Site Structure

Structuring your website - a simple case

Let's take the example of a simple book web-shop, and analyse how the navigation structure should look like.

Obviously, you have to partition your product and service offering in a hierarchy to make browsing and searching books on certain subjects easier.

  • The homepage will link the main product categories
  • Those categories link to the products or sub categories and to the homepage
  • The books link back to the category above and to the home page

So you will typically link 1 level down, and all levels up.



Breadcrumbs are shown typically left on top of a website and provide a means to quickly see what level you are on, and to jump back to one of the higher levels. Use your keywords in the link text of breadcrumbs

Home > Books > Crafts & Hobbies

What's the click-path ?

Once your access design is ready, you need to test it out with some pilot users. Define destinations, and check if they can reach them quickly. Are they using the shortest click-path ? Adapt your design if necessary.

  • Which pages do you need to travel through for reaching your goal ?


Linkvalue of the homepage ?

In most cases, your homepage will have the highest link value (and ranking). E.g. many external sites hopefully link to the homepage.

Related to linkvalue, you should keep an eye on:

  • Are there besides the homepage other main nodes in your website ?
  • How is the link value spread within your website ?

Should you be placing the most competitive keywords on top of the tree ?

  • This makes pages high up in the tree more powerful
  • But you will have to add the supporting pages for that keywords downstream. (e.g.: “Mortgage” on the top page, but supporting pages underneath)


Flat or deep site structure ?

As soon as you have a more then only a few products / services to offer, you will have move to a site structure with more levels.  3 levels is really a minimum, and you will often need more. Have a look to the book categories on the Barnes&Noble website and you will understand why only a couple of levels would never work.

When structuring, have your visitors in mind. Someone who does not know too well your products should still be able to guess correctly in the hierarchy you have set up where to look for the product he/she wants. If you have too many items on a certain level, the visitors will not take the trouble to browse them all, and you loose him. Also a search engine bot will not follow more then about 100 links per page.

Unique keywords & navigation

The partition to the right has 2 categories caring the name “English”. English is not a good keyword (too generic to be useful), and to make things worse, multiple categories have that same name. This will cause multiple pages within the same website to compete against each other for a place in the search engine results.

Each page within a site structure should have a focus keyword defined – this is the most significant keyword for this page. Use that keyword if you can for the navigation.


Mixed access tree

Linking an author to a category will not always work: A given author could have written books in several categories. This is in conflict with the rule that each page should use an unique focus keyword for access.


Each additional tree will cost you in link value. You are then spreading link value between the pages of the tree. So you should only use additional trees if you are sure end-users will be using those access paths and generate sufficient traffic through that route.

Investigate the “Barnes and noble" bookshop website”. Which are the access path methods used ? What is your opinion about that ? (This is not an activity part of your portfolio, just spend some time on this website to explore)