Toward a Search Optimized Mobile First Information Architecture


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Presentation I gave on moving toward a search optimized mobile first information architecture at SES Toronto 2012.

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  • Thanks Jonathan. It’s a pleasure to be here addressing three of my passions at once: mobile search, SEO, and information architecture. I’m going to talk about how the three of these disciplines interact, and give all of you a leg up on your competitors who are probably addressing each topic in silos.
  • At this point most SEOs understand the concept of bucketing information within sitemaps according to themes, so that the broader concepts and keywords are at the top of the hierarchy, and the more narrow topics are at the bottom of the hierarchy. This is an example of arranging the information architecture of a power tools site so that it aligns with those categories that people use when they search for power tools. A lot of SEOs call this ‘siloing’, after Bruce Clay’s nomenclature for arranging content in terms of strict silos, but it’s also called search optimized information architecture.
  • There’s a great book by SEOs at IBM called Audience, Relevance and Search that talks about search optimized information architecture in detail. There are four main benefits to using a search optimized information architecture according to the book.
  • Information architects traditionally use search queries to enhance a site’s information architecture, as this quote from one of the field’s most important texts makes clear. But SEOs have historically taken it a step further, and used search queries from external sources, namely search engines, to structure their sites for usability and search engine traffic.
  • This is such a well accepted notion that Google has acknowledged the power of using queries and concepts that people use in their webmaster help material. Not to belabor the point, as I think many people here understand the power of using a search optimized information architecture to bring more traffic to a site and make it more usable. But what I don’t think a lot of people are considering is how search optimized architecture changes when we add the element of context. Are the concepts and keywords the same when a user is searching from a smartphone as they are when that same user is searching from a desktop or laptop? Do these users have the same goals regardless of device?
  • It turns out, no. When we looked at the top 24k keywords according to the Adwords Keyword Tool and Google Insights for Search we found that mobile searchers often search with different keywords, but more often with different frequencies. For example, when we look at keywords related to insurance, we see that 74% of the searches for [towing service] come from mobile devices, as you might expect. Someone’s more likely to be on the side of the road with a flaming engine than in their office at home.
  • We found that there are differences in user goals and behavior no matter what the vertical is. For example, in Finance…
  • So the key question is: is search optimized information architecture still possible in a world where people are searching for different things on different devices in different frequencies? Think about restaurant search behavior, for example. If you were to structure your site according to desktop search behavior you might include jobs and printable coupons, but on mobile devices searchers aren’t really looking for those things. What’s more, restaurant searchers are hyper-focused on finding a location near them.
  • Google gave their official recommendation last week at a panel on mobile SEO that I spoke on with Google’s Pierre Far and Mobile Moxie’s Cindy Krum. It’s helpful to understand what approach Google recommends when it comes to mobile SEO, but how can we apply it to different search behaviors and the notion of search optimized information architecture?
  • Google strongly recommends responsive web design if it makes sense for the user, but in some cases it may not. For example, responsive web design doesn’t change the information architecture of a site. So if you have a site with a site map that’s several layers deep, and it doesn’t address any of the specific needs of mobile users, responsive web design may not be right for your project.
  • Historically in mobile information architecture it is best to limit the possible actions that a user can perform, and include a link to the full site if a user prefers to access it.
  • There’s also a camp that is in favor of cutting out all of the excess of the desktop site and streamlining it for mobile users, and then making that site work regardless of what device you’re accessing it from. This is called mobile first responsive web design.
  • But there can be problems with this from a usability standpoint. If desktop users really don’t need the content, that’s one thing, but as Jakob Nielsen pointed out earlier this year, mobile first responsive web design could be penalizing desktop users, if the eliminated pages could be helpful to them.
  • What’s the solution? Sometimes the best solution for mobile and search is to have a dedicated mobile web site that’s optimized for different search behaviors and user goals. Here’s an example of what eSurance did to address different user goals.
  • When we looked at this on a larger scale we found that many categories could benefit from a dedicated mobile site optimized for different queries.
  • As a marketer you can do similar research on your own brand and industry terms and then serve content on your mobile site that’s going to be most relevant to your users. For example, Arby’s has developed a desktop site that includes printable coupons and job applications a number of other things that mobile searchers generally aren’t looking for; but on their mobile site they’ve put their store locator front and center because they know that the majority of users are just looking for a place where they can get a roast beef sandwich right now.
