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The complete guide to content modeling

Illustration depicting content modeling as it relates to CMS

You can find content everywhere you look. For businesses using multiple marketing channels, keeping all this content organized can be a real challenge. That's where content modeling comes in: it's a smart way to structure and manage content, making sure everything stays consistent and makes sense across the board.

Like it or not, you see content just about every waking second of your life. Whether you're scrolling through Instagram, browsing the web or passing by a billboard in an Uber to the airport, you can't escape it.

When you see a brand's content, there's more where it came from. Most companies use between 3-10 marketing channels, and they're running multiple campaigns at once.

Across the omnichannel, it has to make sense. And it has to be easy for the marketing team to plan, coordinate and deploy. That's where content modeling comes in.

While practitioners spend a lot of time doing on-page SEO, it can be beneficial to look further upstream and optimize your CMS content model for SEO. The content model helps to establish the structured data that search engines use to understand and prioritize different web content. Find out more here.
5 Min Read

What is content modeling?

Content modeling is a critical practice in content management and web development that involves defining the structure and organization of content within a system. It's about creating a blueprint for organizing, interlinking and displaying content on websites and other digital platforms.

The two foundational aspects of content modeling are content types and attributes:

  • Content types are the different types of content that will be included in the system. Examples include articles, blog posts, product listings, landing pages and photo galleries.
  • Content attributes are the specific characteristics or information that will be associated with each content type. This could include fields like title, author, date published, body text, images, FAQ blocks, contact forms and categories.

The primary goal of content modeling is to define these types and attributes. You want to break these assets down into their smallest, most meaningful elements and establish relationships between them.

This is the root of all your content management and operations. It's how you ensure consistency and create systems to expand your content strategy in a cohesive way.

How does content modeling work?

Although it might seem complicated on the surface, content modeling follows a simple structural approach.

The content model within your content management system (CMS) specifies the associated fields, field types and rules defining how content is structured and organized for each type of content. It will also specify which fields are required, and callbacks to external systems or APIs for data retrieval.

Let's say you have an e-commerce site. "Product Page" would be one of your main content types. For this type, you may establish specific attributes — product name, description, price, images, sizes available and customer reviews. You could also have a "Blog Post" content type with different attributes like title, author, published date, body text and categories.

Why bother with content modeling in the first place?

Several reasons. For one, the practice helps you better understand and define your content assets. By breaking them down into smaller, manageable pieces, you can see where there may be duplication or inconsistencies. This leads to improved content governance and a more streamlined process for managing and updating content.

Let's take a look at some of the other benefits of content modeling:

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It helps you reuse and repurpose your content
Models are designed to make the content reusable across different parts of a website or even across different platforms. You can maintain streamlined content types while allowing customization through content attributes. This involves creating modular content that can be mixed, matched and reused without duplication.
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You can standardize content across different platforms and channels
Content models facilitate the integration of content with other systems like CRM and ERP systems, social media and ecommerce platforms, enabling a seamless flow of information across channels. When your content model is well-defined, your team can easily translate it into different formats for use on various channels. This ensures consistency in messaging and branding across all of your marketing efforts.

Plus, a well-defined content model helps in managing the content lifecycle, from creation and maintenance to archiving. It provides a framework for content governance, ensuring that content remains consistent, relevant and up-to-date.
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Content models improve UX
By structuring content effectively, models help in crafting better user experiences. Models ensure the content is accessible, logically organized and easy to navigate, enhancing the overall effectiveness of digital content.
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Modeling facilitates collaboration
At a glance, you can use your content model to understand any asset on your website. It's a digital blueprint for understanding the structure of your site and how it all fits together. Since it's an accessible resource anyone can reference, communication with team members is a lot faster and more seamless (especially for remote and hybrid teams).

Setting up a content model in your CMS

Creating a content model within your CMS requires a structured approach to defining your content types, attributes and relationships.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on getting content modeling right:

1. Define your content types

Start by identifying the different types of content you need/use most — blog posts, landing pages, product listings and others. Map out how these different types fit together.

If you're running a text-based site, your most used content types will probably be blogs. Visually oriented sites might have more photo galleries and landing pages. Ecommerce sites would also have more product pages. Here, take inventory of the different sections of your site and how they’re organized.

  • Is each section its own content type?
  • How do these types relate to one another?

Brightspot provides a flexible system that allows you to define these types with specific fields and attributes. Not every pre-built type will fit your needs, which is why you can also make your own with our editorial content types functionality.

2. Create fields and attributes for each content type

For each content type, specify the fields that are needed, like title, body, images, etc. Brightspot allows you to set field types, validation rules and default values.

