It’s time to update on some basic SEO and site management topics! We are focused on systematics and will try to give some advice not only to those who are studying the right solutions for creating a new project, but also instructions on how to make an already launched site that is trying to get off the ground more efficient.
What is taxonomy?
By website taxonomy, sometimes also called URL taxonomy, we mean the way our pages are structured into different categories or tag containers based on the conceptual organization of the site.
What is a taxonomy for?
The origins of taxonomy and the process of categorizing elements go back to the very origins of language, and therefore to the dawn of thought: at first, people used the same names to identify more or less similar organisms characterized by common features.
Taxonomy applied to sites
Returning to the questions we are interested in, what was written above applies perfectly to sites: a taxonomy helps to classify all documents, web pages, and related URLs in a hierarchical way using communication principles and concepts, and aims to clarify and make an unambiguous interpretation for search engines and users.
In short, it helps improve the usability of the site itself: by opening and browsing categories, visitors have easier access to content and faster identification of the pages associated with each container. In this way, they can move within the site with greater clarity and without confusion, factors that can facilitate their persistence and reduce abandonment rates.
At the same time, effective management communicates better and more directly to search engine сrawlers what the site is about and what the main themes of the project are, with potential ranking benefits.
Taxonomy and URL structure
Setting up a well-optimized website taxonomy is essential to building a scalable SEO strategy, and performance is also closely related to how we manage our URL structure and, in particular, subfolders.
Whenever we create a new page, its specific name is a slug, which is the last part of the address; for sites that choose to display the URL path with a visible category, the new page becomes a child of the parent section, which appears as a subfolder in the path.
The value of URLs in SEO
In fact, it’s now established that a keyword-stuffed URL is not a relevant ranking factor, and we also know that URL length has little impact on performance and can at best cause server-side and host-side crashes.
Much more important is the structure of the site, which is instead one of the central elements for increasing the chances of good performance in the search results: if URLs are simple reference points for calling server resources when needed, the structure of the site instead consists of navigation routes that we draw through internal references in all their meanings.
Site taxonomy optimization
There are some tips and best practices to follow to effectively manage your URL taxonomy and avoid what is called “hot garbage”, that is, those long streams of nodes present in URLs that are of little use and only make things difficult.
An example of this garbage is having a date in the route, which is not considered optimal because it does not group the content in a section of the website by thematic affinity but only by the time factor.
In contrast, clean and optimized taxonomy groups together URLs that belong to the same topic and have clear relations with each other. This path can help Google in a number of ways, as it makes the message about the content in the category clearer and easier for search engines to understand.
Internal links are also a powerful tool when it comes to a website’s taxonomy, as they make it easier for search engines and users to discover the relationship between topics and determine their relevance. The tip is to naturally use internal links in the text, providing contextual relevance through supporting text next to the link.
In software engineering and computing in general, a scalable system is defined as being able to scale up (or down) according to needs and availability. When we create a URL taxonomy, we need to make sure that new pages can be added later that fit easily into the established context.
Examples of scalable taxonomies
To better understand the problem, the article provides an example of a company’s website with multiple local locations, specifically, with stores that span multiple countries, multiple cities within that continent, and multiple zip codes within those cities. There are several methods for creating conversational URLs with a category:
In the example, there are locations where you can place all the localized pages differently:
Grouping by continent. The following subfolder defines a continent and collects its mapped pages:
Grouping by cities. Additional subfolder indicating the city:
Grouping by zip code using just the zip code:
Grouping by postal code and country:
It is very important to study the structure of URLs carefully, because you immediately understand how easy it is to run into long and complex URLs that can “get out of control”. Using over-ordered routes can also fail because it blocks the system and makes it unscalable.
To determine the best option, you need to know your business and anticipate how it will grow: for example, if you expect to grow in certain cities and states, it might make sense to create these subfolders, but even a simpler directory might be enough. It’s important to understand what makes the most sense for your strategies and what might be useful for your users and be sure to reflect these aspects in your taxonomy.
Creation of convenient structures
A clean URL taxonomy is also important to users because it can improve the user experience and make it easier for users to navigate the pages of your site to find what interests them.
Somehow, you need to predict possible visitor paths, understand the areas of greatest interest (which you need to determine through effective keyword research), and reflect these values in the URLs.
Site taxonomy goals
In conclusion, let’s repeat what a well-organized taxonomy is so that you remember it for a long time:
- Group site URLs based on topic.
- Define the search topic on the website
- It is more accurate to inform search engine crawlers about the topics in question, ultimately improving the indexing of your content (and potentially leading to a possible ranking boost).
- Increase usability and facilitate the use of information by visitors who can identify the site as thematic and vertical by topic, therefore consider it more reliable than a general portal under the same conditions.