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Embedding your new content within your hierarchy and inlinking structure

[:en]We’ve all been there.

You’re on a website and as you begin to browse, you become overwhelmed by what feels like  an infinite number of category and subcategory options to choose from.

Confronted by drop-downs upon drop-downs of options, you become confused on where to click next and decide to leave the site without purchasing anything. This isn’t just a difficult customer experience it’s also a challenging search engine experience.

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In my last post, I covered creating unique content with the purpose of addressing content gaps on your site. In this post, we will answer the following questions:

  • What do search engines do on your site?
  • How does site hierarchy impact your SEO performance?
  • How should you incorporate new content into your site?

What do search engines do on your site?

In my previous post, we discussed how search engines want to serve relevant, unique, high-quality content to its customers as quickly as possible. To achieve these goals, search engines spend time doing the following:

  1. Crawling your site.
  2. Indexing your content.
  3. Ranking your content.

Crawling your site

Search engine crawlers can enter your site from any indexed URL; that’s anything from your home page to a product page and everywhere in between. Once there, search engines are only going to spend a certain amount of time or crawl a certain number of pages on your site; this is known as a crawl budget. Once a crawler reaches it’s crawl budget, it leaves the site.

When it comes to your site, search engines will look at a particular page and identify other URLs to crawl from that page. Think of it as the crawler creating a map of your site. As it moves along, it records potential paths.

Indexing your content

Once crawled, the information the crawler gathered from your site is then analyzed to decide whether or not the page should be included within the index. This can include things like the URL structure and videos embedded on a page to headers and titles. Based on what has been gathered, the crawler will evaluate your site in order to gather meaning on what each page is about.

Ranking your content

Once analyzed and indexed, your site is then ranked accordingly for each individual query. This rank will depend on a variety of factors, some of which have been previously covered in these blog posts and some that are coming in future posts (so stay tuned!). But it’s important to note that ranking is an output of how a search engine crawled and indexed your site. So while it might be easy to focus on the output (ie: rank), one of the best ways to influence this is by making your site easier to navigate from a customer and crawler perspective.

How does site hierarchy impact your SEO performance?

To help crawlers complete all of the above effectively, you’re going to need to make sure your site is optimized as much as possible. This becomes even more crucial when you have brand new content which is yet to be discovered.

Reduce the number of clicks across the site

As mentioned, search engines have a crawl budget, so it’s important to make sure that every second that a crawler spends on your site is adding value. One way to do this is to make sure the number of pages a search engine navigates in order to get from the home page to where they are going is as minimal as possible.  Search engines will enter your site on “important” pages, such as the home page, high level category pages, or strongly ranked product pages, just to name a few. Making sure those pages link to highly related but less important pages will give these lower-level pages more visibility to both users and search engines so they can be found faster.   

Let’s think of your site structure from a customer perspective. Say a customer lands on your site through a high-trafficked category page but is looking for something very specific. Based on the site structure, the very specific thing the customer is looking for might be two clicks away or nine  clicks away. Certainly the size of your site will have an influence on what the “right number” of clicks should be, but making sure your site is not too deep will help customers, and thus, search engines crawl and parse it faster. The faster your site can be covered, the better the chance that the new content you just introduced will get crawled.

Create an inlinking strategy

Additionally, you should create an inlink structure. An inlink structure consists of similar pages on your site pointing directly to each other. For example, a Men’s Winter Coats page might not directly link to a page for Men’s Winter Gloves, given the existing site structure. However, you could inlink these two pages, since the content they feature is similar.

Creating this inlink structure makes it easier for a crawler to find more pages during each crawl session vs. just recursing through the same directory of pages over and over.  This approach will maximize their crawl budget.

How should you incorporate new content into your site?

Now that we’ve covered how crawlers work and how site structures impact their ability to move throughout your site, we should consider where to put the new landing pages that you’ve created. Anytime you create new landing pages, the goal is to make this content easy to find for your customers and search engines. Our next step is to determine where they should be nested within your site. Some things to consider are:

  1. Updating your site structure to include new pages.
  2. Including new pages in your inlinking strategy.
  3. Add these pages to your XML Sitemap.

Ultimately, the goal of creating this new content is to enhance your customer experience so making sure new pages are discoverable is critical to launching new pages successfully.

Updating your site structure to include new pages

Adding your newly created content to into an appropriate and relevant area of your site structure is one way for your customers and crawlers to discover it. You need to be mindful of fitting these new pages into your site’s hierarchy, whether it is in your top nav, side nav, or other navigation widgets you use on your site. Search engines will find your new content similar to the way that customers find it, so placing links to these pages in the areas suggested above will get your content one step closer to getting indexed, ranked, and found by your customers.  

Including new pages in your site’s linking strategy

You’ll also want to make sure your new pages are discoverable by including these new pages within your inlinking strategy on your site. Whether you have a strategy or not, some potential approaches to making sure these pages are discoverable are using product recommendations, pairing with similar items, and calling out your new content as being “new to the catalog”. But the main objective is to make sure your new content is reachable through multiple paths on your site.

Add these pages to your XML Sitemap

Last but not least, you should also add these pages into your XML Sitemap.  SEO Round Table recently posted an article about the recent changes Google made to their Webmaster Guidelines that placed more of an emphasis on adding pages into the sitemap.  

Summary

You’ve come a long way so far in identifying content gaps and creating unique content to fill in these gaps. The steps identified in this post will help make sure you see the payoff of this effort.

Chain link photo by Yandle published under Creative Commons license.