What is Structured Content and How Can It Help Global Companies?

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Structured content is a powerful tool for global companies looking to reach multiple markets. In a nutshell, structured content makes it easier to process, organize, and analyze your content across multiple publication channels.
Having a well-defined structure to your content also makes localization simpler and more efficient. This can help to reduce the cost of translating and distributing localized content.
But is a structured content model right for your company?
In our recent expert roundtable discussion, members of Rubric's team discussed some of the benefits of using structured content.
Here is how you can use structured content in your business…

What is structured content?

Structured content is a way of organizing your digital content so that it can be easily read and understood by both computing systems and humans.
Structured content works by defining a hierarchical structure within which ’chunks’ of content are organized. Content is authored once and then, through the use of templates, rules-based transformation and formatting, the same ‘chunks’ of content can be reused many times across different channels and outputs.
Dominic Spurling, Rubric's IT Director says:
"Structured content is a strategy that involves establishing a simple set of well-defined rules you're going to use to format your content. The focus is on the organizational structure of the content rather than the formatting, styling, and presentation."
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Why structured content is good for global companies

Almost any company can potentially benefit from structured content, but the benefits are especially useful for global companies that either:
  1. Publish a piece of content on multiple channels - for example Help content in both online HTML and PDF formats; and/or
  2. Have multiple bodies of content that are very similar, but not the same - for example User Manuals for a number of similar products.
Structured content allows global companies to reuse content quickly and easily without requiring a lot of manual rework or maintenance of multiple versions of identical (or almost identical) content.
This reduces the total volume of content to be authored and maintained, streamlines content management and promotes consistency within and between content channels.
Maintenance, automated processing and version control are generally easier if content follows a well-defined structure. Manual processes (like copy-pasting content between platforms) can restrict the growth of a global company as the human steps become a bottleneck.
By using a structured content approach, you can remove this bottleneck and facilitate greater automation, helping your business to grow more effectively. At Rubric we supercharge this by utilizing our automated QA analysis tool, RubricCatcher™, which is designed to track the evolution of content-sets in multiple languages and direct human attention towards conspicuous changes that might indicate a linguistic or systematic processing error.

How to improve your localization process with structured content

When used well, structured content also helps to streamline your localization process and reduce costs as the total volume of content requiring translation is reduced.
By storing all content in a single standardized tool and format, rather than in multiple different authoring tools, it becomes much easier to share content and automate processes.
The right translation provider should also have various tools that can automatically receive and manipulate your structured content. This can reduce the turnaround time for new translations significantly.
Dominic says:
"When you have a nice, clean, well-defined structure, it lends itself to automated processing and analysis at every stage of the localization pipeline. We can automatically detect what's new in the content, hand it off to the translators, integrate those changes, and produce the final result."

6 benefits of using structured content in your global business

Using structured content can be beneficial for your global company in various ways.
Here are 6 benefits of using a structured content approach:

1. Simplified publishing

The systems and structure that come with using structured content make it easier for you to easily publish content in a variety of formats, including blogs, websites, print media, and many other content channels. In the best case scenario effective use of style sheets can mean content publishing can be undertaken at the push-of-a-button.
This helps ensure your company's message reaches its intended audience quickly and efficiently.

2. Efficient content reuse

A core benefit of using structured content is that it inherently allows you to reuse your content. This helps you quickly scale up communications across various channels, maximizing consistency of messaging whilst saving time and money.

3. Enhanced content presentation

Through the use of templates you can create a coherent presentation style regardless of author. Using structured content also helps deliver a consistent, standardized look and feel of your content. This reduces costs whilst also making it easier for your audiences to consume.

4. Streamlined localization process

Because content is authored only once and reused the total volume of content requiring translation is reduced. It becomes much more cost-effective to localize your content into multiple languages. 

5. Automation capability

By using structured content, you also open yourself up to a wealth of different automation options that weren't available before.
You can use automated tools to streamline almost all stages of the content process, from push-of-a-button builds, to improved localization processing.

6. Easier content maintenance

Finally, structured content makes it easier to quickly detect and troubleshoot any errors that occur in both the source and target content.
This can save you both time and money whilst ensuring accuracy throughout your content pipeline.
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Should you use structured content?

Overall, structured content offers many benefits for global companies, from reducing the volume of content to maintain, to providing easier localization and automation.
But should you and your company use structured content?
If you are looking to scale your content, the answer is very likely: yes! The benefits and improvements that come with structured content make it probable that you can gain from this approach to content creation. But remember, as with any tool or standard, structured content is not a silver bullet - it must be used well in order to realize the benefits.