The Many Uses of Taxonomy

Taxonomy enables and supports both internal processes such as content management and externally-facing features like navigation, search, and personalization.

Using Taxonomy in a Content Management System

Within a content management system, taxonomy can refer both to the hierarchical structure into which content is authored, which generally drives site organization and URL structure, as well as the metadata elements and vocabularies created for metatagging content.

Metatags should be developed during creation and refinement of the taxonomy. They are used to identify content items for re-use across the enterprise, creating personalized pages for users, assisting with search, optimizing storage, streamlining site modifications.

For example, a content manager may wish to query the metadata in the system to return all pieces of content tagged with a certain term or combination of terms in order to update the content to new brand terminology, make a product name change, or find all content that requires a legal review. Tagging content with an expiration or “review by” date enables identification and removal of outdated content.

Typically, these metatags are built into content entry templates as metadata fields; sometimes they are provided in a menu drop-down list within the template. Some are administrative (system-applied) and some are user (author/editor-applied). Administrative—or asset—metatags are incorporated into the template and can be hidden from the end user or content creator. These type of metadata tags are generally used for content management and workflow such as format, file name, encoding, language, etc.

Tags may also be applied in a later step in the content authoring workflow. The tags applied during this step are more likely to be subject metadata—i.e., product, subject, keywords.

Depending on the configuration of the content management system, these metatags can be built any number of ways, but the system does need to enable them to be viewed as they are displayed in order to for business users to recognize them after the CMS is in place and content migration/creation begins.

This ensures that there’s a direct relationship between the taxonomy and the eventual content tagging that will occur within the CMS.

Using Taxonomy in Search

Consistently, accurately metatagged content aids customers in quickly finding the information they seek with targeted, accurate and detailed search results, regardless of location or language. Metatagging offers the organization the ability to enable advanced features later, such as filtered searches.

For external search, the most important metadata is the title (brief, unique, and descriptive) and description (concise, accurate, meaningful). These are the elements that are returned in search results. Not all search engines (Google, for example) index the keyword metadata, so it is important to make sure that content and links are authored to incorporate key terms and phrases. These key terms and phrases should be validated against search logs; search logs can also provide related and entry terms for a keyword vocabulary. That keyword vocabulary can be published in a way that it is indexable by search crawlers.

Internal searches also become more efficient, as content managers or business owners are able to query the content management system to pinpoint documents and files for review, revision, or removal.

The fields created for Search in the taxonomy are those that should be designed to assist with a larger search strategy within the organization. They should be the first step in providing a search team with synonyms and related terms to the primary term.

Once the taxonomy has been used to assist with the development of the search system, it’s important to continue validating it against search logs to optimize search results. It’s recommended that someone who is familiar with search systems and how to design search parameters and search results pages be used to make any modifications to the taxonomy search fields (“synonym” and “related”) or any search results page created for the site.

Using Metadata for Personalization

One of the main goals of personalization is to better enable customers to consume only the content they want and need. Personalization is best enabled through the use of metatags, and in conjunction with the CMS, personalization servers can deliver content tagged for the appropriate audience, location, time, date, etc.

Using Metadata for Customization

Customization differs from personalization in that personalization is usually entirely controlled by back-end systems, and customization is offered to the customer so he or she can control what type of content is presented when they visit a site.

The taxonomy can be used to further customization options by cross-matching content user types with content containing similar metatags. Since customization is usually less complicated than personalization, it can be changed more rapidly and the taxonomy can be used by site designers to facilitate easier customization options presented to the web site user.

Using Taxonomy for Navigation

It is possible to use a content management system and accurately tagged content to dynamically generate navigation and/or placement of content in a navigational structure. Use of category (location in the hierarchical site taxonomy), relation, and subject metadata enable this capability, but it is recommended that dynamically generated navigation be done carefully and that workflow include rigorous validation and testing processes.

Types of Metadata

Asset metadata

Information that is needed to manage content: author, date of creation, file size

Subject metadata  

Characterizes what the content is about: who (people and organizations), what (products, services, etc.), when (relevant time period), where (locales), and why (the subject proper)

Relational metadata    

Describes how a content asset is related to other content assets

Use metadata    

Characterizes, based on information fed back from Web traffic logs, eCRM systems, and other runtime applications, how the content may be used