Subject Line Length: An analysis of 9,313,885 emails to discover most effective email length

 

Subject Line Length- An analysis of 9 313 885 emails to discover most effective length

“The Idea Email,” and is made up of one landscaped image, a headline and the 350 words of copy.

With mobile overtaking the desktop for email open rates, I was doing some research this afternoon on the viewable length of subject lines on a mobile device. Subject lines are typically more important than the email content itself when it comes to the behavior of the reader and whether or not they’re going to open the email.

Now that most email is open on a mobile device, the number of characters you have on an iPhone, Android, Windows or Blackberry device is incredibly short… ranging between just 33 and 44 characters. Our subject here… Mobile Email Subject Line Displays comes in at just 34 characters. That’s not a lot of room to raise the curiosity of our reader and get them to open – quite a challenge for email marketers.

Co-citation and co-occurrence are important factors that influence the position of your web pages in Google’s search results.

Co-citation and co-occurrence are important factors that influence the position of your web pages in Google’s search results. The environment in which the links to your website can be found have a big impact on the value of the links.

1. Co-occurrence: the words on the linking pages influence your rankings

Even if the link to your website does not include your targeted keyword, your web page can get a ranking boost for that keyword. The link just has to come from a page that is related to the keyword.For example, if a web page has an article about shoes, boots, sneakers and sandals, then your website will get a ranking boost for these keywords if that page links to your site.For example, the following link has a positive influence on the ranked pages for the term “shoes” although it is not included in the link text:
co-citation-link
How to find websites that contain the right keywords:A backlinks  tool will help you to find websites that contain your keywords in the title and in other page elements. Links from these web pages will increase the position of your own web pages for these keywords.
2. Co-citation: the other links on the linking pages influence your rankings

Suppose your website is about selling shoes. If your site is linked by other websites that link to your website and other websites that are about frogs and toads then Google might think that your website is related to frogs and toads.It’s important that the other links on the web page that links to you are related to your site. If you’re listed in the “shoes” category of an Internet directory then all web sites in the same category are usually also about shoes.If web sites 1, 2, 3 and 4 all link to the web sites A, B, C and D. Although A, B, C and D don’t link to each other, Google thinks that A, B, C and D are related to each other because the same web sites link to them:
co-citation2

Even though they don’t directly link to each other, websites A, B, C and D are related. The more web sites they are linked from, the stronger the relationship.

The whole point of co-citation is to associate keywords and topics with the links on a page. Even if the link to your website uses ‘click here’, Google will be able to find out what the link is about if it comes from the right page.

Meeting Searcher’s Expectations When They Click on Your Site from a Search Query

Meeting Searcher’s Expectations When They Click on Your Site from a Search Query

It is not often that a search goes to a search engine, types in a keyword, previews the results page looking at the snippets about each site and makes a decision to click on one of them and then lands on the page that will give them what they are looking for.  We have all experienced this in searching.  Not finding what you want is very frustrating and we make the decision based upon first impressions. 

Typically you have about 1.2 seconds once a searcher lands on your site page to convince them that this is where they need to be.  This “first engagement” scenario, allows you to build the trust relationship between your site and the searcher.  So how do we do this?

  1. Trust means meeting the searchers expected results of their keyword
  2. Users have short attention spans, and most have a preconceived expectation of what they should find, not matching that initial expectation can equate to a quick “back click.”.
  3. What kind of wow factor does your site’s pages present. great graphics, cool design, the perfect on page title? This makes the mind trust…
  4. Are there pictures, bolded text, or great initial text that meets the searchers keyword requirements
  5. Can they see your brand, phone number and information about their search keyword above the fold? This builds trust and your credibility.

 

Making an Initial (subliminal) Connection:

Are the primary headlines aligned with intent?

The first thing users notice is content structure, headlines, headers, bolded elements, graphics etc. Your 1.2 seconds of opportunity to grab attention begins with a mental assessment that needs to immediately connect with the original search query and inspire additional engagement is via clear communication of what the page is about.

Content should be created with specific intent in mind, with headlines, and/or graphic headers that are obvious, short, surrounded by adequate white space. And the content must be specific enough to inspire a user’s attention.

Concreting the Trust:

Can users perform a quick scan above the fold to answer who, what, and why?

