Happy Wednesday to all of you in the SEO community! Search Engine Academy does a little post on Information Architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO) pretty much every Wednesday.

We’re getting deep in to IA and how it integrates with SEO. After going through the basics, the four systems that make up IA, and metadata, we are now going over how you can implement IA into your site’s initial design, or makeover. It’s never too late to go back and restructure your web site, honestly.

Well, for today, let’s talk about doing some research to begin building our IA framework. As I always do, I refer you to the go-to book on IA, “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” (Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld). Eyeball this diagram:

Balance content, context and the user for information architecture & SEO

Balancing these requirements for IA & SEO

For IA, our research should be balanced between content, context and the user.

Context

What are the business goals of this website? You may have the most beautiful site in the world that’s easy to navigate and has great content, but does it support your business goals and objectives? If you’re running an e-commerce website, you want sales. To support that goal, you need to figure out the best way to persuade your target audience through your sales copy to click through to the order form. Your order form needs to be easy to use and instill trust, so the potential buyer doesn’t bail out during the checkout process.

Most of my attendees and clients don’t directly sell on their sites. Instead, their business goal for their site is to get the prospect to call or email for information, as a starting point. The same thing goes for my website. I really don’t want you to sign up for a course until you’ve contacted me, because chances are if you’ve had any SEO experience at all, you may be better off having me design a custom SEO training course for you.

So, before you jump into this process, be sure you are very clear on what you want your website to do for your business.

If you’re doing this IA as a team, here are some questions you may want to ask of everyone to get started on the right path (questions are from “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” (Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld).

  • What are the short- and long-term goals?
  • What’s the business plan? What are the politics?
  • What’s the schedule and budget?
  • Who are the intended audiences?
  • Why will people come to the site? Why will they come back?
  • What types of tasks should users be able to perform?
  • How will content be created and managed? And by whom?
  • What’s the technical infrastructure?
  • What worked in the past? What didn’t?

Another way to help you do this research process is to get all existing marketing materials, documents, ads, organization charts (if you’re designing an intranet) and anything else that will give you the big picture of the business. All these need to reviewed and a vision of what the business offers should be articulated and documented clearly. That’s what you are also going to say on your website pages.

If you’re an SEO consultant or SEO specialist reading this, and you are in charge of web design/re-design with others, take the time to create a presentation of what you want to do for IA/SEO. Be sure you make it easy to understand and stress the benefits of taking the time and effort to do this work right now. It’ll pay off later down the road, trust me. Remember, this is a project, and you are now a project manager, in addition to being a program manager.

This is a good stopping point for this Wednesday’s edition of IA and SEO. Let this spur your thinking about how well your site is supporting your business goals, and some of the steps you may need to do to improve the site’s ability to help your business get more sales.

In the meantime, keep it between the ditches and come back next Wednesday to read more!

All the best,