How to Build Any Website for SEO + CRO Success

A how-to guide for designing a strategic site architecture, sitemap, categories and more. We provide actionable tips to help you optimize your website for keywords and CRO from launch day to well into the future.
September 6, 2023
4.5 minute read

Designing Your Site Architecture and Sitemap for SEO Success

Optimizing your site from the ground up for a profitable keyword strategy and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) 

Designing a well-structured site architecture and sitemap is crucial for both search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO). By organizing your website from broad to narrow, you can optimize each page for relevant keywords while ensuring a smooth user experience that maximizes conversions. In this article, we will explore the importance of a strategic site architecture and sitemaps, and provide actionable tips to help you optimize your website for keywords and CRO from launch day to well into the future.

1. Understand the Benefits of a Strategic Site Architecture

a. Keyword Optimization: A well-designed site architecture allows you to strategically assign relevant keywords to specific pages. By grouping related content together and organizing it hierarchically, you can optimize each page for specific keywords, enhancing their visibility in search engine results.

b. User Experience: A logical and intuitive site architecture improves user experience by making it easier for visitors to navigate your website. When users can quickly find what they're looking for, they are more likely to engage with your content and convert.

c. Internal Linking: An optimized site architecture enables effective internal linking, which helps search engines crawl and index your website more efficiently. Internal links also guide users to related content, increasing engagement and time spent on your site.

2. Start with Broad Categories

a. Identify Key Themes: Determine the broad categories or themes that represent the primary focus areas of your website. These themes should align with your target audience's needs and your business goals. These will serve as our parent (or top-level) categories across the site, and should be the most broad way of classifying all of your products or content across your site without being obtusely general.

b. Think About How Users Make Decisions: Consider how someone in your niche begins their shopping or decision making experience. Generally speaking, someone's first inquiry should be indicative of your top-level categories. For example, if someone needs a new suit, their first natural inquiry would be "Men's Suits" while they're still deciding what kind of suit they want. So your top level category should likely be "Men's Suits," and subcategories and subsequent filters should follow the decision making process by considering which features or factors users typically look for next: cut, color, length, size, etc.

c. Considerations for UX (User Experience): Design top-level pages that represent these broad categories. For example, if you're a fashion retailer, your top-level pages may include "Women's Clothing," "Men's Clothing," and "Accessories." Conversely, for sites with a larger SKU count or a large amount of content, your top level categories might also include a slightly less broad first subcategory to reduce the number of clicks a user needs to find the page they desire. Those categories might look something like "Dresses" "Skirts" Tops" "Bottoms" -- while these will still live under the "Women's Clothing" parent category, you may want to present the first level of subcategories more prominently for user experience sake so they can intuitively navigate your site with ease.

3. Establish Subcategories and Subpages

a. Refining Your Subcategories: Break down your top-level pages into more specific subcategories. For instance, under "Women's Clothing," you can have subcategories like "Dresses," "Tops," and "Bottoms." For most businesses with large SKU counts, these subcategories are still pretty broad. Whether you’re an e-commerce company or are creating content, clustering your products to create thorough niched subcategories is typically the most helpful approach for users. For instance, instead of subcategories like “Dresses” or “Tops,” we’ll turn those into broad parent categories and create more niched subcategories for Dresses like “Sun Dresses” “Sweater Dresses” “Sleeveless Dresses” and niched subcategories for Tops like “Collared Tops” “Cropped Tops” “Off the shoulder tops” “Blouses” and “Button Downs.” This approach combined with helpful filters caters to how people shop, while enabling a higher degree of relevance between your pages and more conversion-worthy keywords.

  • Bear in mind that most sites will have the ability to filter in addition to create subcategories, so there's no need to get extreme unless you have the inventory to support it. For example "Yellow Sun Dresses" would probably not be a subcategory unless you have a 50+ products, as well as enough products in other colors to support that subcategory structure level across your site. In most cases, you'll be better off using a filter, but there are certainly exceptions to this.

b. Optimize Subpages for Keywords: Assign relevant keywords to each subpage to ensure targeted optimization. Use keyword research tools to identify the most relevant and effective keywords for each subcategory. Implement these into headings, paragraph text, and technical elements such as title tags and meta descriptions.

c. SKU Count and User Experience: Consider the SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) count within each subcategory as a crucial factor for user experience, particularly for visitors coming from organic search. When users arrive on a subcategory page, they expect to find a variety of options to choose from. A higher SKU count provides them with a wider selection, increasing the likelihood of finding products that align with their preferences and needs.

d. Hyper-Profitable Long-Tail SEO Strategy: Extremely refined subcategories with a higher SKU count can contribute to a hyper-profitable long-tail SEO strategy. Long-tail keywords, which are more specific and have lower search volume, often indicate a higher intent to purchase. By offering a diverse range of products within these highly specific subcategories, you can target long-tail keywords effectively and attract highly qualified organic traffic. This strategy positions your website as a comprehensive resource for niche product searches, leading to improved conversion rates and potentially higher profitability.

e. Balancing SKU Count and Navigational Ease: While SKU count is important, it's crucial to maintain navigational ease within each subcategory. Ensure that users can easily browse through products without feeling overwhelmed. Implement filters, sorting options, and clear product displays to help users refine their search and find relevant products efficiently.

f. Regularly Update and Expand SKU Count: Continuously update and expand your SKU count within each subcategory to keep your website fresh and appealing to both users and search engines. Introduce new products, consider variations and color options, and address customer demands to ensure a robust and attractive selection within each subcategory.

By optimizing subcategories with a focus on SKU count and hyper-targeted long-tail SEO strategies, you can enhance user experience, drive targeted organic traffic, and increase the potential for profitable conversions. Monitor user behavior, keyword performance, and conversion rates to fine-tune your subcategory optimization strategy and capitalize on the long-tail SEO opportunities within your niche.

4. Integrate a Logical Navigation Structure

a. Clear and Consistent Menu: Design a user-friendly navigation menu that is present on every page. Ensure it clearly communicates the hierarchical structure of your website and provides easy access to all key sections.

b. Breadcrumb Navigation: Implement breadcrumb navigation to provide users with clear paths back to higher-level pages. Breadcrumbs also enhance search engine visibility by providing additional contextual information.

5. Create an XML Sitemap

a. Generate XML Sitemap: Generate an XML sitemap that lists all your web pages. This allows search engines to crawl and index your site more effectively, improving your SEO performance.

b. Submit to Search Engines: Submit your XML sitemap to search engines, such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. This helps search engines understand the structure of your site and index your pages more efficiently.

6. Continuously Monitor and Optimize

a. Track Keyword Performance: Regularly monitor the performance of your optimized pages using analytics tools. Track keyword rankings, organic traffic, and conversion rates to identify areas for improvement.

b. Conduct A/B Testing: Implement A/B testing to experiment with different elements on your pages, such as headlines, layouts, or calls-to-action. Test variations and measure their impact on conversion rates to optimize your pages for CRO.

Designing a site architecture and sitemap that works from broad to narrow is essential for optimizing each page for relevant keywords and conversion rate optimization. By strategically organizing your website, assigning keywords, and focusing on user experience, you can drive targeted organic traffic and improve conversion rates. Continuously monitor and optimize your site structure, track keyword performance, and conduct A/B testing to refine your approach. With a well-optimized site architecture, your website will have a solid foundation for both SEO and CRO success.

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