As noted above, users don’t actually read on a first pass, they make a decision based on visual cues and click expectations (what they expect after they click).

Some websites fail in obviously reinforcing the click expectation, missing an opportunity for engagement, underscoring brand recognition, and providing obvious reasons of time-worthy value.

Click through to your site and ask the following:

  1. Is your brand and contact information obvious?
  2. Is it obvious that what you do meets their keyword search?
  3. Is it obvious you site is relevant and why they should stick around?

Especially important with homepages, but equally important on other SEO landing pages, is ensuring your brand is obvious. Make sure what you do, or how you plan to address the user’s intent, isn’t buried. Give users obvious information and/or justification to stick around and/or click around is key to moving people to engage further.

Remember: for instant user assessment of resolution potential, anything below the fold doesn’t exist!

Website Usability and Searcher Engagement

Is it obvious what they should do next?

99% of searchers begin reading a page from the top left down and across upon what is viewable above the fold.  If all the information you have above the fold does not allow the searcher to see what his next click is but has satisfied that this page is relevant to his keyword search, the searcher will begin to scroll.  It is very important that above the fold you are able to see your navigation or the beginning of the navigation.  This is a signal the searcher understands as to finding his most relevant page. 

Call to actions should be prevalent across the page as are bolded clickable text.  Call to actions concrete in the searchers mind the hope of instant relevant information about his keyword.  That can be the navigation with his keyword as a link, a search box, a or image link to your video offering which searchers love, or sections of the instant page are about his keyword with clickable links to more information.

Failure to make the next click readily apparent is suicide for your usability and the end user is frustrated, clicks out and goes back to the search page.

 

Driving Consistent Content for Page Rankings

Are ‘next clicks’ consistent ?

Part of great site engagement is a consistent user experience for similar queries. By monitoring user interaction on a per query basis, website owners can identify consistencies or deficiencies in matches of search intent to site content.

Duane Forrester of Bing said in January 2013:

“In the long run, the brand names secure rankings through depth of content, trust in brand, and user interaction (searchers clicking a SERP result and staying on their site because the site is trusted and answers the searchers question)”

Providing key “next clicks” – obvious steps from landing pages to conversion or core information – is a better user experience = better potential rankability.

Can they share what they’ve found?

Probably the most obvious of tips, it the provision of social sharing and social connection buttons. If landing pages provide the value users expect, will they be inspired to share, and if they are, can they?

Sharing of a page is different than a click through to your social property (i.e., Facebook page or Twitter stream), and should be a key component on most landing pages, with the caveat of audience vs. social platform.

For pages with images, is there an option to share on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter? For business text content, is LinkedIn an option? Social signals are imperative in closing the loop on user intent satisfaction, demonstrating to both users and search engines an endorsement of your content.

6. Ultimately, can users find the best page quickly?

Give your users clearly labeled and a clear navigation structure to improve consistent engagement and quick discovery of their best click.

User experience, site usability, and onsite engagement have become more important for major search engines in their assessment of a site’s “rankability”, so SEO practitioners need to ensure site pages that rank for multiple keywords have a easy and apparent path to the searchers best information page for their searched keyword as a key to SEO success.  Lowering the bounce rates with either a better optimized page or moreover a better page with usability perfected for that searcher experience.

Google’s Eroding Lead in Web Search

Though Google is the undisputed king of search, alternative services are chipping into its share of the market, Claire Cain Miller reports in The New York Times.

The nature of search is changing, especially as more people search for what they want to buy, eat or learn on their mobile devices. This has put the $22 billion search industry, perhaps the most lucrative and influential of online businesses, at its most significant crossroad since its invention.

No longer do consumers want to search the Web like the index of a book – finding links at which a particular keyword appears. They expect new kinds of customized search, like that on topical sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon, which are chipping away at Google’s hold. Google and its competitors are trying to develop the knowledge and comprehension to answer specific queries, not just point users in the right direction.

People are overwhelmed at how crowded the Internet has become – Google says there are 30 trillion Web addresses, up from one trillion five years ago – and users expect their computers and phones to be smarter and do more for them. Many of the new efforts are services that people don’t even think of as search engines.

