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Google SEO Tutorial for Beginners (part 2)

Part 2: Improving Site Structure

After reading part one of this article, you have basic knowledge about SEO. Now, part two provides you with information about improving site structure and is divided into two sections: improve the structure of your URLs and make your site easier to navigate.

1. Improve the structure of your URLs

Accessible URLs will convey content information easily

Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your website can both help you keep your site better organized and lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines. Also, it can create easier, “friendlier” URLs for those that want to link to your content. Visitors may be intimidated by extremely long and cryptic URLs that contain few recognizable words.

Some users might link to your page using the URL of that page as the anchor text.  If your URL contains relevant words, this provides users and search engines with more information about the page than an ID or oddly named parameter would.

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The highlighted words above could inform a user or search engine what the

target page is about before following the link

URLs are displayed in search results

The URL to a document stands third position in improving your rank in a search result of Google, following the document’s title and snippet. Similar to title and snippet, words in the URL on the search result appear in bold if they appear in the user’s query.

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Words in the URL on the search result appear in bold if they appear in the user’s query

Google is good at crawling all types of URL structures, but spending the time to make your URLs as simple as possible. Some webmasters try to achieve this by rewriting their dynamic URLs to static ones; while Google is fine with this, I’d like to note that this is an advanced procedure and if done incorrectly, could cause crawling issues with your site. To learn even more about good URL structure, we recommend this Webmaster Help Center page on creating Google-friendly URLs.

2. Make your site easier to navigate

Navigation is very important for search engines

The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important. Although Google’s search results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site.

Plan out your navigation based on your Homepage

All sites have a home or “root” page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages? Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?

Ensure more convenience for users by using ‘breadcrumb lists’

A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate back to a previous section or the root page. Many breadcrumbs have the most general page (usually the root page) as the first, left-most link and list the more specific sections out to the right.

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Breadcrumb links appearing on a deeper article page on our site

Allow for the possibility of a part of the URL being removed

Some users might navigate your site in odd ways, and you should anticipate this. For example, instead of using the breadcrumb links on the page, a user might drop off a part of the URL in the hopes of finding more general content. For instance, he/she might be visiting

http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/news/010/upcoming-baseball-card-shows.htm

but then enter

http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/news/010/

into the browser’s address bar, believing that this will show all news from 010. Is your site prepared to show content in this situation or will it give the user a 404 (“page not found” error)? What about moving up a directory level to http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/news/?

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Users may go to an upper directory by removing the last part of the URL

Prepare two sitemaps: one for users, one for search engines

A site map is a simple page on your site that displays the structure of your website, and usually consists of a hierarchical listing of the pages on your site. Visitors may visit this page if they are having problems finding pages on your site. While search engines will also visit this page, getting good crawl coverage of the pages on your site, it’s mainly aimed at human visitors.

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An HTML site map can help users easily find content that they are looking for

An XML Sitemap file, which you can submit through Google’s Webmaster Tools, makes it easier for Google to discover the pages on your site. Using a Sitemap file is also one way (though not guaranteed) to tell Google which version of a URL you’d prefer as the canonical one (e.g. http://brandonsbaseballcards.com/ or http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/; more on what’s a preferred domain). Google helped create the open source Sitemap Generator Script to help you create a Sitemap file for your site. To learn more about Sitemaps, the Webmaster Help Center provides a useful guide to Sitemap files.

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An XML Sitemap can help search engines find pages on your site

So, what you should do to enhance your site structure? Improve URLs and navigation. And in the next part, I will mention Optimizing Content to you.

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