A huge pain felt by many content marketers is a blog feeling like a kitchen sink catch-all. Content seems impossible to find, there’s no rhyme or reason to how things are structured, you’re adding new tags and topics for every post and constantly trying to organize content in a way that makes sense. And with all of that chaos, just think, if it feels like that to you, imagine what it feels like for your audience.
Deep down we know the answer to this problem is simply to get organized, but it’s easier said than done. For a content marketing program that has been running for some time, this won’t be an easy fix, but it is an extremely critical component of your strategy and deserves dedicated time to get it right. In order to do that properly, you need to define and document a content taxonomy. A documented content taxonomy not only will help you execute your content marketing strategy, but it will also give you a framework to base your back-end tagging off of and make future content audits much more effective.
Even though “documenting a content taxonomy” sounds like is a pretty intimidating project, it is just mapping out all the categories and topics you’re committing to writing about. Before you get started on this endeavor, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
Categories Should Double As Site Navigation
Sometimes people have trouble grasping the concept of having categories and topics for content. An easy and practical way to think about it is that this organization should double as your site navigation. This approach is helpful for two reasons. First, it gives your audience a quick, direct snapshot of what space you’re in when they visit your site. Second, it allows your site’s back and front end mirror each other, which eases any future configuration.
Have a Goal of Ultimately Publishing 1 Piece of Content Per Category Per Day
Usually jaws drop from the thought of publishing content this often, but when you think about it, it makes sense. If you have 10 categories at the top of your site’s navigation, a reader should expect each category to be populated sufficiently and evenly with content. Otherwise those categories wouldn’t be important enough to live on your site’s main navigation. For this reason, we advise content marketers to keep the number of categories limited, with five or six being the maximum. That said, five or six articles a day is still a lot of content. Keep in mind that publishing once a day for each of your categories is an end all be all goal, not a starting requirement.
Don’t Use Internal Jargon
Especially if you do choose to double your content categories as your site navigation, use clear and concise labels that will make sense to as many people as possible. Using acronyms or any internal lingo will leave your audience confused and make them feel like your content isn’t applicable for them.
Each Category Should Have a Handful of Topics…
When determining your categories, keep in mind that each category should be able to support at least a handful of topics. This will help ensure that you will have enough content live under that category. For example, if your category was Social Media, your topics could be Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
…But Each Topic Should Belong to One Category
This one is tricky. Many content marketers are tempted to have one topic fall under multiple categories, but each topic should really only belong to one category. To help you handle situations in which you feel a piece of content could fit within multiple categories, document a decision tree on how you should categorize. For example, I recently wrote a post about the best B2B Instagram accounts. I struggled with categorizing this post because it discusses images, which I would have in the “content” category, but the article is about the content shared on Instagram, which is a distribution channel. Ultimately I decided to categorize the article under the “distribution” category because I felt the topic fit more appropriately within the social media topic under that category.
Don’t Just Mirror Your Product Offering
Don’t think you’re fooling anyone with this approach. While it is certainly easy, your audience will see through this. The purpose of content marketing is to earn your audience’s attention and trust by educating or inspiring them. If you clearly copy your products and solutions as your main navigation and content categories, your audience will probably automatically assume your blog is self-promotional and only discusses your products and solutions.
Think of How You Can Differentiate from Competitors
Some industries, such as financial services, may feel like they have a pretty defined set of topics they can discuss. For these situations, think outside the box and extend beyond just your direct offering. What are other areas for which you can provide expertise your audience would enjoy? For example, one small wealth management firm cited its key competitive differentiator and customer relationship builder was a monthly book recommendation newsletter it sent to its clients. Think about the lifestyle and other interests your audience has and where it makes sense to add your brand’s point of view.
Since I wouldn’t be able to finish explaining a concept without pointing to American Express OPEN Forum as an example, let’s look at how they categorize their content.
First and foremost, American Express organizes its content based on a reader perspective, not their offering: Planning for Growth, Managing Money, Getting Customers and Building Your Team.
To really understand how well their content is organized, we have to take a look under the hood to see all the topics of interest the blog covers, which looks a little something like this:
Now while this is an extreme example (52 topics is a lot of topics), the reason I chose this is because it shows how any number of topics can be organized into condensed categories if done properly. Because American Express OPEN Forum has so many topics, they’ve added another tier of 14 sub-categories to add another layer of clarity. See the 14 sub-categories below in grey:
From there, American Express has then layered those sub-categories into four main content categories: Planning for Growth, Managing Money, Getting Customers and Building Your Team.
And not only is American Express OPEN Forum’s content taxonomy incredibly clear, but it also mirrors their site navigation.
While documenting your content taxonomy can be a daunting endeavor, following these best practices should help guide you through the process.