While scavenger hunts can be fun, users don’t want to desperately search a website looking for answers to their questions. You want them fast and you want them to be easy to find.
The desired structure is called a taxonomy. Scientifically speaking, a taxonomy is a classification scheme that dictates how things are organized and classified based on their characteristics.
The taxonomy of a website can determine the user experience and also affect the ranking of search engines. This post will explain what a website taxonomy is and give you the resources to build a successful organizational system for your website.
What is a website taxonomy?
A website taxonomy is the structure of a website that organizes content in a logical way so that users can easily navigate the website and understand its purpose. Visually, this can look like different sections and pages within a website or categories within a blog.
The website taxonomy is also related to the URL structure. In this way, URLs are organized to reflect the content of specific website pages. Every website domain stays the same for every URL address, but subdirectories and URL slugs change as the page content becomes more specific.
For example, suppose your website’s primary domain is www.samplewebsite.com.
Your taxonomic structure contains subdirectories in your domain that are relevant to the content of the page. If your sample Web site has a Contact Us or Announcements page, the URLs will change based on the information displayed on each page. The URLs for these pages are www.samplewebsite.com/contact and www.samplewebsite.com/announcements, respectively.
Why is a website taxonomy important?
A well-planned taxonomy can change the way users interact with your website, especially if your content is organized in a logical manner. When users get to your website and find what they’re looking for, they’ll see you as a reputable source and stay longer.
Websites that don’t have a specific structure are usually difficult for people to understand. In fact, an average of 38% of website visitors leave a website if it is poorly organized.
A carefully crafted taxonomy is also vital for search engine optimization (SEO), as a taxonomic organization for search engine bots is easier to spot when analyzing and indexing your website.
Let’s relate all of this to a hypothetical website. Suppose you own www.recipes.com. Since you know your visitors are coming to your website for certain recipes, you’ll want to set up categories that will help them find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible. For example, if you’re looking for desserts, you probably want to find those recipes through the appropriate category page, rather than a list of unrelated meals.
The URL for this page is www.recipes.com/desserts. A user knows what to find in this sub-category of recipes. For search engine bots, the URL subdirectory helps them understand what the page is about and when to display the page in search results.
Best practices for creating a website taxonomy
Ultimately, you want both users and search bots to understand your website. They don’t want them to be bombarded with content that doesn’t meet their needs. It may seem straightforward, but several factors go into creating a successful website taxonomy.
Know your audience.
As with all types of marketing, the key to creating your taxonomy is understanding your users.
They want to know who they are, why they are visiting your website, and what they want to find on your website. It is important to understand their specific requirements so that you can structure your content accordingly. For example, to better understand your users, you can create buyer personalities.
If you continue with the prescription.com example, anyone who runs the site knows that their visitors come because they want help with cooking. This is great to know, but is there anything else you want from your website? They may also want you to recommend kitchen utensils to help them make these recipes or brands where you can buy ingredients from.
Taking the time to get to know your future users is a great way to design your website accordingly.
Do keyword research.
Once you know who your users are and what they want, you want to make sure you have the information necessary to keep them on your website.
You can use the main purpose of your website to rank in search results. However, it is important to have multiple keywords for the additional categories that you are creating on your website. These keywords should be directly related to the content that users will find on those particular pages.
For example, if you have a travel tips blog, then travel tips can be your main keyword. However, their research can show that users associate travel tips with travel tips and travel insurance tips as well. You want to use this information when building your structure.
Matching the categories and the content of those categories will make your website easier for users to understand. This also makes it easier for those executing your content strategy to create relevant content. For example, on the HubSpot blog, we have four different characteristics: service, sales, marketing, and website.
Blog posts are categorized based on their relationship to each object. This organizational consistency makes it easier for visitors to find relevant information. For example, a user would know to search blog.hubspot.com/website rather than blog.hubspot.com/service for a tutorial on using WordPress.
