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Quality Content Plus Site Navigation = Success

real estate seo
Man, don’t I feel stupid! While in the process of constructing a new website and going into some detail about the importance of preliminary planning and information architecture in this AG series on building the site, I was doing some research on statistics and came across the Dept of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics. I discovered they have a much easier way to make the site usable to the visitor. They have a user guide.

Navigating the Website

The following instructions explain the basics of how to get around The Condition of Education website. They provide information about the different pages, how to move from section to section, and the various links provided.

What followed was a list of instructions on how to navigate the site. How easy can it get? What was I thinking? Just tell the visitor to read the directions.

We All Need A Little Help

The Department of Education knew this. However, what they would probably describe as a ‘complex’ site, usability experts would define as confusing. Both perspectives agree with the need to help the visitors. The Feds did what bureaucrats do – they offered a guide. The irony is that it is difficult to find the user guide from any of the pages on the site.

The usability experts take a different approach.

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The Navigation Is The Guide

In the article, “The Immeasurable ROI of Improved Organization, Communication, & Usability”, Aaron Wall writes, “Navigation is a form of guidance. It can scare people away or help them convert.”

Aaron dives into the subject a bit deeper and explains additional benefits in the following excerpt fromInformation Architecture is the Most Underrated Component of Effective Search Marketing:

Conversion oriented structure is a type of content. It is one of the biggest advantages smaller players have over large players that operate in many fields, and adds to the bottom line of any site that takes it seriously.

What Are the Benefits of Good Navigation?

A site with strong internal navigation exhibits the following characteristics

  • properly flows PageRank throughout the site
  • search engines are likely to rank the most relevant page
  • easier to convert
  • is easy for users to move around
  • builds user trust
  • more likely to be referenced in a positive light than a site with broken navigation (gets free editorial links)
  • converts better, so it can afford to pay a higher lead price for traffic (and thus maintain market leadership even as the market gets more competitive)
  • category pages add context and target different relevant word sets than lower level pages
  • folder and filenames are logical so they aid relevancy and clickthrough rate and the site is easy to build out / extend
  • if you ever make errors they are typically far easier to correct
  • easy to promote seasonal specials or currently hot items

Many website owners with unorganized websites think that they just need more of the same, but in a game of market efficiency sometimes less is more, especially if it is better organized.

An Example of How Content + Navigation = Success

Last week Janie Coffey asked about targeting a large metro area vs a smaller area within that region and the effect on SEO. These dovetail nicely with a few of the points Aaron mentions.

Miami and San Diego are similar in that they are  more of a geographic region than just a city. The beauty of IA done right is that it scales beautifully. You can go regional like San Diego County, or more granular in a smaller area.

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Glenn Ginsburg is a broker in Naples Florida who has come a long way with his website since he first started it in 2002. In 2007 Glenn was convinced to move from his template site to a WordPress platform. Today, Glenn’s AdeltaRealty.net is a great example of a content laden site that has employed the principles of IA with his content and site navigation.

Blog content isn’t the best user experience for the person looking for real estate, so Glenn went with a static home page so that the focus of the site was clear – this site is about real estate in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Estero. The three main areas areas are highlighted  on the home page. On the right hand nav, he goes a bit more granular with his three main areas. He continues this pattern throughout the site. The site is very intuitive, so explore it a bit. Most of his visitors do.

Glenn has accomplished many of the benefits Aaron lists. From an SEO perspective, he flows page rank from broad to narrow – competitive to very targeted long tail. The site navigation drills down while also going lateral, giving the user options within each category. His anchor text is clean and simple, not spammy with “real estate” or “homes” tacked on behind every community or subdivision.

The Bottom Line

Glenn gets traffic that rivals the better large metro focused sites with a small market site. We averaged out YTD data to eliminate some seasonal spikes and Glenn gets an average of 30k unique visitors a month with a bounce rate of 27%. What is remarkable though, is that while Glenn’s home page consistently ranks at#2 for “Naples Real Estate” and is the #1 query used to find his site, the home page receives only 24% of his total site-wide traffic – about 7k unique visitors.

