Ah taxonomy. The grubby, mind-twisting terrain of identifying our content. Typically, people who love executing taxonomy strategies also love the Container Store.
Me? Not so much. But when you can properly organize, tag and identify your content, you begin to make relevant connections easier for your audience. That, I do like. So, for me it’s a necessary evil that must be embraced. Fortunately, I’ve found a way to make it one-step more fun than buying a closet organizer for my 3-year-old daughter’s toys.
Why Taxonomy Is Important.
To tag your content properly you need two things: specificity and consistency.
The more exact you can be in identifying your content, the better you will inform a system of that content’s exact relevance.
And the more consistent you can be in your process and word-choice, the more uniform your content connections will be.
Whether you are playing around on Pinterest, marketing your company through a blog, producing a vast ecosystem of B-to-B content, or selling stock photography, you have to master taxonomy. Here’s how I make it work for me.
The Q-and-A Approach to Taxonomy.
I recently helped a client with a taxonomy issue. Multiple departments from different disciplines — think: journalists in one camp, data crunchers in another — were publishing content to the same platform. Each was approaching the tagging process completely differently, and it was destined to break the system we hoped to set up for them. Our end goal was to revamp the site and power it with standard relevant content modules throughout. Problem is, no matter how robust and fancy a CMS is, if its working with inconsistent and vague taxonomy, it won’t be able to serve relevant content. In other words, journalistic pieces on wine importing could not connect with relevant research papers on burgeoning Asian wine markets.
To iron it out, I set up a question-based workflow for entering taxonomy into the system. What geographic regions are the focus of the content? What industries does the content serve? What themes are present in the content? Etc. We identified 10 questions and paired them with two simple rules:
- Don’t go overboard on keywords
- Avoid synonym stuffing
Content strategy is my day job, and photography is my passion. They have a lot of natural crossover, particularly in the main industry I serve — travel. And as with the written work, taxonomy of photography is enormously important.
So when tagging my photos at import into Lightroom, I adopt a custom Q-and-A workflow:
- Where were these images taken? Europe, Italy, Piedmont, Langhe Hills, Italian, wine country
- What style of photography was I using in this shoot? Editorial, Landscape
- What season is present in these images? Autumn, Fall, October
- What consistent themes cover the entire set? Travel, countryside, pastoral, food, wine, cuisine, culture
It’s a consistent process and I go through it in sequential order everytime. Then when an image is ready for uploading to Photoshelter — my stock photography platform — I go deeper.
- What is the subject matter of the image? Diano d’Alba, Alps, town, village, church, hill, campanile, mountains, vineyards, grape, nebbiolo, Barolo wine
- What color palette is expressed? yellow, green, blue, red, fall color,
- What is the photo’s orientation? horizontal
- What is the photo’s pricing structure? royalty free
You get the drift, but if I shot from the hip while keywording these images, I wouldn’t come up with nearly as robust or consistent a set of keywords. If someone wants to see other images with a campanile and the Alps in Italian wine country, they can.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run to the Container Store.