Many times, a site gets very large and its ability to rank well in competitive markets decreases in part because of the size of the site. While we in the business know that content is king, more often than not it is a combination of content and effective site structure which will ultimately help your pages rank.
In this article I look at how to most effectively structure your site to take advantage of this.
I read this great article on layering on the SEOmoz Blog http://www.seomoz.org/blogdetail.php?ID=789 and while it does a good job of explaining what content layering is, I feel it could be improved just a little bit.
I’m not saying it is wrong in any way. In fact the tactic outlined will be very effective for a small to medium sized site, however I have also found another way to organize your site which can be more effective if done properly.
In the article, it explains how you use layers to organize your site. Now we’re not talking about CSS layering or anything like that. It’s more of a site structure issue than anything.
According to the article, one can layer their site through the use of sub-folders. By creating layers of sub-folders and then placing all related content within that sub-folder you can layer your site to help specific sections of it rank higher.
This is a great way to organize a smaller site because it allows you to place topical pages together, and promote links within the pages to help improve overall positioning of these sections.
Further, it helps reduce the dilution factor often felt by sites that attempt to cover multiple topics in a flat file structure.
For example, if you sell widgets you could organize the sections by some common element, such as color. That way your site could be: http://widgetts.com/blue/page1.html and all blue widget pages would go into this sub-folder. You’d then organize all other sub-folders in a similar style.
Like I said, I think this is a very effective strategy for a smaller or medium site. There would be a much greater chance of blue widgets ranking highly in a structure like this.
However, I feel that for larger sites there’s an even more effective way to organize your content.
Through the use of sub-domains one could further organize this content. This would make it even more relevant to search queries and more likely to rank. If one sold a larger variety of widgets yet still wanted to organize them by color then the structure of the site would be: http://blue.widgetts.com and all site content relating to blue widgets would appear within this sub-domain.
The reason I say sub-domains would be more effective is because search engines tend to treat a sub-domain as its own site. In other words, a search engine sees http://blue.widgetts.com and http://widgetts.com as essentially 2 different sites.
Keep in mind that such a strategy is of the most benefit to larger sites. If you don’t have a large site, or don’t foresee your site growing to become a large site then I wouldn’t recommend the sub-domain layering tactic.
This is because, as I’ve said, the search engines will treat your sub-domain as a unique site. So if you’ve only got 10 or 15 or even 50 pages in your sub-domain, chances are it won’t rank as competitively as it would have as a sub-folder of a larger site.
Now, to make your content even more competitive, why not combine these two strategies – use a sub-domain and sub-folders to provide you even more control in site organization as well as an even greater chance of ranking.
This is because the broader sub-domain can rank competitively for the broader terms while the sub-folder content can rank competitively for the less broad, more specific terms.
What you are doing by combining the two strategies is getting more bang for your buck. This is because you are covering more area on the web, allowing your site to rank for both broad and specific terms.
Then, with some good strategic interlinking you will be able to even further promote the broad areas of your site by linking all your internal pages to the pages above it.
While I’m not entirely dismissing the layered content theory presented above, I am saying consider your situation. If your site is a smaller site, by all means use the layered content approach. If it’s larger then use the sub-domain approach.
Also remember that there could be multiple ways to organize the same content.
For example, in addition to organizing your sub-domains or sub-folders by color in the widget example, also consider organizing them by features. This way, a chosen widget could be linked to from multiple related categories.
Not only that but you’ve now bulked up your site with a bunch of additional pages. These new pages are required to help create the sub-domains and navigation required to drive visitors to the individual widget pages.
This type of multi-category linking is common among many large sites. One good example is Ebay. It organizes its top auctions into sub-domains like antiques, art, autos and clothing. Then, within the categories the sub-folder structure is used to further segment the site.
In conclusion, if you’ve been looking for a way to most effectively organize your site while helping to improve rankings, consider these options. Through the use of sub-folders, sub-domains or a combination of both you can effectively organize your site, segment your products and target searchers more effectively.