Happy Wednesday to all of you SEOers out there. Welcome back to another post on Information Architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO), where Search Engine Academy talks about integrating the two functions to make the best website possible for your visitor.

We are now going over how to implement IA into your site. In particular, we are discussing the roles of various people who ideally should be part of your IA/SEO team. With that in mind, let’s keep going.

The Content Manager

Since the interwebs is all about content, and IA is most definitely about making your most important content easy to find, this is someone you want to have a close working relationship with, right? Yes.

There are lots and lots of questions you’ll want to ask the content manager for the site. When it comes to IA, I rely and depend upon Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld’s excellent, rock-star manual “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” and here the questions they suggest you pose:

What are the formal and informal policies regarding content inclusion?

What are the guidelines and rules for putting content on the site? Is there a formal structure in place for guest authors? Depending upon the answers you receive, this will tell you how robust and flexible content inclusion is, and it could well determine how you get IA incorporated into their site.

Is there a content management system that handles authoring and publishing?

There are as many different CMS platforms out there as there are colors of socks. If possible, get a tour of the backend dashboard and see for yourself what it’s like to create, edit, optimize and upload content.

Do those systems use controlled vocabularies and attributes to manage content?

Well, if you’re an IA consultant, or this is the first time IA has been applied to the site, I’m guessing you’ll have to say no. But, if something’s been developed, do take a peek at how that is laid out, and see what changes need to be made.

How is content entered into the system?

Ask about work flow processes to upload content. Get the big picture and the dirty details, because this will tell you a great deal about how to work with those processes to implement IA.

What technology is being used?

Get to know the system used. If it’s one you’ve worked with in the past, congratulations. If not, be ready for a learning curve.

What content does each owner handle?

Make a list or spreadsheet here. Maybe one person has it all, heaven forbid. Or perhaps there are way too many content owners, or multiple owners of the same content who fight like alley cats to decide what gets posted. Touch base with each content owner and explain to them what IA is all about, and how it will help them in the long run. Really, it will.

What is the purpose of the content? What are the goals and vision behind this content area?

Is the content meant to convert to sales, or contact? Simply to inform, or get a specific action? Is it doing that job well? Did someone actually plot out goals and achievement, and map content to it, or is everything kind of up in the air, floating aimlessly?

Who is the audience?

There could be multiple target markets. Is each type of content really speaking to the population it’s meant for?

What is the format of the content? Is it dynamic or static?

Is it an RSS or news feed, or is someone manually uploading? What is content written like – is it easy to read, is there white space, bullet points and images to illustrate the point? Could it be improved?

Who maintains the content?

Is there one gatekeeper, or are there many? This will give you an idea of how many others you need to work with, and what their content management philosophy is. Hopefully they won”t make life hard on you to implement IA. It’s for their own good.

What future content or services are planned?

Who sits around and brainstorms what’s coming down the road? Is there a plan to keep up with industry changes, news, different products and services? If you can look at the editorial calendar, that is a plus.

Where does content originate? How is it weeded?

Do they write their own content, or do they pull from other sources? Are there ghost writers? Who’s making the decisions to accept and publish the content, or not?

What legal issues impact the content management process?

Here in the U.S., if you offer financial advice or legal services, you are regulated as to what you can put on your website. Be sure you know what can be and cannot be published to stay in good with regulatory organizations, if any.

So, now you know what to ask the content manager. Let’s move onto the web developers…

Technical infrastructure is just as important and could impact your best IA intentions. You absolutely need to work with these folks, and here are some questions Morville/Rosenfeld suggest you pose to these worthies:

Will we be able to leverage content management software (CMS)?

It’s important to know if you can get into the backend to manage content, whether it’s optimizing text and meta data or, making sure images have alt text, etc.

How can we create a metadata registry to support distributed tagging?

You’ll need software support to make this happen, so be sure you understand what they can do, and how it can best support what you need to for metadata for the site.

Does the CMS handle automated categorization of documents?

If not, can they code it during this project? If it’s in place, take a look at it with the content manager, and be sure the categorizations still hold water.

What about automated browsable index generation?

Yes, just ask and see what they say. Hopefully, yes. If not, can it be done? Budget and resources are obviously always sensitive when doing large projects like this.

What about personalization?

Can the site go whole hog and provide personalization of search? If not, will your target audience leave the site if they can’t find what they need fast?

How flexible is the search engine?

If you’ve read my previous posts on setting up the site search function, you know what I’m talking about. You have to set it up with vocabularies and meta data.

Will the search engine support integration of a thesaurus?

This goes back to controlled vocabularies and thesauri. If you need to stop and do this work, it’s well worth it.

Can we get regular access to search logs and usage statistics?

I hope you can, because there’s a wealth of information for keywords, content pages and other good stuff.

I’m going to stop right here for today. Give this some thought, and see what opportunities you have to create a team of subject matter experts to help you institute IA into a website.

Until next time, please keep it between the ditches, umkay?