In preparation for the upcoming SES Chicago Conference and Expo on Oct 18 – 22, we wanted to post this great interview about SEO information architecture. The interview questions are conducted by Internet Marketing Inc.’s SEO Director Benj Arriola.
Marketers and search engine optimization professionals attend SES Chicago each year to network and learn about topics such as PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more. The conference offers 70+ sessions, intensive training workshops, and an expo floor packed with companies that can help you grow your business.
Benj Arrioal: Site Architecture… which comes first, the user or the search engines?
Matt Bailey: It depends on which part of architecture you are working on. When it comes to developing the navigation, groups of content, logical navigation and labels – the user comes first. Fortunately, users depend on the same things as search engines, so it really balances out. The users will be the ones using the site, and the information has to reflect their needs, if it reflects their needs, it will show up in the search engines.
Now, when you are going live with a new or re-designed website, then you have to focus on search engines and do a lot of work to ensure that you don’t lose traffic – this is because the search engines are running on older information retrieval technology. Redirects are an example of this – you have to manage the implementation of a new architecture for the search engines, otherwise you will have a big lapse in traffic.
Benj Arriola: I know usability experts would normally do a card sorting exercise for the best information architecture and SEO’s would do keyword research. Do you think SEO and Usability should really have a blended approach?
Matt Bailey: Absolutely. The card sorting has to start with a specific set of terminology that is familiar with the intended audience. The best place to get that terminology is from keyword research. Now, keyword research will give you ideas of volume of search term usage, but card sorting will provide context and refinement of categories. Using both approaches in a blended format will enable you to provide a comprehensive list of terms, but organized in a way that your visitors will grasp quickly.
Benj Arriola: If a website has multiple products for multiple industries, should you categorize products by product category? Or by target industry? If your answer is it depends, what’s your process in selecting the best way to categorize these?
Matt Bailey: Interesting question, but one that tends to come up a lot. I usually tend to divide by industry as the first level of separation. If there is no cross-over at all, and the target audience is completely different, then it stands to reason that the sales approach and the persona type may be completely different as well. When one chooses to divide by industry there also needs to be a specific marketing plan to ensure that the approach is different when dealing with the different audiences. The sales cycle could be different, the needs and benefits different, and the targets may be in different decision-making roles. So, it is not as simple as dividing industries, but also being able to engage the different markets of those industries that will make the decision more effective.
Benj Arriola: If you do not do Information Architecture Optimization, what are you really losing in terms of SEO?
Matt Bailey: You lose your most foundational structure necessary for reinforcing the informational context and semantically relevant content of your site. Just as a house has a foundation that supports the rest of the structure, Information Architecture is the foundation that allows for both a clear division and association of content. That same structure is critical for search engines to understand properly index the information, especially when the structure works counter to the optimization.
Benj Arriola: Do you believe proper information architecture is one of the determining factors if Google should give you Sitelinks or not?
Matt Bailey: I suspect so. A clear structure with clear labels should show the important areas of a website and make it very easy to create the SiteLinks. The better organized the site structure is, the easier it will be to spider and determine a clear hierarchy, thereby providing the search engines with better information to determine SiteLinks. I find that sites that do not have SiteLinks, a common factor is a disorganized, unclear or overly redundant navigation.
Matt Bailey Biography
Matt Bailey is the president and founder of SiteLogic, a website marketing consultancy, and has been training businesses about website marketing since 1997. He is in demand worldwide as a speaker for the Search Engine Strategies conferences, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and the American Advertising Federation. He speaks at over 30 international conferences, seminars, and training sessions each year. Matt is the primary trainer and developer for the DMA’s search engine optimization certification program, and the trainer for its two-day website marketing seminar. This year, Matt was selected as the DMA’s emissary to France because of his expertise in search marketing.