Supermarkets understand how to group items so customers can easily find what they need (and don’t need). Whilst perusing grocery shelves you might notice that most products have logical positions. Eggs in the baking aisle, fruit and veg grouped together, bin bags placed alongside cleaning products… the list goes on.
However, you don’t expect to find seasoning packets in the meat aisle, for instance. They’re not in the same category. But the clever people running the store know that a customer buying chicken may also buy Fajita seasoning on impulse.
Supermarkets have a deep understanding of their customers and there are complex psychological considerations behind the placement of every product. They study consumers continually so they can respond to even the slightest change in behaviour. Supermarkets even monitor the weather.
Who are your subscribers?
The weather may not affect how your subscribers search for content, but the time of year could. There may be other factors that influence how they search for content, such as their job roles and external market conditions. Just like supermarkets, publishers of market analysis should be acutely aware of these behavioural and contextual factors and categorise their content accordingly.
Andrew Woods, Content Analyst at Content Catalyst, explains that different subscribers have different levels of engagement.
“At one end of the spectrum are subscribers who are time precious. They just want to find what they need quickly and will become impatient with a complex category tree,” he explains.
“At the other end are those subscribers who spend a lot of time on your site looking for information. They may find a complex category tree more valuable.” Consider how engaged your customers are and how they prefer to discover information.
Which sector your organisation operates in can also influence how complex your category tree needs to be. “Subscribers of a well-established, broad pharmaceutical publisher would expect the category tree to be organised in a certain way. These organisations are almost forced to have a more complex category tree,” says Andrew.
“In contrast, niche publishers tend to have smaller category trees. When deciding on categories, consider whether you are baked into an industry and need to follow convention so as not to confuse subscribers. Or are you a niche publisher that can have a smaller and simpler category tree?”
Internal and external analysts are also a good source of information about your content and subscribers. They can provide insight into the current and future publishing strategy, and how subscribers search and use your content.
Test & Learn
We recommend that publishers don’t get too bogged down in the detail of their category tree during the design stage. Because ultimately, you won’t know if it’s effective until it’s been tested with subscribers. Like the supermarkets, you can continually tweak and change your categories once live, using subscriber feedback.
“You need subscribers to be using your taxonomy to gather feedback. When they’re using your site, you can see how they discover content and what’s affecting them getting to content,” adds Andrew. “If searches are culminating in subscribers not finding content that’s useful to them, this is an indication that your category tree needs tweaking. It may also be necessary to carry out end-user education to ensure they know how to use search parameters correctly.”
“The full value of your content can only be realised when subscribers can easily find relevant information via categories or site search. Make it easy for subscribers, and they’ll be better engaged and more likely to become advocates and long-term loyal customers.”