Linking Real Estate Content With User Context: Basic Concepts of Data and MetadataMarch 13, 2007
Everyone talks about “context sensitive” and knows that certain companies use contextual advertising to present the best advertising to users. How can we understand and apply context to content on our own real estate sites?
Website owners also want to improve the experience for website visitors and increase the “stickiness” of their real estate website. One way to do both would be to have a way to quickly and easily match specific real estate content (articles, real estate video, real estate podcasts, blog posts, and/or links) with content topics that the user is likely looking for.
This first post is focused on the basic concepts around data and lays the foundation for future articles. Application of these concepts comes later. Let’s jump right in….
Data are the information, tangible objects, media, or concepts that users consume as knowledge (read, watch, or want to know about).
Metadata is data about data or that describes other data. Metadata is used in real estate all of the time. For instance, a property (viewed as data under the above definition) may have metadata such as the following:
– the address, city, town, and/or zip code
– house color
– number of bedrooms
– square footage
– type of property
You are likely thinking that these are many of the same fields found in most popular online real estate sites and databases including the MLS. They are. Database can store metadata that describes the specific content (or data) and in turn the website exposes the stored metadata to searches by users. Not hard to grasp…yet.
Metadata is used in just about every implementation of online search, directing users to other content, and grouping of content/data/information. Webpages have various mechanisms to store metadata. Most think immediately of the <META> HTML tag which allows entry of metadata keywords, author, etc. However, the thinking about metadata with respect to webpages often ends here.
Webpages have many more mechanisms in the markup language to identify metadata that are often forgotten. Metadata can be represented in properties of many popular HTML tags. “Title=”, “rel=”, “lang=”, and “alt=” are places to identify metadata relative to specific content on the page. A small twist is that properties such as “href=” and “hreflang” actually provide metadata about where a user might choose to go rather than the page that they are on. Still easy but on a taste of the more advanced topics…
How To Think About Context
So, we have a very flexible way to describe content whether conceptually or online. We are now able to generate a specific type of metadata called context designed to identify content likely to be of interest to specific types, groups, or categories of users. The definition can be as general or specific as needed. Whats important to understand is that we need to define content at the content level and not the page level – a webpage usually contains more than one piece of content and as such are not granular enough to provide the level of detail that we’ll need. Context can be any grouping that you feel is important to your visitors. In fact, the concept of context is difficult only in that it is only limited by one’s imagination and that it will be defined outside of the metadata representatins contained within HTML.
Let’s demonstrate the concept in practice. As a real estate website owner, you may decide that you have three types (or groups) of visitors to your real estate website: home buyers, sellers, and investors. You also have various types of content like articles, outbound links, podcasts, advertising, and/or real estate videos on your site. Metadata in the form of context can be attached to each piece of content and stored for later use that will easily identify that each piece of content is likely of interest to a specific group or set of groups. For instance, articles or information about mortgages are likely of most interest to prospective buyers, a staging “how-to” video likely most applicable to sellers, and an audio podcast on buying fourplexes to investors probably is best focused on investors.
Some people are already manually creating context for their content using the tools at hand. The difference with our approach is that we are trying to make context generation process and context processing a fundamental part of your site’s automation.
Key point: Context isn’t some magic SEO tool (although used in some innovative ways it might help). It also won’t improve your content since it is only data that describes your content. Fun content and poor content will remain what they are, no matter how you dress them up (or make them content rich). The objective is to make your content more easily found and consumed by users most interested in that grouping of content.
So, in this basic concepts post, we have learned that context is really just a form of specialized metadata geared to matching content with groups of users. In a future article we will learn just how powerful these concepts can be when applied. We’ll learn how to attach this contextual metadata to discrete content and find a way to match it with derived user context for site visitors. The result should be dynamically driven real estate focused pages with content that reflect the likely desires of a user. At the same time, you’ll actually be using many of the same metadata principles that visitors use to search for property listings.
More on that coming soon Part 2 of this series is now available…