When planning a new website, or restructuring an existing one, how do you go about determining how your products, services, solutions, or ideas are presented? How do you decide what to call different product groupings or subjects on your site? These concepts may seem very basic, but these can be some of the hardest questions to answer while developing a strategy for organizing a site.
Another question: Is the website’s content structured—both in navigation and on the page—in a way that your current customers and key stakeholders know how to find what they need?
Is the information presented in a language they understand and use themselves?
The Right Language
As you’re looking to make changes, be it through pruning, restructuring, or adding information, consider the language and naming conventions you’re using. For example, if you offer products in different states, forms, or functions, are you including this information? Are you using the right terminology? What about quantity—is this something customers would be looking for?
Think about consumer intent and the customer’s logical journey when looking for the information they need. Let this approach inform how you arrange your website as far as categories and UX for current customers. It should also shape on-site naming conventions and the strategic content that will bring in new leads via organic search.
Consider what you think people are looking for vs. what they’re actually looking for. Is your existing site serving the best, most up-to-date info? Why not ask your customers what they think?
Go further still. Sit down with them and ask them what their challenges are. Ask how or why they order what they order, or buy what they buy. Take time to understand their process, and the way they think and speak, so you can better serve them.
The Right Amount
In many cases, websites are not giving users enough information. By the standards of Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines and E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), many websites are presenting “thin” content. If left unaddressed, these sites will continue to disappoint users and miss out on chances to be discovered in search.
By learning what our customers are looking for online, we can build more helpful pages and conquer the problem of having too little to offer.
The Right Process (Or at least a very good one for search and UX)
This doesn’t have to be a daunting process. Start by creating an outline of what you think the structure should be. Then gather information from your audience, and use it to edit the plan as necessary. You’ll end up with clearly-defined user points that can then inform keyword research. Think of an auto manufacturer or dealership website; almost all will have “Cars, Trucks, SUVs, etc.” in the top-level navigation, because that’s how shoppers will begin their hunt.
More often than not with new sites, everyone’s waiting on the content to be finished as the last step before launching the site. The content is almost never developed before the design. In a perfect world, here’s what would happen, and prevent many headaches: Map out the structure of the site, and define at least the bare minimum information people should know about you or your product offerings. Use that outline as a jumping-off point for gathering customer insights and improving the plan. Then, work with an SEO to develop all that information into robust, search-focused structure and on-page content. Then hand off that finished content to the UX/UI team so they can develop the site around the content.
The content is your brand’s ultimate vehicle for communicating to your audience, and it shouldn’t be limited to the constraints of a pre-approved, set-in-stone design. The dev team needs to be able to develop around the size and scope of the necessary information, rather than the other way around. Saving content for last leads to cramming it into a limiting design, or having to hemorrhage helpful information for the sake of fitting into predetermined boxes. It’s not good for UX, and not good for creating a site that stays relevant and authoritative long-term.
A Worthwhile Endeavor
If you’re thinking, “I’d love to use this process to improve our content, but I can’t change things up in my existing design,” we encourage you to go for it anyway. It may take some time and planning to get buy-in from above, but it will be worth it in the end to have laid out a path of least resistance for your customers to buy, or sign up, or contact you. Do all the legwork up front, then hand off the plan to your development team to make it work.
Clearly, these aren’t changes that can be rolled out in a week’s time—even a month’s time, depending on the size of your website. These are changes that take time and careful planning to get right. If it’s too much to take on all at once, create a roadmap for the project: Make a plan for rolling out updates in chunks, on a monthly basis if necessary.
Checked all the boxes, and still not sure it’s dialed in? Seek user testing in the form of real feedback, whether it’s an A/B test of an existing page or previewing pages in development. Give a willing customer a task to complete on your site, and see how easily they can find what they’re looking for. Ask questions about how you can make it better. Learn how to create that path of least resistance.
Create Content for Other Humans, Not for Yourself or Search Engines
This is the human-centered SEO model we value and enforce, and that will get you the most long-term wins in search and customer experience. It’s not about what you think it should be. It’s not about “the robot.” It’s about the real person behind the keyboard or touchscreen.
Bottom line: Are you thinking about your current and potential customers, and how they would use your site to do what they’re looking to do? If not, it’s time to start thinking—and planning your website and content—differently.
We also discussed this topic during Episode 57 of our podcast. Jump back to listen in: The Redirect Podcast: More Mobile-First Indexing & Website Organization to Meet Customer Expectations