Creating Your Site Structure – Tiers Without Tears
During DAY 3 of the SBI! Action Guide, following SiteSell’s online business building process, all of your brainstorming sessions have helped you settle on a Site Concept.
Your Master Keyword List (MKL) is bursting with potential topics to write about. Now, it’s time to develop your site’s “Content Blueprint.”
As the Action Guide recommends, the most effective way to organize all of the pages relating to your topic is by using a 3-tier structure. This type of structure ensures that search engine spiders find and index your pages. It also makes your site more appealing to your audience. A site that is disorganized can be difficult to navigate, which turns off human visitors.
Take your time with this important task. Getting it right creates a solid foundation for your site’s layout. Focus on building a framework to use the keywords from your MKL in the most logical manner… a structure that will please both the search engines and, most important of all, your human visitors.
Where To Start?
The preparation stage, of course!…
Outline your site’s basic content blueprint before you start building pages. Your Tier structure is simply a logical way of subdividing your content…
Each Tier 2 page is a subcategory of your Site Concept, which is Tier 1.
Each Tier 3 page is a subcategory of a Tier 2 page.
Here’s a good exercise to get your neurons firing on all cylinders…
- Jot down the main topics related to your Site Concept on a piece of paper, use index cards, or mind mapping software.
- Some ideas will fit together, and some will cover entirely different aspects of your theme.
- As you build a detailed list, subject groups (or Tiers) will start to become apparent.
- Identify keywords from your Master Keyword List (MKL) that fit with your Tier 2 and Tier 3 pages. You’ll find that scanning your MKL brings more content ideas to mind as well.
- Use the Notepad feature in your MKL to make notes for your keywords before those thoughts slip away.
Tier 2 pages should have a reasonable demand, and serve as an introduction to Tier 3 pages, which cover specific ideas relating to the Tier 2 topic. Profitability is a factor, but not all keywords will be highly profitable.
Don’t get hung up on the numbers.
The important thing is that each page provides relevant quality information about your topic, those specific details that your visitors are searching for.
It’s fine to create more than one page for a Specific Keyword. It’s only natural that your most important keywords would be topics that you’d tend to write about more frequently, differently each time of course (“Keep it real”).
What about synonyms?
There are two ways to handle them…
- If synonyms are rarer words and there only seems to be “1 page” of content for both of them together, then combine them into one page. If you can work both keywords into title and headline naturally, do so. And scatter them both (again, naturally) through your body copy. Rarer words are easier to win and that should be good enough as your site establishes itself.
- If the synonyms are broader, harder-to-win words, they also likely can be spun in different ways. For example, let’s say you have 3 synonyms for “fire prevention.” You do one page on the costs of fire prevention and recommended products, one page on stories of how fire prevention (synonym 1) has saved lives and one page about fire prevention (synonym 2) tips.
Most topics can, in fact, be covered from many angles — it just takes a little creative thinking about the topic. Go beyond the obvious nuts and bolts of a subject.
It’s also important that your visitors find that information easily, so part of your preparation work involves planning a fundamental element of your site’s content. The navigation!
Think of the way a supermarket is organized. The supermarket itself could be considered Tier 1. The theme…
“A place to go for household needs.”
The individual departments within the supermarket are Tier 2s…
- frozen foods
- housewares, etc.
Within those departments, the specific product groups are Tier 3s. For example, within the produce (Tier 2) section, there are sub-sections; citrus fruits, berries, leafy vegetables, root vegetables, organic produce, etc. Each of the Tier 2 sections can be broken down into sub-categories this way.
Imagine how confusing it would be to find what you need at the supermarket if items were not organized in a logical manner. If bananas were kept beside kitty litter, you’d likely become so frustrated searching that you’d leave the store… or in the case of a website, click away to find a site that was better organized.
Let’s move from supermarket stock to feeding your visitors…
The majority of your content will be Tier 3 pages. From Tier 1 (your home page), you’ll link to Tier 2 pages on your NavBar. Tier 2 pages are “hub pages.” They could contain four different types of links (up, down, out to information, and out to money/revenue sources).
When a visitor scans your home page and/or your NavBar, they should be able to tell whether your site offers the information they’re looking for, and have a clear idea of where to go to find it.
Keywords are words or phrases that are used by Web surfers (when using Search Engines) to locate Web pages that contain relevant information. Basically, they are words or phrases that your average person would think of if they were looking for what you sell.
OK, it’s time to see theory in action…
Different Topics… Different Categories
Any topic can be subdivided numerous ways, according to the unique positioning for that Site Concept. Two sites on the same general topic can (and should) have a completely different Tier structure depending on the spin, or approach you’re taking on the subject.
Look at the examples below. Both of these sites are about photography, but the Tier structure makes it immediately apparent that one is about building a photography business, and the other is about learning to take better photos.
The information provided in the Tiers logically breaks down the different subjects the Webmaster covers.
The concept for this site is about starting a photography business. The Tier 2 pages introduce the general topic and link to Tier 3 pages, which expand on different aspects of the Tier 2 topic.
This logical presentation makes it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. For example, you wouldn’t go directly from your home page (Tier 1) into the Tier 3 page on “Car decals.” It wouldn’t make sense without the introductory page about advertising techniques (Tier 2).
The next example illustrates how the same general topic can be spun in an entirely different direction.
This site has nothing to do with photography as a business. It’s all about the specifics of how to take quality photos. Anything relating to how to use a camera or how to deal with subject matter is covered. This has the potential to become a very large site, with myriad monetization opportunities. The information is presented in a simple, rational structure that visitors will appreciate.
Only add Tier 2 pages to the navigation. Link to Tier 3 pages from within the content of the Tier 2 page. Notice in the example that the Tier 3 pages under “Portrait Photography” all relate to the Tier 2 topic. The Tier 3 pages cover specific ideas (sub-categories of the Tier 2 page) in detail.
To cover all of that information on one page would make it difficult for visitors to find what they’re looking for. It would also result in very long pages, and wouldn’t allow you to take advantage of profitable keywords. It benefits both you and your visitors to break up the information in a logical manner.
Let’s zoom into this example a bit deeper, and go full circle (from keyword to web page)…
Translating MKL Keywords Into a Tier of Pages
The Master Keyword List results of a brainstorming session for the keyword phrase “portrait photography” represent possibilities for an entire Tier of pages (i.e., baby portraits, pet portraits, etc.).
Here is a quick example of a Tier 2 content page, linking out to the Tier 3 pages. You’ll notice there is also a link UP to the home page at the bottom. As the site matures, links out to information and money (as discussed above) can be added…
1) Building a website is a process. It should happen in stages. Build Tiers without tears!
Don’t feel pressured to create your entire site structure in one sitting. Your blueprint will evolve over time, in a natural, organic way. Add new pages as they become necessary. The search engines prefer to see slow, steady growth.
To start with, build one of the Tier 2 pages you have on your outline, and several of the Tier 3s. Then go back to your blueprint and select another Tier to work on. “Slow and steady wins the race!” Remember the Tortoise.
When you build a new Tier 3 page, be sure to create a link to it from the corresponding Tier 2 page. If it’s left on its own, it’ll be considered an “orphan page,” which the search engines are known to penalize a site for.
2) Making things easy for your visitors pays dividends…
- Visitors will stay longer on your site and make you money.
- They’re also much more likely to return and to recommend your site to others interested in your topic.
- Webmasters with complementary content will see your site as a valuable resource to link to.
All of these factors are looked upon fondly by the search engines (who favor easily navigable sites), which means your site will rank better, consequently earning you more income.
3) Your site structure is an important component of your overall, long-term success. Invest the time to get it right.