It’s easy to get caught up in aesthetics and functionality when planning a new website, leaving SEO considerations such as keyword research and implementation for after the site has been built. The fact is, in order to build the most SEO-friendly website possible, keyword research should be one of the first actions you take as part of that planning process.
Information architecture (IA) encompasses several elements of a website’s structure including page hierarchy, conversion points, content depth, and internal linking. The main objective in building a strong IA is to ensure that users can easily understand how to navigate around the site to accomplish tasks and find the content they’re looking for. If you’ve ever visited a website and found yourself stranded on an irrelevant page after a few clicks with no way of getting back to where you started, that’s an example of poor IA. For more information on information architecture basics, visit www.usability.gov.
Keyword Research for Information Architecture
When deciding what pages will be needed on a new website and how they will be organized, teams often skip the keyword research step, missing valuable insights into what their users are looking for and how to guide them on their customer journey. Incorporating keyword research into your site strategy will go a long way in ensuring that search engines understand the purpose of your website so that they can match users’ search queries to the appropriate content on your site. More importantly, keyword research can help you map out the buyer’s journey and understand what information users need at each step of the process to maximize your conversion rate. Sure, you can go back and try to implement your keywords after the site launches, but you’ll likely end up having to reconfigure a lot of the development work that had already been done, and may end up missing out on organic search traffic as a result.
If you’re in the pre-launch stages of your new website, stop looking through WordPress themes and start building out your keyword list. Check out UpBuild’s Beginner’s Guide to Basic Keyword Research, and then circle back to this post!
How to Use Keyword Data to Inform IA
Ok, so now you have an extensive list of keyword data with high-volume search terms. You narrowed your keyword list down to the most relevant queries and prioritized them based on competition, click-through rate, and SERP opportunity, right? RIGHT?
You can now use your keyword list to create a site map and navigation that is backed by actual user data! At this point you’ll want to put on your thinking cap and start planning, page-by-page, how to appeal to leads at every point in the funnel and guide them toward making a conversion.
This is a mental exercise that will vary depending on what your goals are for the site. Let’s say we’re planning an eCommerce website that sells home furniture. Here are the steps I’d take to build an SEO-friendly information architecture.
Step 1: Choose Your Primary Keywords
Every page on your website should serve a purpose and almost every page should have a primary target keyword. The exceptions to this would be highly branded pages like your “About” page that search users wouldn’t benefit from landing on as their first encounter with your website.
Think about your potential customers at every point in the sales funnel. When it comes to home furniture, some users have only just started to think about new furniture, while others know they want a mid-century modern coffee table in their living room by Friday. It would be hard to create one page that served both users’ needs. Using your keyword list, map your target users’ informational journeys as they proceed through the sales funnel; consider the information they’ll need to complete their journey and the pages you’ll need to create to support that journey, then find the most relevant keywords (based on the traffic and competition data you’ve collected) for each of these pages. At this point, consider each primary keyword as a page that will need to be built.
Step 2: Choose Supporting Keywords
Find one or two keywords to support each primary keyword. These might be high-volume, low-competition keywords that are essentially synonymous with the primary keyword, or lower-volume, more specific terms that further modify and refine your primary keyword. For example, if you have a page dedicated to “dining room chairs”, and you notice that “seating sets for dining table” has similarly favorable search data, add that as a supporting keyword to the page.
Step 3: Create Sub-Pages For Unique Topics
When choosing supporting keywords, if you come across unique keywords that present additional opportunities, you can break them into sub-pages using primary and supporting keywords to form a topic.
For example, if you find that “bedroom furniture for kids” is a pursuable query with supporting keywords, rather than lumping it in with “bedroom furniture”, create a new sub-page to target that topic. This will help those mid- to bottom-funnel users find what they’re looking for quickly.
Note that it takes more than just one keyword to warrant a new sub-page, and that the topic of your unique keyword group should fit into your customer’s journey. If the topic doesn’t directly contribute toward guiding the user toward converting, it may be better suited for a future blog post, or may not be a good fit for your keyword strategy at all.
Step 4: Refine Your Page Hierarchy
Your site’s page hierarchy should reflect a user’s information-gathering journey on the way to a purchase-making decision, providing them with an intuitive next step each step of the way. Planning your users’ journey is rarely going to be 100% SEO-driven. You’ll need to make sure other internal stakeholders have their needs met, as well. For example, there may be a page or topic without a lot of search volume that still needs to feature prominently on the site for branding or legal reasons. However, you can use the keyword research to gain insight into what information users need to make a conversion, and match that research up with content you know you’ll need to create.
Now that you have pages with targeted keyword groups, consider at which point in the customer’s journey those pages fit best. Your keyword research will give you insights as to the information you should provide on each page and what next steps you should recommend. The sub-topic keyword groups that have a high search interest are a good indicator of where a user would want to go next after they’ve found what they were initially looking for. This strategy of cascading broad topic pages to narrow ones will ensure that users entering the site at all points of the sales funnel are guided toward making a conversion.
Note: When you build these pages, including internal links or breadcrumbs that trace back to the homepage will help users and search engines understand the content progression.
Build With Confidence!
When you’re ready to build, incorporate your designated keywords on their appropriate pages. Check out UpBuild’s recommendations on how to naturally implement keywords when it’s time to start adding content.
Now you can get back to designing an eye-catching site that feels welcoming to your users, and rest assured that your site will be built with your customers’ journey in mind.