August 23, 2010 – We are often asked for help in calculating the potential return on investment (ROI) of investing in a taxonomy. How this calculation is done depends on the type of organization and who will be the users of the taxonomy.  For any content-intensive organization, using a taxonomy increases findability, which in turn leads to greater utility and value for the organization’s content assets. Within the enterprise, this translates into hours and dollars saved by reducing the time required to find things, as well as the time and expense of redoing research or other work that can’t be found.  

For publishers, on the other hand, a well-structured taxonomy can lead directly to top-line revenue increases in subscriptions and document sales, as well as indirectly in terms of other metrics that support growth and financial stability, like more website traffic or increases in society membership.

For many publishers, thanks to Google, PubMed, and other third party referring sites, the number of visitors to the website who are not recognized as subscribers is much greater – often by a multiple of 10 or more – than the total number of its subscribers, members, and conference attendees. Unfortunately for most publishers, this additional traffic is largely unmonetizable. 

Google has changed the economy of the Web to one that is increasingly based around the free article or the abstract, rather than the subscription, the journal or the book. Instead of starting at a journal’s home page, users go directly to articles, based on the matching of keywords and the page rank of Google results. Google has effectively become the “hub” connecting all content on the Web. If the user doesn’t immediately find what they need, they quickly move on to the next search result, on a different website – seldom spending time on the publisher’s site to learn what higher-value offerings may be there.

A taxonomy, coupled with improved search and discovery, provides a new level of engagement with these visitors – helping them discover articles that match their interests and informing them of the full scope of benefits and activities that come with greater involvement in the organization.

Many publishers are getting smarter about leveraging the connections between articles to gain greater engagement with these casual users, and taxonomies are a way of doing this in a systematic and cost-effective way. Some of these techniques include “More Like This” links on article pages, portals or landing pages based on taxonomy terms, and full exposure to the Google crawler of the navigable hierarchy. These strategies can be a key to driving revenue – by illuminating the connections between the content, people, and programs of the organization, enabling the whole to become greater than the sum of its parts. 

Bert Carelli
VP of Business Development, Access Innovations