Accelerate Your Data Analysis Process & Generate Insights up to 90% Faster With the Right URL Architecture
Data is the bedrock for every conversion optimization process.
However, data takes time! Time to extract. Time to analyze. Time to understand. And, most important, time to organize and segment it so every user’s story is laid out in front of you like a gift waiting to be discovered.
Yey, despite all this, too often we find ourselves wasting precious time manually organizing it instead of investing that time in thorough analysis that can lead to valuable insights. Why is that?
From our experience, messy URL Architecture or incorrect analytics implementations are the main culprits.
For this article, our focus will be solely on discovering how a proper URL Architecture can save your online business the most precious resources known to any marketer or entrepreneur – time and money.
Going through this guide will be a smart investment of your time if you are:
- An entrepreneur looking to increase your online business’ revenue [WITHOUT the struggle of investing weeks and weeks into understanding what’s going on on your site before making any informed decisions]
- A web developer who often build sitemaps and doesn’t want to frustrate clients when they decide to use data analysis to optimize their site.
- A data-savvy marketer who wants to educate customers by sharing a better way of designing the URL Architecture of their websites.
Throughout this guide, we’ll try to create a better understanding of why setting up a proper URL Architecture is absolutely essential for your future optimization efforts. We’ll do so, by guiding you through the following step-by-step plan.
- How a good URL infrastructure can help create segments up to 90% faster
- How URLs can significantly improve your website’s tracking capabilities
- The biggest mistake marketers make when building their URLs and how you can avoid it
1. Faster Segmentation
Good URL architecture can make the difference between taking 2 or 20 minutes to build a segment.
Generally, for large e-commerce websites, we create up to 250 custom segments, many of them containing URLs.
As you can see, having the wrong URL Architecture would waste us 60 hours compared to what we’d get with a properly built one.
We’ll say it again: 60 extra hours of work. Or $10k out of your pocket if you’re working with top consultants or web analytics agencies who charge around $170/hour.
‘Ok, but is segmentation that important for extracting insights and optimizing conversion rate?’ – you ask.
If you’re not doing segmentation you’re not doing analytics. To quote Avinash Kaushik, ‘Segmentation: Do Or Die, There Is No Try’.
1.1. Understanding How Segmentation Can Benefit a Business and Help Increase Revenue
Segmentation is a vast and essential subject. It’s why we’re working on a comprehensive guide on this subject alone – one that we’ll publish soon.
For now, we’re just going to emphasize that:
- Segmentation is an essential part of any conversion rate optimization process. It facilitates the understanding of various characteristics of subsets of your audience and helps you determine levels of engagement. Plus, it also reveals leaks and identifies optimization opportunities.
The story goes something like this:
- What’s more, by segmenting your traffic based on which sections of your website they interacted with, you’ll be able to create well-defined remarketing audiences and customize ads based on their preferences and previous website interactions.
Therefore, the process of making segmentation easier is nothing more than optimizing the optimization process. ess.
2.2. Understanding the difference between a good and a bad URL Architecture with examples
With good URL Architecture in place, answering questions such as those from below should be child’s play:
- Do female visitors who read blog articles with tips and trends from top designers convert better than those who read no blog articles at all? If yes, do they also have a higher average value?
- What are the top highest converting filters for dresses category pages / t-shirt category pages?
- What are the specific characteristics of the audience browsing through sportswear pages?
Let’s assume you want to answer the last question. However, your website URL structure doesn’t include categories or subcategories. It just looks like this ->
Aaaaand, (*Drumroll*), ladies and gentlemen, we’ve arrived at our destination… the moment of truth… crunch time… our very own D-Day… call it whatever you want to call it.
The question is – how do you find the answer if your URL Architecture is… umm… let’s call it ‘messy’.
Will you know how to divide the sportswear from other clothing articles?
If you’re dealing with a large website, the question is impossible to answer.
For a smaller website, it is possible to find out, but the costs (time, money, not to mention frustration) will be huge.
But what if your URL would have looked like this:
Answering that question would take no more than a few minutes.
Now, here are the examples we promised.
Let’s assume you are in charge of an online e-commerce business that sells dresses, shoes, and t-shirts and you want to answer the following question:
What % of site visitors reach the summer dresses product page and what’s their behavior based on the channels they’re coming from?
1.2.1. SCENARIO #1 [Bad URL Architecture on a Large Website With Thousands of Product Pages]
Suppose the URLs of dresses product pages from your site look like the ones below and you’re using Google Analytics to track website traffic. Let’s also assume you have over 1000 dresses on your website, meaning 1000 unique URLs with nothing in common within their structure.
