So, our last post in the SEO Series was about creating Search Engine Friendly URLs. In this post, we’ll be covering your Site Architecture and Internal Linking.
If you want to move up in the search engine rankings, you have to be able to get your optimised content to the search engines in the most streamlined way possible. There are, however, some common problems that often stand in the way of this. These problems, while they may not stop the search engines from finding and indexing that content, they can greatly affect the performance of that content, in terms of how well it ranks in search results.
Too many URL Parameters
The internet is full of long, complicated URLs like this one;
Apart from changing the domain name, the URL above is a real one. Look closely; everything after “ProductDisplay?” are the various parameters, which tell the browser which content to display.
Every “=” in the URL represents a different parameter, and each parameter represents a slight variation of the content. In turn, each variation represents a potentially different page that can be indexed by the search engines.
The search engines want to index valuable content, but URLs such as this can often scare search engines away; they don’t want to be caught in endless loops of variation. While the search engines definitely have no problems indexing dynamic content, once you use more than three parameters, you risk losing the search engines all together. The search engines tend to shy away from sites with duplicate content or endless loops created by parameters, so your best bet is to keep the parameters to a minimum.
Some great content around the web is often inaccessible to the search engines, either because it’s hidden behind search options, or buried deep within the site. Setting up proper navigation and a clickable link structure is essential for any site, but even more so for large sites with hundreds of pages.
Some pages do have to be buried; there just isn’t any other way to go about it. But they don’t have to be so deep that they can’t be found without a GPS tracking device! It’s just a matter of laying out your site’s architecture so that all the pages have a proper place and that the most beneficial content is the easiest to find.
Generally speaking, there are three basic directory structures you can use; flat, deep or somewhere in the middle.
A flat directory basically puts all of your site’s pages on one directory level. Each page is one click away from the homepage, and no page is given any type of prominence.
A deep directory structure is the opposite; only a few pages are accessible from the Homepage, then a few more are accessible from those, and so on. This puts some pages many clicks away from the Homepage, unnecessarily.
You will want to aim to be somewhere inbetween. You want a directory structure that makes sense. Pages should be grouped together in broad categories, and only sub-categorised as makes sense from the navigation standpoint. You can go a bit deeper with your URLs but again you don’t want half a dozen directories when just a few will do just fine.
You want to do a good share of internal linking within your site. Not just the navigation, mind you, but link from within your content areas and product pages. Try and think what will be going through a visitor’s mind after they have read a given page, and then try to link to a page which represents what they would have been thinking.
Good internal linking helps your visitors navigate from page to page, and you can use it to direct the visitors to where you want them to go.
Use whatever opportunities you can to give your visitors opportunities to find these other sections of the site. If you talk about a product or service, link to it. If you have a related bit of information that you discuss, link to it. Using keywords in the links will also give the search engines more keyword juice for determining how pages should be ranked.
I hope that you enjoyed this post, the next one will be about Keywords.