12 Tips for Optimizing Your Blog’s Structure

12 Tips for Optimizing Your Blog’s Structure thumbnail

It’s not spring, but it’s time for some deep cleaning.

Stop. Put down the Swiffer. The kind of cleaning we mean is purely virtual: a tidying up of your blog structure.

(Still need to set up your blog? We can help you with shared hosting.)

Without a systematized structure, your blog is just a haphazard collection of pages and posts. You want eyes on your site — but not if it means your visitors are wandering around in the digital version of your grandma’s mothball-filled attic.

Why else does a clean blog structure matter?

Well, it’s crucial for enhancing SEO. An organized hierarchy of pages optimized for search algorithms allows crawlers to better find your pages — and be found by readers.

Additionally, it leads to a better user experience — don’t believe us? The content experts agree! When your blog structure is primed for fuss-free navigability, your visitors will be able to find what they’re looking for, helping lower your site’s bounce rates and increase rankings.

It’s a little effort that reaps tremendous returns. And if the process seems complicated — it’s not. Cleaning up your blog structure is not overly technical and can be improved in a few key steps.

Armed with our online cleaning tools, we’re ready to brush off the dust — we’ve compiled 12 tips that will help you declutter your site, attract readers, and leave you perfectly poised for search engines.

Time to get down and dirty.

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1. Plan It Out

Like we mentioned, without a solid site structure, you aren’t doing your blog any favors. Before you get to tweaking, it’s a good idea to plan out your structure, even roughly, based on the size of your site and what your overall goals are. Take to pencil and paper (we know, old school) to sketch out a basic outline of the hierarchy.

What should it look like? Well, think of it as a kind of pyramid. The top — the point — is your homepage, where everything starts. From there, you expand to your different categories, (different depending on the kind of site you have), and subcategories within those. Basically, something like this:

Try to keep it simple. Does the structure you’ve drawn up match your goals? Does it accommodate an evolving, growing site? Try to place your existing content in these categories. If some of it doesn’t fit, consider removing or repurposing it (see No. 7).

(If you’re wanting to dig deeper, consider a comprehensive content audit).

Now, you have a plan. You can start moving toward improving your structure.

2. Create a Makes-Sense Menu

Does it take a visitor more than a few seconds to understand where things are on your blog? Bad news.

As it makes up the basic structure of your site, you need a focused menu front and center so that your readers can clearly and easily navigate between pages without much thought. I mean, what is the point of owning your online content if no one can find it?

Sure, there are multiple ways to get to various pieces of content, but a solid menu betters your chance of helping readers find what they’re looking for, and prevent them from becoming frustrated and jumping to a different site — likely a competitor’s.

Make it clear and logical. Make sure there are “Home” and “Contact” options included.

Michelle Lopez‘s food blog Hummingbird High features a clear, easy-to-navigate menu.

This is easily the most important jumping off point from your site, so make it clear and helpful.

3. Scatter Categories

Along with creating a strong menu is outfitting it with categories (and subcategories) that are functional and balanced.

Your categories should identify and group the things you blog about most — whether that be fashion, business, tech, or another niche. This makes it easy for visitors — especially new ones — to find content that is of use to them. Plus, those posts you worked so hard to produce? They’re meeting the eyes of readers!

The categories on Mashable’s menu make it simple to find the kind of content you want.

In addition to helping your user, you’re helping your SEO; using category pages to link to similar material helps prevent you from having content compete against content for rankings.

Any reader of Coffee + Crumbs is easily guided to a variety of content.

Category pages offering some basic introductory text and links to the best or most popular posts of that category can also be useful.

4. Tags, You’re It

Deeper into the hierarchy of your blog structure (or, down towards the bottom of the pyramid) you can use tags to identify additional distinguishers — beyond categories and subcategories.

Each of your posts can contain several tags and these tags can apply to more than one category, typically describing specific details about the content.

A post on the TED Blog demonstrates various tags that help further group content.

Tags should not duplicate your categories, but rather, they can sort and group more specific content. Avoid creating too many tags — each one should contain at least a handful of posts.

5. Rethink Your Permalinks

So, what’s a permalink?  

In a few words, it’s the permanent URL that links to your individual blog posts, pages, and other content on your site. It’s also the URL that others will use to link to your content, so having a good permalink structure is important. The way they look can help search engines more easily identify your content. It can help with your ranking, too.

WordPress allows you to structure your permalinks based on a number of options:

The best choice is ‘post name’; it more clearly identifies your content and follows the hierarchy of your structure. Avoid the dreaded “Default” setting — it’s an SEO nightmare.

With permalinks, you’ve probably also heard the term ‘slug,’ meaning the tail end of your URL. You DreamHost users out there can utilize Remixer to assign slugs manually and prevent them from being overly lengthy or confusing.

You can read a more exhaustive guide on permalink structures here, and how to change them in WordPress here.

6. Play Hansel and Gretel

The young children of German fairy tale legend left breadcrumbs to find their way back through the forest; on your blog, breadcrumbs are a handy navigational tool that allows visitors to see where they are in the hierarchy of your site structure — and to aid Google in understanding your site.

While it helps users find their way through your site, and see where particular pieces of content fit into the whole, breadcrumbs also help search engines know how important your content is. If you’ve placed it high up in your hierarchy, Google will give it more weight than something you’ve buried.

For this — as well as many other tasks in restructuring your blog — you can use the Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin.