  • Similarly, Wells Fargo has a desktop site with information about all the products they offer. But on their mobile site they focus on atms and locations, because that’s what users in the category are looking for the most. They still have a link to the full site if people want to access it on mobile devices, but their mobile home page doesn’t try to display everything for every one.
  • So the first step in achieving a search-optimized mobile first information architecture is not to decide whether you need to have a dedicated or responsive site. The first step is to understand what your users need by doing market research and/or by putting your brand and industry terms into the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to understand the differences between what your desktop user wants from your brand, and what your mobile user wants from your brand (if differences exist). You can see here State Farm’s mobile searchers are overindexing for roadside assistance, phone numbers and locations.
  • The second step is to either build a mobile first responsive design driven site if the goals and keywords are the same, or more likely to build a hybrid of dedicated mobile and responsive content. This is a sample of how such a thing might work for a bank.
  • And finally, if you do choose to make a dedicated mobile site, or hybrid solution, be sure to let Google know what the equivalent mobile pages are so that this content can rank appropriately.
  • Contrary to popular belief, dedicated mobile sites do not result in a loss of traffic due to split link equity. As our research in Distilled showed, most of the sites that get the most traffic from Google have dedicated mobile sites, with just 12% of them having responsive sites.
  • But since Google is making it easy to let them know about your mobile content, it is best to go the extra mile and let them know which URLs are intended for mobile searchers and which aren’t with these two steps.
  • Finally, there may be some who ask: what about Bing? This is a Google initiative, and Bing currently doesn’t support rel=canonical and rel=alternate for equivalent content on mobile devices. Duane Forrester of Bing has gone on record as saying that Bing prefers responsive content. This is good to know, but if you need to build out dedicated mobile content for your users, I wouldn’t let Bing’s position sway you one way or the other, as their market share is currently limited.
  • Thanks! This is a new approach that should be more useful than simply going with the most popular option and selecting responsive web design in all cases, in spite of your users. If you want to know more about mobile search, feel free to contact me here at this contact info, or scan this code to download our new research on Google smartphone search rankings. I look forward to your questions after the panel!
  • Toward a Search Optimized Mobile First Information Architecture

    1. 1. Toward a Search-Optimized Mobile First InformationArchitectureInformation Architecture for the Modern WebsiteBryson MeunierDirector, SEO StrategyResolution Media@brysonmeunier+Bryson Meunier Toronto | June 11–13
    2. 2. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sesto Search Optimized Information Architecture or ‘Siloing’ Upper Funnel Long TailBruce Clay on Siloing: logo here Your @brysonmeunier
    3. 3. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sesto Benefits of a Search Optimized Information Architecture • It enables you to cover the range of possible keyword combinations that your target audience uses, thus capturing a higher proportion of targeted visitors. • It enables you to fill gaps in content that you did not appreciate prior to doing keyword research. • It enables you to gain market intelligence on your target audience, which helps you better address the needs of the audience that you attract from Google. • It enhances internal link equity. Search engines use the same algorithm to assess whether two pages are relevant to each other as they do to judge if a page is relevant to a keyword phrase. If the pages that link to one another on your experience have related keywords, Google will judge them as relevant to each other, and that will tend to increase their PageRank from your internal links.Source: Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    4. 4. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sesto Benefits of a Search Optimized Information Architecture “Search is a learning tool. Through search log analysis, which we touched on in chapter 6, you can gather useful data on what users actually want from your site, and how they articulate their needs (in the form of search queries). Over time you can analyze this valuable data to diagnose and tune your site’s search system, other aspects of its information architecture, the performance of its content, and many other areas as well.”Source: Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    5. 5. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoKeyword and Concept Research Critical to SEO• ―Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.‖ Design and Content Guidelines, Google Webmaster Guidelines• ―Anticipating these differences in search behavior and accounting for them while writing your content (using a good mix of keyword phrases) could produce positive results‖• ―Designing your site around your visitors needs while making sure your site is easily accessible to search engines usually produces positive results.‖ Google SEO Starter Guide Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    6. 6. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoGoogle queries reveal differences in search behavior • Analyzed mobile and desktop volumes for top 24,138 keywords according to Adwords Keyword Tool and Google Insights for Search • Mobile Search accounts for 22% of all Google searches on average according to sample @brysonmeunier
