In a multi-channel world with dynamic content, how do you keep up with the need for regular edits without pulling all-nighters? One answer is structured content.
The Downside of Co-Mingling Content with Layout
Picture this scenario: you manage product feature descriptions for your B2B company's website. A product update requires a new feature description on fourteen pages of your CMS, found in four different sections. The process is time-consuming: open a page, update it, publish the page, then repeat thirteen more times.
Now imagine you have not one feature description to update, but 10 -- that brings you up to 140 page edits. Not
only is this extremely time-consuming, it’s prone to error. And when
you provide inconsistent product information, it can lead to confusion
at best, and lost sales at worst.
Don't forget, you also need to
address the other channels in which your product information appears:
mobile apps, microsites, landing pages and more. You thought
updating 140 pages was a chore? At least that scope was confined to your
CMS. Now you need access to numerous systems outside your CMS to make
the same updates.
Structured Content Definition
content is content that is planned, developed and connected outside of
an interface so it’s ready for any interface. It treats content as data,
so it makes sense to people and computers."
face scenarios like the one I described above on a regular basis. And
many are turning to structured content to help them solve these issues. I asked two experts how they defined structured content.
Carrie Hane (@carriehd), principal strategist at Tanzen, has this definition:
"Structured content is content that is planned, developed and connected outside of an interface so it’s ready for any interface. It treats content as data, so it makes sense to people and computers."
In our scenario above, if your website used a CMS that supports structured content, the product feature descriptions would be created, managed and
organized separate from each page and include meaningful metadata to
help systems understand how the feature descriptions should be used.
In this case, updating the feature description in one place would
immediately update the 14 pages in which it appears. You've gone from 14
content updates down to one, and ensured that your content is
consistent throughout the site.
Colleen Jones (@leenjones), CEO of Content Science, has this definition:
"Structured content is content that is engineered for technology, such as content management and marketing automation, to enable dynamic delivery of powerful customer experiences."
While we all expect web and mobile experiences to be personalized to our
interests, few brands do this really well. Jones suggests that brands
using structured content have the potential to present compelling,
dynamic and meaningful offers to customers. In other words:
personalization done really well.
According to Jones,
search engine optimization, merchandising, oh my!
Structured content will help you reach more of the right people at
opportune moments, with less effort."
Benefits of Structured Content
When content strategists talk to their marketing peers about structured
content, most marketers will understand the benefits. But the C-Suite
may not understand the value structured content provides, particularly
if additional technology costs are involved.
I asked Jones and Hane how they’d communicate this value. Jones
pointed out that structured content helps marketers do, "Much, much,
more with less time, money, and hassle to maximize your investment in
Time savings, higher productivity, cost savings and
a higher return on existing technology investment are benefits the
entire C-Suite will sign up for.
Hane explained structured
content to the C-Suite as such: "Structured content gets content out of
silos and reduces duplication of the effort and cost to create and
Like Jones, Hane’s explanation touched on
productivity and cost savings, but also focused on organizational
efficiency. Siloed content can stem from siloed groups. By breaking
content out of silos, organizations gain a higher return on their
investments in content technology and in content itself.
How to Get Started with Structured Content
Your team is on board and you’ve successfully convinced the C-Suite to buy in. Where do you start? Rather than going "all in" and expecting to migrate your entire site to structured content, take a phased approach.
with a small project that includes measurable goals. Map out the scope
of later phases, but adjust along the way, based on results from each
Jones advised, "One important early step is to
audit the content you already have to identify what content assets (or
chunks of content assets) have strong potential for reuse."
Hane recommended a three-step process to get started:
- Model your content, without any implementation in the back-end.
on one content type at a time. Model the content and its relationships
and modify your CMS and design to work with the new structure.
new content types structured. It takes longer and is more expensive to
retrofit something than to create it with the proper structure in the
My colleague Will Morgenweck
works with customers to migrate their sites to structured content. In
customer implementations, he sees many parallels to Hane’s process.
to Morgenweck, "Selecting one content type at a time is smart. I have
customers pick a section first (e.g. webinars, press releases, etc.),
and that guides the selection of content type. Also, we’re intentional
about content re-use as part of the migration. Before we migrate, we
identify additional areas of the site where that content can be
As a marketer who manages content on my company's
website, I'm excited about the potential of structured content for
re-use of my content across my site, and on all the other channels where
it will land.
Note: This post was originally published at CMSWire with the title "Structured Content Gives Companies Room to Scale."
Here are a set of related resources on structured content:
The structured content capabilities of our Evoq CMS are called Liquid Content. Learn more at the Liquid Content product page.
Our Documentation Center has resource pages on how to implement structured content in Evoq (e.g. Liquid Content).
Read the definition of structured content at WhatIs.com.
Sweet Fish Media asked me to define structured content on their B2B Growth Show podcast.