How Site Navigation Affects SEO
Site navigation affects SEO and user experience; it’s important to understand how to help your reader navigate your site.
All too often, bloggers create their site navigation without putting much, if any, thought into the purpose of each menu item. It’s important, however, to understand how site navigation affects SEO, helping you be more in control of your reader’s path.
In conversations about factors that affect SEO, you most likely hear about using keywords properly, adding headings to your content, and ensuring the use of custom meta descriptions. While there are many factors affecting your site’s SEO, user experience is one of the most important factors to consider.
What is user experience? In your quest for SEO-awesomeness, you may have come across the term “UX”, which stands for “user experience”. User experience is essentially the experience your readers have when they visit your site.
According to Forbes, there are 6 factors that affect SEO from a user experience perspective. They are:
- Site Speed
- Site Security
- Intuitive Navigation
- Internal Linking
- Mobile Optimization
- Bounce Rates
While I could sit here and wax poetic about each of these factors, for the sake of time (and your sanity), we’re going to focus solely on #3 in that list – Intuitive Navigation.
Side note: In addition to affecting user experience, your site navigation also affects crawlability, which means how search bots crawl and index your site. So it’s a big deal. Just sayin’.
How site navigation affects SEO
Your site navigation should serve two main purposes: (1) to tell readers what topics your site covers and (2) to give readers a path to follow.
When you have a well-thought-out menu on your website, you are providing your readers with easier navigation to your most important content, while also giving them more internal links to click on. These things combine to increase time spent on your site and lower your bounce rate. Hello SEO!
Your blog categories and the types of content you offer should tell readers, at a glance, what they can expect to gain from your site.
At a glance, visitors to Sweet Tea, LLC can see that they will find resources about content strategy, email, blog tech, and business mindset, in written blog post format, as well as podcast and video format.
Now let’s talk about that path.
For example, when someone lands on your site, your site navigation should help them…well, navigate.
When readers come to Sweet Tea, LLC, they see a “Start Here” page in the navigation. From there, I offer a few options for where to go next, both in the drop-down menu beneath that page navigation, and within the page itself:
By controlling the path my readers take when navigating my site, I help improve their user experience, help them learn more about how to work with me, and help them get access to the free resources I provide, which adds value to their visit.
So, what does all this have to do with SEO?
When creating your site navigation, follow these tips to ensure a positive user experience:
#1 – Keep Your Site Navigation Simple
Search bots & readers alike get overwhelmed with tons of navigational options, so keep it simple! Limit your main categories to 3-5, not 35. And if you use subcategories, keep those simple, too.
The more links you have in your main navigation, the harder it is for search bots to know what your site is about, and the harder it is for readers to smoothly navigate your site.
#2 – Keep Your Categories Balanced
Google has straight-up said (out loud!) that they really love it when you have pretty close to the same number of blog posts in every category. What that means is, if you have one category with 15 posts and another with 150, you need to do some restructuring.
Maybe that category with only 15 posts can become a subcategory of something else, or maybe you can break up that huge category into two smaller categories. As you plan your future content, be intentional about rotating through each main category regularly to maintain a healthy balance.
#3 – Optimize Pages for Search Bots
You know those category pages you have on your blog, where readers go to see a gallery or list of all the posts within it? Did you know you can add stuff to those pages and optimize them for SEO? Read this post on how to customize your category pages on your Restored 316 theme.
Let me show you:
All of that content is an overview of what a content strategy is, and it sits at the top of my Content Strategy category page. To do this yourself, navigate in WordPress to Posts > Categories, then click “edit” on each of your categories.
Add content to the description, then copy and paste the same content in the archive intro text box, too. Be sure to add the focus keyword of that category to your Yoast section while you’re in there, and customize the meta description.
#4 – Make It Easy for Readers to Find More Content
Now, this tip goes beyond the main navigation menu and gets more into individual posts, but it’s worth mentioning. Every single piece of content on your site should link to at least 1 or 2 other related pieces of content on your site.
Let me type that again so you’ll read it again: Every. Single. Piece of content on your site should link back to AT LEAST 1-2 other pieces of RELATED CONTENT.
Got it? This does several things:
- Gives readers more content to read, which increases time spent on your site and lowers your bounce rate.
- Gives search bots more content to index, which boosts your overall SEO
- Improves the SEO of individual posts by adding more incoming links to them
Search bots find high-value pages by following arrows pointing to them. Those arrows are links, so if you have really epic content on your site, you need to be pointing to it A LOT. Do this by adding links from other pieces of related content to these high-value pieces of content, like….all the time.
Alright, friend, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Remember, when creating your site navigation, it’s vital that you consider your user experience and be intentional about what you place in your menu. Clean up your categories and tags if you need to in order to simplify your navigation and create that balance of content. And set aside time to add content to your category pages and optimize them for SEO.
You’ll start seeing a boost in your organic traffic and search ranking in no time!
Thanks for the tips, Lauren.
I have a question though, is it advisable to use Tags (to improve site navigation) or should I just stick to categories?
I have been searching online for a while but couldn’t find a straight answer. It is quite a controversy.
I would love to know what you might think.
P.S. Your website design is incredibly sleek.
Great question! We don’t use tags here at R316 (we tend to ere on the side of simplicity) but they can be effective, especially if its beneficial to the reader. Example niches that would find using tags beneficially could be food bloggers and travel bloggers.
Hope this helps!
HI Kirsten, insightful information. Firstly, I love R316’s navigation and design. The simplicity with such clear navigation is pleasing to look at. Intuitive design is my takeaway from today. Thank you for writing this article.