However beautiful your site and however compelling your content, all of that effort is wasted if users hit the homepage and can’t figure out where to go from there. Poorly conceived site architecture is responsible for increasing bounce rates and lowering conversion rates. And, if you think that you have trouble with shoddy site architecture, spare a thought for poor Googlebot, which is nowhere near as smart as the average user and is tasked with making sense of it all.
I’ve seen websites with their best content hidden away in a cross-linked oubliette that even the most determined crawler or user won’t come across without the intervention of a miracle. It’s a shame, because a lot of value is lost to companies because of ill-thought through design or sites whose design shows no evidence of thought at all and are seemingly the result of boardroom politicking rather than any coherent design process.
We’re going to take a look at 5 simple, high-level tests that you can apply to your site to determine whether it needs improvement.
Is It Crawlable?
Look at your home page and consider the journey a user has to take to the rest of your content. Is it simple for them to follow a short series of links to reach every part of your site? If the answer is no, then you probably have areas of the site which are cut off from the rest.
Search engine crawlers find their way around the site by following links from one page to the next. If there are pages or sets of pages that cannot be reached in this way, then the crawler can’t find them and they will have no way to appear in search engine indexes.
How Long Is The Ideal User Journey To Conversion?
In ideal circumstances, it should take no more than three or four clicks from the homepage to reach every other part of the site.
That doesn’t mean you should just overload your homepage with dozens of links, which won’t make it any less confusing. Instead, the whole architecture of the site and the relationship of pages to each other should be designed to ensure the journey to the required content is as short and meaningful as possible.
This is especially true for sites trying to elicit a conversion. If users have to travel though a dozen pages before they can finally complete a sale or leave their contact information, a huge proportion of them will give up. A site with poor information architecture is a leaky site; users will fall out of the journey at every extra click.
Is Your Content Richly Cross-Linked?
Context is important for search engine crawlers and part of the context is provided by relevant links between content. As Googlebot traverses your site it will make note of which pages link together and try to figure out how they are related to each other. Each link into a page provides it with more exposure to the search engines.
Internal cross linking architectures are a complex topic, and it’s possible to overdo it. Check out this article from Moz for more detailed information.
Are You Hiding Your Best Content In Sliders?
Sliders can be a great way to display information, but they can also be a great way to hide it. As a general rule, if you really need your users to see a particular piece of content or branding, don’t put it into a slider. It’s become much more popular to spread out information over longer pages that users have to scroll through – the iPhone 5S page being a prominent example.
Don’t be afraid to make users scroll; it’s natural for them to do so, which isn’t the case with clicking through sliders.
Website architecture is a complex subject, but like the related fields of SEO and CRO, it’s not difficult to understand the basic concepts involved. If you remember only two things from this article, remember:
All content and conversion goals on a site should be reachable in a small number of clicks.
If you can’t get to it with a link, neither can Googlebot.