SEO 2015: Onpage Optimisation – Structured Content FTW

Jochen Fuchs

As described in the previous article, meaningful content is by far the most important factor in modern search engine optimisation. Once you've got that down though, it's worth spending some time and consideration on the strucure of your site.

Planning a new Website

What technical and organisational guidelines should you keep in mind when designing a new website? The goal is always to make it as easy as possible for both human users and search engine bots to navigate your site quickly.

Just a few years back, search engines were fairly simple-minded and relatively easy to trick. A handfull of keywords, a few meta-tags and the first page of search results was soon within reach. Unfortunately it's not that easy anymore! Google's algorithm has gotten a lot better at understanding and evaluating content within the given context. Cheap solutions don't cut it anymore. There are, however, some basic things you should keep in mind when building a website.

Headlines

When people scan your site, headlines give them a rough idea of what to expect. They're meant to aid navigation within an individual page. There are six types of headlines in total, from <h1> being the most important down to <h6> being the least important. Ideally, you should only use one first-level headline (h1) per document. Try not to use heading tags for styling body copy, things like the <strong> element are a better fit for that.
The headline should describe the general topic of the following text. Where appropriate, include the main keyword you're trying to target. Make sure to always have good content to follow up that topic, though.

Internal Link Structure

Having a clean, well thought-out link structure serves two purposes. On one hand, it helps your users navigate your site easier and get to your content faster. That means it directly benefits your site's usabillity. On the other hand, it helps search engine bots understand what role a particular page plays in your site as a whole.

Navigation

Before you start building a site, think about the basic system for navigation. It's very important not just for human visitors, but also for search engines. A well-designed navigation shows the search engine what levels of hierarchy your site has, and how your pages relate to each other. Again, think from the user's perspective when figuring out what content logically belongs together and what type of categorisation makes sense.

Sitemaps

A sitemap is a schematic representation of your website, including all subpages. There are two types of sitemaps:

  • The HTML-Sitemap that's meant to give users an overview of your website
  • The XML-Sitemap that's just meant for search engines

HTML-Sitemap

The HTML-Sitemap is but a regular page of your website that displays all subpages in order of hierarchy. It's debatable wether or not maintaing a sitemap is actually beneficial. In the end, you should make a descision based on the project. For larger sites in particular, having a human-readable sitemap can often be helpful.

Microsoft.com is a good example for a big site that benefits from their clear, concise site map.

Microsoft Sitemap

Sitemap on Microsoft.com

XML-Sitemap

The XML-Sitemap is designed to help search engine bots crawl your website. Google lets you build a sitemap like that in their own webmaster tools. They've contributed to an open-source sitemap generator that makes it very easy to create your own sitemap. Google support also has some more information regarding sitemaps.

Coming up in our series on search engine optimisation: What technical measures are still relevant today, and what you shouldn't waste your time on.

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