Information architecture is how the pages on your website are set up. How you organize your website and link its pages together can affect where different parts of your site show up in search results.
This is because most search engines see links as “votes of confidence” that help them figure out what a page is about and how important it is (and how trusted it should be).
Anchor text, which is the text you use to link to a page, is also looked at by search engines. Using descriptive text to link to a page on your site helps Google figure out what that page is about (but in a post-Penguin world especially, be sure not to be overly aggressive in cramming your keywords into linking text).
In the same way that a link from CNN shows that your site might be important if you link to the same page from many different places on your site, search engines will know that page is very important to your site. Also, the pages on your site with the most external votes (links from other, trusted sites) help the other pages on your site rank higher in search results the most.
This has to do with something called “PageRank.” PageRank isn’t used the same way it was when it was first put in place, but if you want to learn more about it, here are some good resources:
- A good explanation of PageRank that doesn’t use math.
- From a few years ago, a detailed explanation of how PageRank works, with several helpful pictures.
- The first academic paper that Google’s founders wrote and published
Let’s look at a quick example to help you understand how link equity (the number and quality of links that point to a page) affects site architecture and how you link between pages on the same site. Let’s say we have a place to remove snow:
1.) We put out a great study about how snow affects building in cold climates during the winter. People link to it from all over the Internet.
2.) The study is on our main site for snow removal. All of the other pages are simple sales pages that explain different parts of the snow removal services our company offers. None of these pages has a link to an outside site.
3.) The study itself might do well in search results for several different phrases. The sales pages are much less interesting. But if we link our study to our most important sales-focused pages, we can give those pages some of the trust and authority of our guide.
They won’t rank as well in search results as our study did, but they’ll do much better than when they didn’t have any authoritative documents (on our site or other sites) that pointed to them. Important note: In this example, the page that gets the most links is our fake study.
In many cases, the page that gets the most links will be your home page. This is the page that people link to when they talk about you, when you get press, etc., so it’s very important to make sure that your home page links to the most important pages on your site.
Information architecture can be a very complicated topic, especially for larger sites. There are some great additional resources with more specific answers at the end of this section, but the most important things to keep in mind are:
- You want to know which of your pages get the most links. To do this, use tools like Ahrefs, Majestic SEO, or Moz and look at the “top pages” report.
- Keep your most important search pages (the ones you use to target your most valuable keywords) “high up” in your information architecture.
- This means linking to them often in navigation elements and linking to them whenever possible from your most-linked-to pages (for example, make sure your home page and your site’s version of our hit snow study link to your “money pages,” the most important search pages on your site).
- In general, you want your website to have a “flat information architecture.” This means that pages you want to rank in search engines should be as close as possible to your home page and the pages that link to them. See this older video for a more detailed look at how to make your site’s structure flat.