Amazon, for example, has a larger share than Google of shopping searches, the most lucrative kind because people are in the mood to buy something. On sites like Pinterest and Polyvore, users have assembled their favorite things from around the Web to produce results when you search for, say, “lace dress.” On smartphones, people skip Google and go directly to apps, like Kayak or Weather Underground. Other apps send people information, like traffic or flight delays, before they even ask for it.

People use YouTube to search for things like how to tie a bow tie, Siri to search on their iPhones, online maps to find local places and Facebook to find things their friends have liked. And services like LinkedIn Influencers and Quora are trying to be different kinds of search engines – places to find high-quality, expert content and avoid weeding through everything else on the Web. On Quora, questions like “What was it like to work for Steve Jobs?” get answered by people with firsthand knowledge, something Google cannot provide.

Compliments of the New York Times

The Top 50 Digital Media Property Ranking: A New View of the Digital World

This overview shows you the mobile usage on certain types of site and is very interesting who does and who does’t get mobile users.

Multi-platform audience measurement immediately changes the established view of the digital landscape, with media properties’ audience sizes increasing, in addition to changes occurring within content category rankings. The average property within the Top 100 increased its audience size by an average of 38 percent, and 19 of those properties had incremental mobile (i.e. smartphone and tablet) audiences that extended the reach of their desktop audiences by at least 50 percent. The properties with the greatest incremental percentage gains from mobile were Groupon (223 percent), Zynga (211 percent) and Pandora (183 percent).

Media Metrix Multi-Platform Top 50 Properties
February 2013
Total U.S. (Age 18+ on iOS & Android platforms for Mobile)
Source: comScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform
  Unique Visitors/Viewers (000)
Total Digital Population Desktop* Mobile** Mobile-Only Mobile Audience Incremental % to Desktop
  Total Internet : Total Audience  235,855 221,379 127,106 14,475 7%
1 Google Sites 228,084 196,782 107,604 31,302 16%
2 Yahoo! Sites 210,603 186,596 88,876 24,007 13%
3 Microsoft Sites 175,902 166,346 48,867 9,556 6%
4 Facebook 174,800 145,306 99,698 29,494 20%
5 Amazon Sites 147,031 115,363 74,122 31,668 27%
6 AOL, Inc. 130,619 115,202 54,010 15,417 13%
7 Glam Media 126,117 104,517 48,016 21,600 21%
8 Apple Inc. 115,920 75,358 62,104 40,562 54%
9 Wikimedia Foundation Sites 109,523 85,856 49,296 23,667 28%
10 CBS Interactive 100,772 85,783 34,029 14,989 17%
11 Turner Digital 98,311 81,501 38,424 16,810 21%
12 Demand Media 97,250 78,512 35,800 18,738 24%
13 eBay 84,677 65,764 41,355 18,913 29%
14 About 83,743 64,782 30,000 18,962 29%
15 Ask Network 81,430 69,355 20,933 12,075 17%
16 Comcast NBCUniversal 81,275 67,183 32,193 14,092 21%
17 Viacom Digital 79,966 70,446 20,194 9,520 14%
18 The Weather Company 76,642 56,120 37,368 20,522 37%
19 Pandora.com 65,142 23,035 51,977 42,107 183%
20 Gannett Sites 63,055 47,611 27,023 15,445 32%
21 Answers.com Sites 60,861 47,738 17,832 13,123 27%
22 VEVO 58,010 55,953 4,586 2,057 4%
23 Yelp.com 55,641 36,775 27,569 18,866 51%
24 Twitter.com 55,540 35,963 31,372 19,577 54%
25 craigslist, inc. 55,520 46,380 18,839 9,140 20%
26 Adobe Sites 54,840 40,984 19,810 13,856 34%
27 Federated Media Publishing 54,607 39,577 24,297 15,030 38%
28 Hearst Corporation 54,498 41,514 20,967 12,984 31%
29 Linkedin 54,071 45,699 14,978 8,371 18%
30 Wal-Mart 52,857 38,854 22,397 14,004 36%
31 WebMD Health 50,841 32,641 27,614 18,200 56%
32 NDN 46,262 46,260 N/A N/A N/A
33 Meredith Women’s Network 45,533 32,253 19,771 13,280 41%
34 ESPN 44,759 30,348 27,735 14,411 47%
35 Tribune Interactive 44,618 32,991 17,982 11,627 35%
36 New York Times Digital 44,206 33,175 19,869 11,031 33%
37 YP Local Media Network 43,191 30,112 17,539 13,079 43%
38 Pinterest.com 41,210 26,972 22,994 14,238 53%
39 Disney Online 39,551 27,621 18,022 11,930 43%
40 Netflix.com 38,987 29,205 21,480 9,782 33%
41 Everyday Health 38,720 27,143 16,141 11,577 43%
42 Intuit 38,029 29,091 15,105 8,938 31%
43 Discovery Digital Media Sites 37,590 30,504 10,622 7,085 23%
44 Zynga 37,459 12,051 29,936 25,408 211%
45 Fox News Digital Network 37,340 29,829 15,276 7,512 25%
46 Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. 37,050 26,514 15,469 10,536 40%
47 Groupon 36,924 11,421 28,722 25,503 223%
48 WordPress.com 36,846 27,964 11,976 8,882 32%
49 Target Corporation 36,061 23,043 18,028 13,018 56%
50 Time Warner (Excl. Turner/WB) 35,142 25,729 13,693 9,413 37%

