Hello to my SEO friends! Search Engine Academy has another Wednesday regular post for you on Information Architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO). We have talked about how you can plan and implement IA into your SEO strategy for a little more than a year now. So let’s keep going, shall we?

Lately, we’ve been going over how to implement your IA strategy. Today, let’s talk about a key deliverable – the IA strategy report.

If you’ve done IA, you know it takes a lot of time for larger sites. If you’re doing IA for a client, this strategy report is the one that has to hit a home run. You must now show the client why and how IA helps your SEO strategy. You’re integrating everything into this document – the history of the site (unless it’s a new launch), research, analysis, testing, etc.

If you’ve been part of a team, this is where you all gather around the table, hold hands, sing Kumbaya and put the damn thing together, but you, as the IA expert, are the one who has to do the heavy lifting. Sorry!

Your challenge is put this report together so that it’s somewhat interesting to read, isn’t technical and clearly explains the IA you and your team propose.

Organizing the first draft is always the hardest part, isn’t it? You bet! IA is not linear, but guess what – the report is. Well, you will need images, illustrations and visuals. A picture is truly worth a thousand words, especially here, since IA can be a vague, fuzzy thing that’s just “out there.”

Here’s a sample table of contents you could use as a jumping off point. If it’s not perfect, then modify it for your use:

  • Executive Summary
  • Site Audience/Site Mission/Site Vision
  • Results of Benchmarking, User Interviews and Content Analysis
  • Site Organization and Content
  • Navigation
  • Labeling
  • Features
  • IA Strategies and Approaches
  • Mockups of Content Areas
  • Navigation Elements
  • Distributed Content IA Strategy
  • Content Management

I bet you’re wondering how long your report should be. If it’s a large, large, LARGE site, the report could easily go 100+ pages. In general, if you can keep it to about 50 pages or less, that would be preferable. People don’t have the time or energy to read long, large reports. You run the risk of losing the war before you even get started.

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary should be your 100,000 foot view. Make it a high level outline of your goals and the methods you used. Take a lot of care in writing this, as it sets the tone for the rest of the report. It’s very much like that first impression thing. Make it boring, and nobody will go past it.

If you can keep it one page, that’s great! You will want the best editor in the world, the most ruthless editor in the world to go over the report and cut the fat out of it.

Site Audience/Site Mission/Site Vision

Define the target audience and the site’s goals. Copy and paste the website’s mission here. If you think it makes the report more readable, create a table or matrix that lists the audiences and the site’s role for each target audience.

Make a table or matrix out of your lessons learned. People can easily scan the table and see the pain you went through without having to read a novel about the whole experience.

You could label the columns as Observation, Conclusion and Implications for the Site IA.

In the strategies and approaches section, discuss however many strategies you came up with for the site. If you have an accompanying wireframe, make a table that lists the callouts. Someone can print this report, separate the pages and compare the information to the wireframe.

Use flow charts and illustrations to help the end reader see the layout and information flow. From the wonderful book that’s written by Peter Morville & Louis Rosenfeld called “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” have a look at these:

Conceptual Blueprint Example for IA & SEO

Conceptual Blueprint

The wireframe

Wireframe For IA & SEO

IA & SEO Distributed Content Layout

Distributed Content Architecture

Hopefully now you have some ideas about how to draft a report. It doesn’t have to be exactly like this, but in general, this is good reporting structure that will present the information in a fairly organized manner. Until next time, think about the report you could develop for your client. And as always, keep it between the ditches, alright?

All the best,