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What is a Digital Library and How Do You Build One?

at Audience development

If you’ve been running a magazine or some other publication for a while, chances are that you have some great premium content, content that may be languishing in your archives. What are you doing with this content? Is it all published online? If so, is it published the right way, such that it benefits you? How much traffic does it generate?

Digital library

Your historical timeline of content is one of your greatest assets. Every product and service online is being promoted using some form of content because that’s how search engines determine search results: good content. If you have a large archive of good content already, then guess what? The hard part is taken care of. Here’s how to put your older high quality content back to work.

Start with the CMS

Your premium content needs to be published as text and images. The person with the ultimate control here should ideally be an editor. Magazines should empower that editor, by using an open source content management system (CMS).

Having a CMS helps you to publish, edit, and organise your content easily. The best CMSes for the job are Joomla or WordPress; these are both free, open source content management systems that will help you build a great foundation for your existing digital library.

Plan and Develop the Sitemap

The content itself won’t do you any good if it’s not well organized. This process is quite complex, but it’s very important to do it right. All the content needs to be organized by category, subcategory, and appropriate tags. Be careful when choosing the categories and subcategories you write about.

To build a proper tag list, you’ll need to do some research using, say, Google’s keyword planner. This tool is free to use if you have an active Google Adwords account. Don’t have one? There are other tools around that approach this.

Other keyword research tools:

  1. KWFinder
  2. Moz’s Keyword Explorer
  3. Keyword Tool
  4. SEMrush

Choose the tool you prefer.

Next, start your research by adding your most intuitive keywords (categories and subcategories), which will give you more keyword ideas and help you understand what people are searching for in your niche. The tools will also provide you with the number of searches done each month with each respective keyword so you can start estimating the traffic you get and determine which keywords are working best. You can somtimes start with your domain’s URL if your content is pretty filled out with intuitive keywords already.

The list of keywords you’ll create is your “keyword universe.” Add all of these keywords to your tag list on your CMS and keep reusing the ones that match for your articles.

Note: Never add new tags to your articles randomly; each tag should ideally be researched for intent and keyword volume and used consistently to deliver the best results.

It’s also handy to use tech-level tags that can help you filter and group the content by year, by issue, or by any other criteria you might need.

Load the Content

All the content needs to me loaded to the database in the right structure. By default, each article needs to have a title, alias (URL), category, tags, headings, intro text, body text, images, meta keywords, meta description, and OG tags. Having this structure will help you publish and reuse your content in various ways.

Choose a Paywall Model

Your digital library will become your greatest asset no matter what your publishing model. Because of its value, you may wish to monetize your archive. The content in your digital library can be free, but it’s worth considering partly free access or members only access.

a. The free access model is where all content can be read for free. In most cases, its ads are heavy on content with a subscribe box on the side. In some cases we’ll add a popup that asks visitors to subscribe to your mailing list.

b. The partly free access model means that visitors will be able to read part of a premium article for free. After that excerpt, they’ll be asked to subscribe to read the full article. There’s also the method to give full access to a limited number of premium articles per period of time, like one per week or month. In this case, when a visitor tries to read the second article, the popup will show up asking them to subscribe or become a member.

c. The members only access model means that all the premium content is available for logged in visitors only. In this case, it’s smart to have a little intro text that introduces each article and builds interest for the visitors, like a sales copy, with a button to read more. When “read more” is clicked, the visitor is asked to sign up or login.

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If you have a free or partly free access model, your content will be fully crawled by google. This also is ideal.

Upsell digital library access. Access to the digital library can also be sold as a subscription package or as an upsell with your main product. If readers like your magazine, they’ll most likely choose it because it grants access to a huge resource of premium content right away.

At Flip180 Media, we have built a proprietary system that works on Joomla CMS, which can help you build an effective digital library. Contact us to discuss how a digital library can benefit your publishing business.

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Vee Banionis
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