Chapter 4: Site Architecture & Search Engine Success Factors

The last major On The Page group in the Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors is site architecture. The right site structure can help your SEO efforts flourish while the wrong one can cripple them.

Ac - Site Crawlability for SEO Ac: Site Crawlability

Search engines “crawl” web sites, going from one page to another incredibly quickly, acting like hyperactive speed readers. They make copies of your pages that get stored in what’s called an “index,” which is like a massive book of the web.

When someone searches, the search engine flips through this big book, finds all the relevant pages and then picks out what it thinks are the very best ones to show first. To be found, you have to be in the book. To be in the book, you have to be crawled.

Most sites generally don’t have crawling issues, but there are things that can cause problems. For example, JavaScript or Flash can potentially hide links, making the pages those links lead to hidden from search engines. And both can potentially cause the actual words on pages to be hidden.

Each site is given a crawl budget, an approximate amount of time or pages a search engine will crawl each day, based on the relative trust and authority of a site. Larger sites may seek to improve their crawl efficiency to ensure that the ‘right’ pages are being crawled more often. The use of robots.txt, internal link structures and specifically telling search engines to not crawl pages with certain URL parameters can all improve crawl efficiency.

However, for most, crawl problems can be easily avoided. In addition, it’s good practice to use sitemaps, both HTML and XML, to make it easy for search engines to crawl your site. You’ll find more about sitemaps and dealing with potential crawling issues in the Search Engine Land articles below:

Remember, “search engine friendly design” is also “human friendly design!”

Ad: Duplication / CanonicalizationArchitecture Duplicate (Ad) Element

Sometimes that big book, the search index, gets messy. Flipping through it, a search engine might find page after page after page of what looks like virtually the same content, making it more difficult for it to figure out which of those many pages it should return for a given search. This is not good.

It gets even worse if people are actively linking to different versions of the same page. Those links, an indicator of trust and authority, are suddenly split between those versions. The result is a distorted (and lower) perception of the true value users have assigned that page. That’s why canonicalization is so important.

You only want one version of a page to be available to search engines.

There are a number of different ways that duplicate versions of a page can creep into existence. A site may have www and non-www versions of the site instead of redirecting one to the other. An ecommerce site may allow search engines to index their paginated pages. But no one is search for “page 9 red dresses”. Or filtering parameters might be appended to a URL, making it look (to a search engine) like a different page.

For as many ways as there are to inadvertently create URL bloat, there are ways to address it. Proper implementation of 301 redirects, the use of rel=canonical tags, managing URL parameters and effective pagination strategies can all help ensure you’re running a tight ship.

Below are Search Engine Land articles that discuss duplication and canonicalization issues:

As - Site Speed SEO Success FactorAs: Site Speed

Google wants to make the web a faster place and has declared that speedy sites get a small ranking advantage over slower sites.

However, making your site blistering fast isn’t a guaranteed express ride to the top of search results. Speed is a minor factor that impacts just 1 in 100 queries according to Google.

But speed can reinforce other factors and may actually improve others. We’re an impatient bunch of folks these days. So engagement (and conversion) on a site may improve based on a speedy load time.

Speed up your site! Search engines and humans will both appreciate it.

Below is some of our past coverage of the importance of site speed:

Au - Descriptive URLs for SEOAu: Are Your URLs Descriptive?

Yes. Having the words you want to be found for within your domain name or page URLs can help your ranking prospects. It’s not a major factor but if it makes sense to have descriptive words in your URLs, do so.

Aside from helping a bit from a ranking perspective, various research reports over the years have shown that searchers are more likely to select pages with short, descriptive URLs over other pages in search results.

It’s also notable that all major search engines have moved the URL up just under the title in their search listings. And structured data can be used to transform the URL into a breadcrumb, giving users more ways to navigate to a site directly from a search result.

If the URL wasn’t important, why do search engines pay so much attention to it?

The articles below explore the power of the URL in more depth:

Chapters: Home – 1: Factors – 2: Content – 3: HTML – 4: Architecture – 5: Links – 6: Social – 7: Trust – 8: Personalization – 9: Violations