What Is a Digital Taxonomist and How Do You Know If You Need One?

To define a digital taxonomist we need to define taxonomy.

Taxonomy is the science or technique of classification. Within the context of your business, taxonomy refers to organizing and classifying business assets.

Due to the explosion of digital marketing content, there has been an increased need for organization of marketing assets. A digital taxonomy is a plan or structure for how you organize and classify your digital content. Taxonomies include everything from the menu structure on your website to the back end tags on a blog post.

A clear taxonomy keeps your content organized and allows your audience to easily find your content through either the navigation structure on your website (i.e. menu and content placement within the menu) or through onsite search (i.e. back end tags). Without taxonomy, your content is wasted because no one can find it.

What Is a Taxonomist?

The more content you have, the more critical it is to maintain a taxonomy.

This is where digital taxonomists come into play. They create and manage the taxonomy of your digital content. They are responsible for:

  • Building the taxonomy through user research and stakeholder interviews
  • Maintaining the taxonomy including having a voice in any work that impacts the organization of content such as UX and UI design
  • Communicating the taxonomy to content creators through training and acting as an advisor whenever questions arise

Due to the increasing use of digital content, this position has quickly become a critical role on a digital team.

How Do You Know If You Need a Taxonomist?

There are a few key indicators:

  • You need a taxonomist if you have a lot of content
  • You need a taxonomist if you have a lot of content creators
  • You need a taxonomist if you have both a lot of content and a lot of creators
  • You need a taxonomist if it is difficult to find content on your site

How do you determine if you fall into one of the categories above? Here are some steps you can take to assess the state of your content:

  1. Assess content through a content audit.
  • How much content exists on your site? Is it less than a hundred pages?
  • Is it organized? Is there a clear hierarchy in the site navigation? Do creators know how to select appropriate tags for their content?
  • Is it easy to find the content you’re looking for? Can someone unfamiliar with the site quickly find a piece of content?
  • Does it take just a couple of clicks for someone to reach their desired content?

2. Assess current taxonomy process.

  • What is the taxonomy process? Is it clearly documented? A taxonomy process is a process through which a creator fits their content into the existing taxonomy. The creator should be able to reference the documented taxonomy process and know exactly where their content fits within the site navigation and how to tag content correctly.
  • Do creators adhere to it?
  • Are creators trained on it?

3. Assess content creators.

  • Are there less than four content creators?
  • Are they all in one location? Or easy to communicate with regularly?
  • Is any of them able to take on the work of a Taxonomist as outlined above?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, you should add a Taxonomist to your team.

A taxonomy is there to improve the user experience by making content easy to find. If you have a large amount of content or content creators, having a clearly defined taxonomy that grows as your content grows is a critical step in making sure your content is findable.

Questions? Comments? Add them below or reach out to me on Twitter at @Cate.