Plan and structure websites for a great user experience and seo success with this free 9 step planning template.
- What is website structure ?
- What you need to know about planning a website
- To meet your goals, plan your website.
- Step 1 : Start planning with keyword research
- Step 2 : Buying Process Research
- Step 3 : Use the website planning template
- Step 4 : Keyword Intent and page selection
- Step 5 : Choosing a website hierarchy
- Step 6 : URL structure
- Step 7 : Site Navigation
- Step 8 : Internal Links
- Step 9 : Presenting your website structure plan with a visual sitemap
- Download website planning structure template
What is website structure ?
How web pages are connected to each other via links is what makes a good website structure.
What you need to know about planning a website
If you don’t plan first and jump straight into a web design tool such as Webflow, it will come back and bite you.
A lack of proper research and planning is one of the reasons that over 91% of web pages don’t get any traffic from search engines.
With proper planning your team will be armed with :
- A visual representation of the ideal site structure for the client
- The category structure and pages required
- A content strategy and content development plan
- The urls, title tags and meta descriptions to write.
A good website structure will make it easy for users to find what they are looking for in a few steps.
Users don’t always enter your site through the home page.
That’s why it’s important for the user to be able to find what she is looking for anywhere on the website.
If a visitor is ready for the next stage of the conversion funnel, a clear website structure will simplify the user’s conversion path.
Better crawling, better visibility in Google
It will be easier for search engines to find your pages and content if your website is structured and linked in a relevant manner.
The structure of a website is crawled by web crawlers.
They want to index the content so they can return it in search results.
The easier your site structure is, the easier the crawlers job will be.
Built on what people search for
Use keyword and click research to create a website structure that is logical and not built on taste, design or guessing.
To meet your goals, plan your website.
Would you build a new home without approved plans?
Builders and property developers hire architects to plan the foundations of a property.
So, if you are a business owner you want to work with a website architect who specialises in website planning.
There are 4 different types of websites and 4 different 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
Let’s work on an example.
Step 1 : Start planning with keyword research
The goal is to find out what audience or customers search for and click on; here’s my planning approach.
Install Keyword Surfer from the Chrome store.
To generate keyword ideas, enter a single keyword into the Google search box that represents your product or service, hit the spacebar and type “A”.
Click the star icon if the search volume is greater than 50.
The data is stored in the Clipboard if you click the button.
The clipboard is used to build up a list of ideas.
Continue through the alphabet eg: type “B” after your keyword and select the star icon to add keywords to your clipboard.
ps: for more advanced keyword analysis and planning I recommend checking out my click forecasting strategy.
The next step is to identify the topics with keyword volume that are relevant to the buying process.
Step 2 : Buying Process Research
In this step you’ll use keyword modifiers that relate to the 4 stages of the buying funnel.
Marketing and buying behaviour determine the stages people go through before buying something.
The consumer buying process can be visualised as follows.
Type the modifier keywords into the search box either before or after your seed keyword.
When you are finished, export your keyword list from the clipboard.
Step 3 : Use the website planning template
Make a copy of the Google Sheets template
Import the CSV file of keywords you exported in the last step.
Create a filter and sort the search volume column in descending order.
Remove any duplicate keywords.
Step 4 : Keyword Intent and page selection
In the template there’s a column called Final User Intent with the following options in the dropdown.
Types of search intent
- How to article
- List article
- Service category cage
- Service page
- E-commerce category page
- E-commerce product page
- Review article
- Comparison or Alternative article
The organic search results provide clues about the intent behind a keyword.
This first keyword on my list is “marketing agency”
Google the first keyword on your list and looked at the organic results.
Most of the top results for this keyword are pages containing “Top” and “Best” in their titles.
So the user intent behind this keyword would be a “list article”
Choose that option for this keyword in the final user intent column.
Move to the next keyword in the template.
For example, “Marketing Strategy Template” is on my keyword list; what’s the intent behind that keyword ?
Look at the top results; there’s 3 pages with “how to “ in the title.
So the user intent is “how to”; select that option from the dropdown.
A guide will contain steps in the page content; you may need to look at the top pages.
- A service page may contain “service” in the titles.
- E-commerce pages; Google typically shows product images; or visit a top page to check the format of their page.
- Review articles will typically contain “review” in the title and mention 1 or 2 products or services.
- A comparison or alternative article contains “vs, comparison, article” in the title.
- A calculator search query contains “calculator” in the title and on the page.
Work through each keyword on your list and choose an intent option from the dropdown box.
Content for seo, services, e-commerce products
Now you know have a content plan for :
- search engine optimisation purposes,
- e-commerce category pages
- individual product pages
- types of posts or individual posts
Step 5 : Choosing a website hierarchy
Now that you know the intent behind each keyword you can assign each keyword to a page location in your website structure within your planning template
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 architecture 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 :
- 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.
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 which looks like this.
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 juice.
To pass on link juice, I link from my home page to the silo.
Website Silo Structure Benefits
- Relevancy – If you walked into the shoe section of a men’s shop, you wouldn’t expect to see any products other than shoes, and maybe socks.
- SEO – If you link similar pages with anchor text from similar content it will help you rank better.
- User experience – When content is stored in a silo, users can read multiple posts to increase dwell time and reduce bounce rates.
- Easy to scale – you can add new silos as you further develop your content and website.
Hierarchical Site Structure (e-commerce website)
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 e-commerce 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 type of website you are planning and the research you have done will have an effect on the best website structure.
But to generalise, the best website structure is as follows:
- Lead Generation or Service Business – Simple site structure
- Content Driven Website – Silo structure
- E-commerce, directory, news website – Hierarchical structure
- Teaching or training website – Sequential structure
Step 6 : URL structure
For the simple website, your URLs will be structured like this :
For a silo structure, URLs will be like this :
For an e-commerce 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.
A common url structure is to include the keyword you’re targeting and keep it 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.
Depending on the type of website you are planning, your navigation should only contain your most important links.
A simple site’s navigation will be something like
Home – Services – Articles – About Us – Contact us
There is no need to add lots of drop down menu to the navigation.
This will confuse site visitors and weaken the link strength of your home page, which will affect other pages on the site.
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
Links to the product sections and shopping basket are most important links to include on your main navigation.
Home – Products – Product Category – About – Contact – Blog – Basket
From here, the user can navigate to a product category then a product page.
It’s important for e-commerce websites with this structure to create informational content because a blog page layout tends to generate more inbound links than e-commerce category pages.
Step 8 : Internal Links
The internal linking structure on some websites is a result of good 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.
The link authority that passes from one page to another is provided by breadcrumb in most e- commerce platforms.
With other websites, an internal linking structure needs to be manually created.
With any new website, I recommend a basic internal linking structure where your most important sections are in your main navigation and in the body of your home page content.
Your home page will earn the most links and authority in the initial growth phase.
Content silos, informational pages, or categories that are featured on your home page will be earn link juice or strength from the 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.
Step 9 : Presenting your website structure plan with a visual sitemap
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.
You can quickly price up the costs of web development, web design and content creation with the help of the Octopus tool.
You can now start a commercial discussion with the client.
- Tally up the estimated traffic and multiply by an industry conversion rate.
- Will that satisfy the website goals ?
- What pages and sections to keep or ignore ?
- How long will this take to build ?
- What’s this going to cost in terms of development, design and content creation ?
Download website planning structure template
Finally, to summarise remember the 5 Ps.
Poor performing is prevented by proper planning.
Download the template to help you plan and structure websites with the potential customer and a positive user experience in mind.