This question is more important than ever as we seek more and more content automation. Content engineers bridge the divide between content strategists and producers on one hand and, on the other hand, the developers and content managers who publish and distribute content. But rather than simply wedging themselves between these players, content engineers help define and facilitate the content structure during the entire content strategy, production and distribution cycle from beginning to end.

So whether you want to be a content engineer or anticipate working with one, understanding what a content engineer does will help you be more successful. Let’s walk through an overview.

Creating Structure for Reuse

With equal parts business and technology savvy, the content engineer does not see content as a static and finished piece. Rather, the engineer looks at the shape, structure, and organization of the content and how it can best be adapted and personalized to serve customers and emerging content platforms, technologies, and opportunities.

The content engineer connects content with applications. Content residing as big unstructured text blocks, residing in content management systems (CMS) gets easily stuck to one webpage or presentation. The engineer designs the structure that content uses to connect from the CMS to multiple endpoints and enables content personalization, targeting, reuse, ​and multichannel distribution.

These structures can include Google AMP pages, syndicated details relayed to search engines with Schema.org rich snippets or microdata, social sites with Open Graph, chatbots, marketing automation systems, personalization applications, and the many other applications in the emerging intelligent world of knowledge transfer.

The CTO of Content

The role of the content engineer can be understood in relation to that of a content strategist. Think of the content strategist as the CEO of content. Then consider the content engineer the CTO of content. Together they work to specify how audiences should receive content, how devices should display content, and how content can be reused.

Each role contributes a different perspective, and through workflow and governance they help define the “people” and relationships to support content through the entire content lifecycle. Content strategy is about what content gets to which customers, at which touch points. Content engineering is about how content gets to customers.

Here’s what the result of successful content strategy and content engineering collaboration looks like:

  • An ever-increasing value of content assets
  • Decreasing costs for publishing content assets
  • Improved digital maturity
  • Improved customer experiences  

A Content Engineer’s Tasks

The content strategist plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.

Content Strategy targets the who, what, when, where, and why of content experiences and assets. The content engineer organizes the shape, structure, and application of content assets.

Content Engineering targets the how of content assets, platforms, and publication. Here are just some of the functions performed by content engineers:

  • Analyzing information requirements and content sources
  • Modeling content structures and schema
  • Correlating content using taxonomies and other metadata
  • Determining validation criteria, and designing information delivery
  • Customer experience management (CEM) platform technology selection and configuration, CEM lifecycle planning, CEM implementation specifications, marketing automation workflow planning
  • Structuring and modeling metadata
  • Implementing content and validation processes
  • Designing information interactions
  • Defining Schema.org and Open Graph microdata output formats and methods
  • Coordinating Google AMP content rendering for cached mobile-optimized content
  • Performing content reuse planning and adaptive content strategy
  • Content personalization architecture and modeling
  • Incorporating standard vocabularies and semantics into content models
  • Developing audience- and session-based analytics personalization rules and scoring, validating content targeting against user task success
  • Planning faceted search and onsite search experience design
  • Authoring experience (AX) design, standards definitions, content migration planning, validation, localization

Content engineers help content strategists clearly define the data fields for customer personas and which types of content need to be distributed through which channels. They can then take this plan and make sure the correct practices, platforms, and technologies are in place to take content strategy from dream to reality.

In short, content engineers hold the keys that unlock both the gates that separate very talented and often isolated members of a content marketing team, as well as the full potential of what the team can accomplish.

The Author

Cruce Saunders is the founder of content engineering at [A], and author of “Content Engineering for a Multi-Channel World.” [A] works with content-rich organizations on engineering content for multi-channel reuse, personalization, bots, AI, and marketing automation.  To learn more about [A], visit simplea.com.

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2 Comments on "What Does a Content Engineer Do?"


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Vinish G
26 days 14 hours ago

In the past, I would often think why an organization will have both the roles – content engineers and content strategists. This post makes it clear it to an extent.

For instance you say “Content engineers help content strategists clearly define the data fields…”. Isn’t that the backend content strategists are doing themselves? So if the team has a back-end content strategist, do they still need a separate role (and title) for a content engineer? Will drawing a line in their roles be not complex?

PS: This post reminds me a related and iconic post (and comments there) by Scott Abel: http://thecontentwrangler.com/2013/07/29/content-strategists-must-become-engineers-of-content-driven-customer-experiences/

26 days 8 hours ago

Content engineering has been around in one form or another since the dawn of language. As a species, we use symbols to understand the broader context and meaning of words.

The orchestration and reuse of content has changed as content has left stone tablets, papyrus, and typewriters in the shift to digital content that operates in multiple modes: published, interactive, and automated. So now, instead of pictograms or hieroglyphs to accompany words as a form of concept shorthand, we now have metadata, microdata, schema, taxonomy, topology, and logical content models. These are the disciplines within the practice of content engineering.

There’s a graphic in the article linked here that shows a digital team including content strategy and content engineering working alongside each other and the rest of a larger digital team: https://simplea.com/Articles/Integrating-the-Content-Engineering-Practice

Content engineers, or technical content strategists, or back-end content strategists, or structured content architects, or marketing technologists all share an ability to model and structure content. Whatever title one chooses to put on a specific individual, the only thing that really matters is that the multiple disciplines of content engineering are incorporated into digital projects. In order to free the content from chunks we must turn it into the electricity that powers customer experiences.

 
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