Optimising your website structure for search (Part 2)

Optimising your website structure for search (Part 2)

Your website’s structure is one of its most important features; not only does it have an influence on traffic and search engine rankings, it also plays a huge role in the usability of your site, and can even impact conversion rates.

If you managed to catch Part 1, you should already have a good understanding of what it takes to create a good website structure. But as it is such a central part of your website (and since we’re a generous bunch!), we’re going to share a few more tips that will help you to develop a structure that both Google and your end user will love.  

Check out Part 1 here.

Build your nav in HTML or CSS

Your customers aren’t the only ones who’ll be looking at your website – Google will also be sending bots or “spiders” to “crawl” your site and collect as much information about your business as possible. This information is then indexed (stored in Google’s databases) and used by Google when determining search results.

Therefore, it’s essential to make sure that all of the content on your website, including its navigation, can be easily accessed by Google and its bots. There’s no point going to the trouble of optimizing your nav with keywords if Google’s not going to be able to read them!

While it’s important to make sure your website is visually appealing and engaging, any elements that use JavaScript, Flash or Ajax will limit the crawler’s ability to cover your content. So, just keep the coding simple, working (if possible) only in HTML and CSS.

Keep it concise

Hick’s law says that the more choice you offer someone, the longer it will take them to make a decision. So, try to keep your menu as concise as possible, including only the most important pages in the very top level, and organizing the rest into dropdowns.

While there is no magic number, usability experts recommend no more than 7 top level menu items. If you can trim that down to five or six, even better; your visitors should be able to get a feel for what you offer with just a quick scan of the page.

Opt for a shallow nav

If you’ve lots of pages on your website, organizing them into dropdowns can help you to keep your top-level navigation clean and clutter-free.

Though they’ve faced criticism in the past for being temperamental on mobile devices, most CMS’ now handle dropdown menus very well. We personally recommend them, and employ them on a large proportion of the sites that we design and build - including our own (if they’re good enough for Argos, home to one of the biggest websites in the UK, then they’re good enough for us!).

That said, it’s important that you stick to two or three tiers if possible to avoid burying your content too deep within the site. Your visitors should be able to reach the desired content in as few clicks as possible.

Add footer links

If you want to add your menu links into your website’s footer, it’s a good idea to replicate the order that they appear in the main nav to avoid confusing or complicating the user experience.

Don’t feel like you need to include every single page on your site, either. Footer links will typically include the top-level menu items only.

Conform to web norms

Sometimes designers get bored of churning out the same old designs and will look for ways to switch things up. But as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Let’s be clear about this; your website’s navigation structure is not the ideal place to try new things. The internet users of today are increasingly impatient, and if they can’t find what they’re looking for almost immediately, they will give up and look elsewhere.

To make things as straightforward as possible for them, do away with your hair brained schemes and simply give them what they would expect to find; menu across the top, logo/search to the left.

And since people read from left to right, it’s also a good idea to place your most important pages (or those that you want to receive the most traffic) as far left in your nav as possible. 

To conclude

As we might have mentioned, there are a lot of things to consider when optimizing your website for search. Site structure is one of the most important, and typically one of the most over-looked methods of optimization.

And while the advice in this post only scratches the surface of what’s involved in creating a well optimized and user-friendly navigation structure, we hope it has given you enough ammunition to get started.  As always, if you have any unanswered questions, or if you know of any other tips that might be helpful to your fellow readers, please leave them in the comments section below.







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