Designing Site Hierarchy

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 01/29/2012

Wow, I can’t believe I did that little graphic Sitemap all on my iPhone, and edited it onto the homepage through the Wordpress UI on iPhone Safari. Now it’s time to hand code an imagemap and hyperlink it into category or series pages. I looked briefly at desktop software to do this, but my rectangular region imagemap needs aren’t that challenging, and I could use the practice.

Many observations here. First, I’m finally starting to think visually again. These simple spider-looking sitemaps are great for forcing you to organize your thoughts. It is superimposing an oversimplified artifice, a I am causing plenty of square-peg in round hole organization problems with content—but not every category needs to be presented here. The benefit of giving the user an overview of everything they can expect to find here outweighs the downside.

Next, this is a perfect exercise for the subway commute to work. I will defer the actual imagemap coordinate work until later, because I am a busy on-the-go daddy today helping with housework, doing this sort of writing on the occasional breaks and down-time. Focus stuff will require commute subway focus-time—the most “pure” focus-time in my life right now. I want to utilize it better. But I have identified the Photoshop-like ArtStudio app as my way of getting the coordinates.

But before I even do coordinates, I should create the categories. I’ve thought them through using a combination of the content I know exists in the site, what I KNOW people are searching and finding my site for (where the interest ACTUALLY resides), and the direction I actually want to go with the site. Then, I had to collapse it into 8 arms that just psychologically look good in a spider sitemap diagram, and which also align to a good bit of search traffic. Happily, you can “group” concepts again for Google (like hardware & qemu). In yesterday’s Google I would have insisted on a separate more specific page for each—the long-tail. But today, it’s favoring fewer URLs on which you can cluster up more of your social promotion—the best page on the planet.

Since by the implication of the spider diagram, these categories are non-nested—i.e. not in subfolders—I either want to link to “pages” in Wordpress, or use a plugin that makes category pages (or series pages) look as of they’re not in a folder at all. This suits the information design of my site, produces prettier links for sharing, and provides less opportunity for search engines to demote my content versus other sites that don’t use superfluous folders. But I can’t go overboard here, because on the end, I have chosen blogging software for this site and don’t want to be forever fighting its design conventions. A compromise must be struck. I will probably use an advanced permalink plugin to make articles posted under particular categories have those categories in the URL, so long as I can 301 redirect the old locations properly.

I am using the weakest link in the chain principle here with Google and other search engines, taking away their ability to see certain groups of pages as anything other than clustered, due to both directory and link structure. There is a magic combination of Wordpress plugins and configuration that will accomplish this. These highly exposed categories will contain featured article content—not just my steam of consciousness ramblings. Those will fall over into the default dated blog-like permalink structures to play up the chronology (versus a prescribed series reading order).

There will therefore be two categories of content in my blog: reverse-chronological ramblings, and highly designed and revised featured content. Sorting one from the other will likely be an ongoing endeavor here, promoting a rambling to a feature once I’m happy with it by assigning it to a category and giving it an order in the series.

There are at least 3 candidate page-types to become the tab-pages, or the top-level category pages: Wordpress “static pages”, actual category pages (with the use of a plugin to eliminate extra directory) or the kind of series page that series plug-ins create. In my mind, the best way to not constantly fight the conventional behavior of automatic pages (category, series) over design issues (making it textbook-like) is to use static pages. But that leaves both the auto-generated category and series pages competing as duplicate content, which we will try to address with canonical tags or redirects.

The top-level category pages, which will technically not be Wordpress category pages, will be promotional and hub-like in nature, touting the more longtail-ish premium content within the site, while they themselves target the more difficult to get single-word or competitive term traffic. I will have to enforce a rather rigid pyramid-like hierarchical structure that puts the most competitive terms one-click off the homepage, without allowing the primary menus to short-circuit this hierarchy with drop down menus that pancake out the entire site.