Content management Content standards

Published on May 2nd, 2015 | by Rahel Bailie


Content Standards

Content standards is a neglected topic within the content strategy field, and a non-existent topic amongst content marketers. It’s even not particularly discussed between content people and developers.

What are content standards?

Any content that is processed online lives inside some sort of tags. HTML, for instance, has the “p” tag for a paragraph, an H1 tag for a top-level heading, H2 for a second-level heading, and so on.

A content standard is basically a set of rules for the tags so that content can be reliably processed by software programs.

Why are content standards important?

The successful processing of content depends more and more on having a robust enough set of tags to enable the content to be delivered in ways that meets the business needs, and that set of tags conforming to a standard that allows for easy migration of content between software systems.

For example, you may bring content in from third-party sources – news agencies that syndicate articles, merchandise suppliers who supply distributors with products, travel industry partners who describe their properties, or parts manufacturers for the multitude of pieces that make a piece of industrial equipment. That content probably gets transferred in through some sort of data feed. The more standardized the feed, the more likely it is that the data will end up in the right places in your own systems.

Using the right standards also means that the search engines can understand your content better. A couple of years back, the major search engines decided on standards for their microformats, in order to deliver more relevant search results. In other words, when content is tagged in a standard way – as an event, a product, a person, a stock price, a resume, a recipe, and so on (the list is extensive), the computer systems can ascribe more meaning to the content between the tags.

Basic content standards

IDI has compiled a list of some basic content standards, which can be found in the Resources section. It’s by no means comprehensive – that would be impractical – but can be used as a starting point by which to understand some of the standards you need to consider as a content strategist.

Content Standards

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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