Users come to your website looking for something. Whether or not you can deliver the content they want and/or need determines if you’ve created a successful user experience. The goals of your website can be varied — selling a product, educating your readers, or fulfilling the mission of your organization. One constant, however, is getting the right content in the right places on your website.

But just how does the most appropriate content appear on each page? What many people don’t know is that website content powered by a content management system (CMS) uses a structured lexicon of metadata terms/tags, known as a taxonomy, to make sure the most relevant content shows up in the right place automatically. A comprehensive, well-organized taxonomy, paired with the effective content tagging, delivers a powerful customer experience, guiding users seamlessly to the most appropriate content.

But what exactly is a taxonomy and how do you tag your content?

What is a taxonomy?

In the most basic terms, a taxonomy is a means of classification. Categories within a taxonomy can include products, features, prices, colors, or sizes. For example, online shoe retailers carefully tag each product in their systems so that when customers search for size 10 purple pumps, their search results show only size 10 purple pumps. This is a rather simple explanation for a rather complicated process, but when a taxonomy is correctly organized, it ensures that all of your carefully curated content is easy to find and greatly reduces inconsistent, overlapping content that can worsen a user’s experience.

How do you use the taxonomy to tag your content?

Once you’ve established a taxonomy that reflects your company’s offerings, you need to start tagging your content, which could include a blog post, video, photo, product description, or e-book, to name a few. Tagging is important, detail-oriented work. Before you begin, it is important to keep these thoughts in mind:

1. Consistency is key.

The best way to ensure the most uniform experience for your customer is to make sure that you use clear, consistent tagging throughout your organization. Using the same taxonomy terms site-wide and tagging all assets using the same process will result in the best experience. Don’t let marketing teams tag content with their own set of terms and then have sales teams use something similar but different. If you can’t share tags from the same taxonomy, you’re going to have a fractured website.

2. Strike the right balance.

Users have a richer user experience when you tag appropriately. Too many tags oversaturate search results, and too few tags do not provide enough personalized content. It is important to find the right balance.

For example, let’s say our shopper could only choose her shoes by size and gender on your website. She’d be inundated with all women’s shoes in her size and may become impatient and leave your site. Conversely, if there are too many tags and she chose by color, size, gender, and fabric, she may have found everything leather but missed out on all shoes that are vegan man-made materials. It’s a bit of a fine line when creating your taxonomy. That’s why you should include disparate teams in your company to come up with the tags for your website.

The point of the filters is to narrow down choices for the customer to provide them with the most relevant content and the best experience.

3. Focus on the user.

The right balance can be much more easily achieved when you focus on the user. Think of the user’s experience through “the happiness test.” Will adding this tag to this content make the user happy? Will she feel this tag was appropriate? Are you tagging this because the user will find it helpful, or because you want the asset you created to get more attention on the site? When you take yourself out of the tagging equation and focus solely on the user’s experience, you get a much clearer picture of which tags are — and aren’t — appropriate. 

4. Prioritize your time.

Tagging can be time consuming, so it is important to prioritize and maximize your time by evaluating the content. Which assets need more detailed tagging (hint: only those that will live on the site for a long time)? Which can have lighter, more general tagging as they will change often (i.e. industry reports, etc.)? Does the tag require you to watch the entire 90-minute webinar, or can you gather appropriate tagging content from a brief intro or description? Prioritizing in this way can save time — and your sanity.

5. Mix it up.

As someone who has tagged hundreds of assets, I can tell you it can be very interesting work. If you are tagging content company-wide, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn more and to delve into areas of your company that you might not have otherwise learned about. That being said, tagging can get repetitive. You are working with one set of tags for one company’s offerings and you are only human — things can start to blur together. So mix it up! Work on a report and then watch an instructional demo. Mix up the types of content you are tagging to keep it fresh. And don’t be afraid to take a break. Work on another small project — clear your head — and then come back. The fresher you are, the clearer and easier your tagging will be and, therefore the clearer the user’s experience will be.

Happy tagging!