Plan & design a website structure for SEO success – free template

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    A 9 step guide helps you plan and structure websites for a great user experience and seo success.

    The best part ? There’s a free template to download.

    What is website structure ?

    A good site structure is the foundation of your website and how all the pages are connected to each other via links.

    Why bother planning ?

    It’s tempting to jump straight into Webflow, Duda or WordPress, a design or page layout tool but it will come back and bite you if you don’t plan first.

    Did you know that 91% of web pages don’t earn any traffic from Google and the main reason for that is a lack of proper research and planning. 

    Free Website Planning Template

    With proper planning your team will know :

    • The page structure and page layout required for every section and page
    • The content you need to produce
    • The urls, title tags and meta descriptions to write.

    User Experience

    With a good website structure the user will be able to easily find the content they are looking for in a few steps.

    Better crawling, better visibility in Google

    With solid website architecture properly structured web pages linked relevantly makes it easier for Google bots to crawl your website so your pages and content can be found and visible in Google.

    Built on what people search for 

    When you research search and click volume you are using market data to create a logical website structure; not one built on taste, design or guessing.

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    Your business and website

    Builders and property developers hire architects to plan the foundations of a property.

    As a business owner you could plan a website yourself but ideally you want to work with a website architect who specialises in website planning.

    There’s basically 4 types of websites and 4 types of website structure.

    How you research, plan and structure your website will vary depending on the products, services or content you have.

    To generalise there are 4 types of websites and site structures:

    • Professional services website – lead generation – simple or pyramid structure
    • Authority website or blog – silo structure
    • E-commerce website – hierarchical structure
    • Learning website – Sequential structure

    But we’ll cover that later.

    Let’s say you or a client is starting a furniture business.

    But what kind of website or business will this be ?

    • an ecommerce site
    • makes their own furniture products
    • is the business making bespoke products ?
    • custom furniture 
    • or will the website contain informational content about furniture
    • Or a blend of selling furniture and informational pages ?

    In this example we’re only going to look at tables and chairs and provide you with a process and template for planning each of the 4 site structures.

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    Step 1 : Start with Google

    Go to Google and do a google search for your product or service target keyword : eg: furniture.

    Now click the image tab and you’ll see a vertical navigation of words and phrases related to the seed keyword.

    Now download and make a copy of my website planning template.

    Input your seed keyword eg: furniture, into the first tab.

    Now copy and paste the related keywords below.

    • Bed
    • Living room
    • etc

    Now you have a “seed keyword” + a list of “related keywords” which you can pop into a keyword research tool to find the top ranked websites and their traffic.

    Only choose the relevant keywords during this process; omit irrelevant ones. 

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    Step 2 : Keyword and Click Research

    Open up Ubersuggest or Ahrefs and enter the first keyword on your list eg: furniture.

    Click the 2nd tab in the planning template.

    • Enter the seed keyword in the keyword column.
    • Enter the search volume
    • Enter the search or keyword difficulty
    • Copy and paste the top URL in the search results
    • Enter the estimated visits to the top page
    • Do all the top pages get traffic ? Select Yes or No from the dropdown
    • Now google the search query, look at the top results and see what kind of content Google display, then choose from the “select user intent” option

    Leave the other column fields blank until later.

    Now you can either run through the list of keywords your keyword tool displays and add more entries to this planning template.

    Or you can identify keyword topics based on each stage of the buying process.

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    Step 3 : Buying Process Research

    Based on marketing and consumer buying behaviour there are 4 stages people go through before buying.

    • They search for solutions to problems
    • they search for informational content about brands, products and services they’ve heard about
    • they search for reviews, alternative products, product comparisons
    • And before they think about buying they search for the nearest shop, a discount code, an offer

    The consumer buying process can be visualised as follows.

    Questions and problems people search

    Google is a search engine and people use it to get answers to their questions.

    So your target market may type in searches like this :

    • How do I
    • How to
    • Fix my 
    • Lower my

    They probably aren’t looking to buy right now but they definitely have a problem that needs solved.

    So with your keyword research tool open enter your seed keyword.

    Now use the filter option (both Ubersuggest and Ahrefs can filter by keyword)

    Enter “how” in the filter box and apply or select.

    Now look through the list of keywords the tool returns and locate the keywords that are relevant.

    Click the search query that is relevant so that the top 10 results appear on the right of the screen.

    Now switch to the planning template.

    • In the keyword filter, select “how” from the dropdown.
    • Enter the keyword query you just found in the keyword column
    • Enter the search volume
    • Enter the search or keyword difficulty
    • Copy and paste the top URL in the search results
    • Enter the estimated visits to the top page
    • Do all the top pages get traffic ? Select Yes or No from the dropdown
    • In the “select user intent” column, google the search query, look at the top results and see what kind of content Google display, then choose the correct option from the drop down box.

