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Internal Linking: The Benefits Of Great Information Architecture For SEO

IA and SEO

Every time I write a requirements document for SEO, I make sure to address Usability and Information Architecture. I like to think that Google will reward sites that do have good Information Architecture because it is mostly always search engine friendly designs that support crawlability and indexing. This is usually the reason I spend a lot of time with the User Experience team or UX designers, because working closely with them will only help influence a search engine friendly design built into the product requirements. I’m not going to sit here and say that I win every time, but, I’ll take a win where I can get it. Aside from all the awesome acronyms, I thought I would share some of the things that I have seen influence IA, UX, and SEO.

Sub-Pages and Navigation

Deep Content websites have a ton of content that requires you to split pages up and helps from both a standpoint of clean Information Architecture of main page to sub-page. Similar to category and sub-category indexes, entertainment content like Movies, TV, Celebrities and Music all have deep content types and indexes, putting it all on one page would be one incredibly long, unusable page with a horrible user experience. Oh, and that page would probably take 20 seconds to load even on today’s speedy internet connections. I think it’s fairly obvious that pages and sub-page types exist, so, taking a few minutes to think it through is probably a good idea.

IA Map of Rihanna’s content:

Rihanna Videos on Yahoo! Music:
Rihanna Videos

Rihanna Photos on Yahoo! Music:
Rihanna Photos

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are navigational elements that are designed to help the user experience of a website by leaving a trail of where are user is browsing on the site. From an SEO standpoint, breadcrumbs are extremely useful because of all the internal links that are created as you get deeper into the content. For sites with a lot of deep content or a large index of pages, this can be especially helpful because the number of internal links grows exponentially.

Example of a Breadcrumb:
So, let’s say I was designing a breadcrumb for Myspace and I was on the Kim Kardashian topic page. It would look something like this:
Home > Celebrities > Kim Kardashian

Real Breadcrumb Implementation on last.fm:
Breadcrumb Example

And, by the way, the term “Breadcrumb” is probably one of the coolest web terms used…how could you not use them on your site?!

In-Page Navigation

In-Page Navigational links can be referenced in a few different ways, from jump-links to on-page anchors, etc. It’s actually one of the oldest forms of navigation from the web 1.0 days when websites didn’t have fancy menu’s, navigation elements, etc. Today, you’ll still see many sites use in-page navigation to guide users through FAQs or even through large pages. Wikipedia and IMDB are great examples of this as they have fairly long pages and help users move through page content fairly easily.

Now, from an SEO standpoint, this is awesome for internal linking because, URL fragments (#) (and, everything the follows) that are used in on-page anchors are ignored by search engines and therefore creates links internal to that page. While It is debatable from an SEO standpoint, you can leverage URL fragments for SEO benefits in AJAX as well.

In-Page Navigation on IMDB
IMDB In-Page Navigation Example

Example of how IMDB ranks for the actor name + anchor (“Johnny Depp Producer”)
Example of how IMDB ranks

Related Links

Related links are a gold-mine and one of my favorite types of ways to leverage User Experience for SEO purposes. From a page to page browsing standpoint, they are great at increase page views while users stay engaged, clicking through your website content. There are all types of implementations from modules in sidebar’s, sub-page sections, and link lists to navigate users through a website. Many of these examples range from “Songs similar to…”, “You might also like…”, or “Top Lists.” Here are some examples from Kanye West’s HAM song page on Myspace:

Similar Songs Example:
Similar Songs Example

Related Kanye West Songs Example:
Similar Kanye West Songs

Top Hip Hop Songs Example:
Top Hip Hop Songs

User Experience and SEO

I tried to show some of the key examples of how user experience and SEO teams can work together. But, there are so many more examples out there and every website and product have different use cases. The key is to work together to create richer and smarter user experiences on the web. And, you can pretty much guarantee that by creating that solid UI, with a well thought out content architecture, you’re site will be search engine friendly. This helps overall SEO strategies through strong internal linking that increases crawl paths and rich anchor text links on your website. An overall win-win for UX and SEO in my opinion.

I make it a point to talk to user experience professionals daily to understand how they think and talk through various scenarios. There are countless times where they have helped me think outside the box on projects and through a simple brainstorm, come up with better SEO solutions for a page, product, or website.

Decision Making: How to be Better and Faster

Decision Making

Being a good decision maker is one of the toughest things to be. It isn’t just about being smart, but, also has a huge dependency on being able to make quick decisions and think on your feet. Some of the best decisions that I’ve seen people make were on the spot and a decision had to be made right there. It is extremely important to startups to think this way, which is why I thought it was important to start a conversation about the topic.

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Social Design & Optimization: The Power of Network Effects

One of the most interesting things I’ve been studying over the last year has been the power social design and network effects. Even though many of us have used Social Media for quite sometime, it has typically been what I would call a disconnected and fragmented system of communication. Now, of course, I have to make a statement like that to catch your attention, but, really, is it that far off?

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Professionalism: Let's have a toast for the douchebags

One of my favorite quotes I try to remember every day is by Nas. In the song “Favor for a Favor” he recites “Favor, for a favor, that’s how we do business.” This is pretty much how people should operate. Now, I am not saying we should be literally counting the favors, but, at the end of the day, if someone helps you out, you shouldn’t let it go unnoticed. Most people might see this post as tangential at best, if so, feel free to move on. But, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, so I figured, why not make it a 2011 resolution.

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AJAX & SEO: A strategic approach to rankings

Dealing with the limitations of AJAX and Flash can be an SEOs worst nightmare. There are so many issues that come into play & usually you can deal with many AJAX SEO issues by developing Progressively Enhanced code. While, I’ve written about how to address crawling and indexing with AJAX and SEO. I wanted to take a little bit of a deep dive into this again, along with the bigger issue, ranking.

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Digg 4.0: Is it coming sooner than expected?

Last week I was working with someone and showing her the ropes of social media marketing and other general topics. I had showed her how to sign up for Digg, StumbleUpon, and various other Social Networks, but, we stumbled on the fact that they are no longer accepting new sign ups because the new digg is coming.

Here is a screenshot from the sign up page. You’ll see they are asking users to submit their email addresses and get notified when the new digg launches.

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Site Speed: Reducing Page Load Times and Increasing Pages Crawled

I’ve always been a big fan of quick page load times on sites from overall User Experience standpoint. But, ever since Google announced that they were using site speed in web search ranking I have become a big time stickler about this. After watching this for the last couple months, I’ve realized that my peskiness about the whole thing warranted just cause.

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Creating Relationships vs. Selling and Closing: It’s all about Partnerships

If you know anything at all about me, it’s likely that it’s this- I’m ALL about the relationships that I create. I’ll never blatantly walk up to someone and tell them they should be buying a product or service. It’s just not my style. Granted I’ll shamelessly self-promote something, but that’s typically just for the sake of shits and giggles.

Relationships vs. Sales

For me, it’s never been and never will be about trying to win a client for the sake of numbers. It’s about creating an everlasting relationship that’s going to benefit everyone. Now that doesn’t mean I can’t close deals or win clients over, I’m just not direct and blatant about it. Again, I’m ALL about relationships.

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