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Image of a hierarchy of website pages, with Homepage at the top, and About, Products, and Contacts as sub-pages beneath that
SEO, Websites

Site Structure for SEO

Site structure is a very important but often-overlooked element of search engine optimization. It’s also one of the least understood. In this post, we’re going to demystify the basics of site structure. If you don’t manage your own website, you may want to send this post to your webmaster, but even if you’re not up on the whole HTML thing, it isn’t hard to grasp the basics of site structure.

Image of a hierarchy of website pages, with Homepage at the top, and About, Products, and Contacts as sub-pages beneath that

Why site structure is important

Good site structure help’s Google’s “spiders” – tiny bots that index websites and tell Google which pages are relevant for which keywords – find all your pages and posts and figure out which ones are the most important. It also prevents you from competing with yourself for search engine rankings – if you have multiple pages or posts about similar topics, good site structure will help search engines index them properly so your pages aren’t competing with each other for rankings (and therefore making both lower than they should be).

Site structure isn’t just important for SEO, though. Good site structure also provides a better user experience. When everything is properly structured and organized, it’s easier for visitors to your site to find the information they’re looking for and navigate the site in general.

Elements of good site structure

A balanced pyramid

A good site’s structure is pyramid-shaped. Your site is at the top; beneath that are your main pages (between 3-7 of them) like About, Products, and Contact. Beneath each of those are sub-pages (e.g. for About, the sub-pages may be Our Story, Our Mission, and Our Team). The best pyramid structure is balanced – if you have three sub-pages in your About category, aim to have 2-4 (but ideally 3) sub-pages for each of your main pages, as well.

URL structure

Try to have your pages’ URL structure mimic your site’s pyramid structure. Using the example from above, the URL for the Our Story page (which is under the About page) should be something like http://www.yoursite.com/about/our-story; similarly, the Seasonal Products page that’s a sub-page of your Products page should have a URL something like http://www.yoursite.com/products/seasonal-products.

Main menu

Your site probably already has a main menu at the top that links to different pages. The best main menu has links to each of your main pages, with dropdowns that link to each page’s sub-pages when the link is moused over or clicked on.

Internal links

Internal links basically means your pages link to each other. A good rule of thumb is to try to have a (relevant) link to at least one other page on each page. Often, people find it easiest to link to a page’s sub-pages or to its parent page (the page that it is a sub-page of).

Simplicity

Don’t overcomplicate it! Simplicity makes it easier for search engines to index your site and know how to rank it. And the more complicated your site’s structure is, the harder it will be for visitors to find things, which leads to frustrated visitors, a high bounce rate, and low sales for you.

Picture of a laptop with Google open for keyword research
SEO

Keyword Research: The Basics

When you’re doing on-page SEO, keywords are hugely important. They are one of the cornerstones of good SEO – you’re not going to rank in the search engines if the search engines don’t know what you should be ranking for! Sometimes it seems obvious what the keyword for your page or post should be, other times it’s more difficult. But either way, when selecting keywords, it’s good to do a little keyword research to make sure you’ve made the best choice.

Consider your site and audience

You can pick the best keyword in the world, but if it’s not relevant to your site and your audience, it’s going to be useless. Luckily, this consideration isn’t hard. If your business is a pet food company, “dog tooth care” is going to be a better keyword than “pizza restaurants in Dallas.” And if your audience is in their 20s and 30s, “how to care for a cat when you’re elderly” isn’t going to be relevant to them at all.

Short vs. long-tail

Short keywords – like “dog food” – have a very high search volume (number of searches per month). They also have thousands of other websites trying to rank for them and it’s going to be nearly impossible for you to rank. The best keywords are long-tail keywords, which are often phrases or entire sentences (such as “how to teach a cat tricks”). You want to strike a balance here – don’t get so long and specific that nobody searches for that exact keyword, but don’t go so short that you’re competing with thousands of other websites.

Google your keywords

Once you’ve decided on a keyword that you think will work, it’s time to start the real keyword research. The first step is to type your keyword into Google (or your search engine of choice) and see what comes up. How relevant are the results to your keyword? What kind of sites come up? How many ads are there (you’ll have to turn off your ad blocker if you use one)? If none of the results are really relevant to your keyword, that may indicate that your keyword has too low of a search volume to be useful. If there are ads, that means the keyword is a valuable one.

Use a keyword tool

Find a keyword tool to get a more in-depth analysis of your chosen keyword. I love Moz’s Keyword Explorer for this. A free account lets you examine 10 keywords per month, and it gives you a very in-depth report. You can see the search volume, how difficult they think it will be to rank for that keyword, the estimated click-through rate for sites ranking for that keyword, and more. Google AdWords Keyword Planner also has great tools – they try to help you set up a paid search marketing campaign, but you can also just use their keyword tools.

Repeat

Don’t just analyze one keyword and call it a day! Sometimes the first keyword you pick turns out to be not very good. Sometimes after four pretty good keywords, you find the perfect combination of high volume and low competition. Do keyword research on at least five keywords – that will give you the best chance of finding the keyword that’s going to help your website rank in the search engines.

Image that reads "SEO" in large letters with the "O" as a magnifying glass - around it are related terms like "tags," "on-page seo," metadata, etc.
SEO

On-Page SEO: The Basics

Often when people think of search engine optimization (SEO), on-page SEO is what comes to mind. On-page SEO is exactly what it sounds like – the elements of SEO that are actually on the page, like keywords and headings. There are other elements of SEO that are not “on-page” and have to do with things like metadata and site structure – we’ll talk about those later. Today, we’re focusing on the main elements of on-page SEO.

