In my previous post, we began laying the foundational requirements of a successful inbound marketing blog. Today we continue to build upon that foundation, adding the more of the needed components for site visitors to find the quality content they're looking for.
A well written blog will contain lots of content and lots of content means it needs to be organized well. A full taxonomy system is an invaluable method for categorizing content to help your readers find what they are looking for.
Essentially, a taxonomy system enables you to classify content by associating terms. The two primary methods are controlled taxonomies and free tagging. Tagging is where an author can freely type in terms they believe best describes their content. Controlled taxonomies are a list of terms that authors can choose from to classify their post. These terms are predefined by a site admin and authors cannot add their own terms.
The best use of a taxonomy system is to use both controlled and free tags to develop a useful categorization of your content. The features to look for in your content management system (CMS) are:
- Multiple vocabularies: This enables you to attach any number and type of taxonomy classification to each type of content in your system. For example your blog might have two vocabularies, one for controlled categories and one for free tagging. Your events might also have those two, but you might add a third for vocabulary specifically for event types such as seminars, webinars, mixers.
- Hierarchies: Hierarchies enable you to establish sub-terms with parent/child relationships. Having hierarchies available enables you to be a lot more elegant in your classifications.
- Tagging auto lookup: With free tagging authors can type in anything they want. You will want a modicum of control to prevent misspellings and multiple variants of the same term. Auto lookup is a fairly effective tool. When an author starts to type in a phrase, the CMS will try to match it to existing terms and present those as options.
The first step for developing proper taxonomies is to make sure your CMS enables you with the proper tools. Next, put yourself in the shoes of your users and analyze all your content types. Ask yourself what types of taxonomy they would want to use.
One advanced feature you might want to give your site visitors is enabling them to tag content. This is called a folksonomy. The concept is that your authors are experts and will tag things as an expert sees them. Your visitors might not be experts and need a more layman’s way of looking at your content. Allowing regular “folks” to tag content automates categorization from that perspective. Plus it is a way to engage your visitors enable them to personalize their experience.
RSS stands for real simple syndication. Virtually all content on your site should have an RSS feed. It is the defacto method for sharing your content with others.
There are two primary ways RSS feeds are used. One, a person can subscribe to your feed using an RSS feed reader. Then, they will automatically receive updates whenever anything new is posted. This is similar to automatically sending them an email when anything new is posted, except that your emails are likely to get lost in overwhelming inboxes. RSS updates are spam free.
The second way RSS feeds are used is aggregation. This is where another website will post content from your site on their site. The content may be posted as is, or curated with some editorial opinion. Either way, the reach of your content will expand significantly through real simple syndication.
A blog RSS feed is the most important but readers might want updates on other types of content such as events, job postings, press releases or even your products and services. Make sure you have setup feeds for all types of content where applicable.
Filterable RSS Feeds
While you want to make as much content as possible available as an RSS feed, you don’t want it all to go into a single, unfilterable fire hose of information. Most people will not want all your updates, only targeted content that pertains to them. By providing different feed URLs and applying dynamic filters to those feeds you can gain a lot of control to target specific content. There are ways to use discrete feeds and filters, but here is the way we recommend:
- Start by creating specific feeds for each of the content types, e.g. blog posts, events and job posts.
- Enable these feeds to be filtered. Use taxonomy terms as the standard filters. You might also enable feeds to be filtered by author.
Auto-Discoverable RSS Feeds
You can help browsers and readers automatically find available feeds on your site by adding an autodiscovery link to your web page meta data. This will let people know that you have feeds available and make it easy for people to subscribe.
Absolute URLs in RSS feeds
One of the habits you want to get into when writing blog posts, or any web content for that matter, is to hyperlink important terms to other relevant content. When links occur within your main text they are called inline links.
There are two types of URLs you can link to:
- absolute: http://www.wikipedia.com/wiki/Uniform_resource_identifier
- relative: /wiki/Uniform_resource_identifier
If you are linking to a page that is on another website, you must use an absolute URL. If you are linking to a page that is on your website, it customary to use relative URLs.
A problem occurs when relative URLs are in your RSS feed. If the content is syndicated on another website, they will try to link to a page on that site, not properly linking back to the originally intended page on your site. To correct for this, make sure you implement a method that converts relative URLs to absolute ones on your feeds.
In usability studies we have conducted on large sites with lots of content, more than 40% of the time people looking for a specific piece of information will use site search. As your site grows, giving visitors a high quality option to search your site content becomes increasingly more important.
A CMS will include site search as a built-in feature. Unfortunately, many built-in search functions are inadequate. Creating a search engine is actually very complex. Everybody has become spoiled with the quality of Google. Google has invested literally billions over many years to generate their high quality results. The tricky part is your visitors will expect the same from your site search.
To get high quality results, look to implement a more advanced site search than the built-in version. One option for this is to integrate Google or some other enterprise search engine on your site. Google has a free version, but you basically have no control over the results. Or you can implement Google’s search appliance.
If you want control of the results and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on an enterprise search solution, we recommend implementing Apache Solr. Solr is a remarkably high quality, open source search engine that provides an API for CMS integration. There is one major caveat, Solr is built in Java and the most popular CMS' are built in PHP. This means you will need to setup an additional Java server to implement Solr. It can be tricky to setup this up yourself, but there are higher end hosting companies that include Solr in their packages.
Faceted search works by presenting results based on taxonomy terms. You can then click on any term to further refine your search. Amazon.com’s product search is a great example of faceted search. Solr has faceted search support built in.