A strong site structure should be at the core of any programmatic SEO build.
How the value of your site flows around the site is crucial to ensure both key pages ranking, and longer tail pages are seen as valuable enough to rank.
Let’s dig into building a strong site structure.
The importance of URL structure in SEO
The URL plays such a key part in defining how pages relate to each other.
Whilst a breadcrumb can also help do this, the URL structure does this stronger and even clearer.
The structure helps Google quickly understand what a page’s parent is, and thus it can understand the relationship between the two.
By default, the fact a page is a child of another page would help it know that the content will probably be extremely related, with a lot of topical cross-over.
The structure also helps pass SEO value around the site effectively.
Ensuring that child pages pass their value up the hierarchy, to their parent page.
Ensuring that a parent can help give their children pages a little boost from their value too.
Topical relation + SEO value passing = a win.
Site structuring with breadcrumbs
When building a strong site structure, URL structure is number 1. However, site structuring via breadcrumbs can also come into play.
Not just as a backup, but also as something that can work hand-in-hand with the URL structure.
Breadcrumbing as a backup
If all else fails with being able to implement URL structures, breadcrumb structures are your best backup.
They’re pretty much the only other way, to effectively set the parent-child relationship.
The downside here is that they only really work up the chain, rather than down, due to how a breadcrumb works.
Breadcrumbing alongside URL structures
Leveraging breadcrumbs on top of a good URL structure is where they stand out.
Not only can you back up the URL structure, by following it up with a breadcrumb structure that imitates the URLs, you can also drop in extra levels where applicable.
Sometimes a piece of content sits across different levels in the URL structure.
You obviously can’t include both in the URL, as that wouldn’t be right,
You can, however, drop the extra level into the breadcrumb structure and let Google know that relation with no issues.
How to build a strong site structure
Let’s look at how I’d be recommending you structure your site.
Just remember, there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer here, but pays to put in the effort at the start as it’s not exactly something you want to change.
Organising your content around a core structure
My primary aim with the structure is to try and put the items with the highest differentiation between them, higher in the list.
This way, you put related content together, and try and separate un-related content as best possible.
For real estate, at the heart of all listings are two channels – Buy & Rent.
So I’d recommend starting here with;
For the second tier, I would bring in location.
The third tier is when I would then bring in the property type;
But you’d still have the no-location search URLs available, like;
The reasoning behind structuring it this way, is that buy verse rent are two completely separate journeys.
It’s a rare occurrence for someone wanting to both at both renting & buying a home to live in.
The next thing they’re looking at is the location. There’s more of a chance they’ll want to look at both apartments & houses in a location, than to look at just apartments in multiple areas at once.
On top of this, you’ll also get property types like ‘apartments’, ‘units’, ‘condos’ and ‘flats’ being seen as extremely related in Google’s eyes. Sometimes even direct synonyms.
Google won’t ever see nearby suburbs in a city that same way.
Well, maybe not never. But very very very rarely.
Leverage your blog content
You can dramatically improve the value of your core structure, by leveraging your blog content.
Rather than throwing your blog content under /blog/, /advice/ or something completely random, nestle it under your core structure.
Sometimes harder said than done, even just using the parent folder can dramatically improve the value passed through to that folder, helping it and sub-pages rank.
This would involve post URLs like;
If a post relates to the location too, it could be;
And an even more extreme could be about a location + property type article;
But that’s getting a bit deep, and would probably be a bit more on the difficult side of an integration.
You’ll always get a bit of tech pushback due to the way the URLs resolve from the server.
It can be done on pretty much any tech, with the work.
There’s also a bit of a shortcut, that would still work wonders.
An old workplace got around to restructuring their blog.
Whether they found an old doc I was working off, or whether one of the newer team got it done, they restructured their blog content to add value to their core structure.
They used the /guides/ subfolder to hack the content in there. The server knows where to grab the content from, purely from that subfolder.
An alternate way of doing this could be to just use ‘/guide-‘ with a dash, rather than creating a whole new directory, but the directory does make things a bit simpler.
They’ve used only their top-tier folder from the structure, and yet have added significant value to all content within the /cleaning/ folder now because of this.
Flat verse foldered
A debate that’s raged for years.
Is a flat site architecture better than a built-out, folder structure?
The way I see it, each folder level is similar to a 301 redirect. Probably doesn’t pass all the value through.
Let’s say it’s 80% (completely arbitrary, just to give it a number for context).
3 levels deep, and you’d have the parent sitting at 80% of 80% of 80% being 51.2%.
So wouldn’t the 80% of a single level, be better than 51.2% in a 3?
No, because that 3 tier is so much more targeted. Channel, location, & property type, just to name 3, could be included in a real estate portal.
The value gained from the 3-tier, nestled structure is more than what is lost through the levels.
I will always recommend a solid structure for any large-scale programmatic builds, and then a flatter, maybe one level, structure for smaller content sites where there’s less value gained from the tiering.
The structure is so important when it comes to content filtering, so giving Google the best hint to understand how each child relates to the parent is the easiest way to set that relationship.
Setting that relationship in a way Google can easily understand will help them rank the correct content, for the correct term.
There is no ‘best’ site structure
There might be ‘best for you’, but there is no ‘best’ site structure for you to build.
There are definitely wrong site structures though, I’ll tell you that.
Just build out the one you feel is best, based on what’s discussed above.
Should you be siloing your site?
To properly ‘silo’ your site, every single link on the page needs to be tamed and within the silo’s rules.
It’s a lot of work.
Almost impossible at the enterprise level.
You can, however, keep note of what’s linking to what, and limit it where possible, to ensure the most value is passed to each individual link.
Is it worth doing a migration to update the structure?
It takes a lot for me to recommend an existing site migrate over to a new structure.
One of the core decision elements here is the amount of opportunity they stand to gain from doing so.
If they’re newer, planning a massive expansion, or have an extremely large amount of market opportunity and are prepared for the risk, then I’d say the migration to a more-solidified structure is worth it.
For a #1 in the market, a structure change could be more-so a solidification of their position, rather than for growth opportunity.
It’s a dangerous change to make, as you’re essentially redirecting over the core of your SEO performance, and risking it, during and after the migration.
Site structure is a key element
Just remember that site structure is a key element when it comes to the optimisation of your site.
Many other factors are at play, but the site structure is the core of your website.
Get it right, and the work done will be repaid.