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How Keywords Help Determine Site Architecture

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Keyword research is a gem of the Internet age. Never before has there been so much information available about the mindset of your potential customers.

In the past, marketing managers relied on very narrow slices of data (such as surveys and usability tests). While these are still useful, keyword research is a new dimension that provides insight into a much broader audience.

When you're planning to launch a new Web site, you need to figure out how to structure that site. There are many different factors to consider, such as your market space (obviously), the specific products and services you'll offer, and what your competitors are doing. You should also consider how to build a site that's easy to use and helpful for users.

An Example

Let's say we want to build a Web site to provide information about the nursing profession. Start by searching in a keyword research tool related to the word "nursing." Here's some sample data for that search from Wordtracker:

Keyword Daily Estimated Volume
Nursing 2,550
ohio board of nursing 1,006
nursing scrubs 824
nursing uniforms 744
history of nursing 677
texas board of nursing 651
nursing jobs 636
sample nursing care plans 628
nursing care plan for chf 609
nursing homes 544
nursing scholarships 529
travel nursing 449
free nursing cues 441
endocrine system sample test for nursing 424
nursing pay scale 421
nursing diagnosis 420
nursing journals 413
free nursing continuing education 406
nursing care plans 405
online lpn nursing classes 394

When looking at this chart, think about what it suggests about the site's organization. What keywords will the home page focus on? What major category pages does this keyword list suggest for the site?

You have to filter the data a little before drawing conclusions. For example, terms related to nursing homes probably don't fit on our site. In addition, some of the terms are pretty specific (you might want to have a category for "state boards of nursing," but a category for "Ohio board of nursing" is probably too specific for a top-level category).

After thinking about this a bit, here's a sample top-level hierarchy:

Keyword Top-Level Hierarchy

Notice the search phrases aren't copied directly into this hierarchy. For example, "nursing scrubs and uniforms" were combined into one group, as were jobs and pay and education and CEUs. Always think about how to group together various phrases in a logical way to help end users.

In contrast, "history of nursing" and "nursing journals" were taken verbatim, because they already seemed to merit a top-level category on their own.

Thinking a bit deeper, if we create a "state boards of nursing" category, we probably want to have the pages for each of the states underneath that (e.g., "Ohio board of nursing," "Texas board of nursing"). If that page has high demand content, you can still link to it from your home page (in a top content list).

How do we decide what states to develop content for? Go back to your keyword tool and plug in "board of nursing" or "nursing board" and see what you get.

Summary

Keyword tools provide a rich array of unique data -- the vocabulary your potential customers use when searching for products, services, or information related to your business. This data has been used to help write title tags, headings, and on-page content.

However, the value of this data is much greater. It can help you build a contextually rich site that users will love.

This shouldn't be the only tool in your bag, though. Use your own good judgment. And if the site is for a larger organization, tactics like usability studies, card sorting, and customer surveys should also play a big role.

But keyword research can get you started. Twenty years ago, marketers would have given their right arm to have this type of data, even without search engines to optimize for.

Using these types of tools to design for users is a great thing. From an SEO perspective, it provides you with a site that's more likely to attract links, and that the search engines will see as well structured. These are big benefits that will help provide a big return for your business.


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