We’ve previously offered some tips on great content marketing, looking at ways to make the most of your existing content, repurposing it, and making it relevant to audiences. One of our tips focused on the importance of making content as easy as possible to find. In this post we explore this theme further, looking at different ways of organising and tagging content to help users retrieve information, create richer experiences and drive traffic to your site.
There are a number of different organisational systems that help users to search for information, each of which offers different benefits depending on factors like the type of content, size of organisation and number of contributors and visitors. These range from strict, internally-defined taxonomic systems to open, end user-defined folksonomic systems.
In a taxonomic system tags (or terms) are defined in advance. They are often hierarchical, falling under categories or vocabularies and many content management systems cater for them. They work best for very large organisations that output a significant amount of content. This sort of tagging system is often used for shopping sites such as Amazon and ASOS, which offer sophisticated filtering with a high degree of granularity. This system is best for complex collections of content (or products) that don’t require end-user contributions.
At the other end of the spectrum are folksonomic systems, largely generated by end users. The word folksonomy is a fusion of folks + taxonomy. Tags are user-generated and often unlimited. To manage this, many user-interfaces will offer auto-complete features to prevent multiple variations of the same tag being produced. Tags are equal, not hierarchical and many tags can be applied to the same content. This system uses crowdsourcing to surface emergent categories. This system is useful for sites with a large amount of user-generated content, such as Flickr or YouTube.
However, unrestricted tag creation may not be very useful for smaller groups of contributors. Some sites may find it useful to allow multiple tagging, but limit the tags to a pre-determined, yet flexible, pool of terms. This system is often used for brand blogs, to which many people contribute. For example, this a major feature of the WordPress blogging platform.
One of After Digital’s most recent projects, a new site for the National Centre for Universities and Business, uses predetermined tags on a number of topics under which content such as blog posts, articles, videos and case studies are placed. In this system, only one tag is permitted, but all tags are equal.
The Tate Galleries website uses a sophisticated taxonomical tagging system to catalogue and represent the digital archive of his vast collection. Art is tagged by Artist, Category, Style, Subject, Gallery, or Context each further divided into many subcategories. The Subject tag has three levels of granularity that allows a digital curator to tag selected artworks and pull them into their own page to showcase them.
Another example of tagging vast amounts of arts and museum content is tagger.steve.museum, which, in collaboration with 21 institutes, allows viewers to assign tags to thousands of museum objects in a fully folksonomic experimental system. The aim is to see if it will improve access and retrieval by users.
Content tagging and taxonomic systems are increasingly being embedded into the semantic web, creating an Internet that is marked up in metadata, that is machine-readable, sortable and sharable. The web is connected by APIs and RSS feeds, search engines and cookies, which aims to create a more personalised and relevant experience for the user.
The benefits of tagging your content are many. For example tagging allows you to automatically recommend related content to the user, such as other articles or resources. This could be extended to ecommerce sites, where product pages present related reviews, articles, trailers or podcasts to the shopper. For content sites that rely on advertising tagging it could help improve the click-through rate of ads by connecting the ads served with the tags.
Tagging can also inform navigation, by automatically creating menu items and megamenus for the most popular tags, drawing ‘tag clouds’, or creating filtering systems. It can also improve site search by drawing on the place of tags in a hierarchy, or the popularity of user-generated tags, rather than just a keyword search. Category pages can be created that automatically pull together the content that is related for the user to see at a glance.
Taxonomical and tagging systems (or a mixture of the two) can be very useful for digital archive-style websites. This is especially relevant for media, entertainment and arts’ organisations, who both have to catalogue and organise a large amount of data, whilst also making it relevant and accessible to audiences. With a tagging system in place, marketers can surface content relevant to a campaign that might otherwise be missed and maintain the value of content over longer periods of time.
So, here’s some useful questions to ask yourself in order to implement successful tagging:
- What type and quantity of content do you have?
- What are your needs and objectives?
- What are the needs of your users?
- How many content producers are there?
- How many users?
- Do you want to control the system internally or let users participate?
- What benefits will tagging will bring to you? i.e. Will it aid navigation? Will it surface relevant content? Will it increase conversions/sales/tickets as part of content marketing strategy? Will ad revenue increase?
- What benefits will tagging bring to your users?
- How will your tagging system work with external sites such as search engines?