Planning Your Information Architecture And Performing Onsite Optimisation
We have completed the majority of the research required for the start of our SEO campaign. From this research we will have learned a huge amount, and we will have also explored a number of important themes that will prove very useful when it comes to the content writing and link building stages of our own campaigns. It is armed with this information that we can now start to plan out our website.
The first thing to take into account is our information architecture. This is the map or blueprint of our website, and it is of fundamental importance. It is also relatively easy to do.
I would not recommend making it up as you go along. I would get out a pencil and paper and draw it.
A website should work in a similar way to an efficient filing system. Everything should be in its sensible, correct place and should be very well organised with the view that anyone coming to your website, be it for the first time or for the one hundredth should be able to intuitively find what it is that they are looking for.
In a good filing system you will have the filing cabinet itself. This represents the website itself as it contains everything. When you open the drawers of the filing cabinet you can see all of the different shelves and categories. For your website this is the ‘home’ page.
So you need to sensibly categorise everything underneath the home page. How you do this is up to you, but the navigation bar is a very handy tool and I strongly recommend considering drop down menus. It is sensible to separate your informational and your transactional content. Have a look at the Go Up website for a good example of all of this.
Here is a map of the Go Up website:
—-Map of Website—–
Notice how we have contained our transactional content under a ‘services’ drop down in the navigation bar. It is all clearly labelled, straightforward and easy for the user to follow and find what they are looking for.
If it were a filing cabinet, we would want to make sure that the cabinet contained clearly labelled categories, and then sub categories of that category. In this case let us take ‘SEO’ as an example of one category. You can click on ‘SEO’ in our navigation bar’. This then opens up the sub categories, which in this case includes ‘SEO’ itself, ‘SEO Training’, ‘SEO Audit’, ‘Link Building’, ‘Content Creation’ etc. These are all parts of the SEO process, and so are categorised under ‘SEO’ generic, but they are different facets of it, and we at Go Up can provide them as separate services hence why they have sub categories.(although we recommend taking all of these services together to make up a proper, all inclusive SEO campaign). But it makes sense, is easy to understand and it is, to a degree, idiot proof.
We have contained our informational content in a separate but equally immediately visible part of the navigation bar, in this case in the ‘Guides’ and ‘Blog’ sections.
You will not get lost at any point when using our website, and this is key. At the same time Google-Bot will not get lost either, which is of equal importance.
The two-click rule
A golden rule of SEO is that no single web page should be more than two clicks from the home page. This means that a user must be able to find any page that exists on your website by clicking on a link found on the home page (preferably in the main navigation bar), landing on a new page, and then by clicking on a link seen on the new page. If you need to make a third click the web page is probably too deep and hard to find.
This is because Google uses distance from the home page as a ranking factor, albeit a small and obscure one. So, for instance, a web page that is one click from the home page is considered a priority page, whereas a web page two clicks away is considered a lesser priority page. If a web page is any more than two clicks away from the home page it will be considered to be a very low priority page that will affect its ability to rank properly. Furthermore if it takes many clicks to find a web page the user can get confused and lost. And a confusing website is a poor website.
At the same time, Google will only follow a certain number of links on each page, so do not simply stuff thousands of links onto your home page. It looks rubbish to the user and is useless to Google.
Amazon has led the way with a functional and intuitive solution, through the use of a multi drop down sidebar filter. I recommend having a look at it, especially if you operate an E-Commerce website and are looking for a way to adhere to the two-click rule.
So, map out your website along the lines that we have mapped out ours. Our navigation bar is pretty nifty and you are free to use it as a base from which to work out how your navigation bar will work.
Plan your onsite optimisation
It is now time to plan your onsite optimisation. Onsite optimisation is exactly what it sounds like. It is making sure that your website is as streamlined, functional and Google and user friendly as possible. Your code should be clean and without errors and, of course, your keywords should be in the right places. There are a number of tools and bits of code at your disposal to help you with this. In this article we will focus on nine different pieces of code that can help your cause. The thing to remember is to never, ever over optimise. Stuffing your keyword into your website as many times as possible is never going to help your cause. It is going to make your website look rubbish, which is going to put off your users and undermine the quality of your product or service. It is also considered to be spammy by Google, which will hurt your ability to perform well in search. Finally, it is completely unnecessary. Google is a very clever search engine. Its algorithm utilises an ingenious bit of computer learning called ‘Latent Semantic Analysis’. This is derived from ‘Fuzzy Set Theory’. In a nut shell, it means that Google understands the correlation between words, and is getting even better at doing so. So if you use the word:
in your website, Google also understands that you are talking about ‘SEO’, ‘Link Building’, ‘Content Creation’ etc. This is because when Google’s search spiders scan the Internet they notice:
“Hmm, I read the word ‘inbound marketing’ a lot, and often when I read it in a sentence, the sentence also contains the words ‘SEO’, ‘Link Building’ etc. I guess therefore that these words are associated with on another.”