Google Updates to AdWords Trademark Policy To Be The Same Worldwide

Google has made a policy revision that applies to complaints we receive regarding the use of trademarks as keywords. Starting on 23 April 2013, keywords that were restricted as a result of a trademark investigation will no longer be restricted in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Brazil.

While we will not prevent the use of trademarks as keywords in the affected regions, trademark owners will still be able to complain about the use of their trademark in ad text.

How does the revised policy affect which ads can be shown?
Google will no longer prevent advertisers from selecting a third party’s trademark as a keyword in ads targeting these regions.

Why did Google change its trademark policy?
Google’s goal is to provide our users with the most relevant information, whether from search results or advertisements, and we believe users benefit from having more choice. Our policy aims to balance the interests of users, advertisers and trademark owners, so we will continue to investigate trademark complaints concerning use of trademarks in ad text. In addition, this change means that the AdWords policy on trademarks as keywords is now harmonised throughout the world. A consistent policy and user experience worldwide benefits users, advertisers and trademark owners alike.

Does this policy change impact the usage of trademarks in ad text?
No. This policy change relates to the use of trademarked terms as keywords.

Who is affected by the policy change?
Google’s revised trademark policy applies to trademarks held in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Brazil. This policy is already in effect in all other regions throughout world. Please consult our existing trademark policy for more information.

What will happen to existing trademark complaints?
Starting on 23 April 2013, keywords that were restricted as a result of a trademark complaint and investigation will no longer be restricted in the affected regions. If you have an existing complaint on file that includes both keywords and ad text in one of the affected regions, we will continue to restrict use of your trademark in ad text.

Will Google respond to trademark complaints in the affected regions?
Yes. With respect to the use of trademarks in ad text in the affected regions, advertisers will be able to submit trademark complaints.

What are your plans to extend this policy to additional regions?
We do not restrict trademarks as keywords in any other regions. This policy change in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Brazil brings these countries in line with our trademark keyword policy in the rest of the world.

Will trademark terms in my account start triggering ads?
Keywords that were restricted as a result of a trademark investigation may begin triggering your ads in the affected regions, starting on 23 April 2013. If you do not want your ads to run on certain keywords, you can remove those keywords from your campaigns or add them as negative keywords.

Does this mean that I can now use trademark terms as keywords?
Google is not in a position to make recommendations regarding the use of terms corresponding to trademarks. If you have further questions, we encourage you to contact your legal counsel and consult the AdWords Terms and Conditions .

How do I change the list of those authorised to use my trademark in ad text?
If you would like to edit the list of authorised users of your trademark in your current trademark complaint, please send us a revised list. Learn more about our trademark authorisation procedure.

Who should I contact if I have further questions about this policy change?
You can email any questions you might have about the policy change to trademark-policy-revision@google.com.

Mar 21, 2013  Google Adwords Policy

10 Things Most SEO Consultants Hate

Mar 14, 2013 at 12:09pm ET by Trond Lyngbø

Having spent over ten years as an SEO consultant, I’ve gathered a list of “top ten challenges” (or, as I think of them, my pet peeves) about the industry and our clients.

