Optimizing Website Structure for SE Rankings

This post is a synopsis from one of the chapters in the book “SEO Fast Start” by Dan Thies. It deals with optimizing your web site structure for better visitor experience and Search Engine indexing.

According to Dan Thies, there are 4 goals to keep in mind, while working on the structure of any website.

  • Logical Structure

  • Dynamic Linking

  • Anchor Text and Reputation

  • Improve Index Penetration

Let me cover each one of them in brief. Mind you, this is a very important part of the process we call “Search Engine Optimization”. People are so obsessed today with Link Building PageRank that, they have forgotten some of the fundamentals that are equally or more important to gain SERPs. So, pay attention.

Logical Structure – This step is geared towards improving visitor experience in your site and making their journey across it easy and friendly. After all, the primary purpose of any website is to attract visitors, to interact with them, gain their loyalty and hopefully turn them to leads, customers or simply, loyal readers.

According to Dan, the Logical Structure makes up of 3 components. The Home Page, The Roadmap Page or Categories and the Destination Page. Technically he calls them The First, Second and the Third Tier.

The Home Page is the obvious door for your visitors to enter your website. This is where the impressions are built. If the visual structure such as an introduction, sidebar navigational links, etc are in proper place, you have captured your visitors attention. The Home Page is also the area that gets bookmarked more often for future references. The “First impression is the best impression” principle has to work here.

Next comes the Roadmap page or Second Tier. This is the Categories page that organizes information in your site and assists the visitors in reaching their end goal. According to Dan, it is preferable to have at least 5-7 categories leading to relevant sections of the website. This enables better organization of the information in the site. The second tier also consists of a Sitemap page that clearly lays out links to every page in the website.

Lastly comes the Destination Page or Third Tier. This is the ultimate goal of your visitors. The easier it is for them to find this page, the more they will be convinced about your site. So, basically from the Home Page to this, it is about a 1-2-3 clicks. The visitor is happy.

Dynamic Linking – This is all about internal linking and preserving Link Juice, while not compromising visitor experience. In a nutshell, Dan introduces the dreaded “No-follow” tag and goes to show how it can be used effectively to control the PageRank flow in every page’s outbound links. Dan believes that it is very important to control the PageRank value of each page and that one should not unnecessarily waste it by sharing “link juice” to less important pages in a website.

A simple example is the Privacy Policy or the Terms of Usage page. You will notice that on a typical website, every page footer will carry links to this page thus passing some PageRank value to them. These 2 pages are there for human visitors to know more about your company policies, etc and have no Search Engine value whatsoever. It is important that a well optimized site avoids this error. In the earlier days, this was a task by itself, but today it is just about a No-follow tag. By placing a no-follow tag on the above 2 links, a lot of Link juice can be preserved and concentrated on a more important page of the website.

The no-follow tag in short helps eliminate links from an SEO point of view, while at the same time, retaining it from the visitors point of view.

Dan also explains the importance of Sitemap page for SEO purpose and believes that one should limit the outbound links from a Sitemap page to 150. He reasons this from his experience that Search Engines do not crawl beyond 150 links in a page. I won’t argue as I have no experience there.

Apart from this, he discusses the Third Level Push, Tiered pairing and the Circular navigation. You have to read it to understand it.

Anchor Text and Reputation – We know how important anchor texts are on inbound links. Today Search Engines place a lot of importance on the keywords used on the incoming links. Dan discusses about using the same strategy when cross linking within a website. For example if you have a page that sells Red Widgets, try linking from other relevant pages of your site to this page using the anchor text “Red widget”. Of course, there is a limit to how many times you can do this, but if you can link in this fashion from as many relevant pages from your website to this page, it will help in SE rankings. Just don’t overdo it.

There is more to this discussion than what I have mentioned. Dan talks about Global and Section navigation, Contextual text links and others. Again, read the book.

Index Penetration – This is the last goal while optimizing website structure. Dan explains the need to get all the pages in a website indexed. Not doing so simply means that those pages won’t come up in the SERPs. He attributes the problem to in-effective linking strategies and poor internal link structure. He discusses Google’s supplemental index, which I believe is no more relevant anymore.

It is at this point that Dan discusses how important PageRank is. If your browse the worldwide web for information on PageRank, you will notice everyone criticizing it, and calling it a “useless innovation”. Dan’s argument changes this perception. It is the level of PageRank that decides the ranking factor for your website. SEO experts talk about paying attention to Link Building and not bothering with PageRank. In reality though, what do Inbound Links really do? They build your PageRank value and thus improve your site index in SEs and give you better SERPs.

Take my Advice. Read the Book.

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