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Search in Focus: Implementing a Taxonomy

Search engines don't know the difference between reading glasses and drinking glasses, but a taxonomy puts your query in context. We outline several ways to build taxonomies, ranging from the tough but potentially more accurate approach of building from scratch to the easier but potentially compromised approach of buying a prebuilt taxonomy or using automated clustering software.

Executive Summary

Visionaries say the Semantic Web/Web 3.0 will some day be informed by a massive ontology that will provide a common way for machines to process information on the Web and understand its meaning. In the meantime, ontologies and their simpler, more down-to-earth cousins, taxonomies, are being deployed within companies, in portals and in intranets to make documents and content easier to find and understand.

Reed Business Search is using taxonomies to outperform Google in searching and delivering its content (see "Field Report"). Pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers and others are discovering the difference a well-constructed taxonomy can make in search and knowledge management efforts.

Taxonomies can help you improve site navigation, maximize reuse of content, and ease mergers and acquisitions, but they're not easy to build. You'll have to get departments and far-flung business units to agree on terms and hierarchies. You can save time and effort by starting with prebuilt taxonomies or by using clustering tools. When accuracy is imperative, ontologies define terms and apply rules for relationships between topics. Read on to make the right choices for your enterprise.