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences to share with our community. I’ll go first, and list out 10 things that challenge and push SEO consultants to come up with their very best efforts.

1. Fascination With Quick Fixes
Our clients, normally savvy business owners, are strangely driven by the urge for “quick fixes” in their SEO. Even though they understand the complexity of SEO and the potential benefits from getting it right, many just want a quick win.

My clients are evaluated on their quarterly or annual results. Even though my convincing pitch with fact-based reasoning demonstrates that they will double revenue from organic search by taking a long-term approach and working on a 24- to 36-month timetable, I still see resistance. They don’t like this. They want faster results. They prefer 12 month horizons.

Often, I’ll get anxious client emails before board meetings. They’ll break down our organic traffic goal into a 12-monthly figure, get pretty graphs drawn, and then discover (to their dismay) that the traffic we’re receiving is nowhere near what we “agreed upon at our initial discussion.”

Businesses should understand that organic search is important, and it cannot be rushed. Quick fixes may deliver quick wins, but it is unreal to expect them to be sustained and long-lasting.

2. ”But My Competition Does…”
One of the toughest questions I’ve had to field begins with, “My competitors are doing _____ , so why can’t I?”

Many sites ignore Google’s guidelines and exploit loopholes in the search giant’s algorithms. They indulge in practices like shady link-building, exact match domains, ranking on duplicate content, and so on. In the near term, sometimes, these techniques help them outrank other businesses.

As an SEO consultant, I get frustrated at hearing Google’s never-ending string of (rarely implemented) rosy promises and dire threats to discourage webmasters against such practices.

In Norway, we have 5 million citizens. That isn’t many. But when I’m responsible for SEO strategy at some of the biggest, highest-traffic sites in the country, I am frequently left red-faced at Google’s lack of effective responses to such under-handed and crooked tricks to game search rankings. My personal opinion is that Google isn’t quite good at filtering out low-quality content in Norway. Even when I report poor-quality sites, nothing happens.

There are times when I even feel sorry for my clients. Their competitors have been using tricky techniques for years, and yet nobody stops them or penalizes them for such actions. They make a lot of money through their shenanigans. On the other hand, my clients are practicing ethical and white-hat SEO, adopting best practices and respecting guidelines, only to find themselves outranked by low-quality sites. It’s frustrating for SEO consultants. Have you ever felt the same, or had similar experiences?

3. The Conundrum of “Hourly Rates”
So, I’m called to bid on an SEO consulting project. I make a presentation, hand over my proposal… and a few days or weeks later, my prospective client will call to complain that my hourly rate is too high. They love everything else about my proposal, but try to negotiate a lesser rate, saying that my competitors claim they can do it at a lower price.

Well, that’s true. They can. And it’s because they have a different approach and attitude toward SEO. Instead, wouldn’t it be nice when clients look at how much more money I’m going to add to their bottom-line? At how quickly I can help them achieve their financial goals and targets? At how effectively I can help them grow their business?

Look, a good SEO consultant is so much more than just a technical specialist. A great SEO consultant is excellent with analytics. Armed with access to valuable data, a consultant can help with your business development needs, guiding you grow your business in new ways. It is meaningless to evaluate such value by “hourly rates,” yet we see it all the time. How do you deal with it?

4. SEO Cannot Compensate For A Poor Product
SEO can’t fix everything. I know that’s contrary to industry-driven myths, but hey! If your product, service or customer care are mediocre or just not “awesome,” you should fix that first before you call in the SEO guy (or gal) to get you more traffic.

SEO can amplify your business results. If you have a great offer which adds value to people, SEO will help you expand your reach and help many more people while making a bigger profit.

5. Learn To Say “No” More Often
I should follow my own advice! Sometimes I get a bad feeling when a prospective client calls for a meeting. Maybe he wants to switch agencies for the 3rd time in 2 years. He isn’t happy with his present SEO vendor, or recently had a confrontation, and so, wants to change consultants.

I’ve often found that these clients are impatient, frustrated, and difficult to work with. Any trivial thing can affect their behavior and attitude toward their SEO consultant. A sleepless night, a bad quarter, a rough review by their boss, and they’ll impulsively leap to random conclusions, second-guessing your judgment, and blaming everyone but themselves.