With his content and navigation infrastructure, Glenn has created a very balanced site. One where Google could hiccup with the major search term and he wouldn’t be hurt dramatically. Even if he lost all traffic to his home, he would still have a boatload of visitors. He has four other pages that draw in an average total of 14k unique visitors each month. This is still enough traffic to keep Glenn and his 5 buyer agents busy in a niche market.

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I hope this helps illustrate the results that are attainable if you look at a site as more than just a collection of loosely connected pages. If you want more info on information architecture, usability, and conversion, I  strongly suggest the following:

Avinash Kaushik – Web Analytics Guru,  Analytics Evangelist for Google, and author of the best seller, Web Analytics: An Hour A Day

Steve Krug – Web Usability Guru and author of Don’t Make Me Think

Aaron Wall, Conversion Guru, teacher, SEO and creator of SEOBook.com

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Written By

A real estate vet, 2009 marked the beginning of Bob's 20th year in the real estate biz, with the last 10 years spent online. Bob practices in San Diego, California and is well known for his expertise in online real estate marketing, SEO and lead generation strategies.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Dan Connolly

    October 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I would be interested in your views on the architecture of organizing the blog posts, when there is a blog as a part of a website. Do you think categories are the way to go, or tags, or a combination of both? Is there a simple explanation for how to avoid the dup content issues with categories?

  2. Janie Coffey

    October 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Hey Bob, I just picked this up on Google alerts. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for all of the informative information you are sharing with all of us, you really now your stuff!

    Janie

  3. Bob Wilson

    October 28, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Looking forward to your feedback Janie.

    Dan – more good questions. The dupe content issues are not as big of an issue now with the canonical url tag. Here is some info on it:

    Matt Cutts wrote “Learn about the Canonical Link Element in 5 minutes”, Joost de Valk was probably the first to create plugins for it, and Greg Grothaus, the Google engineer who came up with the idea, explains it on his blog.

    Without using the rel=can tag, the easiest way to avoid dupe issues is by using the “more” tag. This way the post in its entirety is only found in one place – the url of the post. If your home page is a blog page, then this doesn’t work since now you will have the full content in every category tagged, as well in the archives. The rel=can tag fixes that (hopefully).

  4. Dan Connolly

    October 29, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Okay, more questions:
    If we solve the duplicate content issue with the rel=can tag, then do we organize blog posts into categories with the same kind of nested structure as our static pages, or do we just tag the posts and let it go at that? Do you think the category titles help the SEO?

    Next question: Is there a difference between how the search engines will index content in the body of the page as opposed to the same content in the sidebars?

  5. Bob Wilson

    October 29, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Use the categories and dont rely just on the tags. If you nest the categories, that makes it easier for the user. You are on Thesis 1.6 which allows you to bring nested cats into the css drop down meneu in the nav bar. One advantage to this is you can use a category in place of a static page.

    On one site, I wrote what amounted to an ongoing series on short sales and debt forgiveness. I also had a static page with generic info on short sales. On the new site, depending on the theme I “ll use, I will use hooks or widgetized areas to put some static content into the cat and get the short sale cat ranking instead of a static page because it has the more pertinent content.

    There should not be any problems with indexing. Ranking is a different matter though.

    Keep in mind that SEO is a process, not a result. When people say their theme or website is SEO’d out of the box, that is only marketing hype and/or the boasting of the ignorant.

    The trick with all this is understanding the different ways you can manage and present content. The sweet spot is found when you get the overlap of user, SE and website goals.

  6. Doug Francis

    October 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    When I decided to use WordPress, I got the gist that one of its benefits was that it kept your blog more organized when you or it created new blog posts.

    Thanks for including numbers for Glenn Ginsburg’s real estate site… impressive. I plan on checking it out (another new unique visitor) to better understand how he has refined his content/categories.

    “Categories, not just tags”, got it and will work on ’em. Great post, thanks.

  7. Andrew Mooers

    December 24, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks for the run down. Working on a new site and navigation, the goals need to be thought out before implementation to work in harmony with other media streams.

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