How to Improve Your Website Architecture for Search Engine Optimization

Last Edited November 7, 2016 by Garenne Bigby in Search Engine Optimization

good site structure for SEO

Having the right site structure can no doubt help you with your search engine optimization efforts in the same way that the wrong strategies can have a negative impact. There is not a long list of things that can be done to improve your SEO at the level of the website architecture, but when each of these things are done, bit by bit you will see improvements in rankings. And when done all together, it will reach maximum optimization. Most of these things can be done with very little help from a professional, and when they are implemented at the creation of content, it will become second nature to ensure that all web pages on your site are uniform in their ability to contribute positively to the overall search engine optimization. What's the point of working hard on a website, only to be penalized because of a few simple mistakes? Never let that happen again when you are armed with this sort of information in your pocket.

Website Crawlability

Websites are crawled by search engines, and these crawlers visit each web page one by one very quickly while making copies of the pages. These copies are then stored in what is known as the index—which can be visualized as a huge book of the internet.

When someone performs a search, the search engine will look through this large book and then find all of the pages relevant to the search query and pick out the ones that appear to be the best, and show those first. In order to have your website found within the search results, you have to actually be in this proverbial book. To be in the book, you need to be crawled. In general most websites don't have a problem with being found, but there are certain things that will put a kink in the process. Flash and JavaScript sometimes hide links—this makes it impossible for those pages (at the hidden links) to be crawled, as they become hidden from the search engine. These programs can also hide actual content on a page.


Each website is given what is known as a crawl budget. This is an estimated amount of time or number of pages that a search engine may crawl per day. This is based on the authority and relative trust of a website. Websites that are larger may want to improve the efficiency of their crawls to make sure that the desired pages are being crawled properly and more often. Internal link structures, robots.txt, and indicating to search engines to not participate with specific parameters are all ways that the efficiency of crawling can be improved. Often times, problems with crawling are easily avoided and overall, it is a good practice to use both HTML and XML sitemaps, making it easier for search engines to crawl a website.

Duplication and Canonicalization

Remember that big book of the Internet? The search index can get messy. When looking through, it a search engine could come across multiple pages that look like the same content, and this makes it more difficult to figure out which of these pages should be selected as the authentic version to be displayed in the search results. This is not a good scenario. It can become worse when individuals are actually linking to various versions of the exact same page. Those links are then divided between the different versions. What becomes of this is a lowered perception of the value assigned to that page. This is why canonicalization is extremely important—ideally there would only be one version of each page available to search engines. That way a piece of content would retain its value and validity across the web.

There are so many ways that duplicate versions of a webpage can be created. A single website can have both a WWW and a non-WWW version of the site rather than one keep redirecting to the other. A website for e-commerce might let search engines index their numbered pages, but nobody is searching for “black dresses page 9”. Filtering parameters could be added onto the URL, and this would make it appear like a different page to a search engine.

Just as there are a number of ways to create URL bloat on accident, there are a number of ways to address it. Using proper implementation of 301 redirects, managing URL parameters, effective pagination strategies, and rel=canonical tags are just a few ways to reduce the number of duplicate pages of content. Reducing this bloat will give the original content its value back.

Scraper sites are also a cause of duplicate content on the web, but you can code your website to increase the difficulty for this to happen. Additionally, you can opt to use absolute URLs rather than relative URLs. This is important because the browser will assume that the page link is redirecting to a page that is on the browser that you are on. The coding process is simplified with relative URLs, but if your developer is not willing to put new code into the entire site, you can use self-referencing canonical tags. What do these do? When a website scraper pastes your unique content on their own site, the canonical tags will stay in place, and allow Google to know the original source of the content. There are free tools available online that you can use to check and see if you have been scraped.

You can use syndicated content in order for your site to get new looks, but you need to set guidelines for those that are looking to use your content. In the perfect scenario, you would ask of the publisher to use the rel=canonical tag on the page of the article to let search engines know that the original source for the content is your website. It is also possible to tag the syndicated content with noindex, solving the impending problem of issues with search results producing duplicate content.

