Content taxonomies-Why they are critical for content marketing in technology companies

For those of us from a data/tech background, the concept of taxonomy should sound familiar. A taxonomy is nothing but a collection of metadata elements describing an entity along various data points.

The relevance of these taxonomies to the world of content marketing stems from the fact that every piece of content should have such a metadata scheme attached in order to build a bigger picture of how much content exists of each type. This will then help to plan future content by addressing the gaps that need to be filled.

Let us discuss this with an example.

Suppose we wish to categorize every content item using the following data points

  • Format of content – This could be a blog post, a landing page, an inner page, a PDF flyer, an explainer video, an infographic, or an email newsletter.
  • Primary offering – A company typically has multiple products or services that it sells to its customers. Each of these would be an offering. To ensure that content is purpose-built, we need to associate each piece of content with a primary offering. Not only will this help identify orphan content, but it will also help to nail down offerings for which too much or too little content exists.
  • Content theme – Content themes are extremely relevant for advanced b2b marketing. Themes help us produce content for the right stage in a buyer journey. Examples of themes would be case studies, points of view, vendor comparison studies, analyst reports, how-to guides, trend analysis, and so on. A case study-type content item might be relevant for top-of-the-funnel customers who are still in the consideration stage and need a better understanding of how a product might help address a specific business need. How-to-guides on the other hand are meant for customers who have come much further down the marketing funnel and need hand-holding around specific product features.

Once we have categorized each content item along these data points, we have a very clear picture of where the content gaps are.

Taking a very simplistic example of an IT services company offering only two services, the resulting matrix would look something like below

Offering nameThemeFormat
• CRM development services
• Mobile application development
• Case study
• Point-of-view
• Vendor comparison report
• Analyst report
• How-to-guide
• Use case
• Blog post
• Landing page
• Inner page
• PDF flyer
• PowerPoint
• Explainer Video

This would result in 2 (offerings) X 6 (themes) X 6 (formats) or 72 content items to be produced in order to have holistic content coverage.

When we now do an audit, each content item can be evaluated against one of the 72 cells above to identify content gaps. Efforts could then be made to prioritize these content gaps and sequence them out to an editorial calendar.

Metadata magic-The endless possibilities

The rather simplistic example above has hopefully shed some light on the power of a well-defined content taxonomy.

While the three data points outlined above are most commonly used by savvy marketing teams, there are several other dimensions that can potentially be deployed. These include

  • Persona – What specific role is the content best relevant to? For example, a how-to guide written for a Senior Manager would likely be very different in its level of detail from the one produced for a hands-on configurator or product engineer.
  • Freshness– A simple measure here could be to classify content that is less than a month old, 1-3 months old, and produced more than 3 months ago. For an aggressive content marketing strategy, managers might consider pumping up production in order to have a higher percentage of content that is less than a month old.
  • Repurposing index– Content that is popular (based on search engine rankings, customer downloads, etc.) can be repurposed into other formats. A re-purposing index can quantitatively identify the number of formats in which the original content has been repurposed. In scenarios where this index is low, managers can look to focus more on repurposing existing content rather than creating new one.
  • Cornerstone content-The concept of topic clusters should be familiar to folks from the SEO world. Each cluster is built around a single cornerstone content which typically targets a highly competitive keyword. Additional content items are then produced that link back to the cornerstone content to provide ‘link juice’ necessary for a rankings boost. If multiple cornerstone content items are found for the same keyword, this could dilute rankings by distributing traffic to competing content.

Qualitative content audit using taxonomies

It is not uncommon for a vast majority of content audit focus to be placed on assessing the technical SEO aspects of content. Getting found on search engines is no doubt important but equally, if not more important is to do so as part of a top-down, repeatable content marketing strategy.

Content audits should focus far more than they currently do on building a meaningful, highly client-centric content taxonomy and then classifying existing content against it. This provides insights into current asset inventory and how it aligns with overall content marketing goals. However, every business is different in terms of its offering, focus, and expectations from content marketing and there can never be a cookie-cutter template that can be reused across clients. Instead, content strategists must take time to understand the client’s business environment and define a unique classification scheme that is both practical and impactful.