Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Guest Post: Website Architecture for SEO – Structure

For those who read my first post a few weeks ago, “What Is SEO?” this article will be my first of a multi-part series, each of which will go a bit more in-depth in explaining the three main ingredients of SEO – site architecture, content and link building. For those who are still a bit unsure as to what SEO is or how it works, click the link to view my initial post, “What Is SEO?”

If you’re still reading this article but have completely forgotten what the title is, I’ll remind you: Website Architecture for SEO - Structure. In this post, I will explain the architectural and formatting requirements for a website. I would like to preface this article by stating that this is an article for beginners. While I will not go over every single aspect of a website’s structural necessities for SEO, I will discuss the main elements that a website requires to successfully rank in search results. Having said that, let’s get into it!

When talking about website architecture, the first thing to look at is site structure. First, websitesthat are looking to rank in search should be coded in a standard, straightforward language such as HTML or XHTML. Search crawlers are unable to read Flash, so websites that are heavy in Flash will largely be seen as being ‘empty’ to search crawlers.

In addition to using a standard language, webmasters need to be aware of scripts, such as java scripts, that are running in the background of a site and the effects these scripts have on page load time. Site speed has become a much greater factor in determining a site’s rankings in search, so it is crucial to understand how things like tracking scripts affect your site’s speed. Another way to decrease page load time is to keep things like CSS in an external file, as opposed to having this inline-coded at the top of each page on your site.

A third way to minimize the page load time on your site is to implement a caching system. Imagine that on each page of your site, the page’s top perimeter is decorated with a beautiful image that spans the entire width of the page. Typically, a request for that image will be made to your site’s database each time a person visits a page on the site. As you probably guessed, each request adds to the total load time of the page. With a caching system, the image is cached on each page upon the first request for the image, reducing the number of requests for this image to one per visitor.

A third, very importantaspect of website architecture is the URL structure of pages on your site. Often times, web searchers will come across pages that have URLs that look something like this:,N-19-29-4294966844-4294967194/advert.action?R=200804302411772&distance=24&postcode=L. In case you couldn’t guess, this is an example of a bad URL. Instead, this site should use something like this: In addition to helping users get a better idea of what a page is about (and therefore influencing clicks to the site from the Search Results page,) URLs help search crawlers to better understand what a certain page is about, ultimately contributing to a higher search authority and, thus, higher search results.

 When creating new URLs for your website, it is important to remember that URLs need not, and should not, reflect the navigational path required to reach a particular page from the homepage. If you were creating a page for the Nike G Force Shox (fictional product, I think/hope?), and this product was found within the “Basketball Shoes” section, your URL would not be, but instead We do this for several reasons. First, it is easiest for the search engine to understand exactly what the page is if the URL shows reflects information that is specific to that page. Second, on the server side of things (the part no one but the hosting company and webmaster see), a website’s contents are typically organized into directories, each directory containing information for a certain type of page. In the example above, Basketball shoes are the category, while G Force Shox is the product. Category-page info and Product-page info are generally kept in different directories, and because URLs usually reflect the page of the directory that the data is stored in, we leave the data from the other directory (category page) out.  

If this seems like a lot of information, you’re right: it is. Remember, this is only the tip of the iceberg, and further research is required to fully grasp the structural elements of SEO. In my next post, “Website Architecture for SEO – Structure pt. 2,” I will discuss the topics of indexing and crawling, two concepts that site architecture plays strongly into and can help drastically improve your site’s rankings. Stay tuned!

George Fox is a marketer for SuperheroDen.


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