The concept of information architecture (IA) is understood differently, depending on the industry that uses it. In the context of SEO – IA is the science and the art of organising information, content, navigation and functionality of the website in the most easy way possible for people and crawlers. Sounds good? In fact, arranging information clearly requires more time and precision in thinking than some exceptional abilities. However, the effort put into this process brings tangible business benefits. How?
IA is one of the components of the search engine algorithm and allows spiders to understand the relationships between pages on our website. Well organised content or products in categories are rated higher. Search engines are great at recognising typical architecture patterns, so it is worth using well-known and proven methods of organising information. The decisions taken at the planning stage of the website build have a major impact on the result.
The structure of the links, like the category structure, is important for the subsequent development of the site. Spiders do not see the page the same way as people do. For obvious reasons, they cannot pay attention to the same quality factors as users. For many years, crawl bots analyse various aspects of the link structure to be able to assess website trust. Therefore, we need a hierarchy that will allow people (and bots) visiting the site to quickly find the content that interests them.
The most important rules:
- The user should be able to easily access the site’s resources, using the least number of clicks. Although the ‘three-click rule’ is very important, but one should not stick to this rule rigidly. Always be guided by the interest of the user
- A single page should not contain more than 100 links. Although the web crawlers have huge resources, it’s better to help them than to disturb them
- The flow of information from the homepage to the category and sub-category page should get smoothly
The structure of internal linking is very important not only from the point of view of SEO, but also the user’s convenience of using the site. Performing a site audit in terms of internal linking can help you find errors. Sometimes there is no link to a given sub-page, and sometimes valuable content does not receive enough exposure. The extensive internal linking structure improves the quality of the page. The most important benefits include:
- Opening a sub-page route that was previously less available to search engine crawlers
- Help in organising sub-pages with categories using keywords used in URLs and anchor texts
- Improved user navigation by providing additional ways to interact with the site
- Keywords in anchor texts allow you to respond to users’ needs – Google’s primary goal!
- Transfer of links between sub-pages (allegedly a component of the SEO ranking)
- Organisation of website architecture and communication with search engines to indicate the most important sub-pages for you
Great tips on the preparation of information architecture are given in the book ‘SEO – the art of search engine optimisation’ that should be familiar to every SEO specialist. According to them, the architecture design process should look something like this:
- We start by creating navigation menu at the top of the page, where you’ll find links to the most important content categories
- Then we organise the content in the inverted hierarchy, from the most detailed content at the bottom, to the structure covering the larger whole
- When we have the bottom part of the hierarchy, it’s time to create a second level of categories. Sometimes it is not necessary, for example when we run a blog (we need only one level of categories)
- Now the first level of the categories. Let’s check whether you need generic words, that is generic names of categories (usually one-word), such as dresses, tops or rather you need more specific names, such as party dresses or long-sleeve tops
- Do not forget about such pages as ‘about us’ and ‘contact’. Users are accustomed to them and we have to include them on the site
If we care about the clarity of a website, we should bet on a horizontal (flat) architecture, that is, one in which you can access all sub-pages in up to a few clicks. Two aspects speak for it:
- First of all, the ease of indexing – robots have a budget to scan your site. If the sub-pages are close to the main page, we have a better chance that they will be discovered and indexed.
- Second, affordability – it’s just easier to click three or four times than ten.
Providing clear labels for each link encourages further exploration of the site, also having an impact on the quality of SEO. This not only increases the time the user is on the website and the length of the session, but the longer the user stays on the website, the greater the chance of conversion. In the case of navigation, as in the case of architecture, it is worth being a conservative. Users are accustomed to certain solutions and unknowingly notice their presence. Elements such as breadcrumb navigation (along with various variants), so-called drop-down menu and internal search engine.
The drop-down menu is a solution as old as the internet. Thanks to it, we do not have to click individual categories, but we already get access to them at the menu level.
Breadcrumb navigation is one of the most popular navigation techniques found in interfaces. It works great not only in the positioning of stores, but also on blogs, and even in extensive web and mobile applications. The main task of this type of navigation is to indicate to the user the current location in the structure of the page. It also contains links to the previous location and often the home page, so that the user always knows where he is and can easily return to his previous location.
From the SEO perspective, the internal search engine is the least useful (Google is a search engine that does not like the competition), but from the user’s perspective it is almost indispensable. It is good practice to implement an internal search engine along with breadcrumb menu and a drop-down menu. Thanks to this, the user will gain a choice and will be able to navigate our site in accordance with their own preferences.
Pagination, or content distribution to multiple sub-pages, makes the site more pleasing to the eye. It is better to divide a huge list of products or posts into several subpages. Users are accustomed to such a solution and it is used by many web developers. From the perspective of SEO, however, this raises several problems, such as low-quality pages with duplicates or cannibalisation of keywords. We solve them using such attributes as rel = “next” and rel = “prev”, which indicate to the search engine a sequence of pages. Thanks to this, you will not have to index all sub-pages, and will display only one of them in the search results (usually the first one). Another way is to create (apart from pagination) an additional, one page with all content, and place the rel = “canonical” attribute on the other pages.
Intelligently designed website architecture will allow your website to appear higher in organic search results. It is important to pay attention to all aspects mentioned above as it will allow easy access to interesting resources, intelligent, bottom-up hierarchy of categories, intuitive navigation and eliminate possible problems related to pagination, duplicate content and redirections.
The goal is to reduce the total number of links that will connect your homepage with the rest of the sub-pages. The home page is the most important because it will be the one that will direct the most back-links. Take advantage of the importance of your home page to spread the value on your website evenly.