Getting lost sucks. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a city or a corn maze, the ambiguity of not knowing where you are and what could happen next can make you break out in a cold sweat. This stress intensifies even more when you’re lost and you actually have to be somewhere, which is similar to how website visitors feel when they land on a jumbled website.
As a marketer, structuring your website in an intuitive and easy-to-navigate way is crucial for retaining your audience’s attention. If you don’t, they’ll bounce in seconds. And if people leave your website because your user experience is messy, search engines won’t think highly of you, either.
If you need help structuring a website that will engage an audience and rank on Google, we’ve got you covered. We’ll teach you what website architecture is, why it’s important for UX and SEO, and how you can develop a sound architecture for your own website.
What is website architecture?
Website architecture is the way your website is structured or, more specifically, how your website’s structure can help users easily and quickly find information and drive conversions.
Why is website architecture important?
A sound website architecture strengthens your website’s user experience -- when you structure your website in an intuitive way, users can seamlessly find the information they’re looking for.
Plus, when your user experience is strong, your search engine rankings will be, too. Users will spend more time on your website and link to your web pages, which are both heavy indicators that your brand creates quality content. Furthermore, a solid website architecture helps search engines effectively crawl your website.
How to Develop a Sound Website Architecture
1. Don’t make your users think too hard.
A hard-to-navigate website will have a lofty bounce rate -- users don't want to waste time trying to find information on your site. If they do, they’ll just leave. So practice empathy and provide an intuitive web experience.
For instance, if your users click on the "Email Marketing" tab on your blog’s homepage, they expect to be directed to a list of email marketing posts. From this page, you also need to design a simple navigation path back to your blog’s homepage and your website’s homepage.
2. Model your website architecture after the top players in your industry.
Your customers are used to the website architecture of major brands in your industry, so if you run an eCommerce store, analyze how Amazon structures their website and emulate them. Your website will seem more familiar and, in turn, easier to navigate.
3. Keep your website consistent.
Your website’s navigation format, design principles, and link displays should all follow a consistent pattern. Keeping these elements the same will keep your users on your site longer because it'll be easier for them to quickly navigate to new pages and click on links.
4. Your internal links must make sense.
Your internal links should direct users to other pieces of relevant and useful content. Also, when users come across an internal link on your website, they should immediately understand which piece of content the link will direct them to and why that content is linked to the web page they’re currently on.
Check out this video about the pillar cluster model to learn how to do effective internal linking.
One internal linking caution you should exercise, though, is not stuffing keywords into your link’s anchor text. Google has witnessed people stuff keywords into their internal links’ anchor text to try to beat their algorithm for years. But the search engine actually creates specific algorithms to punish this kind of behavior.
It’s also effective for your footer or top-level navigation to have a robust sitemap page. This helps search engines and users find pages on your website much faster and easier.
5. User should be able to access any of your website’s pages in 3-4 clicks.
Even if your website has a million pages, the architecture should allow users to start from the homepage and end up on any page within three to four clicks.
To do this, design a top-level navigation that can direct users to all your website’s main categories. Then, from each of your website’s main category pages, make sure they can click-through to all the sub-category pages.
Originally published Oct 18, 2018 7:00:00 AM, updated October 24 2018