Drive through

High value content comes from the ability to organize and expose the right content to the right user at the right time in the right format.

With a basic understanding of semantically structured content and some simple governance, organizations can create content that has the ability to adjust to user needs and create stories that generate interest along a buy cycle. More simply, semantically structured content and governance are key building blocks for producing right place, right time, right format content.

What Is Semantically Structured Content?

Semantically structured content is content that is broken out into small components that are meaningfully labeled. For example, look at the first two paragraphs of this article. If we labeled the first paragraph, “Paragraph A” and the second paragraph, “Paragraph B,” we couldn’t draw any kind of meaning from that. That content is structured but it is not semantically structured. However, if we labeled the first paragraph “Premise Statement” and the second paragraph “Simple Solution Statement” it gives an indication of what is contained inside each paragraph.

This is important because by using the same labels across the entire content ecosystem, we can expose content in a way that makes sense to the user of that content. For example, if we wanted to gate this article behind a lead gen form, we could expose the “premise statement” but not expose the rest of the article until the reader completes the form. If every article we wrote had a paragraph labeled “premise statement” we could do the same thing with all the other articles we produce.

To get a clearer understanding of how this works let’s look at a semantically structured system that employs similar techniques but might be a bit more familiar. I am, of course, referring to Taco Bell.

Most every item on the Taco Bell menu is made up of similar components. What is contained in those components may vary. How those components are organized to make a menu item may vary, but the meaning of the component does not.

Examples of components and ingredients on the Taco Bell menu:

Taco Bell Components and Ingredients

By combining types of ingredients from the various components, Taco Bell can make most of their menu items. However, there are some rules. In order to create a taco, some of the components must go with other components; some components should never go with other components (the Pepsi soaked taco hasn’t taken off yet) and other components can be combined but don’t have to be.

This is where governance comes into play.

In the matrix below the “Mandatory, Optional, Prohibited” column refers to a governance policy. A taco must have a shell, a protein, a vegetable and a sauce. If you add a premium item, it is no longer a taco but a “Taco Supreme.”

Taco Bell Menu, Component, Ingredients, etc

So the structure of the Taco Bell menu is very similar to the makeup of semantically structured content:

Taco Bell vs. Semantically Structured Content

Because we want to use structured content in a variety of ways in order to create things like burritos or quesadillas, we have to make sure that our content is editorially agnostic. To understand this, let’s go back to the Taco Bell example and define one of the ingredients.

Chipotle Ranch Sauce — A delicious creamy ranch style sauce that’s kicked up a notch to make your taco spicy, smoky and cool.

Mediocre copy writing by yours truly aside, that’s a reasonable definition. It tells our user what the sauce is and makes our user want to add it to the taco. 

Problem: can our user put that sauce on a burrito? 

Of course she can. If we describe the Chipotle Ranch Sauce by referring to how delicious it is on a taco, we have to re-write the description when we use it to describe the ingredients in a burrito. Instead of doing that, we should optimize the editorial to work in a structured content environment.

Chipotle Ranch Sauce - A delicious creamy ranch style sauce that’s kicked up a notch to make it spicy, smoky and cool.

By removing the reference to a component (a taco), we allow content to be reused, in a wider variety of circumstances. This creates the same great experience for the user, but with much less effort from our authoring team.

Wrap it Up Like a Burrito

In short, if we create clear content types, components, governance and optimized editorial we can scale our content production in the same way Taco Bell scales its menu. If Taco Bell can serve millions of tacos a day, then we can produce our tweets, white papers, case studies, etc. in an efficient and delicious way. We can produce experiences that meet the customer’s needs across the entire buyers’ journey. We can scale our efforts to serve the needs of even the largest enterprises. We can make our tacos without making ourselves locos.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Dean Hochman