Your Superman Pages are your most important for search engine optimization (SEO) - the ones you want to perform best on search engines. Get your site's navigation wrong and your Superman Pages will be trapped in a basement full of kryptonite. Here I show how to optimize your website's navigation for search engines and set Superman free.
Site navigation is crucial for three reasons (two of them fundamental to SEO):
• Usability - helping users find what they want.
• Indexing - helping search engines find all your pages.
• Link power - distributing it to all your pages.
Only if a page is indexed by a search engine (eg, Google) can it appear on that engine's results pages.
Link power comes from other sites linking to yours. And for all but the least competitive of keywords, it is the most important factor in determining where a page appears on search engine results pages (SERPs). Link power is crucial and your pages can't have enough of it (especially your most-important pages - your Superman Pages).
Good usability is a must if you want to maximize response. So let's say it's a given that the usability team can do more or less what they want and SEO must then adapt to that (without messing it up).
The first thing usability might ask for is a search box. That's a good start for users but no use for SEO as search engines can’t 'search' with search boxes (they are simple things). Search engines need links.
An obvious next move to help users is to let your site’s structure determine your navigation. So if you had a travel site like tripadvisor.com and organized all your content by geographical region starting with continents at the top, then countries and towns at the bottom, your site’s structure might look something like this:
• Home > Continents > Countries > Towns
• Home > Europe > France > Paris
The obvious way to organize your navigation might be to first have a menu to all ‘Continents’ on the home page, perhaps like this menu of links on tripadvisor.com:
Then on each ‘Continent’ page, a menu to relevant ‘Countries’ like this:
Then on each ‘Country’ page, a menu to relevant ‘Towns’ like this:
That's logical enough. Users can just click through from Continent to Country to Town until they find wherever they are looking for.
That looks like it might work for search engines too. They can just follow the same links and find every page, right?
Yes they can but some of your Town pages will be among your most important, and they are deep within your site’s structure. Eg, your Dublin, New York and Paris pages targeting keywords containing hotels in Dublin, hotels in New York, and hotels in Paris. This raises the following:
• A problem - search engine spiders might not always go that deep so important pages might not get indexed (this is a disaster).
• A missed opportunity - even if those deep pages are indexed (including by any Site Map) they will receive a tiny portion of your site's crucial link power.
Let's concentrate on that missed opportunity - the link power thing ...
Don't trap your Superman Pages in a basement full of kryptonite
Most sites’ inbound links are concentrated on their home pages. The resulting 'link power' is then shared around via internal links - your navigation. Let's simplify the maths involved and say that:
• Your home page receives 100 units of link power and is strong. It then links to 100 pages and divides its link power amongst them.
• Each of those linked-to pages now has just one unit of link power. They have 100th of the link power of the home page and already seem quite weak.
• If those weak pages now in turn link to a further 100 pages they have just one unit of link power to share around.
• So each page they link to has just 100th of a unit of link power. They have 1,000th of the link power of the home page and are downright puny.
The greater the number of clicks a page is away from the home page, the less link power it gets, the weaker it is and the harder it is for it to rank well on SERPs. This, remember, is because for all but the least competitive of keywords, link power is the most important factor in determining where a page appears on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Back on our travel site, those puny pages include some of our most important, like those for Dublin, New York and Paris. That's not right. These need be our strongest pages - these are our Superman Pages - doing battle against the competition and winning the fight to the top of the SERPs.
But our 'site navigation by structure' has made them too weak to do much ...
... we've trapped our Superman Pages in a basement full of kryptonite.
Giving Superman back his powers
The first lesson is to get as many links going to deep pages as possible. That's a link building job for another article (better still a link building book and we'll be publishing one early in the New Year).
Also, go beyond 'navigation by structure' and offer menus with direct links to your most important pages (your Superman Pages). This allows search engines to find those pages with as few clicks as possible from the home page. So they will get a lot more link power and be indexed more often.
(Works for users too because they want to find the same pages you want to promote. That's why you want to promote them.)
Back on Tripadvisor, a real travel site, we can see it has made such menus. The following three menus are offered on the home page to make sure both search engines and users can quickly get to the site’s most important pages ...
1. The Hotels in popular destinations menu gives links directly from the home page to some of the pages they most want to promote (its Superman Pages). See image:
Note how the link text – the actual words clicked to link – are the keywords the pages are targeting, eg, Chicago hotels, Venice hotels. They could simply have used Chicago and Venice, but the link text gives an ‘SEO boost’ to the text used.
2. The Top Destinations menu is also on the home page and gives links directly to another collection of most-important pages. It reveals more targeted keywords with its link text, including family vacations and golf vacations. See image:
3. The Today's Top 10 menu (also on the home page) links to some very specific deep pages. See grab:
1. Prioritize your top 50 target keywords. Your prioritized list of target keywords is your SEO strategy.
2. Focus on single keywords but always be targeting all keywords containing your target keyword. Eg, focus on hotels in dublin but you're really targeting all keywords containing hotels in dublin (the hotels in dublin 'keyword niche') including dublin hotels and hotels in dublin ireland.
3. Identify your Superman Pages - the pages chosen to target your top 50 prioritized keywords.
4. No matter what site navigation you have for usability, find a way of linking directly to your Superman Pages from your home page (and more). Eg, create menus listing 'Most Popular Pages', 'Favorite Articles', 'Top 10 Products', whatever works for your site.
5. Direct some link building efforts towards getting other sites to link directly to pages deep in your site's structure, especially to your Superman Pages.
6. Make the most of your home page as it's by far your most powerful. Use it to target your most ambitious keywords and the most keywords. You need text to do this - so find a way of adding lots of relevant text to your home page.
7. Monitor results, review your top 50 keywords and make appropriate changes.
Place this work within a more complete SEO process.
This article was originally published on Wordtracker.com.