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What is Site Architecture?

Joe Rega March 26, 2014 Category Digital Marketing
site architecture

Site architecture is the process of building and marketing a website

Site Architecture may be a scary term but don’t fret, it’s just a fancy way to describe all aspects used to build a website.  How many different parts are there to building a site? There are many cross-departmental pieces that go into building and marketing a new website which I’ll touch upon today.

Navigation & Internal Linking Structure

Back in the early days of the internet, many websites did not have a static navigation which made it difficult to maneuver a website. There were many pages that were “orphan” and visitors had to hit the back button if they wanted to return to the previous page.

Nowadays, mostly all websites have a static navigation bar across the top that allows their content to be easily found by all visitors. This hierarchy of organization also plays an important part in how their content is indexed and ranked by search engines.

The more organized a URL structure is, the easier it will be to navigate for both humans and search engines. Search engines, especially Google, consider ease-of-use an important aspect of a site’s design.

Another technique that’s beneficial to a visitor may be a websites internal linking structure. Let’s say you have a particular product or service that is mentioned on one page and that product also has its own page, you can hyperlink that keyword so a visitor can quickly navigate to that page. For example, if you are discussing good lawn care and mention a recommended lawn mower you sell, you can link the name of the lawn mower from the lawn care page to the page that’s talking about that product, creating a better user experience.

Keyword Density & Keyword Relevance

Keyword focus has gone through many changes over the years. Originally, webmasters would put white text on a white background to trick search engines into thinking a page had that content on it. This practice was used to game the search engines to achieve higher rankings. Search algorithms then improved and were able to detect that and starting using the keywords Meta tag as a ranking factor. Once people started to abuse that, Google started to look at keyword relevance and density.

When I say keyword relevance I’m referring to being able to answer the following questions: does the target service/product appear in the title tag? Is it mentioned in any of the “H” tags? How many times is it mentioned in the copy? You don’t want to overly use a keyword or phrase on a page as this too may be viewed as spam.

The questions above should help you to better plan out a course of action when creating or updating a page.

Title Tags

Title tags are arguably the most important part of any page you’re trying to get more traffic to. This is your chance to really sell your website and grab the user’s attention. Title tags are the blue links in the organic listings that appear in the SERPs (search engine result pages) whenever you do a search. Title tags are also found at the top of any web page, listed in the tab you’re currently in.

This element sends a signal to search engines that the page is going to contain content related to that keyword, service or product. If you have “Lawn Mower Repair St. Louis” as a title tag but talk about new hair products in the content on that page, the two are not related and will have a negative impact on how that page ranks.

Content

After you select the best title tag for your page, the next step is to make sure the content matches and supports what you have selected. You don’t want to overly use a focus keyword as this will be viewed as a spammy technique and have a negative impact on your rankings. A good way to make sure your content is focused and on target is to break it up into sections and separate them with the proper heading tags.

H Tags

Header tags serve a dual purpose. Not only do they separate content into easily digestible blocks of text, they also serve as a visual guide for someone who is scanning your page. If your page comes up in a search for a specific keyword or phrase that someone is interested in, they may want to quickly navigate to that section to get their answer. H tags can help them achieve this.

The hierarchy of header tags is as follows: H1 tags, the top heading of a webpage which dictates what the page is about. The jury is still out on this but the general consensus is that there should only be one H1 tag per page. Think of a newspaper article; image them with several heading, would get confusing, right?

H2 tags, these are secondary tags that are like bullet-points for the H1. H2 tags support the H1 tag while separating the data into smaller block. The trend continues with H3, H4 and so on. Not many pages get that granular but I have seen them go as far as H7.

Images

Images are extremely popular on the internet. Social media sites are filled with image posts and image sharing sites have a lot of engagement. Blog posts, tweets and posts with images are shared more often than content without them.

