The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Intelligent Content

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks


If you’re a content marketer, you’ve probably heard the term intelligent content tossed around here and there.

Even if you aren’t familiar with intelligent content, you probably want to be. After all, what kind of content marketer wouldn’t want to make their content a little smarter?

As such, I reached out to Michele Linn, VP of Content at Content Marketing Institute. Fresh from the Intelligent Content Conference, Linn had some answers and expert insights about the intelligent content approach.

What exactly is intelligent content?

If you Google “intelligent content”, you’ll probably find the definition from Ann Rockley (author of Managing Enterprise Content):

“Intelligent content is content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.”

I don’t know about you, but I had to read that three or four times before it actually started to sink in.

Linn broke it down for me like this: “In short, intelligent content is a way to deliver the right content to the right customer at the right time in the right way.” Keep this in mind as we move forward.

If we take a closer look at each of the elements of Rockley’s definition, intelligent content is:

  • Structurally Rich
  • Semantically Categorized
  • Automatically Discoverable
  • Reusable
  • Reconfigurable
  • Adaptable

But what do all these things actually mean?

Structurally Rich: Structure is the first and most important aspect of intelligent content because all the other aspects depend on it. Although this includes the structure of individual pieces of content (i.e. a blog post has an introduction, a body and a conclusion, as well as an author bio and related images), more importantly, this refers to the structure of your content model. Your content needs to be compatible between organizations, types and formats in order for your business to have the ability to accurately aggregate, compare, measure and act on your content’s performance.

This graphic from CMI will help you visualize an example of a content model:


Semantically Categorized: Semantically means “related to meaning”, and in the framework of intelligent content, semantic content means that content must be tagged with metadata. Metadata provides information about your content that allows your content to be found and organized in countless ways.

Automatically Discoverable: What’s the point of creating it in the first place if no one can access it? “Automatically discoverable” simply means that your content must be able to be easily found. Including the right metadata makes it easier for both content owners and consumers to find and use your content.

Reusable: Through the lens of intelligent content, “reusable” means using existing components of content in multiple ways. This goes beyond simply recycling a content idea into another format—it also includes the other components of intelligent content. For example, reusing author information among different kinds of content formats.

Reconfigurable: When content is reconfigurable, it can be re-organized in a number of ways (alphabetically, by subject, etc.). In a Content Hub, for instance, you can create custom streams that organize content according to a certain topic, format, or persona. This is important because it allows users to have a highly tailored content experience.

Adaptable: Adaptable content goes beyond responsive design. Intelligent content can automatically adapt to the person receiving it, regardless of the time of day, device, location, or other factors in the delivery.

For an even better breakdown of the six elements of intelligent content, check out this SlideShare from CMI.

What are some of the benefits of intelligent content?

Intelligent content definitely sounds better than plain old average content, but why exactly is that?

The “intelligence” of intelligent content makes everything more automatic, allowing marketers to better scale their processes. If set up properly, content can be easily accessible and adaptable to multiple channels with little or no human intervention. In turn, this will also reduce the time and resources it takes to develop, review and maintain a content strategy.

As important as it is to edit, rewrite and format content, these activities are a huge time suck. In my opinion, the best part of an intelligent content approach is that it will free up content creators to have more time to be innovative and creative to create more helpful content.

How will intelligent content impact the future of content marketing?

Making content more “intelligent” won’t change the underlying rules of content marketing—to create content that is consistent, valuable and relevant to customers.

According to Linn, “By using intelligent content approaches, content marketers can begin to scale some of the processes and inevitable rework that can make content marketing so time-consuming.”

At the end of the day, creating more intelligent content will make it easier for marketers to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time throughout the customer journey.

How can you start making your content more intelligent?

With regard to approach, Linn says that it’s important for marketers to think big but start small. “My suggestion is to understand what intelligent content is and apply those principles to how you are thinking about the content you are creating.”

Linn provided a couple of tips for taking an intelligent content approach:

1) Think about your content in “chunks.” Can you collect consistent content around something so that you can present it in multiple ways? “At CMI, we love unearthing content marketing examples. Instead of having an ad hoc approach, we now collect the same information for every single example we curate (for instance: name of company, industry, type of content, what we love about this example, etc.).  This will give us a lot of flexibility as to how we present this (for instance, we can share examples by industry or by content type),” explains Linn.

2) Create a taxonomy for your content. The taxonomy consists of the primary categories across all of your content. “For instance, at CMI we have 10 primary categories and many other additional sub-categories. Every single piece of content we create, from blog posts to webinars, is tagged with one or more categories. This way, we can more easily find and group related content.”

As with any change in approach, you’ll need the right tools and processes in place in order to see success. Ensure you have a CMS that allows you to build structurally rich, semantically categorized, automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable content. On top of that, make sure it’s part of a marketing stack that will keep your content strategy integrated and aligned.

Go forth and feed your content some intelligence!

Uberflip helps makes the intelligent content approach easy. See for yourself!

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