It’s a bad situation to be in, as a consultant. Such a client’s attitude can drain your motivation and mess up your mood. You have to promptly break off these relationships. Say “No” when you see it coming. Cry “Stop” when it begins with an existing client.

Yes, you may lose an account. But it’s still the right decision. Keeping on “energy vampires” as clients can have devastating consequences on the rest of your consulting business.

6. An Obsession Over Hit-Counters
People love “hit counters.” Ok, maybe hit counters isn’t the right way to describe this. But, many clients still place disproportionate emphasis on page views, search rankings and other such low-quality KPIs (key performance indicators).

None of these correctly reflect your business’ performance. You need to focus on the right KPIs. Ones that are actionable, and which contribute directly to bottom-line profitability. Those are the ones you seek to improve through your SEO strategy.

In many clients’ eyes, ranking is still king. But, SEO consultants understand that a site’s placement in the SERPs is only a rung in the ladder to business success. Without an acceptable conversion rate, more sales and higher profit as a consequence, even a #1 ranking on Google will be worthless.

7. SEO Is Still Icing On The Cake
A few business owners cherish a naive belief in the ability of SEO to transform everything and magically create results. So, they put off consulting an SEO expert until everything else is ready with their website development.

Unfortunately, when this poorly planned and constructed site generates sub-optimal results, fixing it will need expensive changes. It’s far better to involve an SEO consultant right from the planning phase so that all aspects of your commercial website will work in harmony and synchronize with other elements to deliver stellar results.

8. IT Consultants Can Fix Everything
It still amazes me that my family will call whenever they have trouble with their printer, PC, mobile phone, scanner, or have a virus problem — just because I’m an “IT Consultant.” Sometimes, they’ll even call for help with their TV, cable connection, or satellite dish!

It’s the same story at work, too. Clients don’t see a difference between a Web designer, Web developer, paid search expert, or SEO consultant. They figure that “If you’re an IT manager, you should be able to fix everything that runs on electricity.” Well, that’s not how it works!

9. ”Content Is Easy”
Sorry, it’s not. Unless all you need is to fill in some white space with text and stuff it with keywords.

Time and again, I hear clients saying they can handle content by themselves. I no longer go into raptures of delight when clients say they have a “good copywriter or writer on their staff.” Rarely, if ever, do those writers have a good understanding of SEO.

Whenever I’ve relied on these “inside experts,” I’ve been disappointed and ended up having to teach them how to do what’s needed. That also cuts into my SEO budget, wasting time that’s better spent on other SEO tasks. Does this sound familiar?

10. Getting Paid Per Link
When the SEO discussion turns to link building, the issue of buying links crops up. In the aftermath of Google’s Penguin update, it’s weird to even hear that businesses dare buy links from people offering “pay per link” deals.

This is risky, and I always turn down such requests from clients. But, some still go ahead with shady or black-hat link building techniques, and then blame SEO consultants when the ax falls on their business’ head.

So there. These are my pet peeves about being an SEO consultant. I’m sure there are many others you’ve faced in your career. Please go on and share them in the comments below. Let’s get some discussion going on these vexing problems and talk about how to solve them.

How Website Structure & Information Architecture Should Mirror Your Business Goals

Thomas is the CEO of a major corporation. He had supervised a recent website redesign project, loved the snazzy new look with bells and whistles created by a talented graphics designer – but was calling me to help with a problem.

His beautiful new website wasn’t getting many visitors!

“Why don’t people want to visit our lovely website?” Thomas wailed, genuinely puzzled that the results of his intensive efforts weren’t as rosy as he had expected. As a strategic SEO consultant, the reasons were glaringly obvious to me… but I had to soften the impact, and gently explain what went wrong.

Together, we quickly checked the site’s ranking on Google for his top 50 keywords. They weren’t anywhere in the top 10 results. Or even 20.

You see, the not-so-apparent reason for the ‘failed’ website was the lack of something essential for both higher search engine rankings, and to enhance the visitor experience which can convert a prospect into a customer.

What’s that, you ask?

