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Building a B-to-B Content Taxonomy

July 27, 2017

Sixty-five percent of content within b-to-b organizations goes unused, often due to asset findability issues

B-to-b organizations must organize their content to maximize content findability for their internal and external audiences. SiriusDecisions research shows that 65 percent of content within b-to-b organizations goes unused, with 28 percent of the usage problems attributable to findability issues. The absence of a content taxonomy is a major contributing factor to the findability problem. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we define the essential characteristics of a content taxonomy and describe sequential steps for building a taxonomy to fill this critical content management gap.

What Is a Taxonomy?

In a b-to-b business context, a content taxonomy is an attribute-based system of classification that supports content organization, analysis and information retrieval. Taxonomies are essential in many use cases, including Web site navigation and information architecture, blog categories and tags, search engine results on the corporate Web site and internal repositories, personalization functionality and custom recommendation engines. Because they allow for searchability, filtering and gap analysis of existing assets, content taxonomies also support audience-centric content strategy and journey-mapping rationalization, marketing program development, content sequencing and sales enablement.

For internal repositories, an agreed-upon cross-functional taxonomy ideally spans sales, marketing and product content, as much of the content used by one function also can be leveraged by the others. For example, while case studies are typically developed by marketing, sales can use them as well; these assets should be tagged not only to related offerings and buyer’s journey stages, but also to sales stages.

Building a Taxonomy

Execute the following sequential steps to build a b-to-b content taxonomy:

  • Resource. Often the need for taxonomy development has been identified, but inadequate resources have been dedicated to addressing the problem. First, ensure that someone owns the project and is accountable for its completion. The organization must have a dedicated project manager/lead and a cross-functional council of committed contributors from key functions including communications, portfolio marketing, campaigns, marketing operations, sales operations, sales enablement and IT. Ideally, a content strategy and operations function leads taxonomy development as part of an overall b-to-b content audit. If the organization lacks an established content strategy and operations function, hiring a taxonomy consultant is an option for initial taxonomy development and implementation. With this approach, the organization must either ensure a continued relationship with the consultant for periodic taxonomy maintenance and updates or appoint an internal resource to perform taxonomy upkeep.
  • Scope. Next, gather input on the scope of taxonomy development: Is it specific to the Web site and Web content management system? Will it include all internally and externally facing assets? Will it include marketing content only, or sales and marketing content? Who are the content users, and how are they likely to search for content? Ideally, the scope should span all business lines and offerings so that hierarchies and relationships can be rationalized comprehensively and an integrated matrix can be developed. Seek to understand the terminology that end-user audiences employ as they seek to retrieve content. For Web site content, examine the search and browsing behaviors of audiences and personas. For content used by internal marketing and sales stakeholders, assess how they search for information across internal repositories. Seek input from subject matter experts with deep knowledge of content, products, solutions, systems and related vocabularies. Typically, product management, portfolio marketing, sales enablement, Web and IT-related resources should be engaged; for taxonomies that include externally facing assets, also seek customer input.
  • Build. Develop an initial framework of attributes to classify existing content, related terminology and tags as they are collected for analysis. Typical attributes include asset title, asset type, file type, target internal and external audiences, journey stage, language, geography, industry, related offerings and related keywords. Then, inventory and map the content within the scope of the project on the basis of those attributes. Simple taxonomies can be built within spreadsheets, but taxonomy management software is likely needed for complex taxonomies to rationalize hierarchies and relationships.
  • Validate. Once the initial taxonomy framework is complete, gather feedback and seek validation from the same stakeholders who were consulted during the initial phases of scoping and building the taxonomy.
  • Refine. Based on the feedback received from stakeholders, make any necessary adjustments. Refine the recommendations into a completed taxonomy and document how it needs to be linked across systems and repositories and within assets.
  • Deploy. Depending on scope, deployment activities may include updating the Web site to reflect the hierarchy and relationships defined in the new taxonomy and updating various internal repositories (e.g. digital asset management system, sales asset management system, content marketing software) to reflect the new taxonomy. Because multiple attributes and relationships within the taxonomy must be factored into systems, the content strategy and operations team (or whoever has been tasked with the taxonomy project) should plan to work closely with Web and/or technology teams – and potentially system vendors – to ensure proper deployment.
  • Maintain. Like a corporate Web site, a content taxonomy is never truly finished. The content strategy and operations team should review the taxonomy regularly to ensure that it remains up-to-date. SiriusDecisions recommends reviewing the taxonomy annually – or more frequently if disruptive factors are present (e.g. launch or sunset of a product, merger or acquisition, introduction of new systems into the technology stack).

The Sirius Decision

Taxonomy development and management is critical, but it represents just one aspect of best practices for asset upkeep and findability. To maximize content utilization and optimize content management, SiriusDecisions recommends that b-to-b organizations create or mature their content strategy and operations function. Having this team in place provides ongoing oversight and management of the cross-functional end-to-end content lifecycle.