The Growing Importance of Sharing Metadata via APIs

Michael Vizard
Sep. 11 2012, 09:00AM EDT

While adoption and usage of APIs tends to vary widely across different vertical industries, the one segment that has benefited most from APIs is online media. Thanks to APIs, the cost of distributing online content has dropped significantly thanks to online properties that need to content to attract people to their sites.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of that trend has been USA TODAY, which relies on tools from Mashery (a ProgrammableWeb sponsor) to manage one of the most widely used set of APIs in the publishing business. As successful as that effort has been, however, Erik Bursch, the director of operations and content systems for USA TODAY, says that that largest unit of Gannett Corp. is about to enter a new phase of API management. As the licenses of USA TODAY content get more sophisticated about content management, they want to know a lot more about each individual piece of content as it arrives. To that end USA TODAY is about to significantly expand the richness of the metadata that the company shares via its APIs. Once exposed via its APIs, Bursch notes that each licensee will be able to better automate the placement of USA TODAY content on their respective sites, while at the same time leverage that metadata to enhance their search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

SEO, in general, remains a dark art for most organizations. By exposing more metadata through its APIs, USA TODAY is not only standardizing the metadata it wraps around its content, it’s taking a lot of the heavy lifting associated with managing metadata off the shoulders of its licensees. Ultimately, that metadata will result in more Web traffic for the licensee and, by extension, USA TODAY.

Far too many organizations still don’t really understand the value of metadata within the context of an SEO strategy, let alone extending that strategy out to their partners via APIs. Given the fact that just about every company that has a presence on the Web these days is in one form or another publishing content as part of an effort to attract visitors to their sites, just about every company on the Web should be taking a more detailed look at the quality of the metadata they make available to both search engines and their partners. While it may involve a lot of arcane works, from a return on investment perspective, it’s one of the few things publishers of any size can do from an SEO perspective that has both an immediate and, more importantly, sustainable impact on Web site traffic.

Once you do all that work, however, just don’t forget to share all that metadata with business partners if you want to truly create the multiplier effect that every publisher ultimately craves.

Michael Vizard

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