The Ultimate Website Taxonomy Guide for Retailers

March 30, 2023

by Andrew Stack

When discussing ecommerce strategy, retailers may hear the word taxonomy. While not an everyday term, taxonomy is fundamental to creating a user-friendly website. Virtucom Group offers ecommerce content services to help retailers and similar businesses better utilize their data and gain an advantage over competitors. Here, we explain taxonomy and why it matters, as well as detail the steps for crafting a taxonomy that works.

What Is Website Taxonomy?

Taxonomy is sometimes used interchangeably with classification, which isn’t far off. Like classification systems, taxonomies involve creating categories that help people identify objects. The primary difference is that classification systems are concerned with finding items (think of the Dewey Decimal System), whereas taxonomies describe these items.

Website taxonomy refers to the organizational structure of a website that allows users to navigate various pages and find the information they need. It’s sometimes called URL taxonomy, as a significant portion of taxonomy revolves around URL organization and how it informs users of the content within different pages on the site.

Let’s say you’re a consumer visiting a website for a sporting goods retailer. You might see several broader categories at the top of the page, such as Uniforms and Apparel, Footwear, and Sports Equipment. When you click on the different categories, a dropdown menu may appear with subcategories, each guiding you to the more specific items you wish to find (i.e. Soccer Cleats under Footwear). This is taxonomy in practice.

What Are the Types of Taxonomy?

The more you browse the Internet, the more you might notice that the various retail sites take different approaches to taxonomy. There are several types of website taxonomy, each enabling online retailers to accomplish different goals with their ecommerce strategy. These include:

Flat Taxonomy

The simplest form, flat taxonomy contains only one level of content. It’s a list of items that will appear on your ecommerce site.

Hierarchical Taxonomy

As with other hierarchical systems, this taxonomy features broad, upper categories with subcategories that more specifically respond to a consumer’s search. With each subcategory, product characteristics become more refined.

In practice, hierarchical taxonomy may look like crafting category content to discuss comprehensive offerings, such as Home Decor, and product content to provide additional details about a particular selection of items, like Lampshades.

Network Taxonomy

Network taxonomy enhances the layered aspect of hierarchical taxonomy by enabling retailers to connect categories and subcategories that may otherwise dwell in different spaces within the hierarchy.

Network taxonomy is beneficial for contextual navigation and can promote cross-sell. For instance, a contextual category implemented for tying together unrelated content is a most viewed list. These lists comprise an assortment of items compiled from the user’s past search history on the site. Contextual navigation creates a better customer experience and may help you make more sales.

Facet Taxonomy

Think of facet taxonomy as working in reverse. Instead of starting with the broader categories and working down to subcategories, facet taxonomies look at a single item or piece of content and apply categories to them. These categories are the product attributes that help narrow down searches. Facet taxonomies also foster a smoother browsing experience for customers.

Why Does Taxonomy Matter?

Website taxonomy is an essential part of the website creation process. Without effective taxonomy, the organization of your website can suffer, potentially frustrating consumers and prompting them to try a different ecommerce site. According to some research, about 60% of consumers claim they wouldn’t return to sites with disorganized layouts.

Conversely, a website with a sound taxonomy can elevate your ecommerce platform above the competition, making your site a go-to for consumers interested in your products. In other words, it can be integral to building a loyal customer base.

Another reason well-executed taxonomy matters is that it gives search engines like Google better insight into your site’s organization. The more Google can make sense of your taxonomy, the greater the chances your site will perform well on search engine result pages (SERP).

Steps to Creating a Taxonomy That Works

Solid taxonomy can be the difference between seeing more clicks and conversions and experiencing ever-diminishing traffic. So, how do you design and implement a taxonomy that works for your ecommerce platform?

You’ll want to spend plenty of time creating your taxonomy, as the process involves multiple factors to ensure it’s truly comprehensive. Consider the following tips to help you get started:

Establish Clear Category Names

Keeping category names concise — yet precise — is ideal for making your website easy to navigate. A great example of this is Best Buy’s website. On the homepage, browsers will notice a dropdown list under the Menu option. This list presents numerous broad options categorized by department, with further subcategories for each choice.

The category names are to-the-point, but they convey enough information that users will know exactly where to go to locate an item. If they want a refrigerator, they know to click on Appliances. From there, Best Buy differentiates between Major, Small, and Luxury Kitchen Appliances — a browser will recognize that refrigerators are considered Major Kitchen Appliances. Now, they’re one step closer to finding a product they like.

Use Category Descriptions

Not all browsers share similar ideas about the same product. Some might understand what a keyword or phrase means differently, while others may not be familiar with them. Descriptions solve this concern by clarifying category names and guiding potential customers who otherwise might not locate an item.

Select the Right Kind of Taxonomy for Your Website

The various taxonomies work best for different websites — pick the one that best matches your content. To make the right choice, consider the types of products and services you offer. Is your assortment niche and straightforward? Network taxonomy is ideal. If your inventory is vast and varied, opt for facet taxonomy.

Avoid Making Your Taxonomy Too Complex

The amount of categories you need depends on the kinds of products you sell, but regardless of the size of your inventory, it’s best not to have too many categories. If consumers encounter long lists of content on your homepage, they might get overwhelmed or confused.

If you need an extensive list of categories, simplify taxonomy by limiting the number of broad, upper categories and saving lengthier lists for subcategories. However, you don’t want subcategories to be too extensive, either, as this creates more work for the browser. Keep in mind that users can always rely on the internal search function if they’re unsure of what category the product falls under.

Boost Your Ecommerce Strategy with Taxonomy

Meaningful taxonomy tailored to your specific ecommerce platform and offerings costs time and money, but when implemented correctly, retailers are sure to experience their benefits. If you need help developing taxonomy or honing an existing approach, turn to Virtucom Group. We offer a host of ecommerce solutions designed to enhance your strategy, including taxonomy. Contact us today to share your taxonomy troubles or to learn more about the ecommerce experience with Virtucom Group.

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