A common aim between Information Architecture (IA) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is discovery. Can users find and discover the content you have produced to meet their needs, whether they’re on a search engine results page, or navigating around your website?

Previously there was a clear distinction between those wanting to provide good user experiences and those wanting to optimise for SEO. Arguments over how high the block of text appeared up the page, or how some structural links were damaging the crafted structure for passing link equity and authority to the correct pages onsite were common.

This distinction has eroded over the past couple of years, as Google guidelines have outlined that optimising for users first, and search engines second, is best practice. This has also been emphasised by further algorithm updates and clarifications, taking into account not only content quality and relevancy, but also website usability and accessibility.

What is information architecture?

IA is the organisation of a website so that it can be easily navigated by both humans and search engines. This covers, but is not limited to a website’s:

  • Top navigation menu
  • Sidebar navigation menu
  • Page structure
  • Object placement
  • Content outline and flow
  • CTAs

When IA and SEO work well together, they allow a user to find a solution to their problem, or a piece of content that satisfies their intent (or as Google puts it, highly meets their needs). Also when they work well, users are more able to achieve the goals that you want them to, whether that’s completing a lead generation form, purchasing a product or just calling the business to make an enquiry.

That being said, those looking to optimise IA and those looking to optimise a website’s SEO don’t always get along.

User journey’s and their buying processes are anything but linear. They may interact with your brand multiple times, each time entering the website through a different channel before completing a goal or progressing further down the funnel.

Poor IA and SEO combinations can lead to duplicate content appearing within search engine result pages, crawl budget wastage, undesired pages ranking for specific keywords and search phrases and a poorly distributed topical authority.

Creating a good IA and SEO experience

When IA and SEO work well together, users are able to navigate from search results pages to a page on a website, containing content that meets a user’s needs and is structured in a way that means it’s easily digestable.

There are a number of ways that both IA and SEO can work together to create a positive experience.

URL Architecture

A few years ago, keywords in the URL were important, and to an extent exact match domains still are, but shoehorning as many keywords into URLs is no longer the done thing.

While Google doesn’t factor URL length into it’s ranking algorithm, a good length URL that follows a logical structure can aid user experience.

Important pages should only be at most two to three clicks from the root domain, which would be reflected in two to three subfolders.

Mobile First Design

When designing a page for a mobile device, you are automatically faced with the issue of putting the most important elements on the page.

We’ve known for a while now that mobile search has over taken desktop search (in most countries), and the need to have a website that provides a good user experience on mobile has been reinforced by changes and updates the search engines have made (such as Google’s mobile index, Yandex’s Vladviostok and Baidu’s Icebucket).

When moving from desktop to mobile, there is the urge to try and retain as much content as is possible, but not all of this is essential.

Map Your Keywords & Search Phrases

When a user lands on your site, they will have certain intentions. If a search engine has ranked your website for their query, or another website has linked to you and they’ve followed that link, you’ve won half the battle.

By mapping out your keywords and search phrases, not only can you avoid keyword cannibalisation, you can also create great pieces of content that satisfy a users needs.

Whether this be informational content, blog format content, highly technical content, or specification tables.