There’s a reason we call them web pages - they are designed, fundamentally, to be connected together, like points on a spider’s web.
Links from other sites to your sites are referred to as backlinks, and we’ll talk about those in detail in the next section of the book. Just as important, however, are the ways in which we link pages together within our site.
These links are the ways in which your customer will travel from one page of your site to another, and also the way in which the search engine spider will travel.
The way in which you connect one page to another therefore not only affects your SEO but also affects what percentage of customers coming to your website will find what they want and convert.
Connections Rules 1: Every page of your site must be linked to another. Search engines won't index pages users can't click to
Search engines are only interested in pages that users can get to.
If you can’t navigate to a page simply by clicking links from your homepage, that page is not accessible to your customer or to a search engine.
Think about it - why would you want to create a page that a human couldn’t find? Oh… maybe for the search engine to find? Great plan but… please go back and read Rule 4.
Performing this test of your website is about more than just making sure you don’t have any hidden pages though. It’s about walking a mile (or at least a few clicks) in your customer’s shoes and experiencing your website as they will when they visit.
- Keep pages within three clicks of the homepage to maximise your opportunities for conversion.
- Remember that each page has a job to do - identify it and make sure the page content and layout support that role.
And, most importantly, remember that customers don’t know where they are going. They may be exploring your site for the first time - so give them multiple opportunities to find what they need by providing multiple routes to content and the opportunity to go backwards as well as forwards on their journey.
Use breadcrumbs, categories, filters, and tags
Search engines like sites that link internally in a variety of ways - creating multiple routes for users to find information and building additional context around the content.
The most common ways to link content together on a website are breadcrumbs, categories, filters, and tags.
Appearing at the top of the page, breadcrumbs show a trail back “up” the website hierarchy to the parent page(s) of the current page.
Your CMS should build this for you - don’t even dream of doing this by hand.
Categories are pages that group together other pages.
The simplest example is a product category page. This might be a type of product (“Vacuum Cleaners”) or a brand (“Hoover” or “Dyson”).
Category pages are landing pages so, as well as links to the other pages in this category, they should have well-optimised content of their own.
Filters reduce the number of items on a category page.
For example, when looking at vacuum cleaners, you might only be interested in products costing under £200. This is a filter - it’s not a page in its own right (this will just create a mess of duplication).
In the hinterland between categories and filters, are tags. These are often called “hashtags” today - as we use them to group together information on social media by prefixing keywords with a #.
If you use a (hash)tag often, consider making it a category. If you use it infrequently, it’s still good to give your user (and search engines) a way of linking together related items even if you aren’t going to create a landing page for it.
Avoid excessive links and options
You can lose a customer by offering them too much choice. “Analysis Paralysis” can cost you a sale.
Don’t confuse the customer - sell more jam by making fewer flavours.
Human beings love being given choices in threes. “Yes, No, or Maybe” is more palatable than simply “Yes or No” (and, when you think about it, only ⅓ of the options in “Yes, No, Maybe” means no sale - you can still try to convert the “Maybe”).
Too many choices however, and our brains can’t cope.
Keep it simple and offer the customer clear calls to action.
If the customer gets lost, you’ve lost the customer.