SEO vs. TNBP or “Where was I going again?”

Much has been written on this blog about the value of SEO when it comes to taxonomies.  As Stephanie mentions its’ a huge weapon in the battle against outdated legacy terminology and spur of the second marketing speak. Jeff’s posts on keyword research, taxonomy and SEO are indispensable primers on the topic. So what haven’t we talked about yet?

How about SEO as the enemy of navigation?

Is there such a problem as too much of a good thing? When it comes to taxonomy navigation best practices and SEO, you bet.  Think about it this way: imagine you are meeting a friend for drinks after work and she tells you a story about something that happened to her during the day.

“I was in my office, and I had just poured myself a fresh cup of coffee.  I was in my office and the phone rang but I was tempted to ignore it. I was in my office and picked up the phone and it was my husband calling, did I mention I was in my office? Anyways I was in my office and my husband told me to sit down because he had incredible news. I was in my office and I sat down. I was in my office and my husband told me that we had just won the lottery?

Right, so… where were you again?  In your office, ok we get it!

Now have a look at the following taxonomy navigation suggested to us on a project for SEO purposes:

iPod & Mp3 Accessories >
iPod & Mp3 cases
iPod & Mp3 headphones
iPod & Mp3 power adapters
iPod & Mp3 cables
iPod & Mp3 clock radios
iPod & Mp3 batteries

I’m sure you get the idea. We don’t repeat ourselves needlessly in conversation because it detracts from our ability to communicate key points.  There is too much noise around the valuable information items. The same happens when you let SEO concerns trump taxonomy navigation best practices. Users are forced to endure a nonsensical mess of redundant information to decide where they want go next.

They are so many legitimate techniques to use to drive web traffic to your site but spamming your navigation is not one of them.

A couple of best practices to keep in mind when incorporating SEO keywords into taxonomy navigation terms are:

1. If possible append SEO terms to the end of the key term not the beginning. When people scan labels the most important terms are at the beginning.

TVs >
Plasma Screen TVs
LCD TVs
Projection TVs
Tube TVs

It may not look as elegant as simply leaving the term “TVs” out all together, but it is definitely a better compromise.

2. If the SEO terms are very short and easily scan-able  you can get away with adding it to the beginning in some cases

PS3 >
PS3 Games
PS3 Consoles
PS3 Controllers

In this example it is still easy to skip over the noise of the initial “PS3” and get to the key terms of the label.

Remember that while your taxonomy navigation should align as best as possible with the keywords you are targeting in page copy, its main function is to direct people to areas of the site they need to get to.  The labels need to be clear sign posts, and not leave the user thinking

“where was I going again?”

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