    7. 7. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoGoogle queries reveal differences in search behavior • 77% of total • 88% of searches • 69% of [apps for Finance Dining and Nightlife Internet & Telecom search volume for for android] and 73% [atm] and 99% of [restaurants], 97% of [download volume from [atm of searches for ringtones] locations] comes [bars] and 80% of searches come from mobile searches for from mobile devices [restaurants near devices me] come from mobile devices @brysonmeunier
    8. 8. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoIs Search Optimized Information Architecture StillPossible in a Fragmented Modern World? Restaurant Home Page Printable Company Menu Jobs Locations Locations Coupons Information Nutrition @brysonmeunier
    9. 9. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoGoogle gives official recommendation for mobilesmartphone SEO• “Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.”• “If responsive design is not the best option to serve your users, Google supports serving your content using different HTML. The different HTML can be on the same URL (a setup called dynamic serving) or on different URLs, and Googlebot can handle both setups appropriately if you follow our setup recommendations.” Full details at Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    10. 10. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sesto Responsive Design Formats Existing ContentInformation Architecture for Desktop Website Information Architecture for Responsive Website Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    11. 11. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sesto Bad mobile sitemap mimics the desktop Good mobile sitemap limits possible actions and includes link to full siteSource: ―Mobile Information Architecture‖, Mobile Design and Development, Brian Fling @brysonmeunier(O’Reilly 2009)
    12. 12. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoMobile First Responsive Web Design Start with a simple information architecture Make it responsive Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    13. 13. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sesto―[mobile first responsive web design] neglects the penalty imposedon desktop users when you give them a design thats suboptimalfor bigger screens and better input devices (see sidebar on mousevs. fingers). If desktop users were a minute minority this might beacceptable, but almost all websites get substantially more traffic(and even more business) from desktop users than from mobileusers. So, while we do want to serve mobile users, we cant neglectdesktop users — who, after all, pay most of our salaries.‖ Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group Mobile Site vs Full Site, April 10, 2012 @brysonmeunier
    14. 14. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sesto Sometimes Dedicated Mobile Sites are More ResponsiveeSurance Desktop Site and Sitemap eSurance Mobile Site and Sitemap Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    15. 15. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoSome Categories Need Dedicated Mobile Sites @brysonmeunier
    16. 16. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoSome Categories Need Dedicated Mobile Sites @brysonmeunier
    17. 17. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoSome Categories Need Dedicated Mobile Sites @brysonmeunier
    18. 18. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoToward a Search-Optimized Mobile First InformationArchitectureUnderstand the differencesbetween what your mobileuser expects and what yourdesktop user expects andbuild your mobile siteaccordingly Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    19. 19. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoToward a Search-Optimized Mobile First InformationArchitectureBuild a mobile Desktop Mobilehome page at Homepage Homepagem.domain.comthat addressesthe mobile user’s About Us Mobile ATM/Locations Mobile Assistant Near Me Wallpapersgoals with link tofull site andresponsive Mobileduplicate pages Loans ATM/Locations Sites/AppsOR build a mobilefirst responsivedesign driven site Mortgageif goals are same. Key Desktop Calculator Mobile Sample Banking Responsive Equivalent site with hybrid mobile IA Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    20. 20. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sesto Toward a Search-Optimized Mobile First Information Architecture If dedicated mobile site is built, use page annotations and redirects to ensure Google understands equivalent contentSource: Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide: Your logo here @brysonmeunier
    21. 21. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoDedicated Mobile Sites Do Not Result in Less Organic TrafficFull study at @brysonmeunier
    22. 22. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoDedicated Mobile Sites Do Not Result in Less Organic Traffic 1. On the desktop page, add a special link rel="alternate" tag pointing to the corresponding mobile URL. This helps Googlebot discover the location of your sites mobile pages. 2. On the mobile page, add a link rel="canonical" tag pointing to the corresponding desktop URL. Options for sitemaps and HTTP headers at @brysonmeunier
    23. 23. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoImplications for Bing? Source: StatCounter Global Stats: @brysonmeunier
    24. 24. Toronto | June 11–13, 2012 | #sestoThank You! Bryson Meunier Director, SEO Strategy Resolution Media Scan to download Google Mobile Search Rankings White Paper: @brysonmeunier +Bryson Meunier