Monday, May 13, 2013

Content is King

Content Is King: Taxonomy and Metadata Management in a nutshell. 

A lot of other things matter in building a strong website or blog, like user experience (UX), e.g. look, feel, flow, etc. But when it comes to building a solid user base, content is king. Sounds easy right? Well, not so fast. If you're a good writer, or you have a team of good writers, that's one thing. You may even have a great strategy and a solid set of guiding principles. All good. If you're really good at this stuff, you might even have a planned set of topics for the year? Likely not, but that would be fantastic. 

So, that's all great stuff, but let's get techie, or we could even say 'sciency' for a minute. Backstage there's something else going on that you may not have thought about. It's call Taxonomy. Oh, and there's metadata too, but we'll cover that in a minute. So what is taxonomy? Remember from Junior High Biology class: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, etc.?

Well that's kind of what we're talking about here. Taxonomy is the study of and/or practice of classification. By definition, your website or blog taxonomy should basically organize and classify everything you're doing and planning to do. Sounds hard right? It's really not that hard. It's human nature to classify and categorize things. So that's what you break your annual content or editorial calendar down into, and these classifications are better implemented today as "hashtags". It's a magic word thanks so many of us know now thanks to Twitter. 

So there's a little more to Taxonomies that hashtags, but that's a great way to start. For the less-experienced, here's a hash: # and the word used just after that symbol is the tag. Get it? The hash denotes to an application coded to recognize it that the word directly following the symbol means something about the 'content' it's associated with. Here's an example from Twitter - see the (hash) #universityofutah: 

One key to this, is that you plan out ahead of time what your tags are going to be. You can add to your initial list, but it should be pretty solid. You can use existing, relevant tags, and you can create some of your own. The rule of thumb is that they're relevant, unique, and are aligned to your strategy and values (a quick Google search will come up with dozens of 'best practices'): 

So you have a basic taxonomy, or organization, for your hashtag use? Awesome. You can now expand that. Organize your content into other categorical topics, like, attributes of your targeted audience: 
  • age range 
  • income 
  • gender
  • market or professional field
  • reading level
  • consumer type 
And there are many more, depending on what your site or blog does. These are a couple of ways to build up your content strategy and taxonomies. Each site, digital property, or blog might have it's own version or permutation of the original taxonomy. Having a hierarchy in your taxonomic structure can really help this stuff scale (go back to the kingdom, phylum, class example). 

Alright, so I said I would talk about Metadata, or data about data. So, this really sounds complex, but again, it's not too bad, and in the long run this stuff will give you tons of bang for your buck. Here's an example: So you have a photo you want to add to your blog post. The photo, if taken on a late model camera, will have some EXIF (meta)data. That's a whole bunch of stuff about your picture - more here: A couple of super useful pieces of information from that 'metadata' are date/time and geolocation. With today's site and blogging tools, you can create all sorts of interactivity and relevancy with your audience just from your time and locale. For example, if I know my audience is primarily in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, and I have an library of images I'm searching for the 'right' image to connect with them, I can 'search' on the metadata and find pictures of mountains, or desert, or ocean, or even Disneyland, but only if that content is properly categorized and managed via my taxonomy and metadata. A little work up front goes a long, long way. 

So having a metadata strategy coupled with a good taxonomy, will both provide organization and structure to your content, but it will also present opportunities to create interoperability, or more 'connections' between your site, other complementary sites or functions, and your audience. It can dramatically improve to the scalability and extensibility of content across digital properties. And lastly, it can prevent piecemeal or fragmented messages from your hampering your site goals.