Why Is a Logical Information Structure So Important for Your Site?
Building a successful website requires a commitment of time and resources. Many of us can often get so focused on the “Shiny” aspects of our site — the images, typestyle, the perfect content — we can forget that the structural scaffolding that guides our site visitors through the experience of finding what they are looking for easily. Planning and executing a logical
Information structure is crucial to ensure both a good user experience and the planned user interaction while on the site. Many eCommerce sites lack the information structure to successfully guide visitors to the product they want. Another reason to invest the time to plan a clear site structure is that it helps Search Engines better understand the purpose of your site — which is critical for good SEO.
Please do not underestimate just how critical a well-planned site structure is to guiding site visitors through a smooth user experience. When you take the extra time to consistently categorize your posts or products so they are easy to find and site visitors are able to find the information or products they’re looking for they are more likely to become return visitors. An easy customer experience not only converts visitors into clients, they may happy refer and recommend your site to other potential customers.
At a high level, one of the fastest ways to improve the user experience (UX) on your site is to make sure your Navigation is intuitively easy to follow. New audiences should be able to instantly grasp what kind of products or services you’re featuring on your site. Your Navigation structure plays a crucial role in getting site visitors to view more than just the homepage. Think about your own actions when visiting a new site — If navigation choices are unclear most visitors chose to hit the “Back” button on their first and final) visit. Your site’s structure can determine whether a search engine can understand what your site is about — what you’re selling and where to find the most important content. Your information structure determines how easily a search engine will find and index the content on certain products..and if done well, can lead to a higher ranking in Google.
You May Be Competing Against Your Self for Google Ranking
Your site probably has multiple blog posts and pages about your product or service. Those pages can be competing with each other for a high ranking in Google. To combat this your site needs a good internal linking and taxonomy structure so Google knows which page you consider most relevant. A good site structure can make all that great content work for you, instead of against you.
Suggestions for Guiding a Visitor Through Your Site
- Don’t place hurdles for visitors looking for something on your site.
- Decide the priority of the materials site visitors need to engage
- Your navigation flow must reflect those priorities
- The material you want most accessible should be available from first-level menu options
- Supporting Information can be accessed through submenus or links within pages
A Typical Website Will Have Two — Three Levels of Navigation
Homepage – This page is usually shown at the top of a sitemap.
Primary Navigation – Also referred to as “Parent Pages” make up the main navigation of your website. These pages are at the top-most level of your site.
Secondary Navigation – Also referred to as “Child Pages” or “Secondary Pages” — these items are most often seen in a dropdown. They are one level deeper than the primary navigation such as Cornerstone Pages – evergreen content that other pages or posts link with.
Tertiary Pages – These pages are located one level deeper than the secondary navigation and are often not visible in the site’s navigation. Examples would be Product Pages on an e-commerce website
Call-to-Action Items – These often take the form of a highlighted button — a donation button or a shopping cart that you click to complete an action or access a form.
Special file types – Interactive or downloadable elements such as forms, downloadable PDFs, and documents
A Sitemap is a Diagram that Outlines the Hierarchy of Pages Within a Website
Sitemaps are planning tools used to map out the structure, navigation and page hierarchy of your website. Your sitemap defines and organizes every page of your website. It helps you sort your Page hierarchy from the broadest to the most defined. Your sitemap is one of the key tools to keep your entire design development and marketing team on track.
What you Need to Know About Pages and Posts
Your WordPress install comes with two content types — Pages and Posts. For those new to WordPress, it is easy to get confused between Pages and Posts. Pages are hierarchical by nature and are designed for static content that rarely changes. Examples would be — About Us and Contact. A Page can become a Parent Page to a Child Page allowing you to group different subpages under one Parent page.By default Pages do not allow comments – they meant for social engagement but for sharing information. Although Pages not intended to be social — some Pages will have Social Buttons connecting readers to the site’s Social Media accounts to encourage Follows or Likes.
The entries into your WordPress Blog are Posts. Post content is listed in reverse chronological order on your blog. Posts are meant to be timely so the most current information is listed first. The sites older posts are archived based on month and year. All your Posts are searchable by Categories and Tags. Unlike Pages, Posts are social. You can install one of the many social sharing plugins to encourage readers to share your posts on social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other venues that fit your user profile. Your Posts have a have a built-in commenting feature that allows users to comment on a particular topic — however, you can control the ‘How, When and If’ of Commenting through your WordPress Dashboard Settings.
PAGES VS. POSTS — SUMMARY OF PRIMARY DIFFERENCES
- Posts are timely vs. Pages are timeless
- Posts are social vs. Pages are NOT
- Posts can be categorized vs. Pages are hierarchical
- Pages have custom template feature vs. Posts do not
- Note “ Edge Case Exceptions” – You can use plugins or code snippets to extend the functionality of both content types
Understanding How to Use Categories to Guide Your Content Structure
Categories and Tags are both examples of a taxonomy system. The sole purpose of Categories and Tags are to sort and organize your content to improve the usability of your site. The granular sorting and organizing site content helps the visitor more easily browse content by topic rather than chronologically.
