Information Architecture For The Modern Website
The first day of the SES SF 2011, saw a solo presentation by Shari Thurow, Founder & SEO Director, Omni Marketing Interactive. The focus was to architect sites for the rapidly evolving cross-media challenges of social media, real time and user generated content.
Shari stressed on the importance of information architecture in SEO and her focus was to bust the myths surrounding information architecture.
What is Information Architecture:
This is how Shari defined it- “Information architecture is the science and art of organizing and labeling website content to support usability and findability. Information architecture address several facets of the searchers experience”
In simple words the purpose of information architecture is to make content easier to find. She said that improper information architecture leads to users hitting the back button, as it causes dissatisfaction in the user.
The Challenge- People cannot find what they want to find, they leave the site leading to loss of customers.
The Solution- To deal with the same, Shari recommended that, “You always wireframe a website. It’s the first step towards good information architecture and reducing costs in the design later on.”
Also, wireframe helps minimize duplicate content (generated by tag cloud, faceted navigation etc).
Shari said, “Tech teams often don’t think like your customer. A technique to try is to take a website screenshot and remove design and content and individually quiz people about what page they are viewing.” She said that after finalizing the information architecture, you will discover that the need to do revisions and redesigns will go down.
Shari next talked about index count and duplicate content issues. It is understood that the way you architect your site has an immediate effect on what is indexed by the search engines and what gets ranked. If the ‘aboutness’ of the page is establish well, then it will get more links.
Information architecture should be set in a way that you type a search and find what you are looking for. Shari said she used the WTF? measurement tool to determine how good the IA is. She said, “Content MUST contain words and phrases that people type into search engines. Reduce number of “WTF” moments. You do not want the technical model of your tech team. Accomodate navigational, informational, and search types.”
Shari defined the most common searcher goals:
- Navigational (itunes search with sitelinks is an example)
- Informational (wikipedia listing in search makes the search informational)
What Information Architecture is NOT:
Shari stressed that information architecture is not PR sculpting/siloing. It is an outdated SEO tactic. She said , “The accepted definition of IA is: 1. The structural design of shared information environments.2. The combination of organization, labeling, search, and navigation systems.”
She said that it is necessary for every website to categorize content. These are the basic steps to information architecture:
Prioritization – which will lead to your Final Navigation
Shari laid a huge emphasis on categorizing the blog content. She said, “To have successful blogs and social media networks, use categorization. If you have different types of visitors or industries, versioning pages to include relevant keywords in the content is important. Give multimedia a separate area in addition to their native locations. To test, make sure you’re observing the user target that you want to reach. Pages should be unique, distinguishable and well-labeled. Think in terms of navigation labels over keywords.”
Shari gave further tips on blogging-
- The titles and headings should contain keywords.
- Embedded text links to other previously written blogs must be used.
- The last thing you should do when you optimize a blog is that you create author pages.
- Be careful while using abbreviations- one must always spell it out
- Visual affordance test will let you make sure your links look clickable.
- Do not use drop down menus as they are not preferred by users
- Do a keyword research on YouTube
- Use Web Thesaurus Compendium, Thesaurus.com
- Do not organize your content by keywords- but organize it by the topic.
In conclusion she stressed the importance of user generated content- that is good website, product and service reviews. The way to get the same is to monitor and reward good reviews.
About the Author: Nav is the founder and CEO of Page Traffic, a premier search engine company known for its assured SEO service, web design and development, copywriting and full time SEO professionals. Navneet has wide experience in natural search engine optimization, internet marketing and PPC campaigns. He is a prolific writer and his articles can be found in the "Best Articles" section of many websites and article banks. As a search engine analyst , he has over 9 years of experience and his knowledge is in application here.