Information architecture is one of the most critical factors to determining your longterm online organic rankings success. That’s a big call but we have found this to be the case time and time again with our website builds.
It is often overlooked in the world of SEO and very hard to implement ONCE A SITE HAS BEEN BUILT. That’s why it is an essential first step to consider before the website has been built.
What is Information Architecture?
Information Architecture is simply how the information on your website will be layed out. Most websites will have a home page, contact page, an about page, service pages, portfolio pages, blog posts, categories archives, tag archives and so on. Information Architecture is how each of these pages will be linked and what information will be on each page.
What is Good Information Architecture?
Good Information Architecture requires consideration of both your human visitors and Google Bots.
For the human visitors, good information architecture makes it easy for the end user to quickly navigate and find what they are looking for. A good navigation menu can help with this, but keep in mind that navigation menus change on mobile devices. Given more than half of your visitors are using some sort of mobile device, it is important that the navigation menu on a mobile is also clear and helps the user quickly find the information they are looking for.
Keep in mind also that not everyone will come to your website through the home page. Many will come through other landing pages, blog posts and service pages on your website. On these it is good to provide additional links and content so they are encouraged to find other content on your site.
Good Information Architecture for SEO
As well as considering good information architecture for your visitors, you must also take into consideration the Google Bots that crawl your site. This is a huge topic so I will try and summarise the important things to keep in mind
One Topic Per Page
Each page should carry one topic or theme that targets one keyword group in Google. This is because if your website has multiple pages which target the same topic, Google wont know which page to rank for the keyword and you will end up cannibalising your results. Keyword Cannibalisation is when more than one page on your website covers content on the same keyword which results in a dilution of rankings for both pages.
If you need to cover the same topic on two different pages then set these additional pages to no-index, follow or placing a rel=cannonical tag in the header and point it to the main page for that topic.
Match Topics to Keywords
When you have decided on the topic for each page, you then need to see what keywords your market is using for that topic in Google Searches by doing some keyword research. Find high volume, relatively low competition keywords and then the corresponding keyword group they are in. This is important because you can then include these keywords naturally in your meta title, on page titles, content and URLs.
Avoid Duplicate Content
Each page should not have duplicate content. This simply means not having the same text on two pages in your site. A common culprit for duplicate content is the sidebars and footers of your website. Do not include paragraphs of text in these as they will be repeated throughout your site, affecting the overall quality score of your site.
Also, be careful with your category and tag archives. Each tag or category will generate its own page and the content is often pulled from excerpts of other pages thus creating duplicate content. If you need to use multiple categories or tags, set them to no index so they don’t compete with other pages and posts on your site.
Avoid Thin, Low Quality Pages
Each page should have more than 300 words of good quality content. If you can’t write more than 300 words for a page on your website but it is important for user experience, consider setting it to no index. This is because studies have shown that google will crawl your site and if it finds low quality pages it can affect the high quality pages of your site. In other words, your site gets an overall quality score which affects your rankings site wide.
So when you are planning out your Information Architecture of your site, make sure you have enough information to write about each section or page. If not consider not including it in the site build or not indexing it if you do.
Plan to Cross Link Between Pages
Cross link well. With each page covering it’s own topic well. Naturally include in context links from one page to another on your site. Links within your content are a huge way of telling Google that the pages they link to are important and should be indexed. This is most essential on the homepage. By linking out to your most important service pages early on in your homepage, you are telling Google to elevate these service pages as the most important pages on your site.
Any future content you add to your site through blog posts should be used to answer longer tail keywords (usually questions your market is asking) and then link up to your service pages from these blog posts. This funnels link juice up to your service pages and encourages human visitors to go to your main service pages which should showcase your business products.
Aim for An XML File Full of High Quality URLS
Submit a high quality index XML file to google. With the above four points in mind, you should be able to generate a clean XML file where every single URL on it covers an original topic with at least 300 words. By giving the google bots a simple list of high quality URLs to crawl, your site will stand out amongst the billions of other sites with bloated XML sitemaps, full of duplicate, low quality URLs. With the rise of DIY Content Management systems like wordpress and squarespace, Google is choking on an influx of web pages and thousands of new URLs being made every second. By only giving Google quality URL’s you will stand out as a quality website which answers the questions of your market.
How To Plan A Website With Great IA
So with the above in mind, here is a simple, step by step guide to planning your Information Architecture before your launch your website:
- What is your main core service that you will contain information about on your homepage?
- What is your main core services that will become your service pages?
- Are there any sub service page topics that you can write about?
- What are the potential questions and concerns of your market which you could answer through blog posts?
- What portfolio / projects can you include that you can write 300+ words about?
- What unique information can you add to your about page and contact page?
- You should now have a list of pages / topics your website can cover. Starting with the home page, map out each page visually so you can see how they will all link together and relate to one another.
- Any pages that you want to include for good user experience but may have low word count or duplicate content, mark these pages as no index so you don’t have to worry about keyword research / SEO for it.
- Now with your list of pages start keyword research so you know what to write for each page.
How to Retrospectively Improve Information Architecture
If you already have a website with little thought to IA, chances are it has plenty of duplicate and thin / low quality pages. The best thing you can do here (apart from rebuilding your site entirely) is:
- Identify the pages that are performing well (getting the most clicks through to your site using google search console) and take note of them
- Set any low word count / duplicate pages to “no index”
- Any pages that cover the same topic set them to rel=cannonical to link up to your pages that are performing well
- run an operators search by typing this into google: “site:businesswebmarketingaustralia.com.au”. You will see all the pages google is currently indexing. Look to remove / delete any pages that are unnecessary (especially any on the last few pages of results)
Why Good IA Works for Long Term Rankings
Setting up high quality, topically clear website pages from the start means Google will better understand your website and is more likely to rank you for the keywords you want to rank for. As you add more content to your website through blog posts which link up to your main service pages, you continually add more reinforcement and link weight to these main pages. Similarly, as you accumulate links from other websites to your main service pages over time, this too adds authority and ranking power to these pages.
The balance of time, good internal linking and ongoing external linking to established, optimised pages is a recipe for long term SEO success. It makes other SEO efforts such as backlinking and title tag optimisation far more effective and clear.
We Build Good IA Into Your Website
For the long term ranking success of your website, good website information architecture is a must. Here at Business Web Marketing we are dedicated to your online success. We can carefully build your website with sound architecture so you can be confident you have a great web presence in place going forward. Contact us today to find out more.