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Best Site Architecture for Search Engine Optimization

In a Google Webmaster Hangout John Mueller answered a question regarding best site architecture.

For those who may not know, John Mueller is a webmaster trends analyst / developer advocate at Google, connecting the internal search engineering teams with the “real” world outside of Google. 

You can find him on Twitter, YouTube and Reddit reaching out and answering questions posed by SEOs.

In the Webmaster Hangout video, Mueller stated that it was advisable to use a site architecture with meaningful categories.

“In general I’d be careful to avoid setting up a situation where normal website navigation doesn’t work.

So we should be able to crawl from one URL to any other URL on your website just by following the links on the page.

Mueller further expanded on that idea:

“If that’s not possible then we lose a lot of context.

So if we’re only seeing these URLs through your sitemap file then we don’t really know how these URLs are related to each other and it makes it really hard for us to be able to understand how relevant this piece of content is in the context of your website.

So that’s one thing to… watch out for.”

John Mueller. “English Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout.” YouTube, 08 Feb. 2019,

It seems like Mueller is discussing how a theme pyramid style structure (hierarchical site architecture) communicates semantic relatedness.

This could mean that Google looks at a website like a series of nodes and edges, where the nodes are the pages all interconnected by relevant topics

Just like in data crawling where a node is an entity and an edge is the relationship between entities –  we need to think of a web page as the node and the link between pages as the edge.

What is a Pyramid Style Web Structure?

A pyramid style web structure was first written about in 2002 by the founder of Pubcon, Brett Tabke.

It is designed in a way to make good use of PageRank and link text while giving users a simple navigation.

The original article is not online anymore but I will summarize (with my personal notes) and you can read the expansion that still exists in the webmaster world forum. 

Optimized Site Structure

Home Page 

What are the most common textual links to the main domain? 

In “Search Engine Theme Pyramids and Google,” Tabke uses an example website about widgets, called 

When creating a title for the homepage view the website with your favorite SEO tool that is able to show the anchor text by referring domains. 

To continue our example, we find the majority of backlinks to use the word “widget” or “widgets.”

This tells us to title the home page, “Widget World, we sell Widgets.”

To reinforce this, internally link back to the home page from every page on the site, using the link text, Widget World, we sell Widgets.

Keep Important Phrases High in the Pyramid

It is true that PageRank is diluted with each additional link – but you get to choose which pages get more than their fair share of PageRank.

First determine the importance of keywords by looking at the competition for the words in relation to the profitability of the product. 

Ie: Do more people search for (and buy) blue widgets, large widgets or fuzzy widgets?

The decision to categorize as /blue/fuzzy/large/, /blue/large/fuzzy/, /large/blue/fuzzy/, /large/fuzzy/blue/, /fuzzy/blue/large/ or /fuzzy/large/blue/ will depend on the competition for the words.

It is important to note that Google likes matching phrases.

If more people are searching for “fuzzy blue widgets” than “fuzzy blue widget” then the page title becomes:

  • “Fuzzy Blue Widgets from Widget World”
  • NOT “Fuzzy Blue Widget Collection from World of Widgets”

White Paper Test

This is an extremely simple way to check your work.

Take out a blank piece of paper.

Write the site structure down.

Does it make sense?

Would someone know what this website is about?

Can they easily reach each desired conversion within 3 clicks?

Separate Domains and SubDomains

Some web designers may put the second level (blue in this example) on a subdomain. 

Leading us to the question, which is better for seo a subdomain or subfolders?

It depends (iconic SEO words.)

If the website can get more directory listings (or links) with a subdomain then a subdomain becomes ideal.

Otherwise it will not help. 

Be careful of creating subdomains that link to each other as there is potential for a penalty.

Hub and spoke relationships between a main domain and subdomain seem to be ok.

An example would be if the color based subdomains are only linking to and from the central domain, but not between each other, this should be ok.

This article was an extension of the basic SEO checklist for WordPress websites.

Connect on LinkedIn or send me a note, if you’d like to see video tutorials covering this method.

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