What is a website taxonomy? Taxonomy creation is the process of creating a classification system for a website. One of the most notable examples of a taxonomy is the species classification system. There are many ways of implementing a taxonomic system on your website that will provide a better user experience and help your search engine rankings.
Websites that don’t use a taxonomy tend to be very difficult for users to navigate, and visitors to the page often don’t find what they’re looking for. Furthermore, an average of 38% of visitors to a website will leave a site that is poorly laid out.
Why You Need A User and SEO Focused Taxonomy
Applying a well-planned taxonomy to your content can transform how you communicate with your customers by organizing your information in a way that aligns with what your users expect. It provides an immense return on investment through improved content discovery, SEO findability, online marketing, customer self-service, and commerce. There are four primary reasons that having a taxonomy for your website is important.
Bill Ross, CEO of Linchpin SEO, a Raleigh SEO Company
People Navigate Differently
Different people navigate according to their needs and interests, and at times the same user will want to find content in different ways.
Users Think About Content In Different Ways
Tagging content by taxonomy allows you to relate content by topic and type. So, a news item on a Google Update would have a sidebar containing other news items related to changes in the Google Algorithm, recent publications that talk about Google SEO, and recent news items.
Users Have Different Interests In Your Content
A taxonomy allows you to connect people with their interests and likes. Let your visitors personalize their experience on your website, and connect the interests of your members with the content you have on your website.
Search Engines Need Structure To Be Effective and Efficient
Search engines crawl the web and websites just like humans do: through links and structure. The more optimal your structure (both internally and externally), the more efficiently and effectively the search engines will be able to find, index, and rank your content.
Context Is Important
Each page has its own value for both users and search engines. Users navigate based on mental models, and therefore each page much fit into this model like a key. Search engines use context and website structure to understand ranking metrics flow and page value towards keyword targets.
With that said, let’s examine common page types for a website and their impact on users and search engines.
Information Pages can focus on niche search terms and can be really helpful for visitors and may attract external backlinks. These pages can also sell a service or product after providing information and internally link to important category pages, passing on more SEO value towards them.
There’s usually no limit to the number of information pages which can be created, but when thinking of a site taxonomy, it’s important to categorize them all so there isn’t a huge list of pages within the navigation menu.
Category Pages pages usually focus on generic keywords and can bring in valuable traffic to a website. Category pages lead to a related group of products or services or sometimes more precise ‘sub-category’ pages.
Product or Service Pages
Product/service pages should focus on a single product or service offered and attract very niche or long tail keywords. Having all products or services just listed on the category pages means that there is no specific page about a specific product or service, which makes it difficult to SEO and for search engines to rank.
Blog/news pages are pages which can provide information, promote products and services or just showcase any news about the business.
Goals of Taxonomies
Building a taxonomy requires consideration of business goals, users and context, and content sets.
What is the business purpose and goal for the taxonomy? Is it for a specific initiative such as document management or for content management more broadly?
What is the target audience for the content? What are the user profiles, and what are their information usage needs?
What is the operational purpose of the content? Is it limited to team, specific initiatives, or are there multiple types of content to be considered?
How to Create Effective Taxonomy
Here are ten taxonomy basics that you can use to create and develop your website’s taxonomic structure:
1. Determine the Primary Purpose that Your Taxonomy Serves
There are many taxonomy benefits if you create a high-quality taxonomy for your website, and it’s essential to determine which of these benefits you want to focus on. One of the most important taxonomy benefits is that a taxonomy will make it possible to easily organize your website.
In some cases, the taxonomy’s main purpose may be to help customers find products that you’re selling on your website. A well designed eCommerce taxonomy is likely to greatly improve your conversion rates.
Determining the primary purpose of the taxonomy will help you to determine how you design it. For instance, if better SEO is the primary goal, it’s important to place a strong emphasis on the use of keywords.
In order to ensure that the taxonomy helps you provide your site’s visitors with a better user experience, the taxonomy should be designed to increase content findability. In addition, a well designed taxonomy can encourage people to stay on your page.
This is extremely important since, according to the Nielsen Norman Group, most users stick around on a page for less than 59 seconds. So if you don’t capture the user’s attention in less than a minute, you’ve lost them.
2. Do Keyword Research for Each Section of the Taxonomy
While it is possible to do keyword research on your own, there are a variety of automated tools that come up with a list of potential keywords for you. Then, you can pick the best keyword(s) for your website.
It’s important to have multiple keywords for each section of the taxonomy. However, they should never be chosen on a whim. It’s essential that the keywords you choose are directly relevant to the content on your page. Several keywords that describe similar concepts should also be used in each section.
If some sections of the taxonomy promote local services, you need to incorporate principles of local SEO. In order to do this, it is important to include the name of your town, city, or region in the keywords as much as possible.
3. Consider the Needs of Your Website’s Readers
You should carefully examine the demographics and habits of your website’s readers. Here are some questions you should be asking as you conduct your research:
Where Do Your Website’s Users Tend to Be Located?
If your website is often viewed by people located in foreign countries, it’s a good idea to include language options in the taxonomy. Owners of websites with a multicultural audience should have several language options for visitors to choose from.
How Long Do Users of the Website Tend to Stay?
If people tend to spend a large amount of time on your website, having a few levels of your taxonomy may be advantageous. However, it’s best to have as few levels as possible if visitors don’t tend to spend much time on your site.
Do Visitors Tend to Come from a Specific Region?
