How to structure a top-ranking website
Structure is important not only for improving your website’s ranking but for helping visitors find their way around. Coming up are the internal Exposure Ninja structure guidelines that we use when we build websites for clients.
We tend to use bullet points to denote a website’s structure. For example:
We would denote the pages that run along the top of the website as top-level bullet points, and the subpages as indented bullet points:
• Digital Marketing Services
o Content Marketing
o PPC Management
• Case Studies
As an example, an eCommerce site selling Ninja clothing might have the following top-level pages:
• The Ninja Club
• Delivery & Returns
• About Us
These are all pages that general visitors to the Ninja clothing store website would be interested in. If a shopper wanted to browse for Ninja weapons, they’d go to Accessories and a drop-down menu would appear, which would include the Weapons category. There’d be no need to have a Weapons tab on the main menu because including every category would extend the menu beyond what is practical and could confuse visitors, like the example below:
An example of an over-cluttered eCommerce website menu
Think of your menu like the aisle signs in a supermarket; you don’t want to put every single product on the aisle signs but you want people who are looking for something in particular to know where they can find it.
Whenever we’re designing a website to rank highly, we start with writing out the top-level pages as bullet points. Next, we add our second-level pages as indented bullet points. Second-level pages are more specific and start to drill down into the products or services that you offer.
In eCommerce, second-level pages are usually category pages listing all the products of a particular type e.g. engagement rings or long sleeved t-shirts.
In the Ninja clothing store, there are a few different categories of clothing:
• Full Ninja suits
• Tabi boots
From our top-level Accessories page comes four second-level pages:
• Punching bags
Next, we’re going to add the third-level pages. These pages drill down into another level of detail. Not every website needs third-level pages but if you sell a wide variety of products or services adding them can help your customers (and search engines) quickly find the right category.
For our Ninja clothing store, I decide that punching bags is a second-level page that doesn’t need another level of detail. However, after talking to my customers, I discover that they tend to be more likely to search for “Ninja star” or “Ninja staff” than the more general phrase “Ninja weapons”. So, I decide to add another level of detail underneath the Weapons page by adding third-level pages:
• Ninja stars
…and so on.
At this stage, we’re still not fleshing out the content of the pages but deciding on the overall structure of the site.
For local businesses that serve a number of different areas, it’s a good idea to include pages targeting each local area.
Searchers tend to add locations to local searches, for example, “builders in Brixton” or “chinese restaurants CM2”, so, by having locally targeted pages, you can begin to pick up some organic search results in addition to map results.
Let’s look at an example. Harry’s Home Extensions builds home extensions for people in and around Southampton, UK. As Southampton is quite a big city, residents looking for a builder to do their extension might be unlikely to search “home extensions Southampton”. Some will, no doubt, but many more will use a smaller local area as the location modifier instead. Some of the areas within Southampton that Harry finds himself doing a lot of work in are Whiteley, Hedge End and Warsash, so he decides to make a separate page for each of these areas.
He calls these pages “Home Extensions Whiteley”, “Home Extensions Hedge End” and “Home Extensions Warsash”. On these pages, he describes some of the projects that his company has carried out, making sure to include local information such as the roads that the properties were on. He also lists some of the postcodes in the area and writes a unique overview of the service that his company offers, explaining why homeowners choose him to build their home extensions. By the time the website is finished, there are individual area-targeted pages with 400+ words of locally-targeted content, pictures from past jobs and some testimonials from people local to the area.
For a business like Home Extensions, optimising these pages and making sure they get indexed will likely be enough to have them rank top or very highly for their main target phrases. Not only this, but visitors landing on these pages have a higher chance of converting because the content is so relevant to them.
So whether you’re an eCommerce site or not, these first, second and third-level pages mean that your audience can find really useful information collected in one place. From an SEO point of view, it means that you’ve got an entire page on your site targeted to a particular search, which gives you much better shot at ranking for it.
Yes, this means building quite a few pages for your website. Rejoice in the effort this takes because this is the effort that will set you apart from your competitors who don’t invest in doing what it takes to get to the top of Google.
Folders and Directories
Your bullet point structure will need to be reflected, not only in your menu, but in your URLs too. We saw earlier how a particular page’s address is made up of a folder component and a page URL component:
In this example, we can see that the Standard Lamps page is a ‘child’ of the Lamps category page. Using our bullet point system, we’d have something like:
o Standard Lamps
o Table Lamps
o Wall Lamps
It’s important that the URL is presented like this because we’re essentially telling Google that the Lamps page is the absolute daddy (or mummy) of all lamp-related subpages. All these other lamp pages are children of this Lamps page, therefore it must be super important for phrases around lamps. This increases its likelihood of ranking for broad “lamp” phrases.
We’ll look further at optimisation of eCommerce category pages when we address content later in this section.
Use Separate Pages for each Service
This structure should also be used for lead generation or service business websites. If your business offers a service, there are likely to be various ‘sub-services’ that you offer as well. For example, an accountancy firm might offer accountancy but, alongside that, there might be tax returns, payroll, management accounts, auditing and so on. To simplify things, many businesses in this situation have a ‘Services’ page where they list the services they offer and write a couple of lines about each.
This is far from optimal, though. For a start, it’s basically impossible to give someone enough information about what you do in a particular area in two sentences. Imagine a potential customer trying to understand a company’s experience, USPs and the details of the required service in a couple of sentences! Secondly, by putting all of their services on a single page, these websites are hoping that Google will rank a single ‘Services’ page for keywords relating to every single service they offer. I’ve seen websites list ten different services on a single page. If we assume that each service has perhaps five target keywords, we’re hoping that Google finds fifty different keywords relevant on this single page. That, Ninjas, is almost impossible.
The ideal approach is to have a separate page for each of the services you offer. That way, you can give visitors as much information as they need so that they can see you’re a good choice and you can optimise each page for the specific keywords relating to the topic of that page.