One of the most powerful but most-ignored search engine ranking factors is site architecture. This is particularly true for publishers.
In simple terms, when architecting your site, the aim should be to make any piece of content easy to navigate to in as few clicks as possible. This may sound simple and obvious, but poor site architecture afflicts some of the biggest publishers in the world and solving this problem can be lead to a dramatic growth in search engine traffic almost overnight.
The Problem in action – The Mail Online
Let’s take the Mail Online – the 13th most popular web site in the UK – as an example.
According to MajesticSEO , the most linked-to piece of content they’ve every published, with links from 11,371 unique sites was this article in 2011 about how purple potatoes help lower blood pressure.
It’s easy to find from a Google search
But now go directly to Daily Mail homepage and try to find this article.
You will struggle.
Their health section scrolls a long way but you can only see articles from the last few days. There are no topic pages for blood pressure or similar and even an internal site search for ‘Purple potatos blood pressure’ pulls up 9 pages of results (the article is on page 6).
Diagnosing how badly site architecture problems are affecting you
A couple of years back, when helping ok.co.uk with their organic growth strategy, we were introduced to Deepcrawl, a tool which helps SEOs diagnose health issues. Included in their reports was a very useful visualisation of how far each piece of content was from the homepage.
For OK! this report showed us that the site architecture problems were chronic
Our aim was to help them make any piece of content no more than 3 clicks from the homepage – as we can see above, at the time only a couple of hundred articles existed in this zone, whereas over a hundred thousand articles existed more than 10 clicks away from the homepage.
How to go about solving the problem (even when it’s chronic)
To help OK! implement a solution, we took a step back and analysed the information architecture.
We found that 90% + of all historic articles related to a pool of around two thousand entities (mainly celebrities).
By implementing an A-Z section containing a page for each celebrity and by aggregating each piece of content to sit in one of these celebrity topic pages, we were able to achieve our goal of making every article no more than 3 clicks from the Homepage.
So What? (The Growth Rewards)
The results of the above improvements in site architecture were emphatic.
Following several months of static organic search traffic, OK! enjoyed a 45% uplift in the 6 weeks following deployment, before plateauing again at the new traffic level.
This is a growth strategy we have since repeated, each time with great success. Furthermore, these topical hub pages can, in themselves, deliver significant further traffic growth.
I’ll talk about in my next blog.
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