How Can Taxonomies Improve Site Architecture and Internal Linking?
When it comes to SEO, taxonomy best practices aren’t the most glamorous or riveting, but they’re fundamental to ensuring your website retains its authority and relevance as it grows. Without a good site architecture and internal linking strategy, you could find that key landing pages responsible for driving traffic and converting visitors get lost in the ether, leaving you with a jumbled mess of a site that needs to be painstakingly untangled later down the line. To prevent this, you need to understand and employ taxonomy best practices.
What is a taxonomy?
Going back to basics, let’s first understand what a website taxonomy is. In essence, a taxonomy is an organisational system that allows you to classify content on your website so that it is easier for users who land on your site to navigate. We all know the frustration of landing on a site and struggling to find what we’re looking for, because the way the site is built is nonsensical and not user-friendly. A lot of people bounce off sites like this (38% in fact) due to frustration over not being able to find what they came on for. From a technical perspective, keeping your website organised as it grows can be difficult. You might start with 20 pages and end up with 2,000, at which point sorting through the gaggle of pages and trying to organise them can be both daunting and difficult.
Website taxonomy is a simplified way of ensuring your website remains organised and clear of chaos. You can label both structured and unstructured content, making it easier for users to navigate through your website and find what they need. With taxonomy, it’s also much easier to rearrange content should you need to, essentially allowing you to plan for any event and the future growth of your website.
Is taxonomy beneficial?
Taxonomy sounds complex, and if you’ve never heard of it or implemented it before, you might be wondering if it’s even worth the effort. After all, wouldn’t it be simpler to just make sure every new page you add to your site is located in a convenient and sensible place?
Well, yes, but because you’re not Count Dooku and you don’t have the level of control, precision, and forethought this criminally underrated Palpatine apprentice has, it isn’t possible. Things slip and pages get added to sites all the time, meaning it’s difficult to stay on top of them all without some sort of organisation system in place. Employing taxonomy best practice is, by and large, one of the most effective ways of keeping your house in order, as our technical SEO Brain, Vicky, explains:
“It can be helpful to think of website taxonomy like a file structure on your computer – where you might organise all of your documents into folders and subfolders. If you work as an agency like we do here at The Brains, you might have a folder structure that goes something like:
‘The Brains Folder>>All Clients>>Client name X>>Individual Client Documents.’ This helps you separate your work folders from your personal documents, and organises individual docs by client so they’re easy to find. Website taxonomy works in the same way.
This not only helps users find relevant content and understand where it sits within your site structure, but it also helps search engines understand the content you offer and demonstrates that you are an authority on the subject matter by grouping content into clusters. In the below sitemap diagram, the taxonomy structure helps Google to find all of the related content in one topic, showing that you’ve covered the subject matter in depth. It also makes sure that both users and link equity are directed to the centre of the cluster to boost its rankings – but that’s a topic for another article!”
– Vicky Smith, SEO Brain
- Present the most relevant related content to your users: You can organise content by topic or type (e.g. videos, news etc.), meaning users will be presented with content that is relevant to them and their search, and more people will see content you work hard to produce.
- Improve the search functionality of your site: Lots of users will manually search for what they want, but keywords aren’t enough; taxonomy makes the search results on your site more accurate and relevant to the user.
- Make it easier for search engines to crawl your site: Search engines learn through semantic analysis, and this is used when your site is indexed and ranked. Taxonomy makes the crawling and indexing process faster by increasing concept density. This is particularly important for new pages.
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How does taxonomy relate to site architecture and internal linking?
Google has said that when determining sites and pages that hold coveted top ranking positions, hyperlinks are one of the most important factors to consider. Taxonomy helps to create what’s known informally as link juice. This is essentially how Google determines the value of a hyperlink. The more relevant and high quality the content of the link is, the more likely it is that you will be rewarded, SEO-wise.
For example, if you have an article about coffee and you’ve employed taxonomy best practices to suggest other content that’s about coffee underneath your article, the hyperlinks that are listed will be relevant to the keyword you’re targeting. The hyperlinks are also relevant to the user because they’re about a similar topic. These factors make the links high authority, and therefore you’ll be rewarded. Taxonomy, by default, directly feeds into your internal linking strategy – something which is often neglected and forgotten about.
Internal links are a key driver of organic traffic and allow users to effectively move between pages on your site without losing sight of relevancy. A lot of marketers rely on CTAs alone for hyperlinks, but this does little to highlight the rest of the content on your site, and means that users who might be interested in content aren’t even aware it exists because it’s not traceable. If users can freely move between content that is relevant to their query, they’re far less likely to abandon ship. They’ll stay on your site for longer and explore more of your content. This in itself can build trust; every SEO marketer’s top priority.
Essentially, from a linking point of view, taxonomy helps you to showcase more of your content, better the experience for your users, and reap the benefits of a comprehensive internal linking strategy on Google and in search rankings.
Taxonomy and site architecture
What about site architecture? As mentioned previously, websites can quickly expand and more pages are added all the time. This can make it difficult to navigate certain areas of the site, but taxonomy can make it far easier for you to organise all your content, and for users to get to where they need to be. The main way this is done is through URL taxonomy which means grouping URLs together based on a key indicator.
For example, if you run events in lots of cities and have several pages for this, it could be useful to organise the URLs by city rather than event. This will allow users to find events by city rather than cities by events. So, instead of having a URL like:
you would have the URL:
The benefit of this is that the user can omit /surfing from the URL and backtrack to find relevant events in Newquay, as opposed to having to go through each event type and then find which locations they are in. They can also omit /newquay to find the full list of locations. This is a far more user-friendly and sensible way of navigating the site.
It’s important to make your URLs scalable, easy to understand, and relevant to your marketing funnel. Whilst taxonomy means being organised and structured, you don’t want to be too nuanced with it as this can affect the scalability of your website structure in the future.
In essence, the Google bots and your website users will think in a similar way and be looking for the most obvious, easiest route to take when navigating your site, so pleasing both isn’t too difficult.
Final thoughts on taxonomy
All in all, taxonomy sounds incredibly technical and long-winded, but it helps you set up an organised website that is futureproof. Taking the time to employ taxonomy best practices early on will pay off in the long run through better rankings and a better experience for your users. If you have excellent content but your site isn’t navigable, users won’t see it and it becomes redundant. Taxonomy allows you to strike that perfect balance between pleasing the Google gods and pleasing your users.
If you’d like to find out more about technical SEO and how to employ taxonomy to your website, get in touch with SEO Brains today.
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