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Definition: Content model

What is a content model?

A content model sets out the various types of content you have on your website; breaking down each content item into more detail and mapping the relationships between one piece of content and another.

Whether you're planning to refresh a website or create a brand new one, a content model is a fundamental part of implementing a successful content strategy; both in terms of maintaining control and visibility over what content you create, how you manage it over time, and how it appears on a website.

Content models are comprised of two different parts:

Content types: Your web content is probably a mixture of several different formats, such as blog posts, galleries, and landing pages. It's common practice to use a set of reusable templates for creating content in these formats—both for time-saving purposes and to ensure consistency.

Content attributes: These are the different parts that make up each of your content types. For example, you may use text boxes, images, and an author bio component in order to create the framework for a standard 'blog' page.

Why should you use a content model?

There are at least three strong reasons to spend time and effort working on a content model.

The first is that it ensures that the content on your website is consistent — with any unintended variations 'ironed out' so that you don't risk your audience becoming confused as they navigate through what is essentially the digital 'shop window' for your brand.

The second is that using a content model promotes better collaboration. A content model can act as a reliable, one-stop reference point for team members and other departments, so that everyone 'sings from the same hymn sheet' in their working.

Lastly, using a content model can boost levels of overall efficiency, eliminating confusion and friction, whilst also saving precious time for members of your team.

How to create a content model

The first step towards creating a content model is to spend some creating a 'map' of all of your content. The idea is to jot down the different content types you want to work with, before then also breaking them down into the different content attributes.

By mapping out your content first, you're helping you and others identify potential opportunities to reuse or refine existing content across different content types.

Then, consider using a simple spreadsheet to record each piece of content's attribute details such as the content owner, its format, the kinds of headings it uses, its purpose, and how it should be presented on the website (i.e. the layout).

After this step is completed, you should add the details of how pieces of content are connected to each other:

  • Do some pieces of content have the same attributes in common?
  • Do any content types appear to use attributes inconsistently?
  • Are there new content types you're looking to add in the future? And;
  • Will these use existing attributes — or do new ones need to be created?

Taking the time to build out a content model makes it much easier to identify where any potential overlaps or gaps lie.