Welcome to Search Engine Academy’s information series on Infrastructure Architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO). We’re talking about the fourth major system in IA, which is the search function system. If you like, get up to speed on previous IA search system posts, then come on back to catch up with us.
For large, large websites with hundreds of pages, one of the biggest tasks before implementing site search is deciding what content your search box should accommodate. If you’ve been faithfully following IA and did the very first system – content organization – you have a great blueprint to start from.
On the other hand, if you’ve not done your content organization and inventory, you might feel like you’re shooting in the dark.
If your site serves both your clients and employees, you probably don’t want to mix the results for both. It’ll frustrate everyone if you have someone looking for system specifications and the results cough up your performance appraisal system instead.
Think about creating “search zones” – content that is similar in nature. This will help focus searches and give more narrow, tailored results. It helps if your content is tagged in some sort of manner with meta data, tags, descriptions, etc.
Figuring Out Search Zones
From the must-have book on IA, “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web,” search zones are “subsets of a web site that have been indexed separately from the rest of the site’s content. When a user searches a search zone, he has, through interaction with the site, already identified himself as interested in that particular information.”
For example, if you’re in the market to buy a sailboat, maybe you’ve found the mother of all sailboat sites. But there’s a broad range of sailboats you can choose from, just as if you were buying a car or a house.
But let’s say this site did it right and created search zones. For the sailboat shopper, some of those search zones could look like these categories:
- 20 – 30′
- 30 – 40′
- 40 – 50′
- 50 – 60′
- Over 60′
- One Design
Furthermore, they could be broken down by manufacturer as well. The point is, you can start with some high level search areas or zones, then based on your analytics, you can develop specific search zones to help that potential sailor get closer – in a faster manner – to her dream boat.
Some other ways you can create search zones are based on:
- Type of Audience
- Business Vertical
- Equipment Type
- System Type
And so on and so forth.
While creating multiple search zones can be helpful, they can also be a hindrance, because they are naturally going to get complicated with more layering. You may have to experiment with different levels to see what works best for your site.
Navigation and Destination
You’re probably familiar with the two major web page types: navigation and destination. Navigation pages are there to help your web reader get to her final destination, so navigation pages may have main information, search and browsing pages to accomplish destination arrival.
Destination pages have the actual information or content she is looking for: technical specifications, product information, prices, sizes, scores, etc. So, when developing your site search function, concentrate on destination pages to keep the search function leaner and faster.
Going back to our sailboat example, if I’m looking for a West Wight Potter P19 sailboat, I don’t want to see results for the home page, the company information page or the company contact page. I want to see if a WWP fits my sailing needs. Nor do I need to be bogged down at that point with safety equipment, trailering accessories or women’s boat shoes.
The problem with this strategy is that it’s basically an ‘exact organization’ scheme, which is very limiting.
You may wish to create search zones for specific audience needs. Suppose you run a plumbing and heating parts warehouse. You may have the casual consumer and the professional contractor, as well as other suppliers. Consider mapping out your search zones for these target markets to make sure they have a better, more accurate site search experience.
Maybe it makes sense to develop topical search zones on your site. What if you run a large pet care/pet product site? Topics could include:
- Training Aids
- Litter Boxes
- Cat Litter
- Cat Carriers
These obviously make sense, and are tried and true. If you see a great search scheme on a competitor’s site, don’t be afraid to try it yourself.
Should you index your content from most recent to oldest? It’s very common and is easy to set up. If you have a news site, this is probably the most useful and effective site search functionality for your readers.
We have a lot more to cover in future posts, so I’m going to stop here today. But before I go, what’s the tie-in with SEO? Well, you can use your analytics to see what keywords are linked to which pages. That’s a useful mapping exercise to create a search zone for very specific destination or product pages.
Take a look at entrance and exit paths, as well as any custom funnels you’ve set up. Are there a lot of deviations from your funnels, and if people aren’t leaving your site, which pages are they visiting most often?
Until next time, why not start thinking about some of the ways you can create meaningful search zones on your web site? It may surprise you, what you come up with.
Want to learn more about how to do your own SEO? Take a search engine optimization training and certification class with us at one of our world-wide locations.
All the best to you,