A taxonomy is a list of terms you use to categorize and find your information again, without having to look through every file, image, document, or web page. Using a taxonomy in a corporate, government, or organizational environment allows you to find and re-use content and helps your users search and browse for information.

Let’s start with some examples before we dive into definitions.


In understanding taxonomy, a few examples can help:

  • A not-for-profit had a lot of files related to their product offerings. The files were a mess across several network drives and personal hard drives. They needed to implement a digital asset management (DAM) system to keep track of the files and they needed a taxonomy to help them categorize and find these files. While they did use a file structure, not everyone understood the file naming or structure and they needed a different way to find files.
  • A technology company was re-doing their Support website and needed to categorize their information by subject. They had different products, services, and topics and wanted to allow users to access these topics in different ways. They also wanted to use taxonomy to dynamically display content on pages, so they didn’t have to hand code every link.
  • An investment company was re-doing their intranet site. Content was created by different teams about the same topic. They wanted to make sure the intranet users could find all content about the same topic, regardless of which team created it or where it was saved on the intranet. They also wanted to improve their search results page to allow users to filter their search results by taxonomy.

You can read about more examples in our post on Examples of Content Taxonomy: How Classification Helps on the Web.

Fighting Information Entropy

With these examples in mind, we can talk about concepts. We have software products that are extremely information heavy. We manage content with content management systems (CMS), digital asset management systems (DAM, product information management systems (PIM), and master data management systems.

How do we keep track of all the content in those systems? Not everyone understands the logic behind a file system and not all content is saved in a folder structure. Taxonomy gives us another avenue to categorize and find information.

Taxonomy lets us categorize our information based on different attributes. These attributes are managed with controlled lists so everyone picks the same values, names are standardized. You can look up content by those values instead of needing to know file names or titles or the saved location.

Content Taxonomy Helps Content Authors

Content authors, those who use a CMS or DAM, can use taxonomy to:

  • Categorize information to find it again
  • Re-use content or link to it more easily
  • Dynamically display information on a website instead of building pages by hand
  • Control terminology so authors are using consistent wording
  • Find content written by others

Content Taxonomy Helps Users

Taxonomy also helps users of a CMS or DAM because they can:

  • Find information outside of a traditional folder structure
  • Find via familiar terminology
  • See improved accuracy of search results
  • Filter the search results by taxonomy

To Summarize

Taxonomy is a categorization technique which allows us to find information without having to remember exactly where it’s stored. It helps us with finding content, re-using content, dynamically creating web pages, filtering search results, and improving the search results displayed.


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