Wednesday, January 27, 2016

SEO 101: The Importance of Website Structure

A good website is not simply a series of pages, but a carefully-plotted structure that describes, identifies, and classifies pages by topics and sub-topics.

The word "taxonomy," often associated with biology, is also often used to describe website structure; to better visualize a good website, then, we suggest viewing an actual biological taxonomy. 

A simple biological taxonomy [Source]

This xample, from NothingButSharePoint.com, a blog about SharePoint and Office 365--is an unlikely candidate that nevertheless presented the most simple image of taxonomy on a Google image search.

The blog offers the example above to begin a conversation about organizing documents; the image, however, speaks to the universal appeal of taxonomy. Applied to any collection of information, a taxonomy is a simple yet powerful tool for guiding people to relevant information.

Of course, SEO works with search engines algorithms to achieve the same purpose. In SEO, we don't talk about the "best" content, per say; we speak about "relevant" content (which is, by nature, often the best). Relevance speaks to the quality of the information:

"Relevant writing is writing that feels necessary--writing that stays with the reader after the reader has finished reading. Relevant writing aims to make an impression. You want to offer something meaningful."

Please read: "How to Write Relevant Content."

Yet relevant content is useless (and, therefore, irrelevant) if no one can find it. Google and users alike need to be guided to your content. This is the function of website taxonomy.

When a website structure follows a logical taxonomy, the description, identification, and classification of content is seamless. From a search engine's perspective, a seamless structure means speedy and efficient indexing.

In case you're unfamiliar with "indexing," here's an overview from Kissmetrics:

"Indexing is the processing of the information gathered by the Googlebot from its crawling activities. Once documents are processed, they are added to Google’s searchable index if they are determined to be quality content. During indexing, the Googlebot processes the words on a page and where those words are located. Information such as title tags and ALT attributes are also analyzed during indexing."

A seamless structure also means your content can be easily shared. (For more on writing content that will inspire people to share, please read: "Three Keys to Writing SEO-Friendly Content That Inspire People to Share."

Finally, a seamless structure guarantees a website's ease of use. As you might know, "usability" is a major component of Google's ranking. As Kasia PerzyƄska wrote for Positionly last June:

"Shaping a thoughtful and engaging user experience helps readers perceive your website positively and triggers return visits. Usability and user experience provides measurable profits to a site’s visibility, which search engines interpret as being higher quality."

Read: "6 Current Google Ranking Factors You Should Keep up With.

Your structure or taxonomy, then, should be developed before you even begin building your website. As a practice, too, developing a website structure can help you refine your business offering. Again, you can create a taxonomy in any number of ways, but it can be helpful to think about a new website in terms of a home page, category page, and product pages.

A simple website taxonomy [Source: "How to create a site structure Google will love"]

Home Page: A home page is, obviously, the first page of your website, which will contain links to all relevant categories. A home page should include the most basic information about your business or website.

You want to be specific, but general about your offering. Describe your offering clearly, but remember you will go into detail later, with your category and product pages.

If you're a hair salon in New York City, for example, your home page will promote this simple fact.

Category Page: A category page is the place to use longer-tail keywords (instead of single words, phrases and/or sentences). A category page simply refines your offering into more nuanced subsections. As Hallam notes in its article on creating a website taxonomy:

"These pages should be the main focus for link building and should regularly have internal links pointing towards them whenever the topic is mentioned on a new page or post, this way they will be the most likely page to be picked and promoted by search engines for the topic they cover. Being an ideal place for people to enter the website on they act as key landing pages and can be used for paid advertising."

If you're a hair salon in New York City, your category pages might detail your services: Women's Styling or Men's Styling, for example.

Product Page:Your most specified pages, your product pages should focus on a sole product or service. You want to describe your products, one-page-per-product, explicitly. Product pages will not necessarily rank high in search engines for general queries, but they will be helpful in the context of your website, and for more specific queries.

If you're a hair salon in New York City, your product pages will detail the specific services you offer under your category pages: Keratin treatments, for example, under the category "Women's styling"

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Much of the work of structuring a website falls upon your website developer. However, the more input you have in the process, the better. And, of course, you want to make sure your developer understands the basics of taxonomy, and how a good structure influences a site's SEO.

An SEO Company That Understands Website Taxonomy: Stempan's PC!

To build an effective, fully-optimized website, you need a web development company that understands SEO. Stepman's PC is the rare company that offers a host of SEO and marketing professionals to optimize your website. Contact Stepman's PC today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.

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