As previously mentioned in this series, site structure, navigation and internal linking are critically important in terms of SEO for a number of reasons:
You should review your site structure and internal linking at two stages during your website design and development process:
While well designed internal linking structures don’t always translate into internal linking structures that crawlers can easily navigate, you can tell whether you're on the right path by looking at preliminary designs.
Things to look out for at this stage:
Now that you've reviewed your designs, you'll want to test whether your internal linking is actually behaving as expected in the designs. You can test this by clicking through the site and ensuring that everything behaves as expected as per points 1-3 in the Reviewing Designs section above. You can also use a crawling tool like Screaming Frog to verify that:
Crawl depth refers to the number of clicks you need to reach a specific page from the homepage using the shortest path. A page directly linked to the homepage is at depth 1 (the homepage itself is always at depth 0).
Note: a crawler obviously won’t always enter your website via the homepage, in which case crawl depth starts from the point that they enter. However, for simplicity we use the homepage which is more often than not one of the primary entry points to your website.
If you want to check the crawl depth of all the pages on your site, you can use the Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool.
1. Simply enter your website's URL and click "Start." The report will take a few minutes to generate.
2. Once your site has been crawled, click the “HTML” tab under “Internal” and then “Export” the report.
3. Open the exported spreadsheet and freeze the first row then find the “Crawl Depth” column and sort descending.
If you see a lot of pages with a high crawl depth (e.g. 5+), then you will need to review your internal linking structures and ensure that these groups of pages are linked to from pages at a lower depth; this change will help mitigate against the risk that Google will never find them.
Content clusters are groups of related content on a website, organized via internal links into a cluster around a central topic. Typically, these clusters follow a Hub and Spoke model. The Hub page will be the main page about a broad topic, which links off to other related pages / posts on related sub-topics, which in turn link back to the Hub page.
In a nutshell, content clusters around a single related topic indicate to Google that a website is an authority on a specific subject.
Content clusters help to improve the organic rankings of all the content within that cluster in two key ways:
Organizing content into topical clusters not only tells Google that your pages are relevant to a specific topic but also that they are more likely to be authoritative than the content produced by your competitors. They also tend to keep your crawl depths low!
In Screaming Frog, the force-directed crawl diagrams are like a heat-map, with the start URL represented by the darkest green, largest node (the circles) in the middle. This is generally the homepage if you started the crawl there. The lines (known as ‘edges’) represent the link between one URL and another (by shortest path, if you’ve been listening).
Right away when looking at this visualization, you’ll be able to see whether your content is structured in clusters with higher level Hub pages linking off to lots of related spoke pages.
If you notice that nodes (pages) are generally structured in a hub and spoke manner, then your content is more than likely to be optimally clustered around topics. You can focus on specific HUB pages to view Spoke pages that they link to.
By default, nodes are scaled based on crawl depth - pages with lower crawl depth are represented by larger nodes whilst pages with higher crawl depth are represented by smaller nodes.
If you notice lots of small outlier nodes in this diagram, you should review each of them and decide whether they can be better integrated into an existing content cluster to reduce crawl depth and attract a larger share of link value from related pages.
Now that you’ve reviewed your staging site for internal linking, you’re almost ready to go live! Your final step before go-live is a quick Staging Site Performance Review.
Check out the other blog posts in this series on SEO for a Website Migration:
Activation & Performance
June 16, 2022
It’s launch day for your website & you've already taken care of the basics from 301 redirects to performance optimization. Time for a post-launch check up!
Activation & Performance
June 16, 2022
Before your site goes live, it's important to review your staging site performance to ensure pages load quickly & can be crawled efficiently. Read how in this post.