Webshop architecture for SEO

The website architecture of your eCommerce store matters tremendously for your positions in search engines. A bad website architecture will punish webshops with substantially lower rankings. However, when you optimize the structure of your webshop correctly, you will see that all your pages will rank higher.

This is because, when a site is not well structured, optimizing individual pages will not help your SEO. Your foundation (site architecture or site structure) should thus always be optimal, so you can then improve upon this base structure. After a site architecture is correctly optimized, improvements for individual pages will cost less effort.

“But what is the best website architecture for eCommerce websites then?”

In this article, I will explain what the ideal website architecture is for webshops, share some examples from our clients, and showcase best practices from around the web.

Table of contents

Webshop architecture for SEO
What is webshop architec#ture?
Why is webshop architecture important?
The best hierarchical structure for eCommerce websites
Internal linking as a strategy
6 Steps to build a strong webshop structure
Final thoughts on eCommerce website architecture

What is webshop architecture?

Site architecture refers to how a website organizes its content. Often a website contains different types of content on a variety of topics, all presented on different pages. A site architecture deals with how all this content (pages) is grouped, linked, and shown to users.

For example, a webshop can structure can be flat or deep, depending on how many clicks it takes to reach certain pages. Most of the time it is best to have a more flat structure so that all category and product pages can be easily crawled and discovered by users.

flat vs deep hierarchy visualization

Image from NNGroup.


Why is website architecture important for eCommerce?

When a webshop has a lot of pages that are not properly structured, it will harm the site’s performance. But why? Because the structure of the site is a guide for search engines such as Google to better understand your content. And when your architecture is not clear, Google won’t understand your webshop and what you have to offer. The better Google understands your content, the more likely it is to show you higher for the right searches for your content.


The best site structure for eCommerce websites

eCommerce sites can best have a hierarchical site structure. This means that content should be grouped and put in a hierarchical structure based on the importance of the content. Relevant products should be grouped together and put in flat content silos so that every page can be reached easily by crawlers and users. This improves your rankings and user experience.

Ultimately, the importance of a page in a hierarchical structure is based on the number of clicks one has to make from the homepage and the number of internal links. Based on this structure there are three levels of importance for the content of eCommerce sites.


The most important type of pages for most eCommerce sites are

1. Categories & the homepage

2. Subcategories

3. Product pages

Your homepage should never be the sole most important page of your eCommerce site because it isn’t optimized to sell a certain product. In terms of importance with internal links, the homepage should have a  similar number to that of product categories and the most important subcategories. By doing this, you signal to Google that your product categories and product pages are what your online store is about.

ecommerce site architecture simple

A simple yet eCommerce site architecture with three levels of importance. Note that the homepage and categories should have a similar level of importance in the hierarchy.

Generally speaking, the more clicks a user has to make in hierarchical website architecture, the less important a certain page becomes. However, internal linking strategies (such as adding contextual links from multiple pages to a certain product) can make a certain page more important. The hierarchy highlights the basic importance of pages, but you can manipulate it to make your best-selling product(category) more important and thus better visible for example. Later more on this.

ecommerce site architecture with important product

In this site architecture, one product becomes more important because of more internal links. Despite being lower in the hierarchy in terms of clicks from the homepage.

The beauty of this hierarchical website structure for eCommerce is that it is relevant for search engines and users. The main benefits of this structure for eCommerce sites are:

  • The site structure can easily be understood by Google and users
  • Every page (categories, subcategories, and products) can be easily reached
  • Authority and link juice are distributed between similar products
  • Optimizations higher up in the hierarchy will have positive effects on relevant pages lower in the hierarchy

But what is important for each type of page?



Categories (or parent / main categories) should be the broadest grouping of products you offer as an eCommerce site. Every category should be distinct from the other categories, but also present broad product groups so that it can include relevant subcategories.

Site structure coolblue

The (parent) categories should be shown in the top navigation bar.

As you can see in this example from Coolblue, they have 9 distinct categories targeting rather broad product groups such as “kitchen”, “sports” and “telephony”.

Your categories should be broad because they will target searches for the broadest possible search term of your products. In these categories, you should then include the relevant subcategories, to better target specific sorts of products users are looking for.



Subcategories (also known as child categories) are categories that fall under a category in the site structure and are more specific about the different types of products you sell within that category. All the subcategories should be distinct from each other but also be related to the category they fall under.

Site structure coolblue example 2

Within (parent) categories you can have multiple subcategories.


When you look at the subcategories of the category Computers & Tablets, you can see subcategories as “Laptops, desktops & monitors”, but also “Printers & peripherals”. These subcategories are more specific examples of the main category they belong to. They are all related to the broader keyword they fall under, but also distinct so that a difference can be easily made.

However, sometimes eCommerce sites have so many different product groups that they can’t get away with one level of sub-categories. Sometimes, they need to add an additional one as well, such as Coolblue has done. If you look at the subcategory “printer & peripherals” you see that under that subcategory there are other subcategories such as “printers” and “cartridges”. These fall in the hierarchy under the subcategory “printers & peripherals” and are thus of lesser importance in the site’s hierarchy.

You can add as many subcategories as you want, but the more you add the more complicated your site becomes. Therefore, I don’t recommend adding too many layers of categories and keeping your products within 4-5 clicks from the homepage.


Product pages

Product pages should be the lowest in your site’s hierarchy and be part of subcategories and categories that are related to the product. The product pages can have particular product titles, describing the product in detail. As long as it makes sense to the broader category it falls in.

site structure example 3

In each subcategory, you should have a substantial amount of product pages.

