Does structured content improve findability?

Updated April 13, 2024
Originally published on Adobe’s TechComm Central blog on January 8, 2014

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.

For a long time, content strategist 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.

To 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?

  • Create a consistent organizational format for your content. The more predictable it is, the easier it is to find.
  • Create meaningful content titles, headings, and subheadings. Make sure these describe what your chunks of content are about so that the content will rank higher in the search results.
  • Add index entries as subject keywords in the metadata to help improve the search results ranking. This is an effective way to incorporate an index into your content when no interface is available to support a traditional index.
  • Include synonyms, when appropriate, in the content to enhance the search results. Use alternate terms that you target audience uses. Find out what these terms are by “listening” to their conversations online and detecting patterns in their references to your products or services.