Archive for April 25th, 2011

25
Apr
11

Site Architecture, SEO, and You

Let’s talk about something most people don’t know about, care about, or want to know or care about: website architecture. I mean, you’re in business selling stuff, right? Flow charts, and data frameworks, SQL queries and content management systems—ACK!

That’s why you paid Justin and Chelsea at Web World Design and Donuts $300 US to build this thing. All that techie crap makes your head hurt. And truth is, that’s what web design and development specialists get paid to worry about, so you don’t have to.

Still, you should know enough about web architecture to keep the web dev team on track. There are lots of websites that get built in ways that look great, even work great, but fail utterly when it comes to search engine presence. And all because of architecture.

First, a definition.

Website architecture
The design and planning of a website’s structure: the way content is arranged at the server (organization), the way it is retrieved from data storage and deployed to the page (publication), and the way all the content pieces relate and connect to each other (navigation).

In terms of SEO, things can go wrong at any of those three stages that will pretty much bust a cap in your search performance.

Today, we’ll look a little closer at organization.

Organization. When it comes right down to it, websites are organized just like your home computer—files and folders. On the server, a typical website looks just like MyDocuments. There is a main folder (called the “root”) that contains the entire site. Inside that folder there are more folders and some assortment of files.  Any file that ends in .html, or .php, or .asp (or any other standard browser extension) will be an actual webpage, although it may include many other files (such as images, scripts, audio, whatever).  A few other types of files are not actually part of the visible website; they give instructions in how browsers should render the page, stuff like .css, and .js among others. The home page usually lives inside the root folder and is usually called “index.html.” No reason, just accept it.  Any folder inside the root folder just organizes more files. For instance, there might be one called “images” that holds—you guessed it—images.

Web developers really should design sites with an easy-to-understand file and folder structure. One, so that other webmasters will be able to work with the site later, and two, so search engines will be able to figure it out.  (Other than that, there’s no compelling reason to use more than one folder, in which you stuff 10,000 files of all sorts. )

Web designers and developers usually begin to build a site by creating a diagram of how they’ll arrange your content. Frequently, this is a flow chart. You may have seen one. Whole bunch of boxes, circles, triangles all held together by arrows and lines. The box at the top represents the root directory, every series of boxes below that are folders within folders, until you finally get down to the files. Don’t worry, you don’t need to care about that.  But you should be able to read the flowcharts your web dev team provides well enough to tell whether there is a sensible organization. By sensible, I mean this.

A site should have a basic theme. If you’re selling “shoes,” that’s your theme. If you’re Amazon and selling everything, your theme is a more general “retail.” If you sell shoes and boats, you probably should have two sites. With me so far?

Your website has a theme. That means that the basic concept behind the whole site, is also the concept represented by the root folder. Any folder inside the root should have it’s own theme, that is related to the one directly above, but a little more specific. Each folder corresponds to a category level of the website, with the bottom level consisting of nothing but files.

Very simple website flowchart

When you develop your website along the lines of themes that focus logically step by step, link by link, you are giving your visitors a clear sense of where they are and where they’re going. And you are also inviting search engine spiders to have a clear understanding of what you and your site are all about.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a chat about Publication.