Once you choose the right image you want to associate with you post, make sure it’s named properly. Image file names should be what the image is about. For example, if I have an image of a dog eating ice cream, I would name it dog-eating-ice-cream.jpg. Try to avoid using filenames like IMG0000389 as this is not descriptive. The goal here is to tell search engines what the image is about to increase the likelihood of being ranked for that as well.

Regarding images, you should also add alt tags, title tags and captions to them. This will not only help search engines discern what the image is about but also aid visually impaired browsers. Captions are great because this can be used to add emphasis of your keyword and further describe the images relation to your post.

Descriptive Text

Following the header tags is (usually) the copy. This is the text on your page that visitors will read in search for an answer to their query. There are three types of queries so be mindful of them when creating your website; Navigational, Information and Transactional.

Do not write for search engines, rather, write as if though you’re speaking to someone.

Navigational queries are searches with intent. They are usually branded searches for a company name someone will type in, rather than writing out a full URL.

Informational queries are used when research something online. Someone may want more information on a cellphone before purchasing it or user reviews on a type of car. Knowing that, these queries can be a great way to capture someone’s attention and offer them a solution on your site.

Transactional queries generally follow informational searches and are used when someone is looking to make a purchase.

Answer a question

Your website should offer an answer to any questions or serve up content in such a way that is quick and beneficial to a visitor. Speed is essential in not only site load time, but also in the amount of time it takes to find what you’re looking for. It’s been estimated that you have less than three seconds to capture someone’s attention when they land on your site. If you are unable to provide any value within that time, they will leave and go to the next site. Make sure your pages are laid out with navigation and usability in mind.

 

Provide value

Visitors are clicking on your site for a reason, they’re looking for something. That something could be directions, hours of operation, a contact number, new shoes, a book or how to pay their bill online. The best thing we can do is to make their decision easy for them and eliminate as much of the thought process as possible. The following is an important and often overlooked aspect of SEO.

UX

UX, or, user experience is what is going to make or break the success of a site. If information cannot be found quick enough a visitor will have no reason to stay on your site.

It is important for the SEO department to work with designers on how the website is going to function. While it may look great to have a lot of images high up on a page, the main content should not be below the fold where someone has to scroll to see it. A website should be easy to navigate with minimal noise such as too many images or flashing ads.

Highlight your calls to action and make sure they’re not buried somewhere they will not be found. Have all signup forms in an easy-to-spot location and make sure that your important buttons stand out.

Coding

To get from the design stage to live content, a website needs to be coded. A good company has great inter-department communication and can converse on the best way to complete a project. Coding a website can be extremely difficult and should be thoroughly planned out before a single character is written.

There are many different programming languages used today, the most popular of them (for web content) is HTML. Used in conjunction with CSS, this is the most popular and search friendly way to give a website life. Languages like ajax and php are considered unfriendly as they may serve up dynamic URLs that don’t index.

URL Parameters

Once you have decided which programming language you are going to use to code your site, you can start to plan out the URL structure, if you haven’t already.

Make sure your URLs are clean and easy to understand. http://www.example.com/men/shoes/ is a lot easier to understand that http://www.example.com/Hf3xUmp.html. Having a keyword in your URL is important but, like all other aspects of SEO, do not abuse this as it will be harmful to your marketing efforts.

What platform are you using

Choosing the right CMS can be a difficult decision but doesn’t have to be. Regarding coding and URL structure, the platform you use can be helpful or harmful to your hard work. Make sure that whatever platform you pick, you have the ability to implement 301 redirects and edit the URLs. WordPress is a great example of this. WordPress allows you to exit a URL so it will be displayed how you want it to be and not a random generated number that is not indicative of the content on the page.

Conclusion

If you have an open line of communication across  all departments within your company, site architecture will be easy to plan and implement. Make sure that everyone is on the same page with regards to usability and search friendly content.

Regarding what you have just read, do you agree or disagree with my suggestions? What are so hurdles you have faced when planning and marketing a new website?

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