Site Speed

Google aims to make the internet faster each day, and has asserted that a website that loads quickly will have an advantage in the rankings over a website that loads at a slower speed. Even considering this, making your website lightning fast won't guarantee that it will appear at the top of a search results page. Speed is just a small factor that affects a tiny percentage of queries, Google says. Website speed has the potential to assist other factors that will make improvements overall. Society has become worse and worse at waiting, especially when it comes to the internet. Conversion and engagement on a website can improve based on an improved loading time.

When you speed up your website's loading time, humans and search engines will respond positively to it!

What are some ways to improve the loading time of your website? For starters, optimize your images. Many times, images are uploaded as a PNG file with a high resolution, but this is not totally necessary for the internet. The images should be converted to a JPG, and you will be left with a smaller image size that will quickly load. Images can also be compressed, making them even smaller.

Friendly on Mobile

Would it surprise you to know that more searches are taking place via mobile devices than those on a desktop? Because of this, it is expected that Google will reward the websites that are friendly on mobile devices by giving them a chance at ranking better through mobile searches, and those who are not mobile friendly might encounter a more difficult time appearing on the search results. Bing is following in Google's steps with this system of rewards.

Working to get your website compatible with mobile devices will increase your chances of showing up favorable within search rankings, and making your mobile users happy with an easy to use version of your site. Additionally, if you also have an app, you may want to consider taking part in app linking and indexing, which search engines offer.

Secure Websites and HTTPS

Ideally, all websites would be using an HTTPS server, as this would provide heightened security to those who are searching the web. To encourage this, Google actually rewards those websites that do employ HTTPS with a small boost within the rankings. Similar to the speed boost, this is just a small factor that Google takes into account when it is deciding where a web page should rank within search results. Alone, it will not guarantee that your page will appear as a result will appear at the top, but if you're considering running on a secure server anyway, go ahead and do it so that it will positively affect your overall success within search results.

When done incorrectly, a HTTPs ranking boost won't be seen. Most common, when a website has been changed over to HTTPS, that site is not set at the preferred version, and the HTTP version is still active. Google has said that the secure version is indexed by default, but there are still consequences like a wasted crawl budget, diluted links, and of course duplicate content.

Descriptive URLs

Your URLs should be descriptive, and you should be including the words that you want to be seen within the domain name or URLs so that you can improve the ranking. It is not a huge change, but it only makes sense to have these descriptive terms in the URLs.

Now, don't go stuffing any and every keyword into your URL(s). The keyword or keywords selected to use in your URL should clearly and directly describe the content on your site. When there are descriptive works within a URL, it is easier for search engines to decipher your web pages and determine whether or not their content is considered valuable. These specific URLs will also indicate to those who are performing the search query what they can expect from the content, so if the URL is www.sample.com/article1 that gives absolutely no indication as to what the article is about. That URL compared to one that might looks like www.sample.com/ten-ways-to-do-datenight would have less value compared to the latter URL.

Here are some tips for creating the best versions of your URLs:

  • Shorter is better, and they will rank well on search engines.
  • Use only 1 or 2 keywords per URL. These should be your target keywords.
  • URLs should be easily read by human. This will lead to a better user experience and higher rankings.
  • If you are not using a .com as the top level domain, choose wisely.
  • There should be 1 to 2 folders per URL—more folders will confuse Google on the topic of your page.
  • The folders should have descriptive names.
  • Avoid dynamic URLs when possible.
  • Choose a single keyword to optimize around, and remove categories from the URL.
  • Use characters that are safe, like the alphabet and a select few symbols like? $ ! and *
  • Don't forget to encode reserved characters, and never use unsafe characters.


Figuring out what works and what does not will not be difficult, just think about the URLs of your favorite sites or those that you use frequently. The URLs should be easily recognized by search engines and should be obvious and not mysterious to human users.

Incorporating all of these components into your website to improve its SEO will yield positive results. Each of these things will have a slight impact in the overall performance, but when they are utilized together in the correct way, it will be a game changer. Each change that is implemented will boost your site's ranking in search results, bit by bit, and when they are all perfected, you'll see the results. Website architecture for SEO is not something that has to be difficult and once you get the hang of it, it will be something that comes as second nature as your brand grows.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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