16/06/2021 - 5 proven tips to optimise your website structure 🧱 | Website Blog | Purple Creative Studio
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5 proven tips to optimise your website structure 🧱

In this blog, I am going to share 5 steps for creating a well organised and optimised structure for your website. These tips will help you whether you are replacing or restructuring your existing website or if you are in the early stages of building a brand new site. But before we get started it’s important to understand why site structure matters for both your audience and for search engines like Google.

One of our main goals as website owners should be to create an exceptional experience for our customers online. Think back to the last time someone you know told you about a new shop or service in your area. The chances are one of the first things you did was pick up your phone and Google that business to check out their website.

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Your customers are no different and if they are finding you online for the first time you want to make sure they come away with a positive impression and fully understand what your business has to offer even if they don’t make a purchase on that first visit. 

So you might wonder what this has to do with the structure of your website. Orison Swett Marden, an American author and an authority on achieving success said - A good system shortens the road to the goal. This is a great philosophy to apply to organising your site structure as it’s one of the most proactive steps you can take towards your goal of winning more business through your website. 

Tip 1 - Data backed decision making 📊

Let’s get started with our first step. This step applies to anyone with an existing website so if you are developing a brand new website skip ahead to step 2. This first step is all about using your data to help your decision making. The chances are if you have an existing website you will have access to Google Analytics. Analytics is a gold mine of information when it comes to understanding how your audience is navigating your website. We can use this information to understand what is working well and where there is room for improvement. If you are doing more than restructuring a website and are replacing a website, I always recommend thinking of it a bit like moving house. We all know that over the years we can accumulate clutter in our homes, and a website is no different. Over the lifespan of your website it is likely new pages have been added, some might have been removed or hidden from search engines and users. You might have landing pages for long-expired promotions or pages for services that are no longer a focus for your business. Treating a website revamp like a home move is a chance to declutter, getting rid of content that is no longer bringing value to your audience. But don’t ignore the data! Some of the important metrics to pay attention to in analytics are:

Top performing pages - If you want to know the pages your audience is most interested in head into the behaviour tab and choose Site Content then All Pages. From here you will see the top performing pages based on their URL. You can select ‘Page Title’ as a viewing parameter if that makes it easier for you. Choose a date range that makes sense for your analysis. For example, if I had an online shop selling baked goods, it doesn’t make sense for me to only look at a period like Q4 where visitors will most likely be looking at Christmas products. I want to take a broader look so I get a more balanced understanding of the data.

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In this same behaviour section of analytics I will also want to look at my landing pages. These are the pages that act as entrance pages for a user on my website. In most instances your Homepage will be your top landing page as it is the one that is linked from your socials, directory listings, referral sites as well as the one Google is most likely to show if a user simply Googles your business name. Dig deeper though! Look for other pages that act as a great hook to get users on to your website and make a note of these pages as you go.

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Similarly, you will want to view your exit pages. These are the last pages that users view before leaving your website. Whilst it would be easy to assume an exit page is a negative, this isn’t always the case. For example, a popular exit page on your website might be your contact page where a user could have made an enquiry, or a successful checkout page. Context is key. 

Lastly, pay attention to the dwell time and the bounce rate on your pages. These are two things Google looks at closely when ranking sites. Dwell time is how long users linger on a particular page. A longer dwell time indicates to Google that there is quality content on that page and it is more likely to rank that page for competitive keywords. Bounce rate on the other hand is when a user enters and exits on the same page without viewing any other content. Bounce rates can fluctuate and much like with exit pages, it's not always a clear cut indicator that a page isn't performing. As an example users might Google you looking for contact details, spot a phone number on the page they land on and then give you a call without ever having browsed any other page. Google would count this towards your bounce rate, but it would still be a very positive interaction with the website for your business. Don’t panic if you do find you have lots of pages with unexpectedly high bounces, we have a bonus tip at the end of this blog that will help you to minimise your bounce rate.

Tip 2 - Understanding the architecture of a website 🏠

Your website should have a hierarchy with more important information given higher visibility. Think of it a bit like a family tree or an org chart where each section branches off with content related to that specific subject. Your first layer, or the top of the tree, should be reserved for your main categories. Typical examples might include your home page, a contact page, maybe a services page or about page depending on your business. These are your parent pages. Below are some of these parent pages you might have sub categories for your content in what is known as child pages.

