Just like building a house, the design of a website plays an invaluable role in the end product. A well-designed site encourages good SEO, while a poorly designed site can fall flat. Here are three major and three minor elements to consider when it comes to website architecture.
The Big Three
With two hundred millions active websites in the world wide web, search engines needs to be efficient. They “crawl” websites like a spider, moving from one page to the next with incredible speed, copying your web pages into what is essentially an enormous index of the entire web.
When someone types a topic into a search engine, it rapidly rifles through this giant online index, seeking out any and all relevant pages. It chooses which pages are the best ones to show the searcher first, and these get the primo spot on the first page.
Websites are given a “crawl budget” determined by the site’s authority and trust-worthiness. Time and quantity are the budget’s currency: the budget governs the amount of time and number of pages a search engine will crawl on that site in a single day.
You want the right pages to be found and there are ways to improve your site’s crawl efficiency, such as using robots.txt, internal link structures and letting search engines know not to crawl pages with certain URL parameters. Generally speaking, crawlability problems are easy to avoid and efficiency is easily achieved. Using sitemaps like HTML and XML increase crawlability: learn more about sitemaps and avoiding crawling problems by reading about the following SEO topics:
SEO: Submitting Sitemaps
SEO: Crawling and Robots
SEO: Redirects & Moving Sites
It’s a complicated topic but the good news is that good web design kills two birds with one stone: search engine-friendly web architecture also makes for a great customer journey.
Even though we are all addicted to our smart phones, it can still surprise people to hear that more web searches are happening on mobile devices than on computers.
Search engines reward mobile-friendly websites, and fittingly the prize is enhanced ranking on a mobile search. Websites can be beautifully designed on a desktop but have all sorts of problems and funny spacing on a phone – and these sites have trouble showing up on a search.
By making sure your website is mobile-friendly, you not only retain mobile visitors but you also increase the site’s search ranking. Creating an app is also a great idea and both Google and Bing offer app indexing and linking.
With new sites being created all the time, the giant online index can get a little chaotic. If the search engines finds your site only to find multiple pages including the same content, it doesn’t know which page to choose.
Linking also becomes a problem when your website has multiple versions of what is essentially the same page. Internal and outbound links give your page authority and trust, but when people link to different versions of the same page, this authority is called into question. With questionable authority your reader will be sceptical and the search engine will give your page a lower ranking so it’s important that you only have one version of any web page.
Avoiding duplicated pages sounds simply enough, but the problem can creep up on you. For example, a website might have a www and non-www version of the site, an e-commerce site might allow search engines to index their paginated pages, or filtering parameters might be appended to a URL which looks like a different page to a search engine.
But while repetitive pages can inadvertently occur, there are also many ways to avoid it, such as the proper use of 301 page redirects, managing URL parameters, using rel=canonical tags, and effective pagination strategies.
The Smaller Three
With millions of websites, it’s no surprise that quick-loading sites are given preferential treatment by search engine giants like Google. When it comes to ranking sites, Google gives speedy sites a small advantage over sites that are slower to load.
But before you go to the extreme and attempt to make your site load at lightning-speed, know that this isn’t a magic bullet taking you to the top ranking spots. The other factors above take priority while speed plays a supporting role, giving you a slight edge in ranking but more importantly making your website more likely to be read by impatient visitors who won’t wait around for a slow to load site.
Clever use of key words within your domain name and URLs helps search engines rank your page well. Again, this isn’t a major element, but used along with other technique, descriptive titles and URLs will help.
HTTPS / Secure Website
HTTPS means that your website is secure and, ideally, the entire internet would be making use of HTTPS. Google prefers this structure as it is safer and more secure for internet browsers, so to encourage this practice they give HTTPS sites a slight boost when it comes to rankings.