Site Taxonomy and its Effect on the SEO
I guess it’s a common SEO dilemma. Is it better to create a single, long page that would exhaust the topic in full? Or break it into many shorter ones instead?
Now, I admit, both approaches have their benefits. Long-form content, for example, guarantees to achieve higher rankings faster. Having more pages, on the other hand, means that your site could rank for more keywords.
But the real problem isn’t what type of pages to create but how to organize them to gain the biggest SEO benefits.
And that’s what I’ll discuss in this post. We’ll talk how site taxonomy affects SEO, and how to organize your content assets to improve your site’s performance in search.
How Site Taxonomy Affects SEO
According to the official definition, taxonomy is the classification of something. And although, as a branch of science, taxonomy primarily focuses on organisms, search engines use similar ideas of information classification too.
The most common taxonomy you encounter in your work is the site architecture, alternatively referred to as hierarchical taxonomy.
Typically, it looks more or less like this (image from this fantastic guide to taxonomy by Shari Thurow):
If you’re working on an E-commerce site, you often work with a faceted taxonomy, in which an item can have a different set of attributes (just like a typical product could be classified by size, color, weight, and many other factors).
But why all this is important for SEO?
First, because clear information taxonomy will make content much easier for users to find. If your pages, products or other information is organized in a logical way, visitors will have no problems navigating to the right content to find what they’re looking for.
With a chaotic taxonomy, on the other hand, they might continuously end up with the information they don’t need.
Take an online store selling shoes, as an example. If the store’s products are organized in a clear way their visitors are accustomed to (i.e. by size, color, type, etc.), they will have no difficulty in finding the pair they want.
If a customer is looking for runners, they’ll know that they need to look under sports section.
If they need semi-casual shoes for work, they’ll probably start with the gender and then work their way through shoe types, etc.
But imagine if, instead of traditional way of categorizing shoes, you’d use a different labeling system. Your customers would most likely get confused, unable to find products they need. And as a result, they’d probably leave the store pretty quick. Empty handed at that.
Taxonomy also makes your pages easier to get indexed and classified by crawlers. Granted, Google bots won’t look for patterns in information. They will, however, follow the taxonomy to index all relevant information about a product or topic. And with a consistent taxonomy, they will be able to access all the information they need. But a flawed one will result in them dropping off before they had a chance to access all the content.
So How to Classify Your Site’s Information to Create the Best Taxonomy for SEO?
Method #1. Break down your content into subtopics
Let’s start with a more complex method.
Whenever you intend to create content on a large topic, start by breaking it down into smaller sub-topics.
You can think of them as particular, and highly specific aspects of the topic.
Take the topic “SEO,” for example. If you’re an agency offering SEO service, then you could create a single page that encompasses everything a potential customer would need to know about it.
Content on this page could include the benefits of SEO, typical results they could expect, timeliness, general tasks and processes, and so on.
Or you could split the topic into separate sections, and build individual pages for SEO-related sub-topics. In this case, your categorization of topics relating to SEO would look like this:
Of course, the above is just an example. However, it helps to illustrate how to break a single topic into sub-topics, categories, and individual pages.
Taxonomy such as this would help a person quickly identify the information they’re looking for.
If they seek specific content about your services, they could look under that section to learn more about what you do.
For advice on what’s involved in getting SEO strategy off the ground, they’d look at the guides or best practices sections, and so on.
Method #2. Match Content to the Person’s Buying Cycle
This method is a simplified variation of the previous one I described.
Instead of breaking topics into sub-topics until you exhaust all the possibilities, you match the information to the person’s stage of the buying cycle.
This method allows you to create fewer content assets while still organizing them in the most logical way.
Here, let me explain.
Most of your visitors fall into one of three categories.
They could be one of the people looking for information that would allow them to understand better the problem they’re experiencing. They’re at the Awareness stage of the buying cycle. Their goal is to learn as much as possible about the problem, and discover if any solution could help them.
The second group already knows everything about the problem. They now look for information that would help them research potential solutions. We refer to this stage of the buying cycle as Consideration.
These people will look at your product pages, sales pages, and try to justify their idea to buy from you.
Finally, once they evaluate all potential solutions, they’ll make a buying decision. This third stage of the buying cycle is called Decision.
What’s important, all these people will seek different information. People in the first group will most likely seek advice. The second group will review sales and product pages while the third will focus on materials that will help them make a buying decision.
You could, therefore, classify your content to match those specific needs. You could add all educational content into one category (i.e. BLOG or RESOURCES), have information about your services to reside in another section (i.e. SEO or SERVICES), and create a third category for pages that would convert a visitor into a lead (i.e. HIRE US).
Site taxonomy might not seem like the most important factor affecting your site’s performance. And yet, poor content classification could lead to poor user experience and indexing issues. Both of which result in lower rankings.