The impact of site architecture on search engine rankings, is quite substantial. In fact, there is a major co-relation between poor site architecture and poor search rankings. In addition to page content, search engines use signals such as the site architecture and information hierarchy of your site to determine how relevant a given webpage is to a keyword within a given search query.

Whilst you’re not expected to be a website designer, having a basic understanding of the inner workings of how a particular site’s architecture affects its SEO is essential.

Understanding Site Architecture

Site architecture is the approach to the design and planning of a website. Website architecture can mean the difference between being on at the top of the first page of Google, and being on Page 3 Position 4. It’s that important.

Think about site architecture from an accessibility standpoint – you want to make your content easy to navigate for both users and search engines. Therefore, developing a site that is both search engine compatible and user-friendly requires that you put some serious consideration into the content, usability, navigation, page layout and structure of the entire framework that supports your web site content.

The way in which you set up your site should tell the search engines exactly what each webpage is about and which is the most important page for each category or subcategory. In effect, your site should be organized with relevant categories pointing to relevant subcategories. For example, if you were on an e-commerce site browsing an online shoe store, you should be able to click on the ‘Men’s’ category and then browse into sub-categories such as ‘Athletics’, ‘Boots’, or ‘Sandals’. This simple click-path is not only search engine compatible, its user-friendly because it allows visitors to move about freely throughout the site without having to wonder what to do or where to go next.

Thus, search engine compatible site architecture is the process of organizing your site in such a way that search engines (and users) can get a good, clear picture of who you are, what your website is about and what your most important pages are so that your product and/or content pages can get crawled in large quantities.

What is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization is a widespread information architecture problem that typically occurs when multiple pages on a website have been optimized for the same keywords. In this scenario, the website owner is inadvertently competing with their own content. It occurs when webmasters intentionally optimize several pages for the same key term with a view to reinforcing the relevance of the entire site to that keyword. The problem is that the search engine spider will not know which webpage to show when people are searching for specific terms.

Keyword cannibalization is not to be taken lightly because it could be detrimental to any potential ranking for your target keyword. To maximize your chances of success of your SEO campaign, it is essential that any issues are resolved before the start of your SEO campaign.

It is important to make clear to Google which page you think is most relevant to a search query, and creating an organized keyword structure would be the ideal way to organize your content so that you avoid problems with keyword cannibalization. For example, let’s assume you’re trying to rank a page for the keyword “email marketing”. What people typically do is to create several pages that are all optimized for that keyword with a view to establishing the site’s authority for that keyword. So many pages optimized for the same keyword will ultimately lead to keyword cannibalization issues.

A much more effective solution would be to create a primary conversions page that is optimized for the term “email marketing.” You could then have additional child pages with relevant topics that are close to but do not compete with the main conversion page. These pages could be optimized for different synonyms and variations around the primary keyword email marketing. Examples of relevant topics directly related to email marketing include Email Marketing ROI, email marketing FAQs, Advantages of Email Marketing, How to Write Effective Subject Lines for Email Marketing, etc.

You can then build internal links from your child pages and external links pointing back to the primary conversions page, intelligently using anchor text that is optimized for the theme of the target page. This will let the search engine spiders know that your primary conversions page is your most important page, and where they should send your potential customers for the keyword email marketing. This will also have the effect of increasing the organic search ranking of the conversions page for the target keyword which is ultimately what you are aiming for.