SESNY 2011 | Information Architecture for the Modern Website

By Justin Champion | Mar 23, 2011
More Articles by Justin

I just filled up on some lunch and I’m ready to jump into the next session entitled, Information Architecture for the Modern Website, which, explains how to design a website that meets the needs of the social, real user. Housing structure

Shari Thurow is the founder and SEO Director for Omni Marketing Interactive. You can follow Shari on twitter at @sharithurow.

Information Architecture Fundamentals

  • Categorization (taxonomy) – controlled vocabulary. Goal is to make everything easier to find.
  • Organization (Indexation)
  • Labeling (representative of a page and/or section content on a website)
  • Prioritization (what is the order you’re going to present navigation labels)

Thurow continued with “broad and shallow is better than narrow and deep,” when referring to prioritization.

Q. Why should website owners care about information architecture?

  • Lost customer (12% probability of someone revisiting your site after a user error occured)
  • Brand value – How searches perceive your brand when they can’t find desired content
  • Design/development costs
  • Website findability – communicates ‘aboutness’ to search engines and searches

Q. Why should SEOs care about information architecture?

  • Crawlability
  • Indexation
  • Rankings
  • Appearance of search listings

Four Building Blocks of SEO

  • Keyword focused text
  • Architecture and design (Access to content)
  • Link development
  • Searcher goals and behaviors (3 types: navigational, informational, transactional)

Effective Information Architecture Accomodates All “Finding” Behaviors

  • Query (search)
  • Browse
  • Ask

How Information Architecture Determines Content Groups

  • Explicit user feedback (why people do things)
  • Analytics (how people do things)

Web thesaurus compendium is a great tool for keyword research.

According to Thurow, Mayo Clinic is a great example of information architecture at its finest. Navigation labels are KEY, and as you can see, they’re everywhere on this website.

Search engines treat embedded text links differently, Embedded text links have more value. Make sure to know your categories and dates.

Blog titles and heading should have keywords. Headlines appear in social media sites (you absolutely have to think ahead of time). That being said, choose your acronyms wisely. Make sure the target you are talking to understands what you mean! Real time search can turn in to long time benefits.

Tips for Optimizing Blogs

  • Categorize your content that makes sense to audience
  • Archive by date
  • Blog titles and headlines should have keywords
  • Create author pages
  • Utilize embedded text links

Principle of front doors- assume that everyone doesn’t come through the home page (65% of people). “You have to have links in place to compensate when those links disappear [from the blog home page],” Thurow explains.

All Navigation Labels Should Be…

  • Unique
  • Distinguishable (it’s gonna like like spam if you don’t)
  • Understandable (It has to contain words that your target audience understands)
  • Scannable

According to Thurow, websites having 102 – 104 links on a page are ranking the highest in search engines.

It’s all about the ‘Principle of Choice.’ If the user only has one choice, they’ll feel threatened, however, if the user has too many choice it all becomes white noise. It’s best to meet in the middle – four links are good, but no more than 13. If there are more than 13, people will start to get frustrated. Split it up!

Be Active on Your Pages

  • Lead by example
  • Provide supporting materials
  • Create and maintain optimized contributor/moderator pages
  • Call out and reward good (and consistent) contributors
  • Have trained moderators/contributors on staff
  • Moderate for spam and innapropriate listings

If you follow Thurow’s advice, over time, your page will rank. It will get stronger and stronger. Thurow urges, “This really sets the stage for search engine optimization.”

Things to Remember:

  • Information architecture should not be considered after a site rebuild.
  • Link to content via:
    • Formal site navigation
    • Supplemental navigation
  • “Think before you post.” Don’t just do it because it’s hot, work on it so it has lasting value.
  • Make sure you link to content consistently.

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