Thomas’s new website, though visually appealing and technology-rich, was sorely lacking in a well planned information architecture and website structure.

But what is “information architecture”? And how does “website structure” differ from design?

A formal definition of “information architecture” would likely put you to sleep! So let’s simply call it the art of organizing and labeling website content, and bringing design and architecture principles to bear on it.

To understand this better, we’ll look at the skeleton of a website, shorn of flesh and skin, stripped down to the basic fundamentals of what shapes and strengthens it – from within.

Basic Concepts Of Information Architecture
In medical school, trainees begin by learning about human anatomy. Knowing what makes up the body helps understand (and later treat) diseases that affect it.

At the heart of understanding website structure, and planning your strategy for information architecture, lies a need to know about terms like semantic search, latent semantic indexing, knowledge graph, and SEO automation.

Semantic search is an attempt to improve search accuracy by predicting the intent of a searcher. The shift from blindly matching keywords typed into a search box against a massive database, to a more “intelligent” form of search that attempts to understand what those words actually mean to the user, has serious implications on strategic SEO for many business owners.

Latent Semantic Indexing is an indexing and retrieval method that was designed to identify patterns in the relationship between terms and concepts within any text.

By providing unique context for each search term or phrase, it ensures that a search for ‘Apple’ computers will retrieve pages with iMac or iPad on it, while a search for ‘Apple’ fruit will pull a different set of results on gardening and growing apples.

The “knowledge graph” is made up of collated information that will help search services like Google deliver more than just a list of 10 websites, and provide contextual information that solves users’ problems better (even when those problems are not explicitly voiced by the user)!

The implications are clear. Keywords are open to being manipulated. User intent cannot be gamed so easily.

To survive a search engine war fought on the battlefield of semantic search, your business must deeply understand the psychology of your collective market, and then provide specific and meaningful answers to their problems, doubts and insecurities in the form of optimized Web pages that are simultaneously designed to rank well… and also fit into the bigger context of your overall business goals.

At first glance, this seems a daunting challenge. But it’s really straightforward if you proceed with a rational plan rooted in strategy, founded on information architecture principles and framed upon a solid website structure.

Before we explore these elements in greater depth, I’d like to make something clear.

This Is Not A Fight Between Designers & SEO Experts!
Traditionally, these two camps have been at loggerheads. Designers feel SEO ruins their carefully planned look and feel. SEO hotshots complain that higher ranking is sacrificed on the altar of a prettier website.

Yes, it is possible for a design-obsessed structure to wreak havoc with a site’s SEO. It’s also possible for a website driven entirely by SEO to destroy a brand or ruin sales potential. With planning and high quality implementation, the strengths of both specialties can be harnessed to offer a business incredible synergy.

Exploring how this happy union can be achieved is the goal of this report.

Today, any successful website needs:

•SEO (to drive relevant, quality traffic that is looking to buy),
•usability (to manage and convert these visitors into paying customers), and
•the ability synergize both to work in concert, building your brand and growing your business.
Information Architecture & Getting Inside Your Prospect’s Mind
Too often, businesses structure their corporate website based upon the business’ organization. This is often out of sync with a client’s needs, causing the business to lose money.

Your ideal prospect visits your website to see if you’ll help find solutions to her problems – not to read a self-serving brochure about your business.

Keeping this in mind, your information architecture must be based on the best ways to serve your visitor, based on an intimate understanding of ‘user logic’.

Let’s take a hypothetical case of a young couple planning a holiday to Norway. She looks at him and says, “Let’s stay at this hotel in Oslo, honey!”

And with that initial spark of desire, the journey of online exploration begins. They type the name of a hotel (or maybe just “Oslo hotel”) into Google and click the Search button.

Will they find your hotel’s website ranked on the front page?

Findability is only the first step. The title and description of your listing must address their specific problem – Where to stay on our trip to Oslo? If you win the ‘click’, that delivers a prospective guest to your hotel’s website.

Now on your landing page, the couple wants more information. About their stay. About your facilities. Your pricing. Room availability. Tourism assistance. And more.

If your landing page copy and content matches their desire for knowledge and satisfies their needs, you’ll create trust and boost your chance of getting a sale.

