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An Overview of SEO Ranking Factors: Site Architecture

A site’s architecture has a significant effect on where the content will appear within search engine ranking pages (SERP).  An appropriate site design doesn’t rely on only one or two elements but a holistic approach that accounts for both digital and human search qualities. Although you may find ten different answers from ten different web designers to the question ‘How should we design a site for maximum rankings?’ there are three primary SEO ranking elements within site architecture.


Let’s start by understanding the nuances within site design. First, there is a distinction between usability and findability. ‘Usability’ refers to the ease in which a visitor can access the information they seek. ‘Findability’ refers to the crawl-friendly components of the web page. An effective page design contains both aspects.


Furthermore, the two concepts of indexation and crawlability are intricately woven together. The SE process starts with crawlability: how easily does the SE read the page? Next, indexation – a subset of the crawling algorithm – allows the SE to properly place the page within relevance categories. Indexation is what drives page rankings.


As a site is crawled the search engine is rapidly reviewing its pages and storing (indexing) copies in its data bank, which is like a giant file system. When a search is conducted those pages are arranged in order of relevance to the search term. By providing the SE with easy navigation while crawling, the chances of achieving high page rankings increases significantly.


There are three primary SEO ranking elements that exist within a site’s architecture:


Descriptive URLs


The first consideration is the URL (page address) structure. The URL is the ‘face’ of the site’s architecture; it is similar to a book title that can be viewed on a shelf in a library. In order to be an effective tag, the URL should have a keyword or keyword phrase relevant to the subject matter. For instance, defines the location as a page discussing medical treatments for osteoporosis.




The page layout has a significant effect on how easily an SE can index the page. The most important components include:

  • How content is organized, grouped and labeled
  • How content is placed in categories
  • How pages link to each other within the site

Placement of keywords has a profound effect on rankings. The order of keywords within a sentence impacts results. For example, when using the phrase ‘self-service computer kiosks’, the sentence ‘we have the best self-service computer kiosks’ is more effective for rankings than ‘our computer kiosks provide the ultimate self-service option for ticketing’. Also, when placing graphics on the page, the closer the graphic is to supporting keyword text, the better.


Effective page design is a combination of space allocation; use of color, font and text formatting; placement of graphic images and multimedia elements; file format, categorization and labeling; and URL design. Skimping on one element can mean suffering lower rankings.


Site Speed


In an attempt to speed up the Web, search engines such as Google have added site indexing speed to their algorithms. The time it takes to load the page affects conversions, so SE’s are making this a key criterion for ranking. Certainly, for marketing purposes, SEO experts recommend site speed optimization in order to gain higher rankings.


For example, Google and Microsoft ran tests that introduced an artificial delay of 500 milliseconds to download speed. This delay reduced user satisfaction by almost 1%. Then they increased the delay to 2 seconds and found a drop in satisfaction of 4%. The site speed element reinforces the need for orderly page architecture.

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