Guest Blog: Does structured content improve “findability?”

Wednesday, January 8 2014 @ 1:40 AM, By Maxwell Hoffmann

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.


Does structured content improve “findability?”

by Cheryl Landes

STC Fellow and founder of Tabby Cat Communications, Vancouver, WA

01 whateverFor 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?

  • 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.

About our guest blogger:

Cheryl bioCheryl Landes, STC Fellow and Certified Professional Communicator through the Association for Women in Communications Matrix Foundation, founded Tabby Cat Communications in Seattle in 1995. She has 23 years of experience as a technical communicator in several industries: computer software, HVAC/energy savings, marine transportation, manufacturing, retail, and the trade press. She specializes as a findability strategist, helping businesses to organize content so that it flows logically and to make content easier to retrieve online and in print.

Cheryl, who currently lives in Vancouver, WA, has given many presentations and workshops about indexing, technical communication, and marketing services as a solo entrepreneur throughout the United States and Canada. She has written two handbooks on digital indexing in MadCap Flare and Adobe FrameMaker, and more than 100 articles and three books on Northwest travel and history. Her latest book, Embedded Indexing in Adobe InDesign, will be released in early 2014. For more information, visit her website at and follow her on Twitter @landesc.


  • By D.B, Sr Technical Writer, Dell - 2:12 AM on January 12, 2014  

    Great commentary on a feature that is invisible to readers when in use but when it’s not, can be a confusion nightmare. Confusion costs money.

  • By Baru Winardi - 10:58 AM on March 12, 2014  

    Hi, this weekend is fastidious designed for me, because this point in time i am reading this wonderful logo designer

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