Part 2: Using taxonomy to point the way

Taxonomy is not just a point on the map, it’s a guide for your journey

If you’ve read part 1 of this blog series (and if you haven’t give it a  read now), we hope we have convinced you of the superpowers of taxonomy.  

How do you know if your taxonomy is heading in the right direction?  While there are some practical rules of thumb for tactical taxonomy mapping, things like terms should be “mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive,” or branches should have no more than ten (10) leaves, there are important strategic elements to consider as well. 

  1. Every taxonomy needs at least one user-level goal.  Why should someone use your taxonomy?  Does it help them discover things they couldn’t find without it?  Does your taxonomy visually describe an organizational system that captures your unique insights or expertise?  Does it reflect the way your organization sees the world? For instance, do you have a huge alphabetical list of countries, or are they organized by continent, by regional focus, or something else entirely?  
  2. Every taxonomy needs organizational commitment…  We believe that taxonomies should be managed as a discrete asset within your Engagement Platform.  Just as your website should have a lifecycle plan, so should your taxonomy. Each taxonomy should have a clear owner who manages additions and edits to the taxonomy, a clear lifecycle for the taxonomy that outlines when it will be reviewed and modified to stay in line with organizational strategy, and there should be a plan for analysis and reporting on the content that the taxonomy is applied to.
  3. Owners of the taxonomy should use it to guide content decisions.  They should report on the overall content holdings by taxonomy term and the content created since the last reporting period by term.  Owners should also make recommendations as to which taxonomy terms need more content created, and which taxonomy terms or branches should be assessed for viability or practicality by the organization.  
  4. Future editorial calendars should start with the taxonomy, using it to help guide content creation planning.  The taxonomy should be a guide, not a trailing indicator, of what content your organization produces.


Mining strategic insights from taxonomy

Taxonomies provide a ready-made reporting framework for organizations.  You can use them to determine how broadly your taxonomy is applied to the content you create  ( how far off from “ideal” is this?). Strategic goals for how much content should be created or exist per term (by percentage or raw count) can be created, and the fraction of content that is tagged, or ought to be tagged easily reported on.  

Your CMS, Google Analytics, and other reporting frameworks can easily be assessed for the quality of implementation by evaluating how well they can report on your taxonomy  (e.g. is data tracked by taxonomy, can you view content grouped by taxonomy, etc.). At a macro level you can visualize your organization’s focus. Are you creating content that adheres to your taxonomy (and thus your strategy) or are you creating content that is off message or off focus?

The quality of your content is easier to assess with the taxonomy in place by juxtaposing your SEO results for search terms that match your taxonomy against the performance of your content tagged with that taxonomy term.  

Show them the wayThis simple adjustment in how you think of taxonomy, not as a way to organize the content you’ve already created, but as an incredibly useful business evaluation and strategic planning tool, will help you deepen engagement with your audiences and guide them down the path you want them to travel.  Thinking of taxonomy as a compass becomes an easy way to visualize your outreach strategy, describe your organization’s outlook on the world, and help your audience members experience the specific insights you have.