Coming from a rhetorical background, it is natural for me to analyze situations from another perspective. Information architecture can test this ability; the content of your site can be organized in endless ways, or not organized at all. Applying the correct information architecture can not only benefit usability and web development from the logic of “easy for them to navigate, easy for us to maintain,” but it can also benefit your search engine optimization.
What is Information Architecture?
You’ve probably heard the term before. You also have probably heard a definition for it, or have one of your own. From my experiences, information architecture definitions often vary from person to person. In terms of our discussion, information architecture will refer to the organization of online content into groups and the associated creation of a folder structure or end-user navigation.
Why is Information Architecture so important?
The benefits are clear. Having an organized and hierarchical folder structure can allow you to efficiently perform maintenance to your site. This is also part of Amber’s 10 Ways to Build Your Website with SEO in Mind. There are few things more frustrating to a web developer than having to work with an unorganized site, or at least a site they don’t understand the structure of. Likewise, developing a clear end-user navigation ensures that your users will quickly find what they are looking for. But these aren’t the only audiences that will use your site. You’ll need to consider how a search engine will interpret your architecture.
Think of your URL as one long keyword, for example:
A user will have a much easier time finding that page through search because the content is hierarchically organized and contains the right descriptive keywords for the folder names. A site could similarly be organized as follows, with a user ultimately having to browse a page full of many types of screws:
This same logic applies to your navigation. Allowing users to narrow down their queries via your navigation allows them to also see all of the options available in an organized structure, rather than many types of a product on a page.
A site may also attempt to rely on their site search functions to deliver users to the correct content, but if their site isn’t correctly organized they are purely relying on keywords. In this case, the information architecture can help sculpt search results and deliver content to users that might not otherwise find it. Conversely, you can also help to eliminate irrelevant results that only appear because they have a few of the right keyword combinations. Organizing content with the correct architecture points the search engine in the right direction as to what is relevant to the search query.
Give your search, internally and externally, an advantage with the right structure and information architecture.