DSL Marketing Myrlte Beach

Monday, January 18, 2010

3 Steps to Building an SEO-Friendly Site Structure

Brought to you by Ian Hughes

When you're launching a new website, it can be tempting to just get it out there and worry about search engine optimization later. Websites are pliable -- you can always change them when you need to, right?

Don't make that mistake. Procrastinating on SEO can have a number of harmful effects on your site and your business:

- New domains often experience a "sandbox effect," or a period of low (or nonexistent) search engine rankings. Neglecting SEO will only worsen the effect.
- The longer your site is live, the more complex a redesign becomes. A good redesign that takes SEO into account can be time-consuming and costly. (And it could be a while before you find the time and capital.)
- Redesigns often disrupt URL structure, so you lose the link equity you've earned over time.
All told, it's much easier to build solid SEO into your site's foundation before you launch. These three steps will help you create a well-organized information architecture that is friendly to users as well as search engines.

Step 1: Start with keyword research
You can't do SEO without keyword research. Keywords are your building blocks. So don't whiff this step by relying on brainstorming, purchased keyword lists, or a limited tool set. Be thorough and aggregate a comprehensive, accurate list of keywords from multiple data sources:

You can seed your list with free, public keyword tools such as WordStream's Free Keyword Tool or the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Try entering both words and phrases related to your business and the URLs of competitive sites. Look at synonyms and related terms. Focus on relevance, not popularity.
Whenever possible, use private data sources too. If you've been operating a related website, mine your log files or web analytics for real keywords that drive traffic and conversions.

Step 2: Group your keywords
This is the single most important step to transform a raw list into something truly useful and actionable. Segmenting your keywords into tightly themed groups will create a map for the layout of your website:

Broad, high-level groups will correspond to the top-level categories on your website, so potential customers can easily find what they're looking for. For example, a home goods site would have keyword groups (and site segmentations) devoted to bath products, bedding, kitchenware, and so on.
Narrower subgroups of keywords will further help site visitors drill down to find their exact needs. Keyword subgroups under the kitchenware parent group might include pots and pans, small appliances, utensils, etc.
This grouping process will save you lots of time in the end. You can create a series of focused, optimized pages that each target a small group of related terms, rather than needing to craft a unique page for every single keyword.
To ensure that you haven't missed any potential keyword niches and groupings that could benefit your site, use The Free Keyword Niche Finder as a supplement to your research. This is a great way to uncover niches within your niche and check your keyword grouping work.

Step 3: Map your keyword groups onto your site
The last step is to map your keyword groups and subgroups onto your information architecture. Start with your homepage and top-level category pages, then build out your website by creating a hierarchy of optimized content filed under the appropriate category.

For a new business, SEO-friendly design is every bit as important as attractive design. With an organized, logical site structure that is easily navigable by humans and spiders alike, your site will be primed to enjoy better rankings for relevant keyword searches. After all, what good is a nice-looking website if your customers can't find it?

Ian Hughes is owner of Monkbam Creative.

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