As an example, the article content type fields might include:

  • Headline
  • Subheadline
  • Slug
  • Author(s)
  • Lead (gallery/image/video after the article's headline)
  • Body text
  • Section (visible to site users)
  • Secondary section (not visible to site users)
  • Publish date/time
  • Sponsor
  • Tags (topics, locations, etc.)

When creating your attributes, make sure they're easy to reuse. For instance, if you have multiple product pages, the attributes for "product name," "price," and "FAQ" should have a consistent appearance across each one.

For pre-built content types (like articles), you can auto-generate tags from the article's headline and body text.

3. Set up relationships between content types in your content model

Determine how different content types relate to each other. For example, an article might be related to an author or a blog post might link to a category. Setting up relationships will also help determine the structure of your site and how content is organized.

Brightspot supports one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many relationships.

4. Use modules and plugins

A CMS or digital experience platform (DXP) with composable architecture allows you to enhance your content types with pre-built modules and plugins, adding functionalities like SEO, social media integration or custom forms.

Doing this, you can easily manage content across the omnichannel without relying on custom development or tons of third-party tools.

5. Configure views to reflect your content model

Decide how the content will be displayed. You can customize views with templates and style configurations, allowing you to tailor how content appears on different platforms or devices.

For instance, an article might have a different layout on desktop vs. mobile.

Brightspot's view system supports headless and traditional implementations. Each supports the Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) pattern, meaning that you can reuse models and views for both.

6. Test, iterate and refine

Once your content model is set up, test it to make sure it’s doing what you intended and that all the fields and attributes are working correctly. Preview the site in your CMS before publishing and make any necessary adjustments.

7. Deploy your content

Once your content model is finalized, use it to create and publish your content on your website. With a well-defined content model in place, you can easily manage and update your content with consistency and efficiency.

Content modeling is just one part of organizing your site

Investing in a composable platform enables you to easily define and manage your content model, fit it into your broader marketing stack and launch a best-in-class omnichannel experience.

By starting with this foundational step, you ensure that your content model aligns with both organizational goals and user needs.

In summary: Content modeling FAQS

What is meant by the content model approach?

The content model approach is a systematic method of organizing and structuring content to enhance its creation, management, and delivery. It involves:

  1. Content analysis: Understanding the types of content needed and their purposes.
  2. Defining content types: Establishing distinct content types, such as articles, videos and products, each with specific attributes and metadata.
  3. Mapping relationships: Identifying how different content types are related and how they interact with each other.
  4. Creating templates: Developing standardized templates for each content type to ensure consistency.
  5. Workflow design: Outlining the processes for content creation, review, and approval.
  6. User-centric design: Ensuring the content model meets the needs and expectations of the target audience.
By adopting the content model approach, organizations can create a flexible and scalable framework that supports efficient content management and improves user experience.

How to develop a content model?

Developing a content model involves several key steps:

  1. Define objectives: Understand the goals and objectives of your content strategy.
  2. Identify content types: Determine the different types of content your organization produces.
  3. Establish relationships: Define how different content types relate to each other.
  4. Create templates: Develop templates for each content type, specifying fields and metadata.
  5. Map out workflow: Outline the content creation and approval process.
  6. Test and iterate: Regularly review and refine the content model based on feedback and performance.
By following these steps, you can create a structured and efficient content model that supports your organization's needs.

What are some examples of content modeling?

Content modeling can vary across industries and use cases. Here are a few examples:

  1. E-commerce: Product pages, categories and reviews, with defined relationships and metadata.
  2. Blogging: Blog posts, authors, categories and tags, organized to enhance search and navigation.
  3. Corporate websites: Services, case studies, team members and news articles, structured to provide clear information flow.
  4. Educational platforms: Courses, lessons, instructors and resources, linked to facilitate learning paths.
These examples illustrate how content modeling can be tailored to different needs, improving content management and delivery.

What is one of the first steps in content modeling?

One of the first steps in content modeling is identifying content types. This involves:

  1. Content audit: Review existing content to understand what types are currently in use.
  2. Stakeholder interviews: Discuss with key stakeholders to identify necessary content types and their purposes.
  3. User research: Analyze user needs and behavior to ensure the content types will meet audience expectations.
  4. Documentation: Clearly document each content type, including its attributes and relationships.

Request a demo to see how Brightspot's approach to content modeling and how you can create and manage robust digital experiences with CMS at the core.

Alistair Wearmouth
By Alistair Wearmouth
May 15, 2024
Brightspot's 2024 User Conference brought together an audience of Brightspot CMS users, practitioners and partners for two days of conversation, learning and networking in Reston, Virginia. Here are some key takeaways and insights from the event.

Request a demo to see how Brightspot's approach to content modeling and how you can create and manage robust digital experiences with CMS at the core.


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