These days, most large organizations publish a significant volume of content across multiple web channels. In addition to the need for greater control and management of that content, there is often a need across the organization to break down content silos to allow for more dynamic presentation of content in context, pulling together relevant information from all channels. For example, a product page might not only surface related products, but might be enhanced by incorporating information from the documentation team, the support organization, and community content.  

The value of a comprehensive, enterprise-wide taxonomy is derived from the capabilities it enables, both for internal content retrieval, reuse, and management and to support externally-facing features such as search, navigation, customization, and dynamic presentation of content across channels.

Creating a common language and structure for classifying content assets positions the company to maximize investment in content and serve customers’ information needs more effectively and efficiently.

Enterprise Taxonomy Applications

Enterprise taxonomy is typically defined as a classification system that spans the enterprise, including the full range of asset types, the business groups within the organization, and the systems and tools that support content management and presentation.

Enterprise taxonomy enables:

  • Dynamic presentation of content

  • Content in context

  • Automation

  • Personalization/customization

  • Content reuse

  • More effective content management

  • Easier and cheaper localization

A well-constructed enterprise taxonomy is central to multiple business functions, including Business Intelligence, Content Strategy and Management, Digital Asset Management, Knowledge Management, and User Experience.

Business Intelligence

Hierarchies are often a component of Business Intelligence applications, allowing “drilling down” for more detailed data and “drilling up” to see a broader, more summarized view. Aligning or mapping BI hierarchies to an enterprise taxonomy facilitates deriving insights from disparate systems.

Content Strategy and Management

“When we talk about a taxonomy, we are not only talking about a website navigation scheme. Websites change frequently, we are looking at a more durable way to deal with content so that different navigation schemes can be used over time.”  —Ron Daniel, Taxonomy Strategies

Taxonomy is a key component of content strategy, as it facilitates effective and efficient content management, reuse, and presentation options across both internal and external sites.

Internal Benefits

  • Enables content re-use in multiple distribution channels

  • Reduces time to on-board new web properties

  • Helps content creators find existing content

  • Identifies content owners

  • Keeps content fresh, accurate and in compliance with regulations

  • Provides a standard classification system that is concise and meaningful to users, employees and content writers

  • Adds to the governance structure of content

  • Reveals user interest in different content types and topics

Customer-Facing Benefits

  • Enables alerts

  • Enables dynamic content delivery based on standard metadata schemas, taxonomies, and tagging across an organization’s various websites

  • Ensure that the right content is found by the right user


Customer profiling

  • Customer is profiled in CRM system

Content profiling

  • Content is "profiled" using standard metadata (taxonomy + metadata schemas)

Content personalization

  • When a profiled customer visits a website, the customer can get a tailored content experience.

  • Content that matches key profile values is prioritized and highlighted on the page.

  • Customer can customize or filter a page by choosing the content attributes they care about.

  • The company can deliver an automated feed to customer by retrieving all content in one or more repositories that matches a set of metadata values.

User Experience

Taxonomy and content tagging support user experience by facilitating common tasks, both on internal (i.e., intranet, knowledge management systems) and external (web) sites.

In addition to informing website search and navigation schemes, taxonomies benefit user experience in other ways:

  • Consistency: User experiences match expectations and needs high percentage of the time

  • Recall: Percentage of content returned

  • Precision: Percentage of content relevant to user's information need

  • Reliability: Users can reliably access good content with repeated visits

  • Accuracy: Matches user needs and expectations and content management needs

  • Contextual matching: Information accessed fits user needs and expectations in given situation

  • Efficiency: Reduced number of ineffective user interactions with the system

  • Effectiveness: Aggregate of above measurements

Taxonomy also ensures greater consistency of terminology across the site’s navigation and content, resulting in a better user experience for customers.

Digital Asset Management

Digital asset management supports the goal of enabling internal marketing teams and external vendors to find approved, assets (e.g. templates, images, documents etc.), maximizing operational efficiency and building and maintaining a strong brand.

Knowledge Management

One of the most common complaints employees have about their corporate intranet is, “I can never find what I’m looking for.” An enterprise taxonomy and content tagging can save employees’ time by making it easier to find information and centralized management of the information reduces the possibility of duplicate or inaccurate content.

Records Management

When content is categorized to an enterprise taxonomy, it becomes possible to manage categories of content as records, applying records management retention and disposition policies and rules based on common metadata. Using terms from the enterprise taxonomy in the records retention schedule simplifies the application of retention schedule policies to enterprise content.

Master Data Management

Master data management (MDM) is focused on the acquisition, collation, mapping, cleansing, storing, and publishing of data required to create and maintain an enterprise-wide "single source of truth" for core business entities.  Since the underlying processes for MDM and enterprise taxonomy development are similar, it is effective to run these efforts concurrently or use one to jumpstart the other.

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ROI of Enterprise Taxonomy

There are several key factors in calculating ROI of a taxonomy project:

  • Breadth—How many people will the metatagging affect (both customers and personnel)

  • Repeatability—How many times a day will they use it (to search, navigate, manage)

  • Cost/Benefit—What are the benefits compared to costs?

The following are some potentially quantifiable measures of success:

  • Ability to share data with other systems

  • Compliance with regulations

  • Decreased searches with zero hits (on website enterprise search)

  • Improved call center efficiency and effectiveness

  • Improved data quality

  • Increased conversions

  • Increased number of links (internal cross-cutting links)

  • Increased number of web pages with metatags (improves search engine optimization)

  • Reduced clicks to page

  • Reduced cost per unique user (UU)

  • Reduced customer service call center support requests

  • Reduced page abandonment

  • Reduced time/cost to build new web sites, implement web services and develop applications

  • Reduced time spent on page

  • Knowledge worker productivity—less time searching, more time working; reduction in duplicate content creation

As part of developing an enterprise taxonomy development, the following tasks should be addressed:

  • Identify business objectives for each of the application areas

  • Identify how taxonomy can meet the business objectives

  • Identify metrics that could measure success


The creation, maintenance, and long-term governance of an enterprise-wide corporate taxonomy that supports content classification for retrieval, management, and reuse, implemented across the constellation of content management and knowledge management solutions and exposed to customers via search and navigation mechanisms is a critical factor in the long-term ability to maximize investment in content creation.