Organizing Your Website

Posted by roinah on Saturday, December 17, 2011

A couple years ago, when I redesigned Website Promotion Central, I made an important discovery. My intent was only to create a more user-friendly navigation scheme. What I ended up with was a sudden surge in search-engine rankings (and traffic) starting about 6 weeks later. I hadn’t changed any of the pages - all I had done was change the way they were linked together.

What I had done, quite by accident, was reorganize my website by keyword themes.Some of the themes had fallen into place very nicely, and others had not, and this was clearly seen in my logs. My “Marketing” section had taken off like wildfire, but my “Search Engine” section was still the same as it ever was. After doing a little more research into what the search engines were up to, and learning more about themes, I know exactly why one part of my site took off, while the rest didn’t.

The promise of theme-based search engines is that they will reward websites that provide significant, valuable content over those that have simply been created to fool the search engines. Website Promotion Central is a great example – I created the site to help people, by providing clear information in a concise format.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to redesign an existing site to take full advantage of the underlying themes it already has; how to develop content to improve the strength of a theme, and how to tie together related themes into a cohesive whole. You can do this in such a way that your visitors won’t even know the difference, but the search engines will.

Don't Take This Too Far!

It's easy to get caught up in themes, and try to force your website into supporting a structure that just doesn't work. This is not an exact science, and breaking a few rules will not destroy you! While I am presenting a formula to you that has worked for me, that doesn't mean that there aren't other ways to build your site. Don't be afraid to experiment, especially if it makes your site easier to use.
Think of your visitors first, and search engines second. In my experience, organizing your website the way your visitors are likely to think about your subject is the closest thing to a "perfect" theme-based design. What happens after people get to your website is just as important as how they get there.

How Search Engines See Your Site

Search engines look at two things when determining what a given web page is about.The content of the page itself is a big part of the equation, but they also look at the context of links that point to that page. If you have a page on your site about "hamster food," it's better to link to it from a page about hamsters, than from a page about dogs.
Because they look at the links between pages, search engines are in effect looking at entire sites. The key to establishing a theme for your site is to focus on a limited number of keywords and phrases, which are closely related to each other. Your chosen set of 5-10 keywords and phrases is then woven into the pages throughout the site, as you develop additional pages to cover each of the more detailed (second tier) search terms on your list.
By consistently applying my page optimization formula (in the next chapter), and creating a strong theme-based design for your site, you should see a steady increase in your search engine referrals. Consistency in keyword usage, and an applied understanding of how the theme-based engines view your site, is really all you need.

The Theme Pyramid

The best analogy I’ve seen to describe how themes work is to look at the theme-based website as a pyramid – the capstone on top of the pyramid doesn’t support nearly as much weight as the stones which make up the base. So it is with search engine themes. It’s not really possible, or desirable, to make your home page the sole focus of your search engine optimization efforts. Success comes only by establishing a consistent theme throughout the site, from top to bottom.

Top Level:
The Network (a.k.a. The Internet)

The very top of the theme pyramid is what I term the “network” level. I don’t recommend that you attempt to create a network of sites, unless you already have one and need to operate at this level. Your initial efforts at search engine positioning should begin with the first tier of the pyramid, your website's home page.

For most of us, who are operating a single website, the top level of our theme pyramid is made up of all the related sites that link to us. This part of the pyramid is important to you, and we will deal with it later on,

First Tier:
Your Website (a.k.a. Homepage, Index Page, Domain)

The first tier of the pyramid, the homepage or domain, is where most readers will begin to establish a theme. This is the “home page” of your website. In the past, the home page for your domain was the often most critical to optimize for specific keywords. Now, it’s really more like a map to guide your visitors (including search engines) to your keyword-rich content.

Your homepage should link to the entire second tier, and to as much of the third tier as is practical. Search engines have a definite preference for indexing and ranking pages that are linked from the first page of a domain. The bulk of your content will be on the third tier, and you want to make it as easy as possible for visitors (and search engines) to find the most important destination pages.

For example, your site might be built around a “home improvement” theme. This theme is then divided into 5-10 other related keywords that expand upon that theme. For most themes, it’s probably best to stick to 5-8 keywords/phrases total, including the primary theme. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that adding more primary keywords is necessarily a good thing.

If your home page simply can't be set up this way, you will want to set up a site map page instead (with an organized set of links to your site's major content), and provide a simple text link to it from your home page.
Second Tier: Directories ("Roadmap Pages")

The second tier, or "roadmap" page, is intended to help guide your visitors, and the search engine spiders, to your content. Roadmap pages for theme-optimized websites usually exist in their own subdirectories, along with the content. Each directory/roadmap is focused on one of the 5-10 primary keywords you selected for the site’s theme. It's not essential to put these sections into their own directories, but it's usually easier to
manage your content that way.

The roadmap pages are, of course, optimized as pages on their own and do carry some content, but the important content lies in the third tier. The purpose of the second tier is to reinforce one specific keyword/phrase within the site’s overall theme, and lead visitors (including search engines) to the keyword-rich content on the third tier. Since much (if not all) of your content will be linked from the home page, some of your site’s visitors may not see these pages.

There will be one roadmap page for each of the 5-10 primary keywords, and they will be linked from (and link back to) the home page. Of course, every roadmap page carries links down to the third tier content within its directory. Unless two directories are closely related, you don't necessarily need to link them together.

Sticking to our example theme, a typical roadmap page in our “home improvement” site might be about “landscaping.” Notice how “landscaping” and “plumbing” might fit into an overall theme of “home improvement,” but the two are not necessarily related. By putting a virtual wall in between these two subjects at this tier, instead of linking them together, we help the next generation search engines understand the overall theme. A site that has two such directories, and “home improvement” woven throughout the site,shows a clear theme.

