What’s your goal here? What do you want customers to do on your website? Make a purchase? Gather information? Submit their contact information for further assistance? How about before they leave? Do you want them to subscribe to your blog? Download a free resource? Though we can’t control the actions and purchases of a web user, we can influence their journey through optimized website taxonomy.
Well, what is website taxonomy? Website taxonomy describes the creation of a classification system for your website. Similar to a library classification system, your website must be consistent, organized, and “understandable” from the get-go; otherwise, you’ll have customers leave in confusion—or complaining. Unlike a library, however, you won’t need to display big signs in bold letters to direct customers; instead, you need to simplify and unify your navigation, internal linking, page structure, and page content.
Simplifying and unifying your site’s linking, structure, and content is valuable to both the user and bots (search engine crawlers). Still, it does require time, collaboration, and multiple rounds of review and revisions to perfect. Don’t let this discourage you—the investment is well worth the reward. Read through our guide to create (or re-launch) a website that’s usable for both customers and bots.
First, how do information architecture and website taxonomy work together?
We briefly touched on what website taxonomy is, but to better understand it, we need to look at information architecture. According to the University of Washington, “Information architecture (IA) is the art of and science of organizing information so it is accessible, usable, and relevant to the end user. The study of taxonomy is an aspect of IA that seeks to define relationships between components.” In other words, we need website taxonomy to create meaningful organization within a website to improve the overall information architecture.
How to create a website taxonomy (new website standard!)
There’s an unspoken list of rules you have to follow when launching a new site—website taxonomy, whether or not you like it, is part of the stack. To ensure your website follows “web standards,” take both your users and bots into consideration. How can you design and optimize the site for both?
Designed for users
Users need options that fall alongside your sales funnel. Your website should never be designed to push users down a specific pathway; your visitors will take their own journey depending on their immediate needs and interests.
With all of that said, how do you design a site that takes users and website taxonomy into consideration? Removing yourself from the business mindset, creating your site’s taxonomy is quite simple. As a user interested in “A,” do you have supporting links, pages, and content that explains more about “A”? How about “B”? Do you create a clear path to “learn more” or “purchase”? Step away from your business goals as you start to design your structure. For each product or service item, make sure you include the following resources on each page:
- Descriptive on-page content that describes your product or service in full
- All relevant links to subpages, subcategories, blog posts, and/or related products and services
- Five to six contextual links that allow the user to research/explore your brand and offerings further
- An easy-to-navigate page that clearly displays product/service information in full, then explains relevant details
Software and tools to design your taxonomy
For larger groups and organizations, we recommend using Flowmapp or Slickplan, two leading software tools that allow you to design tree maps and site structures digitally and to digitize and share your website taxonomy plan. Lay out your strategy for each product or service, then fill in the blanks to complete your website structure (homepage, about us pages, other core pages). Not sure where to start with these website taxonomy tools? Contact Data Driven Marketers’ team of web development & SEO experts. We’ll help your organization or client layout the taxonomy plan in full, then bring the vision to fruition.
Optimized for bots
Once you’ve finished structuring your website taxonomy for users, you can switch back to business-boss mode. How can we appeal to bots so that the site is properly indexed and ranked (quickly and efficiently)? It all comes down to URL structure and keyword inclusion. Like our user, a bot that’s trying to index “A” should have relevant links, pages, and content that supports “A” within reach. The same follows for “B,” “C,” and so forth. The difference? We want bots to crawl our main product or services pages first, or, if they find pages that support our main products and services, they need to find our primary pages in the same crawl. How do you achieve that? You do it with optimized structure (from the top down and the bottom up).
An optimized and organized URL structure with proper internal linking will provide the “in reach-ness” we aim for, directing search bots to crawl all relevant pages. Revisit your newly created website taxonomy plan to check that your products/services are correctly structured and organized for search bots from top to bottom. After your new pages are designed and developed, visit the page as a user and make sure the following “markers” are in place for bots:
- Descriptive content with a primary keyword focus on each page
- A single landing page for each product or service (creating a “home base” for bots)
- All relevant links to subpages, subcategories, blog posts, and/or related products and services exist on the primary product or service page
- Links back to the primary product or service page on supporting blogs
- Five to six contextual links that allow the user to research/explore your brand and offerings further (Following the structure of your taxonomy plan, make sure links that live directly “above” and “below” your current page exist.)
Submitting your sitemap to search engines
Thankfully, after your website taxonomy plan is built out and the website is developed, various tools will automatically generate a website sitemap (better known as XML sitemap) that you can submit to search engines. The value of this task is immeasurable—the sitemap allows you to control what search engines see and index. Before generating your sitemap, make sure that your taxonomy plan was correctly executed. Visit each page and search for supporting information as a user or bot would. Make sure URL strings are simplified and are easy to follow, then download a tool like Yoast SEO or SEO Press to generate your XML sitemap automatically. Following instructions from Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, submit your sitemap URL to search bots.
Final notes & tips
Website taxonomy requires time, collaboration, and multiple rounds of revisions to perfect. Are you up to the challenge? If you invest the time and effort to create an organized website taxonomy, you’ll be able to positively influence your customers’ journey on the site. Even though you can’t push users down a specific pathway, you can structure your links, pages, and content to encourage users to subscribe to your blog, download resources, learn more, or even make a purchase. For bots, if you organize your site, you’ll ensure each page/URL is properly indexed and ranked. Here are some final tips:
- Step away from your business mindset. As a user, if you were searching for “A,” do you have supporting links, pages, and content that explains more about “A?” If not, design your taxonomy plan to include relevant information.
- Turning on business-boss mode, start thinking about how we can quickly and efficiently appeal to bots so that the site is properly indexed and ranked. Optimize, organize, and simplify your URL structure before submitting it to search engines.
- Utilize tools like Flowmapp and Slickplan to share your digitized taxonomy plan with team members.
- Once your taxonomy plan is implemented and your site is developed, submit your XML sitemap to search engines.