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Let’s take a ‘Services’ page as an example. For some businesses, a single page is enough to describe their range of services, whilst for others to have everything on one page would be very confusing for their customers. If I was for example an electrician, under Services in the header I might want to have a page for residential work where I describe things like rewiring, installing lights and small repairs. I might also have a page for Commercial where I can demonstrate the scale of work and more complex projects I have completed. Both are services, but on each page I am talking to two very different audiences. Simplicity is key here and don't overthink this, a good rule of thumb to remember is that no page should be more than 3 clicks away. This was advice shared by Google on what they consider to be a well structured site so is well worth listening to.

Tip 3 - Act with your audience in mind 👨‍👨‍👧‍👧

My third tip is to always remember your audience. Let’s revisit the electrician example. Someone looking for electrical services will want to know these 3 things. 


  1. That the electrician provides the service they need (that’s where the previous step is so important for having a page dedicated to different types of work).
  2. They will want to know that the electrician has the experience, a projects page, case studies or testimonials page are all great ways we could build this confidence with new customers.
  3. Last but not least they will want a quick way to get in touch, either by a phone number or online contact form.

If you are a retailer like our earlier example of a business that sells baked goods online, having an about page and contact page in your main navigation is not using this space well. Customers shopping online are unlikely to be overly concerned with information like an about page - they will be much more interested in an easy shopping experience. You will want your products to be the primary focus of the navigation with your product categories as your main menu so customers can quickly find the products they are looking for. You might also want to consider having a category that shows all products in your shop. Google has analysed shopping trends through the pandemic and has found that customers are looking to ‘window shop’ online.

Having a mix of very specific category pages and an all products page means that customers who come to the website with a clear idea of what they would like are being catered to as well as those who might be less clear of what they would like to buy and are essentially virtually browsing your shop.

Tip 4 - Check in on the competition 🕵️‍♂️

Looking at your competitors and your peers is one of the best ways to get started if you are really struggling with how to organise your content.

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It can be a great help as they are probably targeting the type of customer you would like to reach. Click around their site and try to put yourself in the shoes of a customer. Make notes on what you like about the navigation and also anything you don't like. A great example of this is one of my clients who needed a vacancies page on their website to advertise positions in the company. They felt that calling the page vacancies was a bit sterile and at odds with their business values. Through researching competitors they found that some had called this page ‘Joining Us’ which felt much more welcoming and warm. When you are doing your research, look out for any jargon related to your industry and ask yourself “Is that what a customer would call it?” - It can be so easy to get stuck in an industry bubble and assume that everyone knows what you are talking about. Try not to overcomplicate things and aim to be inclusive with your language.

Tip 5 - Draw it out 📝

Having your page structure represented visually is one of the best ways to spot bottlenecks in your navigation like pages that are too many clicks away, or headers that have a huge amount of subcategories below them. You can do this the old fashioned way with some pen and paper, or using digital tools. 

One of the simplest ways I found doing this is using smartart in Word and choosing the hierarchy template. This template organises the pages into the nice layered structure we discussed. Try and aim to get as even a spread as possible and once you are done ask someone outside the business to take a look. 

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The old adage about not being able to see the wood for the trees is so true and a fresh pair of eyes will often spot things that you have overlooked. You might also want to try some ‘user testing’ at this stage too. Start by showing them the top level navigation only and asking them questions like “If you were looking for information about xx, which of these would you click?”. This can be a really illuminating exercise and gives you the opportunity to reshuffle content if needs be before you start adding it to your website.

BONUS TIP 🌟✨

Before I finish I have one last bonus tip! You will remember in our first tip we talked about bounce rates. This is one of the ranking signals Google uses and if you have pages with very high bounce rates this can negatively affect your SEO. One of the best ways to minimise your bounce rate is with a really strong network of internal links. By this I mean, hyperlinks within the content of your pages that link to other pages on your site. In step 5 I suggested drawing out the page structure so you should have a visual sitemap to work from. Once you have this, use colour coding or make wee notes next to pages of the hyperlinks you plan to include. This will help you to visualise how a user might navigate around your website and can be really handy when it comes to writing the copy for the pages. 

I hope you have enjoyed these tips and found them useful. Let us know if you try them and if they helped you to take a more organised approach to your content! For more content like this, subscribe to our newsletter and enjoy the benefits of tips like this straight to your inbox.

 

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