So, if you search for ‘Inbound Marketing’ it is very likely that in the search results you will find pages that do not use the phrase ‘Inbound Marketing’ once, but instead talk about subjects related to Inbound Marketing.
What I am trying to say is that Google is very clever and you do not need to infantilise it by stuffing every keyword that you can imagine into the page copy. Put a few in and let Google do the rest. Trust me, it will figure it out on its own!
Rule of four
My rule of thumb is that no single web page should actively target more than three to five keywords through its onsite optimisation and page copy.
This is something to be avoided. Keyword cannibalisation occurs when two different web pages target the same keywords. This sets different pages of your website in competition with one another, instead of them all working together. If you search for something in a search engine and on the first page you see the same website coming up two or more times in the results you will be frustrated by the lack of diversity and scope. Because of this search engines only want to rank a single website once for any given keyword, unless of course it is a branded search in which case a number of pages might be shown for that website.
Each web page should target unique keywords. I frequently see examples of websites with their top priority keyword in the title tag of every web page on the site.
Using the same keyword on multiple pages of a website is sometimes unavoidable. For instance, I have used the word ‘SEO’ a large number of times in this article, because it is an article about ‘SEO’. However I do not want this page to rank for the keyword ‘SEO’, as this keyword has already been designated to the home page of our website. There is a solution to this, and you may have already spotted me doing it a number of times in this article. Turn the offending keyword mention into a link, pointing from the page that you don’t want to rank for said keyword to the page that you do want to rank for it, with the keyword as the anchor text. This tells Google that the linking page should not rank for that particular keyword, but that the linked too page should.
So, in this article, when I mention the word ‘SEO’ I can link back to the home page through the anchor text of that word.
There is a fine line between doing this to tell Google that you are trying to avoid keyword cannibalisation, and doing it for the purpose of generating internal anchor text. Too much optimised internal anchor text (i.e. anchor text that uses your target keyword) is spammy. In this page I have used the term ‘SEO’ a large number of times, yet I have only linked from it to the home page twice, once at the start and once in the middle. This should be more than enough to avoid keyword cannibalisation.
So, what are the different pieces of code that we can use to help us with our onsite optimisation? I list the most common ones, and explain how to implement them according to best practice, below. However, to before this, I would like to share how I go about planning which onsite elements to use on which pages.
Introducing the onsite elements to your keyword sheet
Open the keyword sheet that we created earlier and insert a new column. This should be sandwiched between the ‘Keyword’ column and the ‘Value’ column. This new column should be labelled ‘Elements’.
You can see an example of this here:
(Keyword sheet example)
This new column can be used to decide which pieces of code and which tags to use with each keyword on a web page, and will allow you to use your keyword sheet to do this. Doing this will ensure that everything that you need to know about the onsite optimisation structure of a website can be seen in one place: your keyword sheet. So it will help both in your preliminary planning stages, but it will also help down the line if you want to know at a glance which pages of your website are targeting which keywords, and what elements of these pages are being used to target them.
So, for instance, in this keyword sheet example you can see that the example:
‘E-Cigarettes’ is going to be used in the following places/ elements of the home page:
Title Tag, first position (TT1)
Alt Tag (Alt)
Heading Tag 1 (H1)
Page Copy (Body)
Likewise, the keyword ‘Electronic Cigarettes’ is going to be used in the following places:
Title Tag, second position (TT2)
Page Copy (Body)
Title Tags are the most famous of all onsite optimisation factors. The reason for this is simple: they are the most potent. If I had to choose one thing to do to a website’s onsite, I would probably choose to optimise their title tags.
A title tag is found in the head of a web page, and is a Meta Tag. They are one of the first things that a search spider reads when landing on a web page. Furthermore, they are usually the words that will end up at the top of each separate listing in the SERPs themselves. So, in the below image of a SERP page, the Title Tag is the writing in blue at the top of each listing.
So, yeah, they’re pretty important. You must remember that, for the purpose of onsite optimisation, Title Tags don’t simply exist to make you rank well. They are also the very first words that any searcher will see when looking at your listing in the SERPs. They are your calling card and your highly condensed elevator pitch. Because of this you must make them short, snappy, relevant and enticing to any searcher. Again, it is all very well simply using them to make you rank well, but, even if you do reach the heights of the search listings, if your use of title tags is confusing, ambiguous or badly executed then people just aren’t going to actually click on your result, rendering your search visibility worthless.
A Title Tag must be:
No longer than 75 characters in length, including spaces (number of characters of a title tag that Google will actually read)
No longer than 50-60 characters (number of characters of a title tag visible in the SERPs when viewed using a screen with font Arial at size 18 on a 512-pixel display… which is the most common screen display).
You can choose either of these rules to follow. I tend to follow the former, which is the more traditional approach, however recently the latter seems to have become the preferred rule for many.
Don’t Duplicate your Title Tags
As with everything in SEO, you should never duplicate your Title Tags. Keyword Cannibalisation is, potentially, a negative ranking factor. Make sure that every title tag, on every page of your website, is unique. Have a look at the Title Tags on the Go Up website. Every title tag is different on every page, and nothing is repeated. Our home page title tag is: SEO London | London SEO Agency | Web Design. You will not find those keywords in any title tag on any other page of the website. To do so would place those pages in competition with the home page. And we want our web pages to work together, not to compete with one another.
