Why Structured Content is Essential to Digital Success

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Creating “good content” is not enough to grow your visibility and connect with your target audience. In order to succeed in today’s digital economy, you need to structure your content so users, search engines, and other digital platforms will understand your intended meaning. When developing digital content, it’s important to consider user experience first and search engines second. However, both are extremely important.

In this video, we will share why structured content is a must and how you can start to create your own content model.

Video Transcript:

In the latest episode of Hack My Growth, we’re looking at the importance of structuring your content and why it’s essential for today’s content management.

As I said in the opener, we’re going to be looking at the importance of structuring your content. On this channel we’ve talked a lot about structured data, which we are going to get into a little today, but we’re taking it further. Structuring your content and building a content model goes much deeper than just adding in schema.org or other structured data properties. We’re talking about the entire structure and build out that content.

We’re going to be looking at the different elements that should be making up our content, and the attributes that apply to those, and how they all work together in order to tell a cohesive story not just to your users, but also to the search engines and other digital platforms you’re trying to reach new users on.

But before we get into the deck, I just want to say thanks again for watching. If you find this channel helpful and you’ve gotten some good advice here, please hit the subscribe button and don’t forget to turn on alerts. That way you know each and every time we create new content.

Good Content Isn’t Enough

Today our users are leveraging semantic search engines for the best digital experiences. The internet has become more connected than ever. Computers are understanding our content and the intent of that content like never before. So in order for us to reach these users, we have to ensure that the search engines understand our content in the same way that our users do.

If we look at a traditional website page, this is what your user sees. You’ll see some navigation, maybe a headline, some breadcrumbs here, maybe some links to other pages and content. If we look at what the computer is crawling, it looks like this, this is the raw code that’s being exported from that page.

You’ve got everything here from the HTML to the CSS style as well as multiple types of metadata and structured elements within that page. We’ve got to make sure that these two things are working together so that the search engines understand the content in the way that you intended it to be understood, which is the way that you most likely wrote it for the viewers over here.

The problem is many brands and agencies focus just on content production and output. But fail to optimize the structure of that content in a way that helps both their users and machines understand it. This is why good content isn’t enough. There’s a lot of content out there that’s really good content, but it’s not structured in a way that’s easy to find, both for the users or the search engines. This is what leads to a lot of content being wasted.

Look at the Data

Here’s some data to back that up. The median average time spent reading an article is 37 seconds. That’s not very long at all as you can see. People are looking at it, scanning through it, and bouncing off for the most part, right? 55% of all page views get less than 15 seconds of attention. Another stat, 43% of readers skim those blogs. And here is something that’s really important to B2B marketers, 60 to 70% of content churned out by B2B marketing departments sits unused. And the last one is a visitor who reads an article for three minutes returns twice as often as those who read it for one minute or less.

As we look at these statistics, we understand that people have a shorter attention span, but people are looking for content that meets their needs. The last one shows this, that if they find content that actually meets their expectation, it matches their intent, they’re more likely to come back and engage with us, and that’s content that’s structured correctly. It’s structured correctly for the audience and it’s structured correctly for the search engines to be able to show that content to people. And also to make sure that the content is the same type of content regardless of a search engine, or a social media platform, or an email that’s coming out, that the content has the same type of messaging across it. This is why structuring is so important, so we can get past people who are skimming and find the people who skim, see something they like, and decide to invest time in that content.

Content Modeling

The solution is content modeling. Your pieces of content need to be structured for both users and machines. When you model your content, it creates an intelligent customer experience that allows them to engage further. This is what takes somebody from one minute, to three minutes, to really engaging in your content. It also ensures that the essential aspects of your content are converted into machine-readable assets or formats that improve the semantic understanding of that content.

What is content modeling? “Content modeling creates a representation of types of content, and their elements and attributes, and the interdependent relationships.” This is from WordLift. “Moving from building pages to creating structured data and structured content, this is what helps us create relationships between entities that matter,” and this is from the word of the founder, Maria Silvia Sanna.

Google has moved from strings to things; they’re looking at entities, they’re understanding the intent behind entities. When we do this, when we structure we data and we structure our content, it allows the search engines to better understand and grasp what it is that we’re talking about. When we model it, we create deeper relationships. When we do that, we give deeper insights to our audience that also can understand our concepts further, understand who we are, and build trust with us.

What Does This Look Like?

What does this look like in a practical sense? You’ve got content types, this could be like a blog article, or a podcast page, or just a website page. Within that piece of content you’ve got a number of elements. You’ve got things like the title of the content. You’ve got featured images of the content, you’ve got the body of the content, the text, you’ve got the author, the day it was published. Each of these elements have attributes associated with them, or rules and values assigned to these. Like a title tag, it needs to be within 50 to 60 characters. An author needs to be on that page.

And then with this you can also provide what are known as mix-ins, and these are things like extra properties that you can add in to define the elements as well. Again, the element title tag here, we know that based on the attribute it needs to be 60 characters. But we can also take that title tag and we can map it to a schema headline for that blog article. Or we can map that same title tag to the open graph tags for Facebook, or the Twitter card tags. Now we’re taking this content here and modeling it out to other formats so that that content is consistent across all channels. Because each piece of content, which has elements, can be rendered in multiple types of views. This could be the blog itself, this could be a link on the website page that points to the blog, this could be a slider that represents part of that blog on the page.

See here, when we have all of these elements in place, we want to make sure that they’re structured so that the common meaning is being passed throughout all of these for both our readers and their search engines, or the other channels that we’re marketing on.

If we break this out, this is kind of an idea of what a piece of content would look like that is structured. You have your piece of content here, and you’ve got different elements within that piece of content. Each of those elements, again, has these connected attributes that help define and set the rules for the elements themselves. If we looked at an article, you would have an article here. You’d have the title of that article and a title is required; you’d have a max limit of maybe 60 characters. Then we could also map that to the headline property. The same thing here with the author, it’s required and it’s a data type of text. We know that we need to have text for this author, and we can build out a schema mix in of author property. The same thing for the featured image. This really helps align both the creative and the technical elements of creating content so that your authors and your editors have a format to work in that you know as a marketer it is going to be translated into other types of meaning that help push that content even further.

The End Result?

When we structure our content, we go from what our users see and what computers see, and we begin to tie it together to create a deeper contextual understanding. In today’s digital world, there’s a number of ways that we have to compete. As machines begin to take a larger role within search engine optimization, even in the social channels, we have to make sure that we are feeding them content that is structured. That way they can then know the intent of that content and then show it to more people who we’re trying to reach, the people who need the content that we’re creating. We can’t overstep this part, we should make this a fundamental part of creating a content strategy so that everything we’re doing is mapped together, makes sense, and that our content is able to go further, because what the users see and what the computer sees are working together to create that deeper contextual understanding.

So I hope you learned something new with this video today. If you’ve got any questions, please comment below; we’d love to continue that conversation with you online. Don’t forget to hit subscribe and turn on those alert notifications, that way you know each and every time we create new content on this channel. And until next time, good luck.

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