    In the keyword filter column, enter every single keyword variation for each stage of the buying process.

    And use these modifiers in the filter feature of Ubersuggest or Ahrefs.

    Problem recognition stage

    How,Issue,For,With,Fix,Improve,Increase,Reduce,Remove,Lower,Grow,

    Information search stage

    Service,Product,Custom,Bespoke,Example,Guide,Learn,Tutorial,Video,Calculator,Best,Top,

    Evaluation of alternative stage

    Review,Comparison,vs,Versus,Alternative,

    Purchase decision stage

    Buy,Discount,Nearest,Offer,Cheap,Sale,Price,Deal,Cost,Hire

    Work through the list of “how” opportunities; enter the keyword data in the template.

    When you’ve exhausted the list of opportunities, move to the next keyword modifier eg: “for” then “how” then “service” then “custom” then “review” and so on.

    With Ubersuggest you have to enter each keyword modifier individually.

    But with Ahrefs you can enter all the keyword modifiers into the keyword filter box to speed up this process.

    When you’ve exhausted opportunities with this keyword modifiers, move to the next related keyword in the first tab of the spreadsheet eg: table.

    Repeat the exact process again.

    (ps: as you work through this process you may find other keyword opportunities eg: size, colours, shapes. 

    Enter that keyword data into the spreadsheet.)

    When you’ve exhausted all target keywords and every keyword for each stage of the buying process, then you can examine some of your competitors keywords, top ranked pages and topics.

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    Step 4 : Competitor Research

    Go into your planning template and copy the first competitor URL you captured in the TOP URL column and paste it into Ubersuggest or Ahrefs.

    Now look through the list of their top pages.

    Find some topics you’ve not previously discovered or added to your planning template.

    Then enter the keyword data into the planning template.

    Complete this process with the other competing domains in your planning template.

    By now you should have captured and entered data for at least 100 rows in the planning template.

    Yes this will take you along time.

    It took me 8 hours using Ubersuggest for to find 100 target keywords or topical ideals.

    Ahrefs will take you considerably less time as you can enter multiple keyword modifiers at the same time.

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    Step 5 : Choosing a site hierarchy

    I  mentioned above there are 4 types of websites and site structures:

    • Professional services websites typically use a simple structure which is considered a flat website structure
    • Authority website with informational content may use a silo structure which is a deep website structure
    • E-commerce website use a hierarchical structure which is another deep site structure.
    • Learning website; some use a sequential structure

    Simple site structure

    A simple or flat site structure is where every page is just one click away from the home page.

    This is the best site structure for a company that offers services, doesn’t sell online, but has a list of articles or blog posts.

    Typically the home page will explain who you are and what services you offer.

    A top menu navigation would include links such as :

    • Home
    • Services
    • Articles
    • About Us
    • Contact Us

    Look at the research you found in your planning template

    Look at the “Select User Intent” column for “service page”.

    Go to the keyword column, this keyword should be added under services in your site structure.

    Look at the “Select User Intent” column again for list articles, how to guides, comparison articles.

    You might want to add a few or all of them to your website plan.

    Each of these target keywords should be added under the blog or article section in your site structure.

    Now the next type of structure. 

    Silo Structure

    Content silos are areas or sections on a website about a specific topic or subject.

    I have a content silo on my website about search engine optimisation topics.

    I assign all posts relating to the topic “seo” to this category within WordPress.

    For example; the following page:

    • seo tips
    • seo campaigns
    • seo rules
    • seo trends
    • shopify seo guide

    Then within each page I have internal links to other informational pages in that silo (I try not to link to pages in other silos)

    You can create further content silos when you have decide to produce content and resources about another topic.

    And of course I link from my home page to each silo to pass on link strength.

    The benefits of a website silo structure

    • Relevancy – if you walked into shoe section of a men’s shop you wouldn’t expect to see shampoo products, you’d expect to see either other shoes or perhaps socks.
    • SEO – by linking similar pages with anchor text from similar content it will help rank your pages better.
    • User experience – users can read multiple posts to boost dwell time and reduce bounce rates when content is stored in a silo.
    • Easy to scale – you can add new silos as you further develop your content and website.

     Look at the research you found in your planning template.

    Look at the keyword column and the select user intent column for list articles, how to guides, comparison articles.

    In this example, there are articles about “chairs” and some articles about “tables”.

    These are two silos you could create.

    Open up a site map or mind map tools (such as Mindmeister, Octopus or even Canva) and create a silo for each.

    Then add a page box below for each keyword you found in your research.

    When you are finished your site structure will look like the diagram above.