How to implement title tags
If you are using WordPress as a CMS (content management system), I strongly recommend downloading the plugin ‘Yoast’ This will enable you to implement title tags without having to actually hand code them into the html of a web page. Different CMS’ have different plug-ins for this, and it is automatically built in to many of them. Simply find the ‘title tag’ box towards the bottom of the page that you are editing (in WordPress) and fill it in with your preferred keywords.
I tend to structure the keywords in my title tag as follows:
Keyword 1 | Keyword 2 | Keyword 3/ Brand Name
I believe this to be clean, easy for both the user to use to gain an understanding of what to expect on the page, and simple for Google to get to grips with too. Notice that in this example I have placed the brand name last. It is often a good idea to put your brand name in your title tag. However if you do it is usually a good idea to place it last. It is likely that you will rank well for your brand name naturally, because it will usually be a low competition term in search and because it will be plastered throughout your website. Because of this it is a good idea to reserve the first spot in your title tag for the keyword that you are most interested in giving the most ranking oomph to.
If you are not using a CMS, then the html coding of a title tag is as follows:
<title>E-Cigarettes | Electronic Cigarettes | Brand Name</title>
It sits in the head of your page.
Planning your title tags on your keyword sheet
As mentioned above, it is helpful to use your keyword sheet to decide how you are going to target different keywords through your onsite optimisation. On our keyword sheet, under the ‘Elements’ vertical we use the abbreviations ‘TT1, TT2 and TT3”.
TT1 refers to the first keyword that is going to appear in your title tag. Your most important keyword for that page is going to fill this spot, with your second most important keyword filling the second spot (TT2) etc. Usually a title tag should contain no more than three keywords.
Using the E-Cigarettes example above, to the end user our title tag would look like this:
E-Cigarettes | Electronic Cigarettes
A description tag is, well, what it sounds like. It describes the contents of the page. However it is purely useful for the end user. It is worth noting that Google does not use description tags in its ranking algorithm. What Google does do, however, is use description tags in the SERPs. In the SERPs a description tag looks a little something like this:
So the description tag in the example above is the descriptive writing underneath the green URL.
A Description Tag must be:
A description tag should be no longer than 160 characters in length. This is the length at which Google cuts off the sentence in the SERPs and, since the description tag has no function aside from a user experience one, there is simply no point writing something longer than the length that will be visible to users in the SERPs. We recommend description tags being between 140-160 characters in length.
A Description Tag is advertising
A description tag is often the first thing that will be read by the searcher after your title tags. Because of this they provide a pivotal role in the conversion rate optimisation process. A rubbish description tag may not entice the searcher to click on your link, even if you are ranked on the first page of Google. Make them short, snappy and enticing to read. Using a few keywords is a good idea, as Google places searched for keywords in bold in the SERPs, which may increase your click through rate (again, see the above image for this, in which ‘Go Up’ was the search term, and thus ‘Go Up’ is placed in bold in the description tags).
Don’t Duplicate your Description Tags
As with Title Tags, don’t use the same description tag on any two (or more) pages of your website.
Don’t use quotation marks
Using quotation marks in your meta description will make Google cut off the tag at the point of first use. Try to stick solely to alphabetical characters.
Don’t use Description Tags on every page
I do not use description tags at every opportunity. This is because, if you do not use them, Google will automatically generate a description tag for you by scraping a section of the page that they are linking to from their SERPs. That section will usually be the sentence most relevant to the searchers search term. This means that, instead of receiving a generic ‘one size fits all’ description tag, they receive one tailored to suit their exact search term, which is pretty cool! This does not mean that you should not use them ever, and indeed for crucial key pages (such as your home page) I would use a description tag to retain a clear brand message.
How to implement Description Tags
The code for a description tag looks a little something like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”This is Go Up’s example of a meta description tag. Go Up is awesome.”>
An Alt Tag, also called ‘alternative text’, ‘alt text’ or ‘alt attribute’ is a piece of code used to describe the contents of an image. Alt tags were originally designed to help the visually impaired. Their digital audio transcription software would read the alternative texts and thus describe the images to the listener. This is very important to understand as it means that any spam in the alt tag not only breaches Google webmaster guidelines, but can also cause confusion and frustration to the the visually impaired.
Technically, every image should have alt text. However only fill in the alt text if the image is active or if you can write relevant descriptive text. For instance:
Descriptive Image: if the image is of a girl playing with a ball, the alt text should say ‘girl playing with ball’.
Active Image: If the image is a Social Media icon, for instance the ‘Facebook’ icon, your alt text should read ‘facebook’.
Decorative Image: If the image plays no role in the website, and is purely there for decoration, these can be left blank. It is not compulsory to do so. However make sure to
An Alt Tag must be:
Meta Robots/ Robots.txt
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