey map workshop.

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