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Site Architecture

The term site architecture, for the purposes of this guide, refers to the arrangement of the functional and visual aspects of your website. Essentially it’s the hierarchy of pages within your site, and the hierarchy of content within each page.

A dedicated page per keyword theme

It’s entirely likely each page will rank for far more terms than the keyword you target, but it’s good to keep your pages focused on one, or at most a small handful of terms.

Matching keyword themes with pages is actually a lot easier if you don’t yet have a website! Simply create one page per prominent keyword theme and fill it in with relevant content.

If you’ve already got a website, first you’ll want to compile a complete list of all of the pages on your site. Next you’ll match existing pages with their most-relevant keyword theme. If there are prominent themes that don’t have a home on an existing page, you should create a new page for each of these themes.

Here’s an example of what this looks like in my typical Google Sheet:

We’ll come back to this Sheet for a final column in the Content Optimization section.

Clear navigation

Your navigation should feature each of your most prominent parent themes, as well as a link to your contact page.

After coming up with your complete list of pages, group related themes together. For example, your “Sofas” page and “Armchairs” page might fall under “Living Room Furniture,” which might itself fall under “Furniture by Room.” This would likely make for a good primary navigation option.

Use keyword-rich descriptors for the navigation labels. For example, choose “Coffee By Type” or “Types of Coffee” instead of just “Types.”

The very fact that a page is linked in your primary navigation is a strong signal to Google that it’s an important page. Pages that are linked in your primary navigation will, all other things being equal, stand the best chance of ranking in Google.

They also help distribute ranking ability to pages underneath them. Any page you hope to rank in Google should be no more than one click away from a page that’s linked in your primary navigation (in other words, two clicks from your homepage).

If you find you have too many themes of equal importance, or are having a hard time keeping your navigation menu to a reasonable number of 6-8 options, you may want to rethink how your products or services are organized, in order to make sure that your key (usually most profitable) lines of business are immediately obvious to both Google and visitors to your website.

You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) limit the content on your site to primary navigation, though. Dropdown menus underneath each primary option have become common practice across sites of all sizes — with few exceptions, Google has little trouble figuring out how these menus are structured, and they’re great for your website’s visitors.

Drop down menu example

Cross-link relevant pages

Linking relevant pages helps your customers find additional products or services they might be interested in, and from an SEO standpoint, helps Google pick up the “scent” of the various sections of your website.

Diagram of Cross-linking

Cross-linking is (almost) the only way that Google can discover niche products or service offerings that don’t live somewhere in your navigation. So it’s particularly important for products targeting very specific terms, such as “Guatemalan coffee” or “Scandinavian sofas” in our two examples above. You’d want those pages to be cross-linked with related pages like “Latin American coffee” or “modern sofas.”

We’ve probably all used Wikipedia, one of the most obvious examples of a site that does an incredible job of cross-linking relevant pages.

Check out the opening paragraphs of its entry on “Small Business” as an example.

Wikipedia Small Business Entry

Whoa that’s a lot of cross-linking! That’s 22 links to related content in 2 paragraphs. Too many for the typical small business website, in fact, but I hope it illustrates the point well enough.

There are a lot of reasons you see Wikipedia ranking well in Google for so many searches, but a major contributing factor is how well its editors cross-link relevant pages to one another.

Prominent contact information

You should place your basic contact information in the header (usually at the top righthand side) and footer of every page of your website.

You’ve worked really hard to attract customers to your website! Make it as easy as possible for them, no matter what page they enter first, to contact you for more information or to make a transaction.

It’s also good idea to have a dedicated “Contact Us” page with more detailed information about your business (and if you’re a multi-location business, one page per location). Make sure you link to this page from your homepage, and ideally from your primary navigation menu as well.