Structured Content in dotCMS: Unlocking the Benefits

Stefan Schinkel

Search and findability are critical components of any enterprise-grade content management system (CMS). The ability to search and find content quickly and efficiently is essential for users to access the information they want. A robust search and findability capability allows users to search for content based on keywords, metadata, and other criteria and then returns the most relevant results. This can include text-based content and multimedia content, such as images and videos. It also allows users to filter and sort results, making it easy to find the most relevant content.

In a CMS context, search and findability can also improve user engagement and drive conversions. By making it easy for users to find the content they need, a CMS can increase the likelihood that users will stay on the site longer, interact with more content, and ultimately convert into customers. Overall, search & findability are critical capabilities of an enterprise-grade CMS that can help to improve the user experience, increase engagement, and drive conversions. It all boils down to structured content.

Structured Content 101

The key pillar of any CMS is the notion of structured content. Structured content is all about organizing and formatting digital content in a specific, predefined manner (content types). This allows for easier creation, reuse, and repurposing of content- assuming the CMS is a content-centric CMS where content is separated from the presentation and exposed over rich APIs

An example of structured content is an article with a field for the title, summary, body text, author, publishing date, tags, and category fields. These fields are predefined and give a clear indication of what the content of the article is and how it should be used. This allows for easy searching and retrieval of the article and makes it easy to repurpose the content for different channels, such as websites, mobile apps, social media, or print. Adding relationships (supporting all cardinalities) and unlimited fields per content type into the mix allows for the most flexible framework to support

Structured content can be machine-readable and automatically generate meta tags, summaries, and other metadata, improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and making it easier for users to find the content they need. The content structure allows easy integration with other systems, such as analytics and marketing automation platforms, certainly with an API-first CMS like dotCMS.


Overall, structured content is a critical foundation of a CMS and is essential for managing, searching, and repurposing digital content. It allows for more efficient and effective content management, improved searchability, and increased user engagement.


Key drivers that fuel proper search and findability are tags, categories, and taxonomies. Collectively, they are the metadata you can control in dotCMS to increase your content's search rankings and drive online conversion.


Content Types within dotCMS can have a Tag Field that lets content creators label the content with one or more tags. These tags can be new or existing tags, and dotCMS automatically suggests relevant tags from the Tag Pool to ensure consistency and enforce naming conventions. The auto-suggested tags are not only previously created ones, but also tags from previously defined Personas.


When using dotCMS as an omnichannel solution, the number of tags in the Tag Pool can quickly get challenging to manage. That is why the platform has separate tag repositories — or collections of tags — for each host managed by a particular dotCMS instance. By default, however, new tags are automatically added to the Global Tag Repository that contains the tags for all hosts. Webmasters can easily update and maintain these tag repositories within the Tag Manager.

Tags are most valuable when you don’t necessarily know which tags will be the most relevant ahead of time, which is typical for user-generated content. In addition, tags make it easier to associate content with personas when delivering personalized content. Since there are few restrictions on tags, they are unreliable for pulling dynamic content lists, and dotCMS offers a better option.

Adding tags to content at scale with AI tooling is already table stakes. dotCMS ships with a native integration with AWS Rekognition.


Webmasters create categories and predefined labels that content creators can select from but not create themselves. The limitation of categories, however, makes them more reliable for pulling dynamic content. Categories are also hierarchical, meaning they can be organized into subcategories, from broader labels to more specific ones. For the most granular level, tags are likely still the best option.



Relationships are used to define a hierarchy for different content types. This creates a parent-child relationship between individual pieces of content. Relationships must be defined by webmasters first, and then content creators have the option to choose related content when they are creating new content.


Relationships are essential if you need to find content based on similar content with a different content type. Relationships can be anything from teams and players to movies and actors. Content can have parent and child relations, which can be one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many. Unlike categories that quickly become overwhelming, relationships can scale as your website grows and deliver dynamic content efficiently.

It’s important to note that content can have a combination of tags, categories, and relationships based on the fields included with its Content Type definition. Using multiple taxonomies ensures content is highly searchable and easy to pull dynamically from front-end applications. 

With movies, for example, categories can be used to define a limited set of genres, while tags can be used for more granular descriptors. And using relationships, you could define an actor relation so that you can retrieve a list of actors in a movie or a list of movies with an actor.

External Tags

In addition, dotCMS integrates seamlessly with any external Tag Manager (such as Google Tag Manager) solution if managed outside your CMS.

Content Search

The number of content items in an enterprise-grade environment can easily reach exponentially high numbers. Content Search helps content marketing teams to find existing content easily and quickly. dotCMS supports this natively with Elasticsearch and the tools around it. Each field of a content type can be made into a filter to search with via the dotCMS backend, and content marketers can use one or more filters to find the content they need quickly. Additional filters are language, workflow, workflow step, and the state of the content (published, archived, etc.). Adding an extra content search filter is an intuitive and NoCode feature in dotCMS.


Further details on content search can be found here.

Site Search

The front-end counterpart of content search is site search. dotCMS offers this out-of-the-box, and this capability is also based on Elasticsearch. Proper site search configuration is mission-critical to engage with your audiences and make them find you on the public internet. dotCMS exposes various control parameters to create and run indices on your dotCMS instance.


Further details on site search can be found here.

Rich-media Assets

Besides plain text, dotCMS supports the storage of assets like PDFs, MS Office files, images, and videos. These assets are fully indexed by dotCMS and will appear in search results (both content search and site search), which will help content editors search for their content collection or site visitors on your websites. We have customers with 10M+ PDFs in their dotCMS instance. The metadata of these assets is exposed via the content APIs, as well.

Search Engine Optimization

Ranking high in search results on various search engines helps the findability of your content for your targeted audiences. Apart from market tactics and spending with Google and the likes, dotCMS offers all the tooling for proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and enables your marketing team to achieve the highest score with Google Lighthouse. An overview of SEO best practices in dotCMS can be found here.


Taxonomies are crucial to effective content management, but the content structure is expensive to implement without the right tooling. Using robust dotCMS taxonomy capabilities, companies can dramatically improve their ROI on content marketing while providing a better customer experience. 

Content structure enables greater content discovery and eliminates duplicate efforts, lost content, and other common challenges associated with managing vast amounts of data. That means dotCMS can reduce content creation costs while ensuring higher content velocity. This is critical with the growth of omnichannel marketing and the constant demand for new content.

Beyond this, dotCMS leverages taxonomies to deliver dynamic digital experiences. By following taxonomy best practices, companies can provide highly relevant content to customers associated with particular site visitor Personas. You can learn more about the dotCMS personalization capability in our Personalization & Content Targeting Product Brief.

Image Credit: Josh Olalde
Stefan Schinkel
Chief Revenue Officer
February 15, 2023

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