This logical sequence – desire, findability, information, trust – is more or less constant across industries and niches. In one form or another, it exists in your field too. And your business website must match the flow, tap into the conversation that’s going on inside your prospect’s head, and join it to engage, inform, entertain and convince.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of content hierarchy and website structure that will help create this trusting relationship with prospects, I’ll take a step back to address another overlooked facet of the strategic SEO process.

Internal Link Structure & Information Architecture
Think about information architecture in the same light as planning and building a house. You would draw up a blueprint, then lay a firm foundation, construct a framework, and only then add on the layers that turn the scaffolding into a full fledged building.

Constructing an SEO optimized website that is strategically designed to fulfill the business goals of your enterprise follows essentially the same process.

When done correctly, a website’s information architecture can offer context for your content, present it in a manner that is friendly to search engine spiders and yet easy for human visitors to navigate, and ideally set up in a way that gives access to any section with just 3 clicks – or less.

The Myth Of “Home Page Focus”
Very simple, logical website structure (like I’ve explained before) that is based upon a user’s intent behind search keyword phrases will turn every category, sub-category and topic page into a “home page”. This is awesome, because:

•Your visitor will click fewer links (remember the 3 click rule?) to reach other sections of your website – something every usability expert and designer intuitively values, and website owners must consider seriously since it impacts the way Web search works.
•You have less need for ongoing SEO to improve and/or defend rankings, and can focus it instead on growing your business with scalable solutions that last longer.
•You’ll become more authoritative on each level of your URL structure, as new topic pages added into your silo will bring additional value to the pages higher up in the hierarchy because of your strategic internal linking.
•You’ll have the freedom to sculpt PR and pass link value to handpicked relevant pages or topics outside the silo. For example, if you sell red shoes, you could link to related items like red belts (which may reside in another silo) and achieve higher sales conversions.
•You can control and direct the way search engine spiders and Web crawlers find, interpret and understand your URLs before indexing them.
•The strategic use of navigational breadcrumb links lets users zoom in to get a close up, or zoom out for a broader context.
•Such logical structuring is not vulnerable to algorithm changes and shifts in the future.
•Each level in the URL structure hierarchy becomes “almost a business or niche” in itself. Visitors get a great first impression about your business when they land on such a page, and will view your site as a place to go when they need help, knowing they’ll be able to easily find other related choices to select from. This boosts your image and builds your brand.
•It is easier to get links from other niche blogs, forums and social networks. External links pointing to a sub-category page bring link value, leading crawlers to your site from relevant ‘authority’ sites that might have already established trust. If you woke up one morning and search engines no longer existed, these sources of traffic would still be valuable.
Achieving the technical elements of SEO is easy even using free tools like Magento and WordPress. Combining elements of SEO and design into the best possible strategy will increase sales. A silo structure for Web content is not just about keyword stuffing. This has nothing to do with spamming, and your intention behind siloing your content shouldn’t just be to get more traffic. Your SEO goal is ultimately to maximize your business and profits.

Layer On Design – But Only At The End!
With the framework of your content website solidly in place, and a silo layout combined with good URL structure defined in consultation with an SEO specialist, you can now team up with a usability expert and a good designer to build a user-friendly, information-rich, self-sustaining website.

•Your site will now become the best salesperson in your organization, working day and night to generate leads and close sales, while serving as a brand manager too.
•The silo structure upon which it is based will order your content in a way that is easy for users to find what they are looking for, just like it is to locate books in a library. This brings order out of chaos.
•Each time you add fresh content or include a new product to your catalog or store, the carefully planned URL structure will build an internal link site-wide to other pages in the category, and up one level in the silo.
•Your information architecture will ensure that link value is passed along effectively and ensures maximum crawlability by search engine spiders.
•You won’t be stuck with time-consuming SEO efforts on an ongoing basis. All new content added to the site automatically fits into its optimized structure, resulting in “auto-pilot SEO” as you enjoy content growth.
•Your website structure and layout will help search engines define context and theme on a very granular level.
But this happy result requires a preparatory SEO strategy because, if not done correctly, it can land you in trouble with a nightmare of duplicate content issues. It is not something you can plan to splash on top, like chocolate syrup on an ice-cream sundae! You must take these steps well ahead of the site building effort, in order to have everything working together in synergy to explode the impact on your business.