Content

This is obviously the first thing you have to have – you can’t have SEO on your page if there’s nothing at all on your page. Good content – useful information that is presented in an interesting or engaging way – is the cornerstone of SEO. SEO is for search engines, but search engines are for people, and if search engines figure out people don’t want to read your content, they won’t rank it very highly.

Keywords

Keywords are words and phrases that tell search engines what your content is about. For example, the keyword for this post is “on-page SEO.” Search engines read your page to see all the words on it – having a specific string of words that repeats a couple times tells the search engine that if people search for that phrase, your page is relevant. The ideal keyword density (how often the keyword appears in your content) is around 2%, so in a 300-word blog post, the keyword should appear 2-8 times.

Headings

Headings divide a post or page into different sections. Search engines like it when pages and posts are broken up by headings into easier-to-skim sections. If you manage to work your keyword into some of your headings, that’s even better for SEO.

Links

Internal and external links both factor into SEO. Internal links are links that link to other pages or posts within your website. An external link is a link that links to any page or post on a site that’s not yours. Having one (or even better, both) in a post will make search engines see it as more authoritative, and therefore deserving of a higher rank.

Alt text

Search engines can’t read images, and neither can screen readers for visually impaired people. Instead, you use alt text to describe the images in words. Alt text has two purposes – it should describe the image so people using screen readers can get an idea of what the picture looks like, and it should also contain your keyword to improve your SEO.

Analytics, Websites

How to Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics is Google’s robust system for analyzing the data connected to your website. It tracks website visitors, traffic sources, visitor behavior, and more. If your business is data-driven in any way (and we’ve never encountered a business that wasn’t), you need data on your website’s performance just as much as you need data on your social media performance, and Google Analytics is a great way to get it.

So let’s dive in.

How to set up Google Analytics

If you already have Google Analytics set up for your website, feel free to skip to the next section. If not, here’s how to set it up.

  1. Go to analytics.google.com and log in with a Google account.
  2. In the bottom left corner of the dashboard screen, click “Admin.”
  3. Click the blue “Create Account” button towards the left side of the screen.
  4. Fill in the required information, then click “Get Tracking ID.”
  5. Accept the terms and conditions.
  6. You will be taken to a screen with some HTML code. This code needs to be inserted into the header of your website. If you have a WordPress site, there are many good plugins that will insert the code for you. If not, send the code to your webmaster.

Once you have that code in your website’s header, you’re good to go! It may take some time for data to start showing up in the Google Analytics dashboard, but once it does, you’ll have all that data sitting in your Google Analytics account ready for analysis.

How to use Google Analytics

Once you have Google Analytics set up, the next step is being able to find and use the data. Accessing the data is easy – just go to analytics.google.com and log in with the Google account you used to set up. That will take you to the Google Analytics dashboard.

Screenshot of the Google Analytics dashboard

The dashboard has lots of data for the past seven days. The first chart compares traffic over the past seven days to the seven days before that. Other charts break down where your traffic came from (organic search, direct, etc.), how many active users your site has had, your user retention (Yoast has an excellent article about that report), visiting times, user locations, devices your site was viewed on, and most popular pages. Most of these charts have a blue link underneath them to give you a detailed report.

Screenshot of a chart with a blue link at the bottom highlighted

There is also a lot more data in the menu on the left. Clicking on any of those options will expand a list of reports you can get about your website visitors, from audience demographics to conversion data. In fact, there’s so much data that one of the business decisions you’re going to have to make (unless you have an employee dedicated entirely to data analysis) is which metrics are important to you.

Some good options for data to track when you’re new to analytics data are traffic amount and sources, bounce rate, day of the week and time people visit, and conversions. Those will give you a basic picture of how your site is doing and give you an idea of where to focus your future efforts.

Text that reads "About Us" with a green pencil underlining it
Websites

Common About Page Mistakes – And How to Fix Them

The About page is the second most visited page on your website (second only to the homepage). After reading your pitch on the homepage, assuming they’re still interested, their next step in researching this potential purpose is the About page – they want to learn more about you and what your company is all about.

It’s important to have a compelling About page if you want visitors to stay on your site, possibly reach out to you, and maybe even make a purchase. But if you’re not experienced with writing About pages, it’s easy to fall into some common mistakes. Here are a few – and how you can avoid them.

Not telling a story

We humans are story-driven creatures. We find stories interesting and compelling. One of the greatest ways to have an engaging about page is to tell the story of your business – in a creative, well-written way, of course.

Skipping the pictures

Humans are also very visual. Pictures – especially pictures of other humans – are engaging to us and inspire trust. Add at least one picture to your About page. This could be your company’s founder, head shots of all the company executives, or a group shot of your entire team if your business is small. (Also make sure to caption it so people know what they’re looking at.)

Making it too long

There are very few cases when your About page needs to be long. And most of your visitors will have short attention spans. They want something they can skim and get the gist of without having to read a ten-page essay. Cover the important information, but don’t make it too long.

Using jargon

Sometimes an industry-specific term can’t be avoided. But for the most part, your About page should be as readable as possible by the average person. That means avoiding technical terms, jargon, and business babble and just giving straight talk about who your business is and what you do.

Thinking your About page is about you

This is probably the most common pitfall to fall into. Your About page is telling people who you are, obviously it’s about you, right? Well, not so much. Your About page is really about the people who visit your site and read it. Don’t focus on you so much as what you can do for visitors and how you can solve visitors’ problems. Prove why your business benefits the reader, and they’re that much more likely to stick around and consider purchasing.