Welcome to Search Engine Academy‘s ongoing series about how Infrastructure Architecture (IA) and search engine optimization (SEO) integrate to make your website content easier to find from a user’s point of view and in search engine results pages (SERPs).
We’ve been showing you the four major systems in IA over the last few months. They are:
- Organization system – categorize information by subject, chronology, etc. Can use keyword phrases (KWP) to assist – one high level, generic keyword term can be an “umbrella” phrase on a navigation or landing page, which is linked to interior pages that have more specific, long-tail keyword terms or synonyms.
- Labeling system – the ways information is represented by various link locations on each page. Leverage the power of KWPs and synonyms for better search results.
- Navigation system – how users browse or move through the content on your site – can use keyword phrases as text links to move prospects to specific pages.
- Search system – how users can search for information on your site via search boxes – be sure web page elements and content is optimized with a specific keyword phrase.
The first thing to consider with the IA search is this – do you even need a site search box?
Naturally, you want your web readers to be able to find your content quickly and easily. The smaller your site is, the easier this goal is to accomplish. Hell, anyone can find something pretty fast on a ten-page website.
But what about if you’ve diligently followed the large search engine webmaster guidelines and recommendations by adding more new content on more pages?
Is your site set up more like a library?
Before we go any further, let’s make sure of one important thing.
Do not, please, under any circumstances use a site search box function to replace a deficient website navigation system.
Pretty please, OK? OK. Thanks – I just had to put that out there. Go fix your crappy navigation schemes before deciding to complicate your already-complicated website with a search function.
The great thing about IA is that if you put effort into developing the first three systems – content organization, labeling and navigation – you may not need to invest in resources, time and energy to do a proper site search box. As attorneys love to say “It depends!”
But assuming you’ve done your job properly with IA, and you still need to create and implement a search function, then realize that a strong navigation system will really support your site search system. Keep that in mind.
Have you ever used a web site’s search box function and thought the results were a total disaster? Many people feel that way. It’s because the upfront effort required to make a really useful site search wasn’t ever done. We’re going to go over how to make a great, useful site search box, so stay tuned.
The worst offenders in my own personal on-site search experience are the U.S. government websites. They are positively useless. So…if you’ve been frustrated by your own experiences, remember them as you develop your website search system, OK?
One alternative that’s easier to create, install and maintain is a site index. Ponder the pros and cons of each method and make your decision after reading Search Engine Academy’s information on making good site search box systems. Because it’s a lot of work – you’ll see!
One other thing to consider at this point – do you even know if your web visitors will use your site search box? Do a poll or survey, or simply ask them. If the majority say no, that should make the decision for you.
Since many websites are not planned, but grow as needed (pages and content added, plus maybe functionality), it’s easy for them to show up as a confused state of jumbled information. Adding a search system can really help your readers when there’s too much information to browse, but that begs the question – how much information or content is too much to browse?
Alas, there’s no standard answer to that one. You’ll have to go by visitor feedback, gut feeling, etc.
If your site has been developed for years by multiple people with little or no guidance on standardization, and meta data is non-existent, a site search function will help, but it’s not a cure.
What’s a good starting point for determining how to develop a site search box function?
We’ll explore that and more next week. Until then, think about if your site is large enough to warrant a search function, and if so, keep an open mind on how to make it work right.
And don’t forget…Search Engine Academy has two, three and five day SEO training and certification courses with the most up to date knowledge to make you a better SEOer for higher search engine results.
All the best to you,