In this episode of Actionable Marketing In Minutes we discuss taxonomies and things you should consider while designing your sites organization.

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If you are at the beginning of a site design or redesign, no doubt you’re been perplexed or even frustrated in your effort to determine how to organize it.

You want your visitors to not only find what they are looking for quickly, but you want them to linger a while and explore your site. Your site’s success, or lack thereof, sits on the foundation of its organization.

I don’t know if you’ve ever painted a wall. If you have, you understand that the actual painting is the fun part. That’s where you see the big changes. But, it’s all the pre-paint prep work that makes or breaks the quality of your paint job. If you do not take the often tedious time to patch the holes, sand, scrape and prime – the foundation of your task – you will experience less than the success you’d hoped for, or even utter failure.

The foundation of your website is very much the same. If it has all the bells and whistles and you think it’s pretty spiffy, but you haven’t taken the time to organize it effectively, you will experience failure. Failure in the form of visitors leaving the site because they can’t easily find what they’re looking for. Failure in time wasted by your team trying to keep your site manually organized.

There are many avenues of organization. Today, I want to talk about using a tag taxonomy. Solution:

Though you might have heard the term taxonomy, the concept of it might not have made much sense. The problem is, the term taxonomy has been used so much and in such a variety of ways, it has become quite broad in meaning.

So, what is taxonomy and how can it help get you better organized?

Taxonomy helps you to keep control over your content sprawl. It is the hierarchical structure for the classification or organization of data. Oftentimes, this term is used interchangeably with the activity of tagging content. But, it’s more than that. Basically, it’s a knowledge organization system whose purpose is to enable your users to browse your website easily so that they find the content they seek.

It is a classification system that enables websites to be categorized according to topics and types, enabling easy information retrieval.

Many consider a beneficial aspect of taxonomy is that it reduces manual content management. It allows you to dynamically retrieve and display anything on a page based on enabled tags or structured fields within your content. Taxonomy gives you the opportunity to balance the page’s content with other relevant information.

Logistically, the way it works is that content is loaded dynamically when a page is accessed by programming a search on any number of taxonomy tags or other fields within your content block or page.

No doubt, you’ve seen this, but haven’t recognized what was going on behind the scenes. Amazon’s site includes taxonomy-driven content publishing. Whenever you log in and go to a page of interest, notice how when you scroll

down a little you’ll see a section telling you other customers who bought this bought that, too. Or, it will show you what you should buy today based on what you bought yesterday.

If you’ve signed up for an online news service, you’ve been given the opportunity to personalize your experience by your unique interests. That way, you don’t have to waste your time scrolling through hours of news you’re not interested in. As soon as you log in, you get to see what matters to you.

There are varying levels of user interaction with taxonomy. Some taxonomy sites allow the visitor to interact and filter in ways I just mentioned. But, other sites don’t require user interaction at all.

Because your taxonomy can impact everything on your site it’s a really good idea to gather a multidisciplinary team to discover the best way to integrate your taxonomy with your content strategy. This team might include an information architect, content strategist, designers, writers, SEO specialists, CMS developers, marketers and site administrators.

And, as is the case with most everything you do pertaining to user experience, you’ll build your taxonomy much more effectively by doing everything possible to better understand your users and their needs as well as your processes and available technologies.

If your site has proper taxonomy, you will be able to bridge across subjects, and reuse and better manage your content – at scale. Of course, it will assist with effective navigation and will, ultimately, provide a better product and brand alignment. At the end of the day, it will improve SEO and findability, and even support social sharing.

When creating a sound taxonomy, the first few things to consider is its projected longevity and flexibility. This means thinking ahead to what your site might become – what additions might occur down the road. You’ll also want to think from the perspective of what terms your visitors might use and what structure will help support your business goals and help your content perform optimally. And, don’t forget to understand the scope of your project. Taxonomies can easily get out of hand.

To develop the scope of your taxonomy, imagine a Venn Diagram. The taxonomy lies at the intersection of: your business context (or purpose), content and users – which is your target audience.


As I hope I’ve conveyed a taxonomy can be a huge boon for your website. However, equally clear is that this is not something that can be built overnight. A taxonomy requires a multi-disciplined team and a lot of input from your users. You have to thoroughly understand your target audience and have a good grasp on how they think. After all, you’re creating something that is almost intuitive.

The benefits of having a taxonomy structure under your site are huge. Not only for your users but for your team. The many, many ways you can utilize such a structure are endless. We hope you’ve found this information helpful. Please connect with us on Twitter @DirectiveGroup or on LinkedIn and be sure to share it with in your networks using hashtag #actionablemarketing. Join us next time for more actionable marketing in minutes.