    Hierarchical Site Structure

    A hierarchical website structure will typically be used for an e-commerce website like this.

    As you worked through your research and entered opportunities into the planning template, you probably found a lot of e-commerce category pages.

    The products you plan to sell will largely dictate the keywords and categories you add to your website plan.

    Although an ecommerce site can have a deep website structure, the user will never be far away from what they are looking for.

    Sequential Site Structure

    A sequential structure is where you start with informational article, finish it then move onto the next resource.

    You need to have read the previous article to move onto the next article.

    Brian Dean’s YouTube hub has a sequential structure.

    There’s a clear starting pointing – Start Now.

    The first section on the sequence is how to create a YouTube Channel.

    And there are 6 lessons or articles to read before moving onto the next sequence; create videos for YouTube.

    If you look at most training or learning software solutions such as Udemy or Teachable courses they are structured sequentially.

    If you look at my keyword research training course there is a list of videos and you need to watch them in that order.

    What is the best website structure for seo ?

    It depends !

    The best website structure will depend on the research you’ve done and the type of website you are planning.

    But to generalise, the best website structure is as follows:

    • Lead Generation or Service Business – Simple site structure
    • Content Driven Website – Silo structure
    • Ecommerce, directory, news website – Hierarchical structure
    • Teaching or Training website – Sequential structure
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    Step 6 : URLs

    For the simple website, your URLs will be structured like this :

    For a silo structure, URLs will be like this :

    For an ecommerce or hierarchical site structure, optimised URLs will be like this.

    Make sure you use the keywords found in your research for each url.

    Optimised URLs around the main keyword you are targeting is one of the strongest ranking factors so match the URL to the main keyword you are targeting.

    Keep the URL short eg: don’t use /how-to-make-dining-table-covers use /dining-table-covers.

    And whatever you do don’t put the month or year in the URL.

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    Step 7 : Site Navigation

    Your primary site navigation should only contain your most important links and will vary depending on the type of website you are planning.

    A simple site’s navigation will be something like

    Home – Services – Articles – About Us – Contact us

    There’s no need to add lots of drop down menus to each item on the navigation.

    This will confuse the site visitors and weaken the link strength your home page can pass to other service pages and informational pages.

    Silo Site Navigation

    There is no best website structure.

    In our example, the client only has 2 sections, tables and chairs, so these sections could be included in the navigation.

    Remember you only have enough space for a maximum of say 8 links.

    I worked on an existing site for a recruitment consultancy and they had every single job category on the main navigation using dropdown menu items.

    We redesigned the website and user experience and changed all those links to one link; vacancies.

    One click took the user to vacancies where they could then filter and search for the types they were looking for.

    Hierarchical Site Structure

    On your core navigation, you want to include the most important link such as your home page, product category pages, blog posts and a link to the shopping basket.

    Home – Products – Product Category – About – Contact – Blog – Basket

    In our furniture example, we would include a link to chairs and tables.

    From here, the user can navigate to a product category then a product page.

    It’s important for ecommerce websites with this structure to create informational content because a blog page layout tends to generate more inbound links than ecommerce category pages.

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    Step 8 : Internal Links

    On some websites, an internal linking structure occurs naturally due to excellent site planning.

    For example, with an e-commerce website, a homepage will link to a product category that links to a sub category pages that links to a product page via breadcrumbs.

    Breadcrumb functionality is built into most e-commerce platforms and provides the link authority that passes from one page to another.

    With other websites, an internal linking structure needs to be manually created.

    With any new website, I recommend that you have a link structure where your most important sections are in your main navigation and in the body of your home page content.

    In the initial growth phase of your website your homepage will earn the most links and domain authority.

    So the home page or domain authority will be pass link juice or strength to content silos, informational pages or categories that are featured on your home page.

    As your website matures, then you can start adding internal links in the body of an informational page or blog post and the occasional external link for content relevance.

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    Step 9 : Presenting your plan and structure

    Download or screenshot the visual site structure you’ve created.

    Add it to a visual presentation tool such as Google Slides or Powerpoint along a screenshot of your keyword research.

    Give the client a link to the spreadsheet too.

    With the Octopus tool you can quickly price up the cost of web development, web design and content creation.

    Now you can begin a commercial dialogue with the client.

    • Tally up the estimated traffic and multiply that by an industry conversion rate.
    • Will that satisfy the website goals ?
    • What pages and sections do we keep or ignore ?
    • How long will this take to build ?
    • What’s this going to cost in terms of development, design and content ?

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    Finally, to summarise remember the 5 Ps.

    Proper planning prevents poor performance.

    Download my planning template to help you plan and structure websites for a great user experience and seo success.

    Download Free Website Planning Template