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Suggestions for reorganizing a biggish site?

How to make a big site easier for readers without losing ranking



9:56 pm on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

There's a biggish site (3,000+ pages of evergreen content) that needs reorganization. The problem is that the main categories have dozens and dozens of articles in them, making those categories have very long index pages.

A lot of the pages on the site currently rank well in search engines, and the challenge is to somehow make the site navigation more intuitive for newcomers without losing search engine rankings for some of the pretty deeply buried, older (still valuable) content.

One possible fix is to break those main categories into subcategories and link to the subcategories from the main category page. Then the links to the articles that are now on the category page would get moved to the subcategory page. The article URLs themselves would not change.. the only thing that would change would be the page that points to them.

Does anyone have any thoughts - or better yet experience - about how that kind of change might affect search rankings?


10:51 pm on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Search rankings? Probably not a lot, after all the landing page URL is not going to change. Sitemaps ensure that all urls are listed, thus open to SEs. What is being asked is should one change the navigation for the USER. Absolutely!

As sites age they gather pages, and the older the site (that has some reasonable updates monthly or annually) the number and diversity of pages can't help but increase. Existing nav becomes insufficient, so changing up later is not a bad idea.

Top end nav should be fairly simple, a half-dozen or so top categories. Second level sub-category pages might run to the articles themselves, or be a sub-subcategory page leading to the last level (three deep) which "should" be the nitty-gritty for all the files to be linked.


8:18 pm on May 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks, Tangor. The site map gets automatically updated, and content is added and updated frequently.

Any thoughts on whether or not it's a good idea to have the links in navigational menu depending on which category you're in? The other choice would seem to be to have categories expand when you hover over them with a mouse?


10:49 pm on May 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Depends on site content and design.

Menu: Cat1 Cat2 Cat3 etc

A1 (link)
A2 (link)
A3 (link)

Usually you don't want to go much deeper than that... unless the material/content requires it. I like Home and Cat pages to have text and or pictures which describe the page purpose and the content to be found.

Using hover tricks is one way of doing it, and will keep the screen relatively open in design. Again, depends on the content. For text/research type sites I think a full page showing the links with a descriptor is more useful than a hover.

Also nothing wrong with using a breadcrumb nav style. much like the one at the top of this forum page. Your site design and content will ultimately suggest what to do.


7:23 pm on Jun 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

A couple of thoughts...

1. Do these high-ranking, high-traffic pages have actual value? In other words, are they pages that bring in money or member signups or whatever it is you measure success by?

2. Are there pages that are worth more in terms of conversion rate, but don't get traffic?

I ask these questions because you can do things with sidebars and content guides so that people have some guidance. You might still have large index pages, but you can have a sidebar of "most popular content" or "Getting Started" lists.

I personally prefer these lists to be curated, not autogenerated based on raw popularity, because if you do that, success tends to beget success. That is popular pages are overly persistent as popular because you've pasted the links to them front and center around your site.

3. How many people reach a page on your site going home page -> index page -> content page?

3a. For that matter, how many people are following a landing page -> home page -> index page -> content page navigation path?

You might make some attempt to look at your analytics and figure out which are the most popular pages that people reach by clicking on a link on the index pages. Those are the listings that really matter.

If your most popular pages have a navigation path like

google -> landing page -> google

then there's nothing you'll gain by changing your index pages around.


10:07 pm on Jun 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

Ergophobe, thanks for those questions. The income model for this site is primarily advertising. Some of the CPM advertisers buy run of site, so in general, the more traffic, the more money that comes in.

The navigation path (looking at the user flow in analytics) seems to be all over the place. As you might expect with a content site, a lot come, read one page and leave. But we're also seeing a lot of people hitting the index pages and moving to content, or hitting a content page first, In-page analytics shows us it's usually the links nearest the top of the category pages that get clicked, no matter what those links are.

I like the idea of the manually generated content guides. I'll look to see how we could use those to help visitors find information they want.

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