Information Architecture (IA) systems have been around for a very long time. IA primarily is used by librarians, but soon after web development and design became an art and science – that is, when done right and not by a 14-year old living in his parents’ basement – experts realized if they were going to create truly useful sites, they needed to master and apply IA.

What exactly is IA? Referencing the most widely-recognized document in use today, “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” it’s not so easy to come up with one pithy, simple, catch-all definition. But here’s what resonates with me. In one respect, IA is all about how to:

“…organize huge amounts of information on big web sites and intranets so that people can actually find what they’re looking for.”

Or as I say, arranging your web page content so searchers can find what they need as quickly as possible.

All this is easier said than done, but if you invest the time and energy, you will keep visitors on your site longer, they’ll view more pages, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll perform your desired conversion factor – calling you, emailing for information or visiting your place of business.

How does IA and SEO integrate and get along? Sometimes in the beginning stages, not always very well. But since we’ve said it’s all about making sure your human reader can find your content, and SEO is about better visibility for your web pages, both in the search engines and onsite as well, now maybe you can start to see how they need to be in the same playpen.

And when it comes to finding information, how do we start? Whether it’s by typing in a search term or clicking on a link, SEO and IA come together by keywords.

The keywords and phrases your target audience uses to find your content is the common point of love for these two disciplines. The keywords your target market plugs into search engines to find your web pages are going to shape the priority of your content in your web site hierarchy and navigation paths. And through out a series of posts I’m doing on IA and SEO, you’ll see exactly how that relationship works.

If you’ve now wrapped your head around what IA is – sort of – let’s also clarify what IA is NOT.

IA is NOT:

  • Graphic design
  • Software development
  • Usability engineering

But as you may also suspect – rightly so – they do interact with one another at certain points in web design projects. They can affect one another, good or bad!

Why Does IA Matter?

Because not being able to find information is expensive in terms of time and productivity. How much time and patience have you lost, because you know darn good and well something’s on a website, but you just can’t lay your hands on it today? Tell me about it.

Now, what if your prospects felt this way? What are they gonna do? Why, vote with their mouse – by clicking the “back” button on their browser or on the little red X to shut the window completely. Either way, you lose.

And here’s something else to ruminate upon: suppose you finally get it, and decide to apply IA to your site. Call up your web developer, bounce this off her, and see what sort of estimate she comes back with. It’s going to hurt in your pocketbook with a web site redesign.

Furthermore…would this do something to your company’s or business’s reputation? What if Amazon and Ebay made it hard to find our favorite things? Would they be in business today? Hell, no!

IA is hard to “see” on a website. It’s felt. When you, your employees or customers can quickly lay hands on the information or content the first time, that’s when you know it’s there and working.

And remember, SEO supports and develops IA by providing those relevant keyword phrases our target audience uses to find our content.

So here’s your introduction to IA and SEO. Stay tuned for the series, because I’m going to go deeper in IA, and all along the way, I’m going to show you how it integrates with SEO.

In the meantime…if you’d like to know more about getting SEO-smart and certified, Search Engine Academy is ready to help!

Until next time…keep on doing the SEO that you know.