Four approaches to structure your website
What Site Architecture is best? Flat, Themed, Clustered or Fluid...
How you structure your site is one of the most important things to consider when you are planning on launching a new website. Getting it right makes it easier to keep the content fresh, and makes it easier for site visitors to get what they want. In tangible terms, the right structure can mean fewer hours in having to create and update content, more conversions and more organic traffic. In this article, HammaJack’s co-founder and Content lead, Ian Hammond and Professional Placement Student, Louis Devine unpack the pros and cons of the three main approaches.
Ways of structuring your site
After reading an informative post from Google’s John Mueller about the different types of site structures, we thought we’d put together a summary — in more relevant terms for our clients.
Flat website structure
What is it?
A Flat Site Structure, in contrast to a Deep Site Structure, is a website which requires the least amount of clicks to access any page on the site.
What’s good about a flat website structure?
Flat Website Structures can be advantageous as they are easy to maintain and, if done well can look very clean, organised and are easy for a user to navigate.
What’s bad about a flat website structure
Flat Website Structures make it difficult for Google’s crawlers to understand what your site is about, due to the lack of content. When using a Flat Website Structure, typically each page will focus on a unique offering of your business (all of which may be vastly different) - this makes it difficult for Google to understand your site and your unique offering, negatively affecting how your site ranks on Google. It is also more difficult from a site administration point of view, especially with larger sites as every page is given the same parent.
Examples of websites with a flat structure
This is a visual representation of a website with a Flat Structure. The large green dot in the centre is the homepage, and the smaller red dots around it are the website pages. As you can see, all the site pages are only one click away from the homepage.
Theme Pyramid Website Structure
What is it?
Theme Pyramids, also known as a Deep Structure, are websites which are built around pillar pages. In essence, the pillar pages would be the unique offering of your business (which we spoke about in flat structures), which then has other pages which talk in more detail about the specifics of this offering. - For example HammaJack (home page) - Digital Marketing (pillar page) - Social Media Marketing (specifics of offering).
What’s good about a themed website structure?
Theme Pyramids require less technical effort to rank well for SEO, as Google can understand in a greater depth what products and services your business offers and their hierarchy of importance, as there is a large amount of content around these key areas - clearly telling Google that this is an important area of your website/business.
What’s bad about a themed website structure?
Similarly to a flat website, it can be difficult to attract the most amount of traffic possible, as you are not ranking for long tail keywords/questions which people are searching Google for answers.
Examples of websites with a themed structure
This is a basic example of a Themed Structure, it includes pillar pages around core offerings/services, however, lacks further data driven content, such as blogs, which help to generate more traffic. The light green dots at the end of the arms represent the pillar page and its related offerings, however, as you will see in the next image, including blogs adds another level of depth.
Clustered Website Structure
What is it?
Clustered Website Structures are very similar to Theme Pyramids, however they have a more strategic, data-driven approach. Not only do they go into greater detail about the services you offer, but they also include blog posts and other content which might not be directly relevant to a service you offer, but may answer questions which people on Google are wanting answers to - with relevance to your pillar pages. - For example HammaJack (home page) - Digital Marketing (pillar page) - Social Media Marketing (specifics of offering) - Advertising Alcohol with Ads (blog).
What’s good about a clustered website structure?
A Structured Website attracts more traffic than a Themed Website, as they attract a wider audience through blogs (keyword targeting) which have high search volume. Therefore, Clustered Website’s are more inclined to harness inbound leads due to the positive way they interact with your constantly-expanding audience. Clustered websites are perfect for utilising the Hubspot Inbound Methodology.
What’s bad about a clustered website structure?
The downside of a Clustered Website Structure is that they require a great deal of maintenance, and need to be constantly updated with new content to stay relevant. It is often evidently clear to your audience when you are not updating your website or blogs, which can result in a negative effect for your business.
Examples of websites with a clustered structure
This is an example of a Clustered Website Structure. The dark green dot is the home page, and the lighter green dots at the end of the arms are the pillar pages. Contrary to Pyramid Themes, Clustered Website’s also have cluster content (blogs) which is specific to the pillar or topic. For example, at HammaJack our pillar pages are Digital Marketing, Web Analytics and Consulting - the three diverse areas we specialise in, and then we build more detailed content around these areas in the form of blogs using tags and categories to define them.
Fluid Website Architecture
What is it?
Fluid Website Architecture is a technical way of bypassing the themes or categories by replacing these with a letter or something that search engines will bypass - effectively elevating the page title.
Under a themed/cluster website structure you might have:
Whereas, with a fluid architecture, it might be:
What’s good about a fluid website structure?
If done right, you could promote the individual pages on your site above the category (or themes).
Theoretically, I suppose, you might want to try this if you’re looking to surface a number of articles or long-tail targets.
What’s bad about a fluid website structure?
As Mueller indicates, you’re putting search factors ahead of usability. Which, we do not recommend. This is generally the rule with search these days. The robots and algorithm are continually changing to stop SEOers ‘gaming’ Google.
So, the question, therefore, if a Fluid Website Structure makes sense from a usability perspective, then don't discount it.
Most Important Point
There’s more to site architecture than most people think. Depending on your business and marketing goals there may be another way to set your site architecture, however, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each approach to save you time and get you the right kind of traffic.
If you would like more information as to whether you have set your site up in the most effective way to meet your goals — reach out for a chat and we will talk you through it.