Site Architecture for Resource & Content Libraries — Whiteboard Friday
Kavi outlines a four-step process for building resource and content libraries. The process includes auditing for technical and content-related issues, mapping out a new structure, migrating the content with redirects, and redesigning the site to match the new structure.
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What’s up, Moz fans? I’m Kavi Kardos. I’m speaking here at BrightonSEO this week, and I’m recording a Whiteboard Friday for you on site architecture for resource and content libraries. You can find me on Twitter @therarevos and on LinkedIn as well. I’m the only Kavi Kardos on there, so I’m pretty easy to find.
This is a process that you can use if you’re building a resource or content library for the first time or if you’re inheriting a website maybe as the new in-house SEO or with a new client that has a resource or content library that you know might be experiencing some architectural issues. So maybe you’ve discovered these issues because your users aren’t giving you the performance that you might expect or giving you the conversions that you might expect.
Maybe you’ve seen your log files and you know that your users or search engines or search bots are getting hung up at some stage of the navigation process. Or maybe you’ve just taken a walk through that content library yourself and experienced those architectural issues firsthand. So either way, this is a four-step process consisting of auditing, mapping, migration, and design, and this is a process that we followed when we overhauled our resource library at Corporate Finance Institute, where I have been the in-house SEO director since July.
So let’s get started with auditing. This is our first step. When you’re auditing a resource or content library, you’re doing this on two fronts — the technical front and the content-quality front. So as you’re doing this, you’re auditing with some goals in mind, and your goals probably include a few different types of things. You’re concerned with user experience always first and foremost.
So you might have seen that, from a user-experience perspective, you’ve got some unintuitive navigation things going on. So there might not be a lot of filtration options going on. There might be some menus that aren’t very intuitive. Maybe it’s hard for users to find the topics that they’re interested in, or it’s hard for users to filter by content types, like videos or infographics or downloadable templates or that kind of thing.
So that’s one issue that you might see. You might also see that you’ve got orphan content, so just really high-quality content that is impossible for people to find because it’s completely orphaned. It’s not linked to from anywhere else in the site. Another issue that you definitely want to be concerned with is crawlability. So for search engines, user experience and search-engine crawlability are almost always going to be 100% hand in hand.
The most obvious example of this is, again, that orphan content issue. One of the ways to avoid that is with a comprehensive internal linking strategy. So for search engines, you want to make sure that your menu structure, your navigation structure includes comprehensive internal linking, where your main folder, your resources folder is up top, your subfolders are below that, and then any additional subfolders you’ve got there are just below, very sensibly organized with slugs below that.
You want to make sure that you’ve got a URL structure that follows that same navigational order. So folder/subfolder/slug, that’s the easiest way for a search engine to navigate and the easiest way for a user to navigate as well. The last goal that you want to keep in mind is content related.
So you’ve probably got some content-pruning goals that you want to carry out as well. Sometimes you might have duplicate or near duplicate content that you’ve identified on the site, especially if it’s a really old or a really large content library. So at CFI, for example, we focus on finance and banking-related topics. So five years ago, we might have had somebody write an article about balance sheets in accounting, and then, a few years later, we’ve got someone else who has an idea to write an article about balance sheets.
Maybe not exactly the same article but they’re covering a lot of the same topics. So with those two articles both living on the website, we’ve got now several keywords being covered by two separate articles and the search engines not knowing which of those two articles to rank for some of our key search terms. When that happens, if we consolidate those two articles into one, now it’s much easier for Google to know which one of these articles do we rank, and it’s easier for us to keep up our authority in that way.
The last content-pruning goal that you want to think about is pruning out any content that is of low quality or no longer befitting the brand the way that you want it to. So if your content or resource library is fairly old, you probably also have some content that was created not using the best SEO practices. So that’s definitely something that you want to prune out as well.
Some tools that you might want to use in your auditing stage, for your technical crawl, you definitely want to consider using Screaming Frog. That’s the most standard tool for a full crawl of your website. Moz Pro’s site crawl tools are also excellent for adding to that crawl. The most important tool for this section, if you ask me, is user research. So especially for people who are not within your organization, asking them to take a walk through your resource library, get in there and try to find some interesting pieces of content, tell you where they got hung up, where they were unable to complete a conversion, or where they just might have found things confusing or unintuitive.
That’s some of the best information you can gather because that will tell you how regular people, who aren’t familiar with your brand, aren’t familiar with your website, how those types of people are having trouble with that section of the site. You can compile that data. You can do interviews with those people. As you’re compiling that data from that user research, from your crawls, at CFI we used Google Sheets to put everything into one gigantic spreadsheet with lots and lots of tabs.
We deleted absolutely nothing from that spreadsheet throughout this entire process, even though at times that felt a bit cumbersome. But if you delete anything throughout this process, you’re running the risk of letting something fall through the cracks. So I recommend just keeping everything compiled in one spot. After you’re done with that auditing phase, you’re moving on to step number two, which is mapping.
So when you’re mapping out your new structure for your resources section, you have a decision to make, and that is deciding whether you want to organize your resources section by topic or by content type. So do you want your subfolders to consist of topics or content types, so ebooks, videos, that type of thing?