If visitors to your website tend to be from a specific location, it’s a good idea to include words in the category titles of your taxonomy that will help you to connect with these readers.
What Are Customers Looking for?
Determine what types of products customers typically buy from your website. This will make it possible for you to create titles for taxonomy categories that will help users find the products they’re searching for.
4. Determine What Taxonomy Structure Works Best for Your Website
There are several common taxonomy structures that are used by website owners. Here are the most common website taxonomies:
A flat website taxonomy has a home page with a list of subcategories. In this type of taxonomy, there are no levels within the subcategories. This makes all of the subcategories top-level categories, and it’s possible to choose from the list of pages on the home page.
What types of sites should use this type? This type of taxonomy is best for owners of small websites. However, this taxonomy structure isn’t good for larger websites.
A Hierarchical Taxonomy
This taxonomy structure is often used for websites that are a bit larger. In a hierarchal taxonomy, there are major categories that include subcategories. When an individual clicks on one of the subcategories, they are given options for one or more subcategories within them. In some cases, there are several new levels of subcategories that appear.
Here are some important steps that you must follow when you’re creating a hierarchical taxonomy:
- Try to minimize the number of levels in the hierarchy. This will improve content findability.
- It’s important that the pages are divided up based on the type of content on the page rather than research data for keywords.
- Be careful if you are use acronyms for category titles. Unless you can be certain that readers will always be familiar with an acronym, you should spell it out before using it.
A Network Taxonomy
There are many ways that you can create a network taxonomy. In some cases, the categories are connected to each another by association. Sometimes, a network taxonomy can be used in conjunction with hierarchal taxonomy.
What types of sites should use this? Network taxonomies are commonly used by individuals who own larger websites.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re creating a network taxonomy:
- If categories are linked by association, ensure that they are clearly related to one another.
- Consider having the most recent information or most popular content available in a different section than the rest of the content.
There are different ways of creating a facet taxonomy. They divide up the categories of content based upon an attribute of the content or products that are being sold. Facet taxonomies are particularly useful for individuals who are selling multiple products on their website. In addition, facet taxonomies make it possible to incorporate multiple taxonomy structures. However, it is always important to avoid creating duplicate content when using this taxonomy structure.
5. Create a Team to Design the Taxonomy
The team should generally have anywhere between four and seven people. However, there are cases when a larger team may be necessary.
Everyone who works on it should be knowledgeable about the content of your website. In addition, all members of the team should possess strong organizational skills and know how to incorporate a better SEO strategy for your page.
Typically the core team consists of:
- Business representatives who work with the content
- Information manager
- Taxonomy specialist
- SEO specialist to help with search engine needs
- Technical subject matter expert who understands the constraints and opportunities of the implementation environment
6. Effectively Organize the Team Meeting
Here are some tips that can allow you to have a successful group meeting when creating your website’s taxonomy:
- Brainstorm: It’s a good idea to come up with a number of ideas for your website’s taxonomy before choosing one. The team brainstorming session should last anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes.
- A group leader should be designated for the team, and this individual should facilitate good communication between members of the group.
- The group should reach a consensus before implementing a taxonomy.
7. Consider Whether to Use Automation
For some business owners, automated tools can be a highly effective way to create your website’s taxonomy. However, this isn’t always the best option. It’s often best to use automated tools if you have a large website. However, owners of smaller websites should avoid the use of automated tools. For some website owners, it’s best to use a combination of automated and manual design of the taxonomy. If you use automation to create the taxonomy, it’s important to make sure that you use an effective and reliable software program.
8. Search Feedback for Clues about How to Design Your Taxonomy
It’s a good idea to look for feedback from your customers and use that information to help you determine how to structure your taxonomy. One great way to do this is to survey your customers. Another great way to get information from your customers is to offer an online form that allows customers to give feedback about your website. After the taxonomy is implemented, it’s a good idea to continue to gather information from your customers.
9. Test the Taxonomic Structure
When you are first implementing a taxonomy, it’s important that you immediately test it. Here are some taxonomy basics to keep in mind while you’re testing your website’s taxonomic structure:
Step into Your Viewers’ Shoes and Ask Yourself if Visitors Will Be Able to Find Necessary Information
This test should involve as much of the content as possible. For smaller website owners, it may be possible to run this test with all of the content on your site.
Determine if Visitors to Your Site Can Perform All Necessary Tasks in a Reasonable Amount of Time
Time how long it takes to search for and purchase various products off of your page. Furthermore, time how long it takes you to search for various articles on your website. Compare these times with the amount of time that visitors typically spend on websites that are similar to yours. Make sure that the amount of time it takes to perform these tasks is significantly less than the amount of time that people typically spend on websites similar to yours.
Determine if the Taxonomic Categories Are Clearly Defined
Make sure that there isn’t a significant amount of overlap between categories that you have created.
If the taxonomic structure you have created needs more work, it’s essential to immediately make the necessary changes. After you make the changes, go through the same testing process again. It’s also important to go through the testing process if you make changes to the taxonomy later on to increase findability of content or improve other aspects of your website.
10. Taxonomy Creation Isn’t a One-Time Event
Keep up to date on changes that you could make to the taxonomy in order to improve your website and increase findability of content. In some cases, categories in the taxonomy may become obsolete. If you have a large website, it will be essential to have a team of employees continuing to check the site’s taxonomy in order to ensure that it’s working properly. If you begin selling new products or provide new information on your website, it is often necessary to put this content in a new taxonomic category.