Keywords and Site Architecture

One of the more important parts of SEO is having a well thought-out site architecture. While this topic is often discussed, how you should derive your site architecture from your keyword research usually isn’t as well detailed.

As an example, let’s assume that you’re dealing with a new site focused on the nursing community that hasn’t been built yet. With some adjustments, you can use the same process on an existing site.

Understand your Market

I know that sounds pretty basic, but few people realize how important keyword research tools can be in understanding your market. To get the mindset, step back for a minute and imagine a world without search engines (you know, like a hunter-gatherer society). You’re a marketing person thinking about your TV, print, and radio campaigns.

First, you want to understand what’s going on in the head of your potential customers. You need to consider the ways customers think about products like yours. Part of this is thinking about what words they use to describe those products.

Insight into that mindset equals insight into how to sell to them. Tools like Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery give you the details of the words they used, backed by hard statistics.

Map the Keyword Space

Categories will emerge from the keyword research, identifying different subsets of your products or services, or information that your potential customers would find useful. Let’s take a look at an example from the nursing space, using data pulled from Wordtracker:

Nursing Keywords

A few things emerge quickly as categories, which I circled in red. Nursing scrubs and uniforms (picking up on number 10) might be one category. If it doesn’t fit, you could choose to exclude nursing homes. You can also argue that you should have a tree of pages dedicated to state boards of nursing. After all, items 3, 5, and 6 all relate to that.

So a basic architecture already begins to emerge. Here are the top-level categories you end up with on our example site:

  • Nursing scrubs and uniforms
  • Nursing jobs
  • Nursing education and nursing scholarships (inferring from the data that the broader topic of education is of interest)
  • Nursing journals
  • History of nursing
  • A tree of pages for state boards of nursing

The beauty of this architecture is that it:

  1. Maps to the way your prospective customers think. You’re using the words they use for your top-level categories. This will help them connect with your site, more quickly recognize where to find what they want, and increase their engagement. We haven’t even gotten to SEO benefits yet, and you should already be sold on this approach!
  2. Allows you to develop pages that have page titles using the most frequently searched on keywords. In addition, the anchor text that links to those pages can also use those keywords. Once again, this increases user engagement with the pages (you’re speaking their language!). But, of course, there’s the killer SEO benefit — page titles and anchor text are two of the most potent on-page factors that are under your control.

Mapping keywords to site structure in this fashion is the best way to build a solid site foundation. To do the job completely, you need to look a bit more deeply at the rest of the keywords than the set of keywords I showed above. Nonetheless, this is basically how to break down a site architecture and use keyword mapping to drive it.

With an existing site, you have to be more judicious in your approach. It may be difficult to completely restructure your site, even if that’s what the keyword mapping exercise suggests.

However, you can be a bit more selective and pick and choose your battles. For example, you could add a nursing scrubs and uniforms shoulder to your site to start competing for those keywords as a first step. Probably easier to do than blowing up your entire site architecture and starting over.

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