Here’s a typical conversation with a company that’s just starting to consider search engine optimization as a way to grow their business via the Web:
Prospect: I want to rank for these 500 keywords.
Mark: Okay…let’s take a look at your site. Hmmm… I see that you only have 13 pages indexed in Yahoo. That could be problematic.
Prospect: Why is that?
Mark: It is usually to your benefit to have more pages of top quality content in order for you to have something that the search engines can index and rank.
Prospect: Well, what do you recommend?
Mark: I recommend that you build information into your site.
These conversations happen on an almost daily basis. But they wouldn’t need to happen if more people understood the very basics of search engine optimization.
Proper search engine optimization is not “voodoo.” Search engines read text. Your mission is to ensure that your Web site has quality text for both human visitors and the search engines visiting your site. Thorough content coverage and proper site organization are essential elements of SEO. That’s why it makes sense to bring in a search engine optimization professional before you redesign your Web site. Creating a successful Information Architecture does not have to be a painful process, and it can pay dividends.
Basic Information Architecture
Most Web sites will have the basics: Home, About Us, Products, and Services. Successful Information Architecture (site structure) for search engine optimization involves getting a little more granular in your description of the basics like products and services, and thinking of other content that could be useful for your visitors. Other content can include resources, a glossary of terms, a blog, product category sections, press releases, and the like.
Going Beyond the Basics
Creating a deep and informational Web site does more than just create more pages. With professional internal linking, you can lend more authority to the individual pages within your site while also creating additional entry points. Think of it like this:
If you were to try to use a funnel to catch rain, how much could you catch with a small funnel with a 3-inch diameter? Then, how much could you catch if you had a 20-inch diameter funnel? The same principle applies here. You can catch more search visitors with a deeper Web site.
Catching the Tail of Search
What’s especially nice about this is that these additional pages can be optimized for specific keywords. As marketers, we know that the more specific a search term visit is, the more likely it is that this person will convert into a desired action (lead/sale). These pages provide excellent opportunities to target the “tail” of search.
The “tail” defined: When search engine marketers refer to “the tail,” we are talking about the highly specific and infrequently searched “onesy, twosy” phrases. These are not the broad keywords that generate a large percentage of your monthly search traffic (referred to as “the head”). These are the words that you may not immediately consider targeting that can drive highly targeted traffic, albeit in small numbers.
The other reason that you will want to structure your Web site to be as deep as possible is that this adds value to the site as a whole. Have you ever come across Wikipedia in your searches? Why is it so popular?
Wikipedia has a ridiculous number of pages indexed in the major search engines (around 88 million pages indexed in Yahoo at the time of this writing). So what if only one of those pages is relevant to the search term you used! That one page is part of a greater whole. The “authority” of Wikipedia is immense. Certainly, this is not the only reason why this site ranks (great internal and external linking is a big part of it), but the Web site was also architected to do well in the search engines.
You should test this for yourself. Find the most important keywords for your business. Go to yahoo.com and type “site:yourdomain.com” (obviously, change “your domain” to your actual domain and do not use quotes) to see how many pages of your site are indexed in Yahoo. Check to see which Web sites rank highly for the search terms that you would like to target. Then see how many pages of that Web site are indexed. You may start to see a pattern (not always the case, as there are a number of factors as to why Web sites rank highly). But, with few exceptions, you’ll notice that many well-ranking Web sites have deep architectures and detailed, unique content.
Building Content With Blogs
Blogs are a great way to add quality content and build out a deeper Web site architecture. Because of Permalinks, each new blog posting, in effect, becomes a new page. If you are an active blogger, you can create several new pages of content in a relatively short period of time. Not only are you creating additional pages, but fresh content won’t hurt you with the search engines, either.
So, whether you’re considering a redesign of your Web site or starting from scratch, take a little more time to create an Information Architecture that is structured for success. Throughout this process, ask yourself and others if there are ample opportunities to encounter valuable relevant content on your Web site. You can expect the targeted visitor and the search engine to reward your efforts.