Building a Site Structure for Humans using SEO Benchmarks
Since the beginning of the internet, digital marketers, specifically SEOers, have been chasing Google’s algorithm with every change made based upon the latest algorithm update while forgetting that Google is in fact catering to humans.
Humans are the core of what we do as marketers, and as such, they should be at the center of every strategy and action. When it comes to planning your site structure, the same should be applied.
WHAT IS SITE STRUCTURE?
Site structure is the way you group, link and present the content, services and products of your site to the users. In summary, it would be how you organize your website’s content. The site structure can sometimes also be referred to as a taxonomy within the website.
Practicality and experience should be balanced in order to achieve a visually appealing site and an organized structure that is intuitive to the customer.
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WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
There are two main reasons why brands should care about site structure. These are:
Good Housekeeping: Just like an organized closet that makes it much easier to find any garment of clothing, a well-structured site will help your business keep a clean website with no duplicated content, minimal 404 pages and a seamless user experience.
Prioritization of Content: Google will better understand the prioritization of the content as it will be structured based on importance, helping with better rankings and optimized crawling.
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HOW DOES SITE STRUCTURE AFFECT SEO?
Google’s objective is to provide users with the most useful, accurate and accessible results for their searches, so much so that Google has rolled out a series of new ranking signals based on its core web vitals that refer directly to user experience. This means we also need to understand the importance of having humans and human behavior at the core of the site structure planning.
But there are many other areas in which an optimized site structure will help us improve our visibility:
Site Crawlability: you will also help Google making the crawls on your site more efficient, getting many benefits from it such as:
Getting crawled more often
Getting most of your pages, if not all, crawled at once
Indexability: an optimized site structure will allow robots to crawl your pages, increasing the chances of having all of them indexed faster
Cannibalization: thanks to the site being properly structured you’ll be able to give Google an indication of the priority of the pages of your site, as well as point out which pages are secondary or subpages of the main topic
Duplicated content: when the site is structured, the content follows a path, which reduces the chances of creating or publishing the same content more than once
Internal linking & link authority: An optimized internal linking strategy will ensure a healthy link flow passing through all pages, from the home page to the latest created page
HOW DOES AN OPTIMISED SITE STRUCTURE HELP USERS?
Using Neuroscience principles, we can improve user experience, as this is key to understanding how the human brain works and how our site can have an impact on it. The main principles to have in mind when building the site structure, and our site in general, are:
Subconscious and the first impression
The subconscious mind is the most powerful as it notices things faster than our consciousness, it is also responsible for our emotions
The subconscious can judge a site in milliseconds; hence the importance of design and the impact this has, as if a website feels right, people will trust it.
First impression is critical, if the site doesn’t feel trustworthy and reliable, users are unlikely to come back
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Humans nowadays have stopped reading content and tend to scan through headlines, which forces marketers to ensure it is properly structured and highlighted so they can reach the destination faster
It is extremely important that your site flows properly, arranging the elements to create a natural dialogue will enhance user experience
Avoid questions that may pop in the users’ heads while navigating your site and menu: “What’s this?” “Where should I find x products?” “How did I get here?”
In summary, our brain requires a certain order and structure to make sense of the content presented in front of us. The way it is presented can and should make us attracted to the brand whilst the content should engage and take us on the website’s intended path.
Our main goal is for the users (and crawlers) to find the solution to their problems fast and seamlessly. Although, following these principles will also help us convert those users into loyal customers that can engage and bond with the site, coming back again and again.
MORE WAYS OF HELPING USERS NAVIGATE YOUR SITE
1. Welcoming users through the homepage
Your home page, the place where you welcome the users, the nucleus of your site and usually, the page with the highest traffic and incoming links, makes it the perfect starting point to link to your most important pages.
Humans like order, simplicity and logic, so we should follow this pattern to create and link from our homepage.
How can we create a homepage that is catered for humans, yet SEO and crawler-friendly?
Just follow these simple steps:
It should take no more than 5 seconds to identify what the page is about, so be sure this is clear at the top of your homepage
It should ease the user down the intended path to purchase, by proving the right content/product/service recommendations, not necessarily straight to a conversion page
Call to actions should be clear and stand out from the rest of the content. We are the ones guiding the user through our content, which can be done via CTAs
Most important links/ categories/ products should be placed here
2. The navigation menu: the user’s guide to your site
The menu is key for users to understand the structure of the site. When structuring it we should ensure that it follows logic and leaves no questions needing to be asked, as the Neuroscience principles have taught us. The goal is to ease the path for users to find their answers as quickly as possible, avoiding unnecessary complications.
Sephora Makeup navigation is a great example of this as it clearly defines and categorizes the products based on body areas, which makes finding products easy for both makeup experts and beginners:
3. Helping users find their way with breadcrumb trails
Just like maps in shopping centres that show you where you are and guide you to where you want to go, these clickable paths are usually added to the desktop version of the site. It helps users go back to different related pages as well as understand where they are within your site structure. It also helps crawlers to understand where on the site this page is located as well as its priority and relationship with other pages.
In summary, we can assure that order and structure are key to start planning your human-friendly site structure and that having humans at the core of your strategy will not only increase current visitors and conversions, but it could potentially have a positive effect on the lifetime value of the customers as well.
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