Structure (information architecture)
The structure of your site is important from many perspectives. A well structured site makes it easier for all users to find the content they need and for you to direct them to content they’d like. Consistent structure makes it simpler for search engine bots to crawl and make connections and for people using assistive technology to navigate from section to section, page to page.
You’ll sometimes hear the term ‘information architecture’ to describe the process of organising your content in ways that consider all of the above.
Naming your Pages and Posts
Think carefully about each page title. These will become a key part of the web address (URL) and will be used by search engines. Carefully consider whether to include keywords.
Keep the title short and relevant and remember it has to be unique (you can’t have two Pages/Posts called the same thing).
Use heading styles H1, H2, H3 etc
Your website’s content management system will allow you to add styling to the text areas of your site.
Heading styles are marked in alphanumeric terms (Heading 1 = H1, Heading 2 = H2 etc) to denote their importance. In the language of the internet, these are referred to as ‘tags’.
The H1 tag (Heading 1) is usually reserved for page titles so you shouldn’t usually use this within the content of your pages.
The H2 tag is used for headings within the page, H3 for sub headings and H4 onwards for sub-sub headings. And, ‘Paragraph’ is used for the main text on the pages.
Using the correct ‘styles’ (rather than just making the text bigger and bolder) is really important. It’s important visually and, more importantly, these styles produce a hierarchy of content used for accessibility and web searches.
It can be tempting to just shove a big heading in the middle of a page (to add emphasis) but this will have a detrimental effect on lots of other aspects related to your website, including SEO. Think about structure first and the visual styling should follow.
Consider using Schema markup
The biggest three search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Bing) created standards for HTML tags within web pages (known as microdata). The idea is to have a consistent way of adding additional information that can be consistently read and translated by bots. Their standard is known as Schema.
We set up our sites with some basic Schema structure and give our clients a little extra control over specific types of content. But it is becoming less important now that Google’s algorithm is so good at understanding the intention and context of every search.
But it can still be useful. As an example – if you are putting on a play called ‘Garlic & Herb’ then it’s likely that it’ll be difficult to search for because search engines will assign it to ‘food’ related searches.
So you can add additional tags (with American spellings). A performance of a Play would be a ‘TheaterEvent’ or ‘BroadcastEvent’ if it is digitally available online. You might also tag the Play as being the ‘workPerformed’.
However you might assume that Google’s rank brain will already infer that ‘Garlic & Herb’ is a play because it is a page heading within the What’s On section of your arts centre website.
Consider language conventions
If you want people to find your site via a search engine then you need to use the words that are mostly likely to be searched for.
You need to be pragmatic. Is being fun, quirky and informal (when people are on your site) more or less important than people finding you via Google? Is it more accessible to use friendly terms or to use conventions that help people find you in the first place?
As an example: when we first worked with Gulbenkian Arts Centre we found that audiences were either interested in live events or interested in films. We thought it would be neat to divide the content into ‘on stage’ and ‘on screen’; their existing audience liked it and we got some great feedback about how friendly and clear it was.
But their analytics showed that site visitor numbers were dropping. And the reason was that nobody uses Google to search for those terms. So the pragmatic thing to do was to switch the site to use the more conventional terms of ‘film’ and ‘live events’.
Of course you might decide that you are more interested in quality than quantity. You might decide that you want to appeal to an in-crowd rather than being mass-appeal. That would be a bold move; it might be tricky to justify to your board and other stakeholders if website numbers start dropping.