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A Beginner’s Guide to Creating an E-Commerce Site Structure

Photo of Andrew Allen Andrew Allen 14/07/2014

Ensuring a site is structured correctly is paramount to the performance of all good e-commerce campaigns. While the structure of a website is critical to aiding and influencing a customer's buying behaviour, it also integral to achieving greater levels of traffic and exposure through SEO efforts.  

A well-structured website enables search engine spiders to crawl it more efficiently and understand its content more thoroughly, consequently ranking your site as accurately as possible. Three areas are key to creating the optimal site structure: category/sub-categories, products and URLs.

1. Category/Sub-Category

For any e-commerce website, it is essential to organise the category structure in a way that is clear, concise and ultimately makes sense. An ideal e-commerce URL structure should look something like this:

Domain.com/category/

Domain.com/category/sub-category/

The above layout reflects and adheres to the consumer journey, while also making sure that search engines can appreciate this narrowing of product selections. Combined with an intuitive navigation that lends itself to good internal linking, this URL structure can help search engines to accurately spread the domain authority throughout the site.

2. Products

Of course, it follows suit that all individual products live within the sub-categories of the store. If we continue the logic above, it would make perfect sense for the URL structure for products to look like this:

Domain.com/category/sub-category/product

However, a difficulty arises when a product exists in more than one category. If it does, then there is the potential for two separate URLs that contain the exact same content; this ultimately leads to duplicate content problems, so it is best to be avoided.

If this is the case, the best solution is to house the products on the top level, like this:

Domain.com/product.html

This ensures search engines will only index one URL with this content. However, this really is dependent upon the e-commerce CMS system you're using, and whether or not products can or will be displayed in multiple categories, so keep this in mind.

3. URLs

The above shows the correct way in which URLs should be formatted with regards to category/sub-categories and products.

Please note that for category/sub-category URLs the .html suffix has been removed from the end of the URL. This can help to further cement the silo structuring of the related categories, and aid search engines in understanding the relationship between the parent and child categories, as below:

Domain.com/category/ is the parent URL structure for these child URLs: Domain.com/category/sub-category/

Removal of the .html suffix aid’s this silo structure and the distribution of authority/equity.

It is also key that URLs could not be seen by search engines as spammy, and that keywords are not present just for the sake of SEO. This means that repeated and unnecessary keywords should be removed;

Domain.com/shoes/red-shoes/ should be renamed Domain.com/shoes/red/ so that search engines do not see the site as over-optimised.

Increase Your Organic Visibility

Not all of us are lucky enough to have a domain authority big enough to drive traffic despite poor site structure (you know who you are….), and for those smaller brands that rely on great content the correct implementation is imperative for the search engine bots and users to effectively see your hard work.

Whether you can implement the correct structure before the site goes live or make the changes retrospectively, working to the above is sure to improve your visibility in the major search engines.