Website Structure in Google: Structure is King

Any SEO that disregards the importance of website structure should probably find a new day job, as the hierarchical layout and markup of your website can play a massive part in your keyword rankings in Google and other major search engines.

Mid way through last year I noticed that a page on one of my websites that I was working on was being returned for a competitive search term that you would have expected the homepage to return for. Looking at the top level navigation, it was quite clear as to why Google was now returning this page as the term was being used in the anchor text. The following blog looks at the necessary steps taken to improve the user journey, search engine rankings whilst also improving the position of additional keyword terms that better suited the destination page.

New Website design

Firstly, this is not always an easy fix. This approach depends on the size of your website and how much control you have over URL structure and marketing input. For example, your marketing team may want to use an anchor text in the top level navigation that you believe would hinder the position of another webpage – this is a common problem across the board. Thankfully, this client is very understanding and we work closely with their marketing team to find the best solution, both from a user and search perspective.

I wanted to make the change earlier,basically to react to the growing trend that I noticed from the results in Google, however the website was in the middle of a redesign – so it was the optimum time to suggest such a shift in emphasis.

The approach

I thought that the homepage was themed around “Blue Widgets” and the majority of links pointing to the homepage are focuses on “Blue Widgets”, “Blue Widget” or “Blue Device”. The top level navigation included the anchor text “Blue Widgets” and as I mentioned, from June last year this page was returning in Google’s SERPs, alongside the homepage at the bottom of page one. The idea was to 301 redirect:

http://www.mywebsite.com/blue-widgets

To:

http://www.mywebsite.com/

Whilst creating a new page and keyword rich anchor text:

URL:

http://www.mywebsite.com/navy-contraption

Keyword Anchor:

Navy Contraption

The results were very positive indeed.

The Results

Position Movement

Chart showing position movement from January 22nd to March 1st for keyword terms
Table showing position movement due to structure changes

The following chart shows the performance of the website over time in Google UK (between November 2010 and April 2010).
Position over time in Google UK following structure change

The red line shows the performance of the website prior to the structure change, which started out at the bottom of page two. The green line shows the new web page, which overtook the homepage as the prominent page for this keyword term mid-February. The website is now on page one for this keyword term, along with the original three terms that this page’s equivalent was originally themed around.

Analytics

Based upon stats from 2010, traffic through Google improved by 20%, whilst the average amount of page views improved by 8%. As we ran a number of usability test, which did coincide with the modification of keyword anchors, the bounce rate on the homepage reduced by 12%.

Both online and telephone enquiries have nearly doubled – with many citing ‘web search engine’ as their source. When you redesign your website, or starting with a new build, make sure you take into account the relationship between the homepage and key product/service pages and of course how your mark the pages up.