I wanted to call this post something like “Content is King, but Taxonomy is Government.” However, after some thought, I decided bringing politics into the equation would make life more difficult.
The short answer is yes, I agree! I, like others, will only give you the time of day if I want to consume your content. If your content does not interest me, I am elsewhere absorbing more interesting and engaging content.
But, that is a very simple view on the world; like a simple brochure website or the outdated “build it and they will come” mentality. Having good content is only step 1 on the long road to a successful website and customer experience.
Much bigger factors are at play, making good content great, and leaving great content unread! For content to be fully utilized, it has to have meaning, it has to have context, it has to have a Taxonomy. Imagine:
- A blog post without topic tags
- A painting without an artist
- A book without an author, a publisher, a genre
- A movie without a director
Each has less value and structure, without the additional context around the content.
It boils down to how we all think, and how we all look for content. We tend to think with a topic in mind; something starts the gears turning, and then we consult our ever present resource - the Internet:
- How many movies has Jim Carrey been in?
- I want a book on science fiction by H.G. Wells
- I want to learn about SignalR
Taxonomy adds this meaning, context and structure to otherwise meaningless content. It allows people to quickly filter the overwhelming into the manageable. A well designed Taxonomy is the key to a great website.
So, here are some considerations for an empowering Taxonomy?
Can I find the content?
Great content is only as good as the structure it lives in. If I cannot easily find your amazing work, either through navigation, search, social media etc then I will quickly find someone else’s.
Utilizing open standards like Schema.org can help expose your taxonomy to the world. Organic searches, like Google and Bing, can infer meaning using the Schema.org markup and promote your content as more relevant in search results.
Powerful products like SDL SmartTarget and Fredhopper can really maximize your investment in a strong taxonomy, personalizing the experience and focusing search results, to get people to the answer they want, faster. We also help expose taxonomy with faceted searches, driven by open source technologies like Apache Solr.
Who owns the content?
Content is not yours and yours alone. It is increasingly common that much of the content you rely upon is not yours; it is content created about you by your consumers or customers. Websites like Wikipedia and Yelp have always relied on content created by their users. Infact without user generated content, both of these websites would not exist.
Now this trend is the norm. Even if you produce mountains of well-crafted, targeted content yourself, countless more is being created for (or against) you, and it would be foolish to ignore it. The opinions and reviews of you and your products all over the web in social media, forums and blogs form a huge part of peoples decision making process. You have to embrace the shifting change in ownership of content, and provide products and services that promote positive content, and quickly respond and extinguish the negative.
Is it engaging?
If your content has context, and therefore can be well structured, you are far more likely to keep me engaged and ultimately on your site longer.
Engaging content keeps me reading, it keeps me coming back for more, and if done right, makes me want to read those related stories and better still, tell my friends about them.
What’s in it for me?
If you want good content from me, you better make it worth my while. Take Stack Exchange for example, it relies on it’s users to create almost all of it's content. Without it's users, it would not exist. Yet it is one of the richest sources of information available on the web.
So, why do people create content, and how do you nurture a community around your content? You have to ask the question -- what is in it for them? In the case of Stack Exchange, why do I help people I have never met, answer a question I have learned the hard way? Is it the trust that one day, I will receive the same level of support on a tricky problem I have? The answer is different in every circumstance, but the parameters are the same. The abundance of content, regardless of source or quality, needs structure and meaning to be useful. Useful content promotes contribution, as others realize the usefulness, and want their opinion to be heard too.
This does not only apply to user content driven websites, it applies to everyone. Give me a reason, and an empowering mechanism, to talk positively about you, as the negative needs no incentive. People will happily share their negative experiences with the world, as it feels like "pay back," but getting them to share their positive experiences requires a little more effort.
In summary, content is and likely always will be King. However, with the ever increasing amount of content available, your content has to work much harder for my attention! Give your content meaning and I am much more likely to find it, and more importantly read it.