SES San Francisco 2010: Successful Information Architecture

We’re back after the lunch break with a session I’m really excited about: Successful Information Architecture. On the panel we have Shari Thurow and Eleanor Hong – moderated by Adam Audette. Let’s see what these three have to say about successful IA. Please also be sure to check out my introduction post on IA pitfalls I wrote a week ago.

OK – Adam Audette is not here so Bill Hunt takes over the moderation cause Adam didn’t make it. Anyways, first up is Shari. She starts by showing why – in her opinion – SEOs should care about good IA:

  • Customers: If people can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re gone.
  • Brand value: People remember if your brand didn’t serve their needs.
  • Design and development costs: How much time does it take in optimization vs. doing it right in the beginning?
  • Costs in the long-run will be way higher if you have to re-do things.
  • Minimize duplicate content delivery
  • Website find-ability: Good IA will communicate about-ness.

Also remember: A proper IA ensures that a website will be findable via: Browsing, Searching and Asking. Also there are more reasons to care about IA: Crawl-ability, Indexation, rankings and appearance of search listings (like breadcrumb links, site links or headings within the snippets)

Next slide up shows, what IA is – according to most SEOs:

  • Crawl-ability
  • Indexation
  • PR Sculpting
  • Siloing
  • Server performance
  • Parameter handling
  • Interface (page design and layout)

Well… – according to Shari – it’s not! In reality there’s another way to actually build-up a good IA:

  • Categorization
  • Organization
  • Labeling
  • Prioritization

And this actually should happen before you do the technical IA, the process should be split-up. So you have to do the IA before the technical IA – and not mix-up those two. Her main concern is that most SEOs overdo it from a keyword perspective so you really should make sure that you carefully think about how you label your navigation, for example. Key take-aways:

  • Establish IA long before a site is built
  • Site architecture consists of IA and technical IA
  • Make sure it is based on users mental model

And next-up is Eleanor, she works as in-house for and talks about the challenges she’s facing in the process re-doing and optimizing a news site.

  • Know your content
  • Challenge of user experience vs. business goals
  • Importance of taxonomy and sitemaps
  • User experience cannot be defined by corporate, marketing, design, etc. – each department will push their own agenda
  • Query keywords are not the best navigation labels – And one important thing to remember: A good navigation is a start, but it doesn’t entirely define a site’s IA
  • Sub-domains and micro-sites are not the solution; maybe good in the short-way to serve some kind of content but ultimately it’s more about solving the IA challenge

All right – that’s it for this session – be back in a bit for the next one.

About Bastian Grimm

Bastian Grimm is founder and CEO of Grimm Digital. He mainly works as online marketing consultant with a strong focus on organic search engine optimization (SEO). Grimm specializes in SEO strategy consulting, website assessments as well as large scale link building campaigns.

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