[Guest Post] “Does Structured Content improve ‘findability’?”, by Cheryl Landes

[Note from the Editor] This week, our guest blogger is Cheryl Landes; a familiar face to many of us who attend major conferences. Cheryl touches on one benefit of structured content that is not always highlighted: your search engine optimization can increase dramatically when content is structured in a consistent fashion. Read on for more insights.

Google Search “whatever”For a long time, content strategists and single-sourcing gurus have touted the benefits of structured content in the Extensible Markup Language (XML). This structured content is separate from formatting, allowing it to adapt to any device, anywhere, at any time. Content can be reused in various ways from one source, preventing multiple versions of the same information. Content is predictable, meaning it follows specific conventions that makes authoring easier and improves comprehension.

But did you know that structured content actually improves findability? That’s because another way to think of structured content is that it’s consistent, hence the predictability. Consistency is organized. Organized content helps readers locate and consume the content easier and faster. The result: Improved findability.

1019_geodesic-domeTo use consistently structured XML content effectively, it must be exposed to the web. If it’s stored in large PDFs in your help system, then the search engines can’t see it. That means that the content won’t be retrieved in a search query.

You can have the most awesome content in the world, but if no one can find it, it’s worthless. But when your content is exposed to the search engines, the search engines love you, because they can find your content. Your audience also loves you, because the search engines can guide them to the right content quickly and easily. And if your audience consists of customers ready to buy your products or services, then that structured content they’re seeking and retrieving actually lands sales.

So how can you structure your content so that its findability improves?