Chapter 4 : Optimize Site Structure and Navigation
Simple to understand URLs will convey content information easily.
Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your website can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines.
Also, it can create easier, "friendlier" URLs for those that want to link to your content. Visitors may be intimidated by extremely long and cryptic URLs that contain few recognizable words.
Users would have a hard time reciting the URL from memory or creating a link to it. Also, users may believe that a portion of the URL is unnecessary, especially if the URL shows many unrecognizable parameters. They might leave off a part, breaking the link.
Some users might link to your page using the URL of that page as the anchor text.
If your URL contains relevant words, this provides users and search engines with more information about the page than an ID or oddly named parameter would.
Remember that the URL to a document is displayed as part of a search result in Google, below the document's title and snippet.
Like the title and snippet, words in the URL on the search result appear in bold if they appear in the user's query.
Google is good at crawling all types of URL structures, even if they're quite complex, but spending the time to make your URLs as simple as possible for both users and search engines can help.
Some webmasters try to achieve this by rewriting their dynamic URLs to static ones; while Google is fine with this, we'd like to note that this is an advanced procedure and if done incorrectly, could cause crawling issues with your site.
The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want.
It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important.
Although Google's search results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site.
Plan out your navigation based on your homepage
All sites have a home or "root" page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors.
Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content.
Ensure more convenience for users by using ‘breadcrumb lists’
A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate back to a previous section or the root page.
Many breadcrumbs have the most general page (usually the root page) as the first, left-most link and list the more specific sections out to the right.
Allow for the possibility of a part of the URL being removed
Consider what happens when a user removes part of your URL - Some users might navigate your site in odd ways, and you should anticipate this.
For example, instead of using the breadcrumb links on the page, a user might drop off a part of the URL in the hopes of finding more general content.
Always prepare two sitemaps – one for users and one for search engines.
A site map (lower-case) is a simple page on your site that displays the structure of your website, and usually consists of a hierarchical listing of the pages on your site.
Visitors may visit this page if they are having problems finding pages on your site. While search engines will also visit this page, getting good crawl coverage of the pages on your site, it's mainly aimed at human visitors.
An XML Sitemap file makes it easier for Google to discover the pages on your site.
Using a Sitemap file is also one way to tell Google which version of a URL you'd prefer as the canonical one.
Topics covered in this snack-sized chapter: