The Very Versatile AEM Tag

In a previous podcast, Joey and I talked about the versatility of tags within AEM. I wanted to follow that podcast up with an outline of some of the ways that tags can be used in AEM as well as some general guidelines or suggestions for using and controlling them, that could be searchable by others, rather than something just being in audio.

Tags can be used in many versatile ways
-Meta Data (both meta data on an asset as well as a page)
This is the easiest to define, because by default the keywords field in the page properties in AEM are setup to use the tags, as well as all the assets. Pretty basic and straight forward.

-Defining Structure of website/content
Specifically this is where you would use tags to control the way that your navigation flows. We did this for a client because we wanted to control the type of content. It fit into one of 5 category or content types. These were the primary site sections. An article only belonged to one of those options, and not typically more than one, though it was possible.

It did not control where the content lived in the content tree (at that time all of the content lived within a specific path, ex: article/year/month/day/title) but only how and where it was displayed on the front end of the site. So something was tagged as News meant that it would then display on the main News page “site.com/news.html”. But we also had subpages or categories under that. For example Branding. If an article was also tagged as Branding then it would show up under “site.com/news/branding.html” in the list of articles that were both News and Branding.

-Consumable Content: (all of these are very closely related to each other)

  • Simple tagging of content for use by Front End User – Visual queue to the reader of the page that this content is tagged with a certain tag(s). This helps them understand what it is about at a glance. A typical example of this can be found at the bottom of pretty much every blog, including ours. The reader can then see all the things that this piece of content is about, and possibly be able to click on it to see more content similarly tagged.
  • Related content – On pretty much every article website you’ll see some kind of statement like: “If you read this then you might be interested in this.” Like the above example, this is a visual cue to the reader that there is additional content they could read that is about the same topic. This has been accomplished on projects by utilizing tags in a variety of ways. The simplest is to just find similar content based on the most matched tags. This is based on a likely flawed assumption that people will want to continue reading the same type of content that they have already read.
  • Content reference – This is not the same as related content. Some content is related to other content because it shares a common piece of content or an asset. The example that we gave on the podcast was a doctor would have its own page but then be related to a clinic or a hospital where they work. So then those separate pieces of content could be referenced on each related page because of the tags that they share in common.
  • Searching by facet – Years ago we built a Collateral Portal for a customer. The authors of the content would tag their assets with the appropriate tag(s). On the front end, users trying to find a given asset would be able to type in a name and then filter their search by selecting a tag or series of tags. The results would be all assets that matched those criterion.
  • Authoring a component with tags to fill it with content – A good example would be a list component that is populated with content from other pages based on the tags, or combination of tags. The author would select the tag(s) and then the site would go through and pull all the content from the JCR that fit that criteria.

Tags gone wild
A caution to your customers/authors. We helped a company move from one CMS to AEM and part of that process was a hard look at the way that they had their tags setup. Over the years of producing content they had an overgrown list of tags. In some cases they were several one off tags, but in others they had the same basic tag spelled 5 or 6 different ways. Use tags but make sure to standardize them for simplicity. Having the ability to add whatever tags you want is good but don’t just go hog wild. Pruning can be painful but in the end it makes for a very beautiful hedgerow. Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean that you should.

Final thought
Often people think about tags as almost an afterthought. “Oh right, we should get some tags created.” And some people just let things go crazy and put no defined structure around their tags. Taking time to create a proper taxonomy is incredibly important. Especially if you are part of an enterprise level implementation or organization. There needs to be some person or group responsible for their governance. Don’t put off thinking about the taxonomy of your organization.