It’s great to have a website for your business, but it won’t be enough. You need a healthy website—one that helps bring more sales into your business. To do that, it needs to show up higher in search results, preferably on the first page. But this is influenced by many factors—one of the most important being how your website is actually set up.
Just like a building needs a good floor plan, a website needs a strong site structure. Site structure refers to the interlinking and arrangement of web pages on your site. When search engines scan your site (called crawling), they follow the links on your site and store web pages from your site in a massive web index. When someone makes a Google search, the search engine looks through its index for web pages that match the search and puts the best results first.
Experts suggest no more than seven top-level pages in a site structure. A small website will have a very simple structure, with basic top-level pages like “Home”, “About”, “Services”, “Products”, and “Contact” pages, and a few sub-pages, particularly under “Services” or “Products”. Larger websites will need to create more of a hierarchy in which the home page leads to several main pages, which then each lead to several more pages, and so on. The idea is that it needs to be easy for search engine robots to follow your structure.
A sitemap is an automatically generated list of all the pages on your site. This map helps the search bots quickly find all of your pages. There are no drawbacks to having a sitemap—only benefits. But there are several situations when a sitemap is especially good to have:
- When your site is new. A new site won’t have very many other websites linking to it (i.e. external links), which means that search engines won’t be following links to your site.
- When your site is large. Web crawlers may get a little overwhelmed with all your pages and skip some. A sitemap will help the search bots see all of your pages.
- When your pages don’t link to each other. Here again, a sitemap will ensure that Google or Bing sees your pages, even if they’re not easy to find.
- When your site uses video, audio, or other interactive features (called rich media). Non-text content can’t be read by search engines, which means that these pages could be skipped. A sitemap will solve that problem.
According to one report, almost 60 percent of searches are performed from mobile devices. With this in mind, it’s imperative that your website is mobile-friendly. It needs to be able to easily adjust to the size of the device being used and must be easy to navigate on the smaller screen. The less a mobile user has to zoom, scroll, and adjust the screen, the better. Search engine bots evaluate whether your site meets mobile-responsive criteria and either reward or penalize your site accordingly.
Titles and Descriptions
Each of your pages should have a page title and description. This is what shows up in search results, such as Google. The page title is the line in bold and the description is what shows up underneath it. Not only do these help with ranking your web pages on search results, but they’re also the carrots that draw people to click.
The page title should accurately correspond to what the page is about. For instance, if your page is about puppy training, the title shouldn’t say that it’s about carpet cleaning. If search bots are confused about what your page is about, that page could get skipped or demoted.
Page titles, particularly those for service or product pages, should include the key terms, location, and, if there’s room, your company name. A blog’s page title should be the blog title, or at least a close version of it. SEO companies will evaluate page titles to make sure that all of the important elements are included and that there are no duplicate titles. Duplicate content is a big deal to the search bots—if they think there are two pages that are the same, one page will get ignored.
There you have it—several factors that SEO companies use to determine the work that needs to be done on your site to bring it up to par. Fixing issues on your site will help your site move up higher on search results…and hopefully bring in more sales.
About the Author
Marlene Slabaugh is a resident business copywriter for Optimize Worldwide. She writes for Optimize and for a number of Optimize’s clients. As a result, she knows a little bit about everything, and her encyclopedic knowledge is growing by the day. She manages to do it all in a mostly uncaffeinated state (except for an occasional cup of tea).