Categories are meant for broad grouping of your posts. It helps if you think of these as general topics or the ‘table of contents’ for your site. The Categories are there to help identify what your blog is really about and to assist readers finding the right type of content on your site. You need to remember that Categories are hierarchical, so you can use sub-categories.No matter how experienced you are one can accurately predict all the right categories for a new project
A reliable best practice is to start with five generic categories. Then become more specific using subcategories. We are back to my favorite — Plan-Do-Measure-Act cycle. Measure your site visitor’s reaction and engagement, then adjust and add Categories and subcategories as dictated by community interest and involvement. You can use generic categories to “Future-Proof” your blog by building a Primary Category Structure with generic categories like:
- Case Studies
Whenever you find that you are writing about a sub-topic repeatedly it may be time for a new Category. With the proper use of Parent and Sub- Categories you shouldn’t need to classify one post into multiple top-level categories.
Adding multiple categories to a post DOES NOT benefit SEO
Adding multiple categories to a post DOES NOT benefit user experience
Don’t Do It!
WordPress ALLOWS you to add one post into as many categories as you like
Many Bloggers add multiple categories to a post because they THINK it helps their users
Think Before You Click!
- Use only ONE Category per Post
- Think of Categories as Table of Contents for your blog
- Think of Posts with the same Category as Chapters of your Blog
What Is the Optimal Number of WordPress Categories?
There is no specific optimal number of categories, it really depends on the size and complexity of your site. For the sake of structure and usability, a Best Practice is to utilize sub-categories and tags
Remember— Your Category Archives ARE Landing Pages
To a Search Engine your category archives are more important than individual pages and posts. If carefully structured these archive pages should be the first result in Google. That means those archives can be your most important landing pages. WordPress automatically generates an archive for every category tag and custom taxonomy. That archive lists each post associated with that taxonomy in reverse chronological order.
If you carefully and consistently organize your blog posts with categories and tags you guide your site visitor to the content they need.
Fast Review —What Is The Difference Between Categories and Tags?
The biggest difference between Categories and Tags is that you MUST categorize your post. If you do not Categorize your post, then it will be categorized under the “Uncategorized.” WordPress does not require you to add any tags.
What is the Purpose of WordPress Tags?
- Tags were added In WordPress 2.5 to improve the usability of your site
- Tags are not hierarchical.
- Tags are meant to describe specific details of your posts.
- Think of Tags as your Blogs Index words.
- Tags are the micro-data that you can use to describe your content.
Should You Limit the Number of Tags Assigned to Each Post?
Think of Tags as an Index and Categories as being the Table of Contents of your Blog. Tags are popular keywords that loosely relate your posts. Tags make it easy for users to find your Posts using the WordPress search. PERSONAL OPINION — I don’t care What you are Blogging about — It is very hard to justify more than Ten Tags for a Blog Post — Just Saying…
Please do not adding as many Tags as possible thinking Tags are meta keywords. Tags are NOT default meta keywords for your blog. Installing the SEO by Yoast plugin enables you to use your Tag structure in the meta keywords template. I consider this a Must Install plugin. This plugin will guide you through many of your questions about using Categories over Tags or vice versa for a SEO Advantage. Spoiler Alert — It is a NON-ISSUE — Categories and Tags are just the two default taxonomies, designed to work together, that comes with WordPress.
Some Last Thoughts About Categories and Tags
- Your site’s Blog is an ever-evolving book
- Develop the Table of Content (categories) carefully
- Chose broad topics — but be careful not to be too vague
- Use Tags to generally relate multiple posts
- If a specific Tag seems to be trending — give some consideration making it a sub-category
- If the trending Tag would have to be added as a subcategory to several multiple top-level categories — leave it as a TAG
- The goal is always to make the site as user- friendly as possible
- Most advanced sites use custom taxonomies for sorting their content in addition to categories and tags
- Custom Taxonomies will be addressed In a future Intermediate WordPress Class
Navigation Tips and Tricks
Content Creation Checklist
- Check your “inspiration sources” for content ideas
- Choose a headline
- Check keyword competition and edit your headline as needed
- Research and plan your article
- Choose your category and add tags
- Fill in the SEO fields • Write your first draft
- Go back and edit out cliches and add keywords and phrases
- Add images, video, and/or other rich content
- Re-read it. Edit.
- Add an excerpt
- Check your editorial schedule for the next article
Additional After Class Resources — Blog Suggestions
- WPBeginner – A Must read for anyone learning WordPress
- CoppyBlogger – The Best resource for learning how to write compelling copy for your site
- Yoast SEO Blog – Learn SEO from the Best
- WPMU Dev Blog – This blog takes you a litter deeper but has some of the best-written Tutorials you will ever find
- 11 Important Pages that Every WordPress Blog Should Have (2018)– This WPBeginner Blog was posted 03.21.18 -but it would be so helpful for the WPATX beginners I thought to post it here
…and Some Helpful Plugins
- Yoast SEO Plugin – Start with the free version, you can move up to the Pro Version later
- Google XML Sitemap Generator – Great Tool for XLM Sitemaps
Charting tool to build your Site Map
- Lucid Chart – Start with the free version
Never underestimate Post-it Notes and a white Board as a great way to start your first sitemap.
I hope these class notes help. I have included a link to slide deck below. I’m sorry if the transfer from Keynote to PowerPoint format sometimes does odd things to the headers and some images. I urge you to join and perhaps contribute to the Austin WordPress Tribe by volunteering to take notes for our wpauston.com website, present at WPATX meetups or helping with our annual WordCamp. You can always find the current class schedule at https://www.meetup.com/austinwordpress/ We look forward to seeing you at an Austin WordPress Meetup soon.
Follow Sandi Batik @sandi_batik / @WPATX / Contact me at: handsonwp.com / LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/hsandrachevalierbatik
Follow Nick Batik @nick_batik / @WPATX / Contact me at: pleiadesservices.com / LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholasbatik