SEO agencies are constantly receiving inquiries that are something like this: «We recently had our website relaunched. Now we want to be found easily on Google as well.»

The question alone makes it clear that something went fundamentally wrong with the relaunch of the website. The information architecture is not only the basic factor for a good user experience, it is also a crucial factor for SEO. It does not only improve the visibility and accessibility of the content, it also plays a major role in the optimal presentation and placement of the website in search engines.

 

What is Information Architecture?

A website always consists of content that needs to be communicated. This can be text, video, photos or similar. The information architecture forms the basic framework in which these contents are structured into an easily accessible and understandable form. This can be, for example, entire pages, individual content elements or overlays.

In addition, the information architecture is responsible for ensuring that the desired content can be found by users via various navigation elements. Finding the relevant content should be as simple and intuitive as possible. The focus of a good information architect is thus primarily on the user, his mindset, his information needs and the specific conditions in which the use of the website takes place.

The information architecture of a website represents one of the lower levels of the user experience. It works in the background and is usually only perceived by users when it is faulty and not when it is working flawlessly.

An information architecture are the framework of a website, which structures its contents. These structural units are only made visible to the user through interaction and visual design.

 

Why is a good information architecture important for an effective SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) attempts to optimize the visibility and comprehensibility of a website’s content for search engines. In addition, the aim is to achieve the most complete coverage of the contents as well as the highest possible ranking positions in the result lists. This then leads to higher visitor traffic to the website.

We recognize: Both information architecture and SEO are about optimal visibility and accessibility of content – in principle, both disciplines should be indifferent to whether it is actual users or search engine crawlers.

 

How is SEO influenced by the Information Architecture?

First, of course, the semantic quality of the navigation elements (the labeling of the menu elements and the text links) influences the presentation of the content in the search engines.

Secondly, the navigation structure should be logical and consistent. This is the only way for search engines to understand the site’s structure and thus the thematic relationships. Only in this way are search engines able to display the contents of the site in a structured way. In addition, the relevance of specific contents is influenced if search engines can recognize the relationship between them and other information.

Each individual page should be clearly separated semantically from all other pages, on the one hand by link names, page titles and URLs that are as clear and coherent as possible, and on the other hand by content that is as unique as possible – at least clearly distinguishable.

If a page is to be accessible from several places within the navigation, the page should not simply be duplicated (“Duplicate Content” is particularly harmful in SEO), but rather linked from several places. These pages are called “Pillar Pages” or “Corner Stone Pages”. The crawlers attribute a higher relevance to these pages.

But also the depth of the site structure (i.e. how many hierarchical levels the content is distributed on) plays a major role. It can be assumed that it is better for both users and crawlers if all pages are accessible with as few clicks as possible. As a heuristic, a number of 3 to 4 clicks has become the maximum value. So the navigation of a large website should be designed rather broad than deep, but there are limits here as well, as each level should not contain more than 7 (+/-2) elements (see: Miller’s number // https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millersche_Zahl), otherwise the overview is lost.

If both requirements (maximum 4 levels and not more than about 7 level elements) cannot be reconciled, one should consider reducing the number of pages, for example by combining content or split the website into different instances (see picture below). Such a limit is certainly reached with a page limit of 7 x 7 x 8 x 9 = 3528 pages. Usually sooner (around 2500 pages), since experience shows that not every level actually has the maximum value of 7 elements.

Websites with too many hierarchy levels are not really user-friendly. A possible way is to split them into different instances.

 

A good Information Architecture is a quality signal for search engines

A good information architecture therefore has a direct influence on SEO. It guarantees the complete detection of the website by the crawlers. It also improves the structural and semantic understanding of the site’s content, thus increasing the relevance of the core content, which is then ranked more highly.

It also indirectly has a positive effect on SEO, because if users are guided more effectively through the site by an easy-to-understand information architecture, they will stay there longer. With high satisfaction, returning visits are also achieved. Both effects are measured by Google and have positive impacts on the ranking.

Search engine optimization is therefore closely related to the content and the structure of a website. Therefore, the conception or the relaunch phase of an website is the ideal time to lay the foundations.