In the world of onsite (internal) search, metadata and taxonomy are super stars. Without them, search can become a tortuous exercise of sifting through unrelated documents. With them, users can easily find what they need in a few short keystrokes. To the user, searching within a website should feel magical, but for the strategist there is a lot of thought-provoking intentional design that culminates in making the magic happen.
To provide the best internal search results, metadata information needs to be considered upfront in the context of an overall content strategy. Since metadata describes key pieces of information -- namely page titles, search descriptors and key content -- it's also useful for SEO. While there are ongoing debates about whether all keywords have an impact on search engines, metadata is still part of best practices and an important piece of your content strategy.
Speaking of keywords, a content management system (CMS) adds another level of complexity. Here’s why. Users are easily frustrated if they don't immediately find what they need when searching a website. Having a scheme for the way content is cataloged in a CMS determines what appears in your search results, which is why every content asset (doc, jpeg, avi file) must be accounted for, as well as ranked. Thus, taxonomy becomes an important player.
A well-structured taxonomy enables a user to browse from a general category to a specific topic, which becomes visible within content groups as specific sub-categories. It's a parent-child-sibling relationship of terms that, in the long run, increases searchability and provides improved search results.
So, creating a hierarchical structure of content topics is a good place to start. And one way to get there is to assign natural language terms and synonyms (controlled vocabulary) to your content topics so that related documents get served up in results. Depending on your audience, this is not always the easiest or most exciting topic to address, so initiating the discussion about the value of a controlled vocabulary gives the project team food for thought as they dive into content management. But you don’t have to go it alone. If your Content Strategist is a part of the process, they can take the lead to collaborate with UX, IA, SEO or a BA stakeholder to:
• Audit, analyze and report on current content;
• Utilize best practices to define a taxonomy formulation that will enhance indexing, browsing, internal site search, retrieval and SEO;
• Establish taxonomy guidelines; and
• Assist in the development of content classification systems.
Keeping both metadata and taxonomy in mind for content strategy discussions ensures that you've addressed searchability and the best strategy for a seamless search experience that will serve up your work in an intuitive and relevant manner.