Are categories and structure more important to SEO than just content?

This week’s “Ask an SEO” question is from Julie, who asks:

“Is it helpful for the content clusters to group them under a topic url? For example, if you’re talking about caregiver resources, do you have the post name “” or the title “”? Does this affect SEO?”

That’s an amazing question and the answer is a resounding yes.

The folder structure of your website is important for SEO – but not only for content and content silos.

Your folder structure can help you determine why a particular product isn’t out of the box, if the code in a section of your website has changed, if a marketing channel outside of SEO has been impacted, and even if the folder structure is being used to support other teams in your company became business.

Before I get into that, let’s go through your question first.

You can rate content without having a folder structure in the canonicalized (official) versions of the site.

It works for both blogs and ecommerce websites. However, branching out your content or products into new niches could create confusion for search engines as to what the new main theme or topic of your website is. This is where schema, text, internal link structures, etc. come into play.

If a search engine can’t easily identify the topic and subject and someone else makes it easy to understand, the other person’s site will likely take precedence over your own in the search results.

There are many ways of arguing whether this is right or wrong. So I’ll leave it at that based on what I’ve seen and give some more definite answers.

The benefits of a folder structure for SEO

Benefits of Content and User Experience

The first benefit of a folder structure for SEO is having niche categories that complement the main theme of your business or blog. By nature, categories are a collection of resources (posts or collections of products) and a helpful experience for someone searching for a non-specific phrase.

If the searcher is looking for information about blue widgets, but doesn’t specify whether they’re looking for the best widgets, how to choose the right one, what sizes are available, or how to use them, then individual posts on their own don’t make sense for a search engine to show up becomes.

A category page makes sense as a search result because it’s a topically relevant result with multiple ways to answer the person’s query. And categories can include relevant titles, H1 tags, featured images, schemes, and heroic content to the subtopic.

If you don’t have a folder structure, restrict your site’s access to this traffic.

Yes, an all-encompassing and detailed guide can make it stand out, but one category makes it easier to understand since there’s less digging on a page.

And by creating blog posts on this optimized category, you help search engines recognize that the post is part of the category’s topic and subtopic.

Also, you can clearly separate and define each topic that your website deals with. So yes, I believe this should help you.

pro tip: These folders allow you to implement breadcrumbs for site structure and user experience.

Benefits of analytics and business operations

Next comes an analytics and business operations benefit. If you have a category structure, you can see when traffic to a category or a specific page decreases.

For SEO purposes, you can visit this category and see if it’s offline, if the wrong meta robots have been deployed, or if the content needs an update. But more importantly, the entire organization can identify and solve problems. This applies to logistics, sales, finance, IT and operations.

If sales for a particular product or category of products aren’t selling, a category-based website structure can pinpoint the problem in minutes.

Go into the analysis and compare the timing of the drop in sales with the comparable period before.

Sort the traffic numbers (not SEO, total traffic) by category with the time period comparison. This shows which pages lost traffic in a specific category or on the site as a whole.

Then we can go one step further and find the issue in minutes instead of days by adding referring channels. So you can see immediately:

  • When social media advertising is stopped or PPC loses efficiency.
  • The pages may now have a 404 error and it has gone undetected. In some cases you can add a page title and it will say “Page not found” or whatever your 404 title is (I’ve used this many times in the past).
  • Internal links may have changed and traffic that found the product via blog posts and navigation is no longer referring there. This is more common with URL migrations and structure changes as internal links are missed and 3XX redirects are not updated or removed.
  • SEO traffic might have gone down because a meta robot was updated to noindex. Or your entire category has been replaced by a competitor.
  • Google may have stopped crawling because the category is now blocked in robots.txt and it no longer seems important, so competitors have taken your place. (This is an extreme and unlikely situation, to give just one example.)

If you have a category folder structure, you can determine if it’s a category that caused a tank failure, identify which channels are lower, and troubleshoot the cause.

Category folder structure is not only important for SEO; It is important to the company’s sales and recovery.

Try to implement a folder structure on your website

There are many reasons why you might want a folder structure on your website. So if you’re building a new website or undertaking a recovery project, I recommend you always go for it when the risk of losing current efforts is minimal.

If your site is already set up and you’re at risk of losing traffic, don’t stick with any folder structure until you have a reason to change it.

If you feel like it’s the right thing to do but are nervous, try a test.

Take a group of thematically relevant content pages that belong in a specific folder and move them first. If none of them are important for SEO traffic (they have none or minimal), you can see if the folder structure has an impact.

pro tip: Make sure to set up your redirects and change the canonical links, sitemap, etc. before you start.

Ask for the category to be indexed through the various search engine webmaster tools and let it rest for a month or two.

Whether you want to make a profit or keep it is up to you based on your comfort level.

This is a less risky option than flipping the entire site at once.

Great question and thank you for asking it. I hope this answer helps.

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Featured image: Ilin Sergey/Shutterstock