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Technical SEO24 FEBRUARY 2020

Most people know that when internet users go shopping for their product or service on the internet, they need to find a way to attract people to their website. The problem is, most people don’t know how to do this in a consistently effective manner. In fact, the compelling design of a website is so important it sometimes makes or breaks a business’ website.

That’s why it’s so vital to understand how information architecture (IA) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) work together best as a unit. IA and SEO need to share the same goal. Before you can begin to understand why and how IA and SEO impact each other so much, you need to understand their respective definitions.

The importance of the relationship between IA and SEO working hand-in-hand helps you optimise your website. As in almost everything else in life, it all about balance. Balance is key to SEO, and IA integration, so read on to explore the relationship between them and how together they can make all the difference to your company’s growth and development.

What is Information Architecture?

Before going into how much IA and SEO need to be locked in or integrated for premium effect, you first have to know what each of them brings to the table. In the words of the esteemed Search Engine Journal, IA is defined by how a website is organized and where things happen on any of a website’s pages. The organizational tools and placements used for this purpose are:

  • Navigation
  • Sitemap
  • Page Type
  • Page Structure
  • Object Placement
  • Wire Frames
  • Content Organization
  • Global Elements
  • Story Outline

The thing to remember in all the above IA organizational tools is if set up correctly, it helps SEO navigation to understand your site as it crawls the web via links. The result is when search engines understand your site is always beneficial. The more search engines understand your site, the more likely they are to show your site in searches which in turn allows you to rise in the ranking, which means your traffic increases exponentially. 

Information Architecture & SEO

Your first step in understanding IA and SEO is learning about what techniques and practices make up informational architecture. There may be nothing more important than IAs ability to provide a company website with findability. For example, anytime you’re building a website architecture in e-commerce, you want to keep it simple and keep important pages 3 or fewer clicks away from your homepage.

That’s because any deep links which are defined as pages that take more than three clicks to get to from a home page aren’t as authoritative or trusted at least not in Google’s eyes. Once you take Google’s trust away, your page can’t rank as high. IA and SEO are about integrating the customer’s sales journey with their overall goal.

It doesn’t matter what the goal or sales journey is, the trick is finding out how to follow their goal or journey with IA and SEO if it isn’t straightforward. It’s all about matching a customer’s sale’s goal or journey objective that has twists and turns with multiple entries and touchpoints. There are over 3.5 billion searches performed online every day, so you have to ask yourself, can you risk not being a part of the algorithm where people find out about your services or products?

Website Information Architecture

The best piece of advice ever given to a website designer may have been you aren’t the website user. As a designer, it’s your job to keep your preferences out of the website and keep the site user in it. You want to research, research, research and then do some more research. Research is one of the most important steps in creating an effective and efficient IA. 

Your research methods can vary between using feedback from interviews or A/B experiment tests. There are other usability testing methods you can use as well, such as the beta test phase which are all done before launch. It’s the results of all that feedback that gives you some of the information you need when tailoring the IA to meet your website user’s most pertinent needs.

Another tool of the trade you want to pull out of the IA box is having a clear purpose. If you have a website that doesn’t know what it’s about and can’t effectively represent what it’s about, then nothing else you do will matter. You can use all the IA and SEO best methods for creating a website design for a dentist office’s in Australia and if you go and use great IA and SEO methodology for global dental practices, you haven’t provided a specific goal or a clear user journey.

Relationship Between SEO & Information Architecture

The relationship between SEO and Information Architecture helps us structure content so it keeps a company and website goals in mind. Every effective IA is backed by consistency. Website users want consistency and they need it once they have it from your site. 

It’s the SEO that enhances your website to fit the requirements of the algorithm better. It’s the algorithm that determines the best results for each query. The more optimised the website, the higher the rank it gets in search results. 

Why do people make such a big deal about rank and getting the most optimal results? It’s because 93% of all website visits start with a search engine. If you want to be researched, land, capture and then convert website users, it’s essential to have SEO and IA working together hand-in-hand so your company can have a chance at grabbing visitors at the get-go. 

IA Methodologies

Some IA techniques are more common than other ones and some are quite popular. 

#1 – Card Sorting

The Basic Card sorting methodology is a low-cost, fallback way of figuring out content organization. You do pretty much what it sounds like you do. You write content sets or pages on index cards. 

You then let prospective users sort through the cards and sort them into categorized content groups they think it should be put in. There’s also a pre-sorted group that rearranges reverse cards in categories as they see fit.

#2 – Site Maps

Mockup site maps are done when you want to visualise how content will be arranged. It’s always considered a vital step because without the visualisation you can’t get a clear understanding of the relationship between the parent and child pages. 

#3 – Prototypes

The wireframing or prototyping does much more than gives you an outline of your website’s design layout. It puts the web site’s content into wireframes so you can understand how the IA content relates to each other – page to page and content to content, especially in what it will look like in the final edition.

IA Design 

IA design has as many different styles as it does results. But the two basic styles are top-down and bottom-up. Almost every top-down IA integrates the website’s strategy and goals into the creation of the core structure. The content relationship starts to grow and becomes detailed as the IA gets deeper, but it’s the overriding goal that serves as the umbrella for this website at all times.

The bottom-up architecture delves into the content first and foremost and then worries about the IA by sorting through personas or users who are projected to be going to the site. It’s only then the designer ties them all together, but even then, the designer still hasn’t really figured out how the IA relates to the SEO fully yet. 

When IA Doesn’t Relate to SEO

Alas, sometimes SEO doesn’t relate to IA, and you’ll find you’re not getting the SEO results you want with the IA you have. You know your IA isn’t relating to your SEO when you’re getting an increased crawl budget without the conversions. It might be that you see poorer internal linking or page ranking for your website. 

Often you’ll notice duplicate content in the SERPS, or worse, there’s a distributed topical authority going on with your website pages. This can be something like on a page where you’re selling handmade arts and crafts; your homegrown cheese is loading on the page instead.

When IA Relates to SEO

You only have to go online to find a brilliantly designed IA that relates to superbly to an SEO purpose. In today’s world, IA’s are everywhere. You may not be aware of it when you see it but it’s good IA that relates to SEO allows people to not only understand their surroundings but also find what they’re looking for in them.

SEO is the first step in getting visitors to your website. But without compelling, functional and targeted IA that integrates with your SEO, you’ll never keep your visitor there long enough to find out just why your company is so special.

Excellent IA that relates to SEO lets people find what they’re looking for online AND in the real world. That’s when SEO and IA work best. If you want to find out if your website’s information architecture integrates smoothly with your SEO, our team can run a thorough site audit to analyse your website’s performance from an SEO standpoint.

About the author

Harry Sanders

Authors Page

I am the founder and director of StudioHawk, a Google Marketing Specialist SEO company which helps businesses to drive the maximum possible organic search engine traffic and sales.

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