In most cases, it probably makes the most sense to organize by topic because that’s going to afford you the most opportunities for on-page optimization. That’s going to mean that your subfolders are titled things like, in our case, accounting, financial modeling, that type of thing. The content that’s on your page is also going to have keywords like “accounting,” “financial modeling,” rather than “ebooks,” “videos,” that sort of thing, which is not very well keyword optimized for whatever your site is actually about.
So that’s an important thing to keep in mind. If content is not your primary product that you’re actually selling on your site, you may also want to consider aligning that topical organization with whatever your product offering actually is. So again, at Corporate Finance Institute, we’re an e-learning provider.
So we mostly sell courses and certifications in the finance and banking space. Those course pages and certification pages on our website were already organized into topics like, again, accounting, financial modeling, data science, that sort of thing. So it made for the most intuitive user experience to organize our resources library by those same topics, and that allowed us to create these content hubs, these topic hubs, where it was easy for our users to sort of click through to courses in accounting and resources in accounting from the same place.
You also want to create an actual visual map of the way that your resources section will look when you’re finished with it. So you can use a tool like Figma for this or Miro or some other sort of visualization tool, I really like Figma, and this is a great visualization to share with your internal stakeholders but also just to sort of get your mind right about the way that this is going to look when it’s all finished.
This is the way that search engines are going to crawl through your site and the way that users are going to navigate your site too. So you’ve got resources up here, you’ve got each one of your subfolders down here, and then all your little slugs, your individual articles down here at the bottom. You’ll be amazed how much of a difference this makes if you actually do visually map it out.
Once you’re finished with mapping, you’re moving on to your third step, migration, and this is the most nerve-racking step. It makes sense to be a bit nervous about this piece. But it also tends to be pretty anti-climactic, so you don’t want to freak out about it. What you’re really doing here is organizing your folder structure, actually putting that folder structure into place on your CMS, whatever content system you’re using, like WordPress or whichever one it is, implementing your redirects, and then making sure that you have a way to track everything that you want to track so you can measure the success of your project after you’re finished.
So setting up that folder structure means, in WordPress, for example, making sure that you’ve got that folder system set up exactly the way that you want it and then uploading your big CSV file, or however you want to organize your 301 redirects. If there’s not very many of them, you can do them one by one.
You can upload them in bulk. Sending that file through and making sure that it is aligned to your folder structure. Once you’ve done that, you definitely want to run another full crawl of that resources section, again, using Screaming Frog or something similar. You’re doing this to make sure that your new version of your resources folder now consists of the expected number of URLs and that all of those URLs are returning the expected status codes.
If you’ve let anything fall through the cracks at this point, you might find that you don’t have the right number of URLs in your resources folder, or you’ve got stuff that’s 404ing, or some of those 301s didn’t go through, or you put typos in your folder, for example, and things just aren’t turning up where you expect them to.
So this is a good way to identify any problems that may have arisen during these two steps here. When you’re tracking the success of this project, one of the things to keep in mind is that if during your migration you actually migrated URLs, you want to do everything you can to move folders and subfolders as much as you want, but try not to migrate any actual slugs, so the names of the articles themselves.
So if you know “Poltergeist,” it’s okay to move the headstones, but you don’t want to move the bodies because you want to be able to track your metrics year over year from pre- to post-migration when you’re measuring success. So in our case, we’re using that same big Google spreadsheet for tracking of resource success metrics and how they’re performing over time.
We do that by slug rather than by full URL because we did change those subfolder names but we didn’t change any of those slugs. So now we know how they’re performing from that old location to that new location.
The last step in this process is technically optional, but for most sites it’s going to make sense to do some kind of design work as well.
The reason it makes sense for most sites is that you’ll probably want to overhaul your design, at least on that resources homepage and probably in your navigation menus, to match the actual physical navigation that your users will go through and that your search engines will go through. So here, in your visual mapping step, it makes sense to have your visual design of your resources homepage match this visual map that you created here.
If you don’t do that, you’re going to have users clicking into those menus or trying to scroll through that resources homepage and finding the old version of an exterior design that doesn’t match the actual flow that they go through when they’re trying to navigate the site.
This also gives you an opportunity to work on the actual article template itself. If you’ve got a standard template that you use for your resource articles, you’ve got a chance now to overhaul that too. Maybe you want to add in things like a table of contents or more conversion opportunities or links to additional resources to encourage time on site, that kind of thing. That’s also a really good chance to improve that internal linking for better crawlability and better user navigation too, and it gives you the chance to add in structured data, which is, again, really important for some of those crawlability opportunities and authority metrics too.
So, in our case, we were missing authorship, article, and FAQ structured data from our site. We added all of that in so that we could have chances to show the quality of the content on our site beyond just the words themselves. So I hope that this process is useful, and I hope that you’re able to steal it and use it on your own website.
Again, you can find me on Twitter @therarevos or on LinkedIn as Kavi Kardos if you’ve got any questions at all about this process or any feedback on it. And I hope to see you on Whiteboard Friday again sometime soon. Thanks so much. Bye.