As you can see in this example from MediSupplies, they have a category named “First Aid & Safety”, and a subcategory called “First Aid Kits”. And within that subcategory, there are product pages, which are different kinds of specific first aid kits.

This example of MediSupplies is a very good example of a good hierarchical site structure for most webshops and eCommerce sites. This site structure enables them to make improvements to their categories and subcategories which will then trickle down to their product pages. This improves their SEO efforts tremendously.


Internal linking as a strategy

As mentioned before, the key to building the right structure is by using internal links such as breadcrumbs, contextual links, or navigation items (menus) to boost certain pages. This should be done to signal to Google what your most important pages are. For example, best-selling products or categories with a high number of monthly searches.

Breadcrumbs help search engine crawlers (and the users) to understand the hierarchy right away. It is very important that your categorization triggers the right content (keywords) so the hierarchy is not only displayed on pages but also in the content.

good breadcrumb example

A perfect example of a medical supplies webshop with a very detailed breadcrumb path.

Use contextual links

These links are the ones that are in your content such as product descriptions, category descriptions, blog posts, etc. These links are introduced manually and are very important to boost specific pages that do not necessarily follow your regular hierarchy. Let’s say that you want to boost a product that is new. If multiple pages will have a contextual link to that new product, its internal linking gets boosted. Its internal position in the hierarchy gets higher and only then Google will recognize it as a relevant page in the hierarchy of your site.

contextual links example

An example of how you can boost products with contextual links in the descriptions of categories


Use navigation menus

Menus are very important to build the right eCommerce website structure. In the end, menus are present on every single page of your webshop, and making it dynamic will change completely how your pages rank.

Sidebar menus are extremely helpful. Here you have to link only to categories that are relevant. You should never list all your categories all the time in the sidebar menu. Showing only links to pages that have related content will increase your keywords triggered for a specific topic, and improve your authority and therefore your rankings. Learn more about menus in our article about how to set up your eCommerce navigation menus.

sidebar navigation example

An example of one of our dutch clients (Ovvis) on how you should structure your sidebar navigation menu.


6 Steps to build a strong webshop structure

Having the right website architecture for your webshop is key. But, maybe you now look at your own webshop now and see that it is not optimally structured. Don’t worry, you can improve the structure of your webshop yourself. Here is how you can restructure (or structure) your webshop for SEO (from scratch).

Let’s take a look at a restructuring process Phanum performed for a medical supplies webshop that sold disposable gloves.


Step 1: Audit the live structure

First, audit the structure you currently have live on your site, and list your parent categories, categories, and sub-categories based on the hierarchy in terms of click depth. This can most easily be done in an excel sheet, where the categories which are highest in the hierarchy are on the left and the ones lowest in the hierarchy are on the right.

Audit the live structure


Step 2: Research potential structure adjustments

After you have identified the structure of your webshop you should research your categorization and identify what is not optimal. Then you can note down what should be changed for each individual category. Generally, there are three different types of changes webshops need to consider: Renaming a category, deleting a category, or adding a new category.

research adjustments

What to change in the hierarchy ultimately depends on a lot of factors. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to (re)structuring an eCommerce webshop. However, there are 6 factors you should definitely keep in mind when making decisions about (re)structuring a webshop.


Factors that influence the content priority

1. The more competition the more difficult to score high.

2. Low volumes do not mean lower potential.

3. The search intent has to match your content.

4. The user expects a wide range of options (a lot of products to choose)

5. Internal competition between pages

6. User experience


Step 3: Add new categories

After you have identified what to change, you should first add the new categories that you want to add. Then you should move the products that fit the new categories to their new categories.

adding categories


Step 4: Rename categories

During your research in step 2, you will likely find that some categories need to target a different keyword in order to attract more organic traffic. Now it is time to rename categories and make sure that all categories are targeting relevant yet different keywords.

Renamed categories


Step 5: Remove redundant categories

After you have implemented all the previous changes and removed products from bad categories, you should remove redundant categories. But, don’t forget to add 301 redirects to other categories so that you don’t miss out on any potential traffic you built up.

remove category


Step 6: Optimize the content within categories

After the restructuring is done you should focus on optimizing the content within the categories. The focus should be specifically on increasing the CTR (clickthrough rate), as this is facilitating potential visitors a clear understanding of the content through:

For optimizations on the product page, you can read our Guide for eCommerce product page SEO, with the most recommended best practices.


Final thoughts on eCommerce website architecture

Your website’s architecture is the foundation of your eCommerce site – it should never be neglected. When you want to increase your page rankings in the search results you will need a flat hierarchical webshop architecture, because:

  • The site architecture can easily be understood by Google and users
  • Every page (categories, subcategories, and products) can be easily reached
  • Authority and link juice are distributed between similar products
  • Optimizations higher up in the hierarchy will have positive effects on relevant pages lower in the hierarchy

If you want to get to know more SEO tips & tricks that will help you improve your rankings in Google organically, I recommend you two articles to read.

Read this blog post about performing an eCommerce SEO audit, to get familiar with the 14 most SEO audit steps so that you know what to improve and when to make your improvements as effective as possible.

Or read this blog post about the 5 best SEO tools for webshops that will help you speed up your SEO processes so that you save time and don’t make decisions based on guesswork.


If you have made it this far through the blog…

Chances are that you are seriously looking to improve your SEO game. That’s great we are here for it!

Phanum team

Book a meeting with us, let’s talk SEO!

Or learn more about your future SEO Strategist: Jairo Guerrero.