Concatenation Schemas for Large Site SEO

You’ve just been handed the job of performing SEO on a large retail website. You look at the pages and pages of items being sold and want to tear out your hair. How do you organize the various brands, categories, and everything else so that you can create title tags, headings, and so forth for every page – without taking forever? This is where concatenation schemas come in.

Let me give credit where it’s due. I came across the definition and explanation of how concatenation schemas work when I read Stony deGeyter’s article on the subject. He describes it as “default content that changes dynamically based on category, sub-category, and product related information.” I think of it as a template for certain kinds of content, or even a form where all of the empty spaces have multiple choice options. Envisioning a concatenation schema as a Mad Libs page can also work, if youd don’t mind that the result after you fill in the blanks probably won’t be funny.

The clearest way to explain how concatenation schemas work is to start building one. First, think about all of the areas on your website that programmers will populate with text. Focus specifically on the areas that will matter for SEO purposes. According to deGeyter, these areas can include, but are not limited to, the Title tag, Meta description, headings, ALT text, and body content. If your site runs to many pages, you will want to speed up the process of populating at least some of these areas.

Take a look at what your website sells, and see how it breaks things down. Look at your site’s navigation to see how customers find their way around the site. Maybe it’s category → subcategory → product; if so, those are your three variables. Perhaps it’s brand → category → style → product; in that case, you have four variables with which you’ll need to work. Try to keep things simple.

So how does this translate into a concatenation schema? Well, for argument’s sake, let’s say you run a website that sells yarns and thread for knitting, crochet, and related crafts. Your variables might include the weight of the yarn, its fiber content, and the company that makes it. So your title tag concatenation schema might look like this:

[Weight][Fiber] | Assorted colors of [Fiber] [Weight] yarns from [Company].

To put this in practice, you just fill in the blanks.

Worsted weight acrylic | Assorted colors of acrylic worsted weight yarns from Red Heart.

If your site goes into more detail, you can plan your schema to include more details.

[Company] [Brand] | Try out [brand] [weight] [fiber] from [Company] in a rainbow of colors!

Bernat Cottentot | Try out Cottentot medium weight 100% cotton yarn from Bernat in a rainbow of colors!

You can even go with something shorter and load the variables a little further from the front, if there’s another term to which you wish to give a little more prominence:

Knitting yarns in [weight] [fiber] from [company] in [number] colors.

Knitting yarns in rug weight wool from Lion Brand in 30 colors.

Please note that I’m not saying anything about the SEO value of any of the particular concatenation schemas above. I’m not even saying that any of these are the best formats for your title tags. I’m just showing them to you as examples of how you might build your concatenation schemas for your title tags. How you actually build them will depend on the product you sell and what you’re trying to accomplish, among other factors.

Now that we’ve finished working on the title tag, let’s move on to the meta description. I’m not going to enter into the debate as to whether you need to include a meta description on your pages. From everything I’ve read and heard about it, the meta description does not improve your ranking in Google, but when visitors see an enticing meta description in the search results, they’re a little more likely to click through to your site. If you’ve decided it’s worth it to you to include meta descriptions on your pages, you can build concatenation schemas for them as well.

Continuing our earlier example, you might create something like this for your meta description tag:

Find beautiful [company] threads. Every color and fiber you can imagine, from [weight] to [weight] and various fibers, including [fiber] and [fiber]. Free delivery on orders of $75 or more from yoursite.com.

Which you can turn into:

Find beautiful DMC threads. Every color you can imagine, from six-ply floss to size 5 thread, including cotton and silk. Free delivery on orders of $75 or more from yoursite.com. 

Or here’s another possible concatenation schema:

Find [company][brand][weight][fiber] yarn. Whether you want to make a small accessory or an entire garment, [company][brand] will make it fun. Free overnight delivery on orders of $150 or more from mysite.com lets you get started fast!

Which can become:

Find Caron Simply Soft medium weight acrylic yarn. Whether you want to make a small accessory or an entire garment, Caron Simply Soft will make it fun. Free overnight delivery on orders of $150 or more from mysite.com lets you get started fast!

You can build concatenation schemas for other areas of your site, as I mentioned on the first page. You do NOT want to do it for the body content of your pages, however.

How many concatenation schemas do you need? Well, deGeyter recommends creating a schema for each section of your site: top category pages, sub category pages, and product pages. That’s three right there. But it’s likely to be more difficult than that. He notes that “You can’t always create a perfect schema that will cover every category of your site. In some cases you might need to create a different schema for different categories.” In our example, we might decide that we can’t describe everything as “yarns,” and give lighter weight threads their own category – and a distinct schema that differs from our other category-level schemas.

Even if it gets really complex, doing SEO in this way reduces the amount of work you need to do. His basic example depicts a site with three categories; each of these categories contains three sub-categories, which each in turn contain nine products. The basic version requires three different schemas. A more complicated version of this example takes it up to a total of 11 different schemas, despite having the same number of categories, sub-categories and products. That may sound like a lot, but, as deGeyter points out, “you’ve actually reduced the total number of pages you have to ‘optimize.’ Instead of optimizing 93 pages, you’re only creating 11 schemas. That’s a big reduction in time, even for a ‘small’ site…”

So the next time you get handed a large website to optimize, take a deep breath and look at how it’s organized. It should give you some clues as to how to approach the creation of good concatenation schemas. Write those well, and you might even save enough time to talk your client into writing a blog. Good luck!

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