Third Tier: Content ("Destination Pages")

The third tier consists of keyword-rich content, or what have been traditionally referred to as doorway pages. Since the term "doorway pages" has also been used to describe pages designed solely for search engines, I prefer to call them "destination pages."
This is because your visitors have probably come to these pages in search of information, and have now reached their intended destination.

Each of these pages will reinforce the theme, by emphasizing the keyword/phrase from the second tier. This is where we make use of our secondary keyword list, and qualifiers, to build a set of pages that would rank well on traditional search engines under their own keywords/phrases. We do this by providing useful content for our visitorsthat fits these keywords.

For each second-tier roadmap page, we will typically have 5-10 destination pages in the third tier. Each of these pages will link back up to the roadmap on the second tier and the homepage on the first tier. They will not, however, link to each other, unless the contents of two pages are closely related. If there is deeper content on the fourth tier,these pages will link downward to related content that expands upon the keyword/phrase being established.

To follow our example further, our “home improvement” site with a roadmap page on “landscaping” would have destination pages on subjects like “landscape design,” “trees,” etc. There might be a further layer of deep content beneath this layer.

Not all third-tier pages must have a roadmap page above them – for example, I have experimented successfully with linking major destination pages directly from my home
page, on a site that had a fairly narrow theme. In this case, the home page is very much
like a roadmap page.

Tier Four: Deep Content

Creating a third tier may be all that is needed in many cases. With Inside Out Marketing,I made a roadmap page on “Search Engine Positioning” that leads to multiple "destination" pages (my articles) on keyword strategy, optimization, etc. To attract significant traffic in that highly competitive arena, though, I’ll really need to go further, into a fourth tier of content.

Instead of basic content, like a destination page with an article on keyword selection, I can further strengthen the site’s theme by adding additional, deep content, on things like keyword searches, etc. – basically, every section in Chapter 3 would make at least one good page of deep content.

The fourth-tier pages can of course be linked to from the higher levels. These pages, can be safely linked together within their own particular area – for example, my 10-15 pages of deep content on keyword selection can be cross-linked to each other. You may not need to develop this much content, but when you find that your search engine referrals are declining, it may be time to shore up the content which supports the
declining keyword/phrases.

Organizing Your Site Into Themes

Before we get into optimizing your pages, it’s helpful to map out your new site’s organization. I like to use a whiteboard for this, then commit the design to paper.Whatever tools you use, it’s important to have the overall design and structure in mind. That way, when you (or other members of your web design team) begin to develop pages, you know exactly how the whole thing fits together.

An “Off The Shelf” Theme Site

The diagram below was part of my plan for the complete redesign of Website Promotion Central as a theme-based site. As you can see, I’ve broken my theme down into four primary keywords, which represent the second tier. I’ve only shown you one example for the third and fourth tier. In practice, you’ll want to map out the third (and fourth, if you have one) tiers completely before you start building your site.

One of the most important areas of the site is the bookstore, where I could write reviews and offer books for sale. These pages won't necessarily be optimized for my theme keywords, but they will still bring in traffic from targeted searches. Someone who is searching for one of these books by name might also be interested in a review – this is another potentially rich source of traffic, outside of my site's basic theme.

In Tier 3, I’ve planned for 9 destination pages to cover my bases, and another 60 or so pages of deep content (Tier 4), with 4-7 pages of deep content underneath each destination page. As I mentioned previously, you may not need to go to a fourth tier, unless you’re working on extremely competitive keywords. Search engine positioning is, of course, the most competitive area of them all, so I’ll need some deeper content.

Redesigning Existing Sites

It may seem easier to start from scratch with a brand new domain name, but if you already have a site with significant traffic coming in, and existing links from other sites, it's probably not worth it. Instead, you can simply redesign your site. When you do this, the search engines may take a couple months to properly re-index your site, but it’s worth the wait. If you decide to redesign your site, there are a couple important things to keep in mind.

First, make sure that you aren’t creating broken links or moving/eliminating pages that past visitors may attempt to visit, unless you have a plan to deal with this. If you can modify the “404 error” page that your web server returns when it can’t find a page, stick your site map on that page so anyone who gets lost can find what they’re looking for. If you’re not sure, ask your hosting provider to help, or check out the great set of tutorialsat

Finally, keep your visitors in mind, and don’t eliminate useful content that doesn’t exactly fit the theme. Just make sure that you optimize the content you already have, and add more content where your site is weak.

Developing Themed Content

Before we move on to Chapter 5, let’s take a moment to consider an important factor in building a theme-based website: content. Reworking existing content is probably the easiest way to go, in terms of time. If your site already has some good content, your job comes down to linking the content together, and using the optimization techniques .

If you don’t have enough content for your “destination” pages, you can always create some. Writing from the top down (also known as the “outline method”) is the best way to develop new content. Create an outline, using theme keywords and phrases at the top level, and write the content around the page’s theme and critical keywords. Read the optimization guidelines (next chapter) before you start developing new content.

Acquiring content from others is the fastest way to build a theme site, but only if you have the author’s permission to do a little editing. Due to the narrow focus any particular page will have, and the need to control the headings, you will have a hard time finding content that fits perfectly without a few changes. Explain the process to the author, and get explicit permission – they may want to use the edited version themselves, once they understand the reason.

Search Engine Optimization Fast Start 92
4th Edition . by Dan Thies

{ 8 comments... read them below or add one }

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