Building a site structure for humans | Reflect Digital

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 organise 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 organised structure that is intuitive to the customer.

Why should you care? 

There are two main reasons why brands should care about site structure. These are:

  • Good housekeeping: Just like an organised 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.
     
  • Prioritisation of content: Google will better understand the prioritisation of the content as it will be structured based on importance, helping with better rankings and optimised crawling.

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 behaviour at the core of the site structure planning.

But there are many other areas in which an optimised 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 optimised site structure will allow robots to crawl your pages, increasing the chances of having all of them indexed faste
     
  • Cannibalisation: 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 a 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 optimised 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
    • Subconscious mind is the most powerful as it notices things faster than our consciousness, it is also responsible of 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
       
  • Simplicity
    • 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
       
  • Logic
    • 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 on 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 categorises 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 lifetime value of the customers as well.

If you’d like to know more about building a human-focused site structure then please get in touch today.

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MEET THE AUTHOR.

AIALA ICAZA

Aiala develops and delivers strategies to help our clients reach SEO excellence, and improve their bottom line. She loves diving deep into the organisations and brands she supports and working collaboratively with their teams so they can reach their full potential.

She also manages a team of SEO experts and is passionate about coaching them to help them become better-rounded SEOs.

More about Aiala
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