Intro to structured content

While we’re redesigning Mass.gov, we’re also reinventing the way we create online content. Our new website will be designed using structured content to make it easier for our partner organizations to maintain and update information.

What is structured content?

Creating structured content is different from creating pages on Percussion or Word documents. Instead of focusing on building individual, complete web pages, using structured content means that you’ll build chunks of information that can be re-used in different ways.

For example, your agency’s contact information could be one chunk. Once you create your contact information in the content management system (CMS), it can then be used on several places on the website like your organization page or an event page. Creating content in these smaller chunks makes it easier for you to display the same information in multiple places as well as maintain it. It also makes your content more versatile.

What are the benefits of using structured content?

1. It makes it easy for you to update your content

When you use structured content, you can update information that’s displayed in a lot of places on your website from one location. For example, maybe the fees you charge for a fishing license change. All you’d have to do is update the fees information once, and it will automatically change in all the places it’s displayed on the website, so you don’t have to worry about missing a page or having outdated information.

2. It makes your content more dynamic

Having chunks of structured content makes it more versatile, so search engines and third parties can easily repackage and use your information. Using the fishing license fee example, if someone types “renew fishing license” into Google, in the future, the search engine might be able to pull our structured content to show the most up-to-date fees and an option to apply right from the search results page.

Possible result of using structured content: Google can pull information right into its search results!

3. It will take us into the future

There are a lot of other ways we may be able to use structured content. From integrating with apps to sending push notifications to smartphones to connecting with social media accounts, structured content can help you manage your entire online presence. We’ll continue to explore the options we have with structured content to help improve your authoring experience on Mass.gov and ultimately serve our constituents better.

Schema.org and structured data

Structured content isn’t just about what words and information you put onto the new Mass.gov. It’s also about the way that the site is built and the messages it’s sending to search engines, applications, and other websites about that information.

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex developed a system for categorizing different types of information on the internet in a universal way. The project is called schema.org. These search engines broke apart a range of the different types of data that are housed on the web and developed language (or as they call it, a “vocabulary”) to classify them in the form of code. By tagging pieces of data in this way, search engines know what kind of information they are and can better deliver them to their users.

For instance, there’s a schema tag for “Government Building.” When you enter the address for your office in a piece of contact information in the CMS — say, Executive Office of Technology Services and Security, 1 Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108 — it gets tagged as a government building. When a constituent searches for your office name (EOTSS), Google knows that 1 Ashburton Place is a government building and can show that to them.

We’re tagging the content types in our new CMS with the right markers in that system. Down the road, it should allow us (or search engines or third parties) to develop tools and cool new ways to serve our constituents.

You can learn more about schema.org and browse the different vocabularies at their website.

Curious about structured content? Want to talk to us about schema.org?

Email us at MassITDigitalServices@mass.gov!

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