We’ve all heard how important content is. But if your content strategy consists of a weekly blog post written by the intern, you’re doing it all wrong. In fact, according to the two experts who spoke exclusively to CMSWire on the subject of content modeling, the concept of content is far, far greater than the stuff you share on social media.

The Definition of Content Modeling

A content model documents all content types associated with a brand, and defines the relationship between those content types. With a content model, strategists can visualize the purpose of each piece of content enabling the organization of a website’s content ecosystem. This includes multiple content types, like web pages, blog posts, PDFs, images and unpublished documents. "Content modeling is the process of creating a sound, logical taxonomy structure for the content you create and publish online,” says Ben Martin, Director of Content at London-based Beyond, a design and technology agency.

“[A content model] defines how your content will be broken up into common elements and, although the responsibility for creating content models typically lives with either technical content folks or developers, every content creator should at least be conscious of how the content they create is going to be deconstructed and "move" through a technology system,” he says.

Getting Started With Content Modeling

When it comes to approaching your content model, you’ll quickly find that it’s no easy task. But there are some guidelines you can follow to make content modeling more manageable. Leo Weber, VP of Marketing at Austin, Texas based ProjectManager.com outlines the two “major phases” of a content modeling project:

Step 1:  Identify the Ecosystem

In phase 1, Weber explains, you have to find all of the existing content that a website has. There are two ways to do this. You could simply go to Google and type in the search bar: site:yourwebsite.com. "This will show all of the pages for your particular website that Google has identified and indexed in their search database," he says. 

Another way Weber recommends to uncover more content is to use a scraping tool like Screaming Frog which will send a crawler to your URL. "[It} will find every possible page and image, then you can export the list for use,” he says.

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Step 2: Organize the Ecosystem

Phase 2 is the tricky part, because it involves painstakingly organizing your (potentially gigantic) ecosystem of content. “...take all of your content that you know about, add in all of the content ideas that will need to be produced, and lay them out into a plan or taxonomy. For most websites, that plan should be driven by user needs,” says Weber.

If you start with your users' needs first, creating a content strategy becomes much easier. For example, if you own an email software company, which page would you want users to see when they search in Google for 'email software'? That would most likely be your home or product page. But perhaps you have 10 or 20 blog pages about email software that are showing in search instead of the homepage. "Your content model will need to identify these content cannibalization issues (where the wrong page is showing for a search) and ensure that your key pages are the ones getting in front of searchers,” says Weber. He went on to explain how this planning should come together into a basic architecture for your website, helping you to purge unnecessary content and focus on promoting pages that matter.

Making A Good Content Model?

Now that we know how to organize a content modeling project, Martin offers his insight intotaking your content model from basic to brilliant. “Because of its technical nature, content modeling can seem kind of scary to get started with. But in reality, it just requires a some logical analysis and thought into how the content you already have can essentially be broken down into common, structural elements,"says Martin. Take a look at the articles you create, for example, does every article have a title, a lead-in paragraph, a meta description, etc? Could your articles be grouped into certain topics or subjects, and is that a one-to-one or one-to-many relationship? "When you start asking yourself these simple questions, you already have the building blocks for a [successful] content model,” says Martin.

Martin goes on to explain that creating robust content models actually saves time in the long run. "It helps stop content having to be created more than once, and makes it easier to maintain from a single place,” he says. The example he gave was of a scenario where you have a bunch of blog posts that list the features of a product you sell. If those features change, you'd have to then hunt for every blog post where those features are referenced — but if you have a content model, that problem is minimized.

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