7. Clean Out Your (Content) Closet

Let’s face it. Those shoulder pads from the 80s are not coming back in style. And if your blog content isn’t evergreen (meaning always relevant no matter when someone reads it), then it’s not either. Plus, old rusty content is not helping your SEO game.

Earlier, while drawing up your organizational sketch, you may have identified content — whether outdated, irrelevant, or unpopular — that no longer fit into your site’s revamped structure. Now is the time to purge those past-their-prime posts.

You do have to go about this with care, however. Simply deleting a post can affect relative links. If you choose to delete a post, you must send a correct 410 “content deleted” header (a task Yoast also handles) so that Google can remove the URL from its index.

You don’t want to get stuck with one of these unless the content is truly unusable or you lack a similar page for a redirect.

So think twice before sending that post to the trash; if the content is still relevant or can be used in a new way, brush off the dust and repurpose it.

Otherwise, it’s important to have a redirect structure in place; redirecting the URL to another location, like a post with similar content, or even to a category or homepage allows you to continue benefiting from the links to those pages, even if they’re not there anymore. Here, the Yoast SEO plugin can also serve you well — it takes care of the redirect so that your outdated content no longer negatively affects your shiny new site structure.

8. Internal Affairs

As you can probably gather, enhancing your site structure is aimed, in a lot of ways, at helping search engines find you, so that your content ranks.

A solid internal linking structure is key to this. As posts lower down in your site hierarchy are linked to key pieces at the top, related content is connected to each other, and increases the ranking potential of each page (Cornerstone content plays a role in this — see No. 9). It also aids in getting more traffic on your site. So a win-win, right?

How do you connect these pieces of content? An internal link (like this one!) points to another page on your site. They should be relevant to the content and placed with appropriate — and accurate — anchor text. Don’t overwhelm your posts with internal links, as this can annoy and confuse the reader, and search engines won’t crawl more than 150 links per page.

Not to brag or anything, but this post from our blog demonstrates a decent internal linking structure.

9. Lay the Bedrock

Let’s have a little amateur architecture lesson, shall we?

One of the most important pieces of a structure is the cornerstone. It’s the key piece that the structure depends on, and it is crucial for establishing a solid foundation.

In terms of your website, your cornerstone is made up of:

  • Content that is evergreen and high quality
  • Content that is maintained and updated often
  • Content that’s optimized for keywords
  • Content that is high at the top of your site’s hierarchy
  • Content that you want showing up high in search engines
  • Content that you want readers to see first when visiting your site
  • Content that produces lots of subtopics

You can identify these articles as cornerstone pieces in Yoast. You’ll want at least one in each category of your site.

The idea behind cornerstone content is again, not to have your content competing against itself, and also, to let Google know which posts are most important, which can help with ranking — even with competitive keywords.

These types of articles should be a short one-or-two clicks away from your homepage, and all relating articles should link to the corresponding cornerstone post. This helps this content to rank.

Cornerstone content takes time and a strategy to develop but can help you make a lot of headway in terms of building a solid site structure that benefits your site’s performance.

10. Be Worthy of Sitelinks

On many of your Google searches, you’ve probably noticed that the first result produces a link to the main page of the site, and below it, indented links to what appear to be other popular pages of content. Like this:

These additional linked results are called sitelinks. They add increased navigability to your site by positioning important links from your site with the root search result; it helps readers find what they’re looking for even more quickly and helps you build authority for your brand.

How does that happen? Well, it’s Google’s doing. Google rewards sites with a logical and intuitive structure with sitelinks, meaning not all sites have them when searched.

Google itself says that it provides sitelinks they think will be useful to the user, and a quality internal linking structure (see No. 8) helps produce them.

You can also provide Google with a sitemap, a file you create to help crawlers better understand your site and provide it with metadata. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin for WordPress can help you create a sitemap — and then share it with Google. If not, tell them yourself.

In the end, it’s Google that makes the call surrounding sitelinks, but use that as an additional motivator to establish a clean and organized blog structure — you could be well rewarded with more traffic and improved click-through rates.

11. Don’t Wait — Paginate

How do your website visitors access older content? Are they forced to repeatedly click on the “Older Posts” button? Are they infinitely scrolling through a never-ending sea of content?

While lots of blogs employ these types of tactics to archive older content — they’re not the best way, at least SEO-speaking.

Pagination is a smarter choice. This way, visitors can cover more content in more valuable clicks. There is a clear “start” and “end” journey.

The HubSpot blog uses pagination to help visitors access a lot of content at once.

You don’t want your content relegated to a cold, dusty corner of your site — you want it seen (not just for traffic, but for SEO, too), so position it for easy consumption with a targeted number of clicks.

12. Touch Up

Like most cleaning projects, tidying up your blog structure isn’t a one-and-done affair; it requires regular touch ups as your blog — and Google’s algorithms — grow and evolve.

Regularly revisit your site structure plan to update it for changes — whether those be alterations in your goals, or with your growth. This helps your structure remain fresh and optimized.

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Wrapping It Up

Here at DreamHost, we’re committed making your blog the best it can be. We know that a key to a successful site is a smart and organized structure. So let us know: did any of these tips help you whip your blog into tip-top shape? What else have you found to be helpful for cleaning up your site? Join the DreamHost community and start the conversation!

Photo of Jason Cosper
About the Author:

Jason is DreamHost’s WordPress Product Advocate, based out of Bakersfield, CA. He is currently working on making our DreamPress product even better. In his free time, he likes to curl up on the couch and watch scary movies with his wife Sarah and three very small dogs. Follow him on Twitter.