Consistency is also important for SEO, as bots don’t like poorly organized websites and websites with jumbled and unrelated content are considered spam. Bots also discover contextual relationships between categories and content and learn how to index your website for specific searches.
Keep it simple
While there are certainly hundreds of categories and sub-categories that you can use to sort content on your website, less is more. The ideal web taxonomy is focused and straightforward.
There are so many different types of dishes at Rezepten.com that it would be (and becomes) overwhelming for users to browse hundreds of different categories.
To keep it simple, there are fewer high-level categories that need to be created to house sub-categories. You can set up a superordinate category page that is exclusively dedicated to baking recipes. The content you post on this page is specific to baking recipes.
The URL for this category is “Recipes” / “Baking” and not “Recipes” / “Pie Recipes” and “Recipes” / “Scone Recipes”. When a user searches for a blueberry pie recipe on your website, the page url might be www.recipes.com/baking/blueberrypie.
Leave room for growth.
Taxonomy can and should change as your business scales.
As you create new forms of content, you may need to shuffle categories to make sure that they continue to relate to each other and provide space for new content.
For example, let’s say you’re blogging about content marketing, but you’re covering the subject in general terms. It is unlikely that these pages contain multiple page categories or subfolders. Suppose you want to hire new team members who are experts in certain types of content creation. In this case, you want to create different taxonomic categories to differentiate between the different types of content.
You may also find that certain categories and sub-categories are not as intuitive as you hoped they would be. It’s important that you take the time to understand what works and what doesn’t for those who interact with your website.
Types of website taxonomy
Once you know your target audience and have created your keyword relevant categories, it is essential to decide on the taxonomic structure that is best for your website. Since the taxonomy is a classification system, the logical structure seems to be hierarchical and ordered according to importance. However, this is not always the case. Let’s look at the different types of website taxonomies so you can choose the one that works best for your website.
A flat taxonomy, sometimes called a non-layered taxonomy, is a simple list of top-level categories. All categories on this website have the same weight compared to each other. It’s a perfect structure for smaller websites that don’t have a lot of content.
For example, a veterinary office probably doesn’t have many needs to meet. Your home page may only have three to four categories; B. “About Us”, “Make an Appointment”, “Location” and “Services”. Users who visit the site don’t need much else.
A hierarchical taxonomy is an arrangement of categories according to importance. Larger websites usually use it, and the top-level categories are broad.
Moving down a hierarchical structure means becoming more specific. This allows users to quickly identify and navigate between different sections and categories. Search engines recognize these relationships too.
For example, hubspot.com displays three main categories at the top of the page: software, pricing, and resources. Each of these categories is broad and overarching. When a user hovers over it, they will be presented with more specific categories.
Again, our URLs for these categories look like this: hubspot.com, hubspot.com/products, hubspot.com/products/marketing, and hubspot.com/marketing/seo.
It is important to note that there shouldn’t be too many parent categories or sub-categories as excessive groups can get confusing for users and SEO crawlers.
In a network taxonomy, content is divided into associative categories. The relationships and associations between categories can be basic or arbitrary, but should be important to users.
For example, a “Most Popular” category within a website may contain lists of different articles covering a wide range of topics that are popular with that audience. Even so, they are all similar in the sense that they are highly rated, viewed, and visited by others.
A facet taxonomy is used when topics can be classified into several different categories. On websites that normally use this structure, users can find content by sorting it by certain attributes. It’s also great for users who are likely to get to specific content in different ways.
For example, Nike sells a variety of different products. While there are specific categories for shoes and clothing, there are also sub-categories for color, size, and price. A shoe that appears when you search for “blue shoes” may also appear in a list of cheap shoes because they are currently for sale.
Take the time to review your website taxonomy.
Create and maintain a successful website taxonomy that makes sense to users and search engines and is essential to your marketing strategy.
If other elements of your website are already optimized for other SEO ranking factors, adding a structured taxonomy to your website will help rank high in search results, let alone keep users on your website.
If you want to learn more about website best practices, take the HubSpot Academy’s website optimization course!