The challenge is how do you bring all the site visitors who reached one or more dresses product pages under one Analytics Segment if there is No Common URL section?
Unfortunately for you, you can’t. That’s because:
- A Google Analytics segment can’t fit in so many different URLs.
As you can see, the OR option is no longer available once you introduce 20 URL fragments. And even if it would be possible, can you imagine how long that would take you? [even by using AI automation tools, that would still cost you additional resources]
- If they happen to have at least the category in common, there’s also the possibility of using regex. However, this too is limited to a number of characters.
Now, how do we get out of this pickle?
If only you had…
Or, at least, you know, one common URL fragment.
Would the second version of URLs infrastructure help you find the answer to the question?
You bet your hat it would. And it would do so in a jiffy. All these URLs corresponding to summer dresses products have something in common (/p/dresses/summer/), so by setting a segment like the one below, you would group all the sessions/users that are interested in summer dresses.
There you have it! In less than 30 seconds, we found out that 18150 users (or 23.016 sessions) have reached a summer dresses page within the selected timeframe. Now you can save this segment and apply it to various reports.
1.2.2. SCENARIO #2 [Bad URL Architecture but a Smaller Website With Tens/Hundreds of Product Pages]
In this scenario, you’re only selling 100 different types of dresses, with 100 different URLs
Now, this would be… doable. It wouldn’t be smart, or time-efficient. But, you could manually introduce each URL in segments and maybe even make use of regex. Again, it would be very time-consuming compared to the ideal situation, but at least you could find the answer you’re looking for.
1.3. [DISCLAIMER] – Content Groupings
You may have heard about Content Grouping – another feature you can use in Google Analytics to segment/group traffic. It can prove useful in helping you understand the visitors’ behavior without having to build a ton of segments.
The good news is this feature can save the day if you don’t have a logical URL structure on your website.
Don’t get too excited, though. Because getting it to work in your favor is hardly a walk in the park. Think of it as Google’s punishment for not having a neat URL structure. Not only will you have to arm yourself with technical knowledge [you’ll need data layer and Google Tag Manager], but, as opposed to segmenting, Content Groupings have some soft spots.
- As opposed to segments, where you can get as much historical data as you need, Content Groupings only give you the data starting from the moment you created them.
- You’ll have to go through more steps to filter data on the view level by Content Grouping.
- You’re limited to a number of 5 Content Groupings.
Don’t take this the wrong way. We’re huge supporters of Content Groupings. IF implemented from the very beginning and complemented by the magic of segments, they can save you a lot of time.
So, unless you want to wait 3-to-6 months (so your Content Groupings can register a reliable amount of data) before you can start optimizing your revenue stream, we suggest you build a proper URL structure from scratch starting now. Or, of course, refining the one you have now is also an option.
2. Better Website Tracking
URL structure can also become an issue when implementing website tracking.
For the sake of example, let’s assume you have a blog. Your bounce rate is quite high because users who read your posts leave without interacting with any other parts of your website. However, you don’t want Analytics to deem users who read your posts up until the end as bounces.
Therefore, you decide to create an event in Google Tag Manager that should trigger any time users scroll to the end of a post. Then, you instruct Analytics to consider this event as a website interaction. As a result, users who trigger such an event will no longer be deemed as bounces.
The simplest way to do this would be to use the URL fragment which is common to all blog posts:
Normally, this task should only take you a minute. Unless your URLs look like this ->
instead of this ->
Sure, there are workarounds for when the URL structure is bad and blog articles have no common fragments. However, the time invested will increase significantly.
2.1. How to Build an Effective URL Architecture
First and foremost, don’t do a half-baked job.
Sure, it’s a great first step to include category names in URLs. However, if you really want to understand your customers and get actionable insights, that’s not enough. Not by far!
Most websites tend to only track the data halfway. The biggest mistake they make is they build their URLs to include only the product categories, ignoring all subcategories.
An ideal URL architecture would include everything:
If you are just starting out to build your website, take advantage of sitemap building tools, such as Slickplan. Besides the fact that they give you an overview of your website and help you make the website structure as intuitive as possible for the user, they also provide you with URL structure, including all categories and subcategories.
Here at GrowthSavvy, we’ve had our fair share of frustrating moments. Moments when we’d brainstorm about the things to look for and where we could draw our best insights from, only to discover none of our ideas are possible because there was no way to go around the poor URL infrastructure so we could build the segments we wanted to.
The struggle is real.
Our message for each and every business out there that’s currently building its website is this: make sure you’re invested enough to have the foresight to get it right from the very beginning!
If not, trying to optimize your website later may prove more frustrating and time-consuming – if not downright impossible – than it should.