You wouldn’t start building a house room by room with no thought given to overall layout, or build bedrooms that can only be accessed through other bedrooms instead of a hallway, would you?
Before you start building your new website, it is important to plan out your site & URL structure, just as it is critical to have architectural plans for your house before you start building! Your website structure should be easy for search engines to crawl from page to page and not get lost in the process. Many websites do not consider search engines when creating their URL structure, which often results in un-crawlable pages that won’t be indexed by search engines.
Not only is it bad for search engines, a poor URL structure and navigation also provide a frustrating user experience. Here are three things to remember when planning the structure of your site:
Sub-domains or sub-folders
What’s the difference between sub-domains and sub-folders?
Sub-domains are “third level” domains that are used to organise the content on your site:
- “.com” is your first level domain
- “yoursite” is your second level domain or root domain
- “blog” is your third level domain
The problem with using sub-domains is that they do not always receive authority from their root domain. In fact, many subdomains receive no authority from their root domain at all!
Here’s an example of using subfolders:
Sub-folders do always pass authority to lower pages in the URL structure. It is almost always better to choose sub-folders over sub-domains to ensure that your site’s authority will be passed on to the lower level pages.
Orphan pages are pages of your site that are not linked to by any other part of your site. They basically can’t be found by visitors or search engines when they crawl your site. In some cases you may deliberately create an orphan page that you want to keep private and only people who know the exact URL will be able to access the page and sometimes orphan pages can be the result of poor development or a flaw in your navigation.
Either way, it is important to know that any orphan pages on your site will have no SEO value because they will never be seen and indexed by search engines.
“Breadcrumbs” is a term that is used to describe a particular, SEO-friendly hierarchy of navigation through your site. Breadcrumbs use the same URL as the preceding page with sub-folders added on to the end and they can be traced back page-by-page to the homepage.
From looking at this URL you can see that there is a definitive page structure and you know exactly what you are looking at; large, short sleeve shirts for men on “yourclothingsite”. You can see that you could easily back a number of levels and make a new selection.
This breadcrumb URL structure is preferred over having no hierarchy to your URL structure like this:
Even if the pages and internal links are identical, a URL structure like this not only provides a confusing user experience, but also makes it more difficult for search engines to understand the relationship between certain pages.