What is Metadata and How is it Used in Digital Asset Management?

If you are reading this, you may already have an idea of what metadata is, or you may be looking for an easy-to-understand explanation. For those that don’t, a simple explanation for metadata is the set of attributes that are used to describe assets (photos, graphics, PDFs, videos etc). Good metadata is critical for digital asset management to ensure that your assets are categorized and organized to be easily found. On the other side of the spectrum, bad metadata creates clutter and confusion, making finding assets difficult, and often deters users from adopting a DAM system.

So how do you Create Good Metadata for Your DAM System?

Just imagine for a moment that you’re in the shoes of Sally the Creative Manager, and you’re searching through hundreds, if not thousands of files, to find assets to decorate your new company car-sales brochure. What metadata should be included in your documents so that Sally can search and find assets that are relevant to her project?

When you’re creating metadata, you’ll need to plan your keywords around what’s important to your business and what your employees, like Sally as depicted above, need so they can search and narrow down digital assets quickly and easily.

There are two types of metadata you’ll need to work with: derivative and subjective. Derivative is metadata that is already embedded into a file. Derivative data from a stock photo, for example, could include the photographer’s name or the color mode (CMYK, RGB, Grayscale). Subjective metadata, however, is added from the point of view of the person tagging the assets, based on what’s important to the business. You’ll be able to customize subjective data for Sally, but not derived metadata.

If we know that Sally markets to customers that like to drive their cars in different places and times of the day, we could add metadata that depicts these critical factors, such as car placement (ie. forest, mountainside, city), season (spring, summer, fall, winter), and time of day (morning, midday, evening, night). If Sally knows she’s marketing a vehicle for its great tire traction in the winter icy daylight, she could now search the digital asset management system with the keywords ‘winter mountainside morning’ to find a relevant image for her project.

Now that you understand how metadata can help DAM system users find the assets they are looking for faster and more efficiently, let’s take a look at how you can use your newfound knowledge to build a rock-solid metadata strategy that your users will love.

Three Digital Asset Management Metadata Strategy Best Practices

After working with customers to make the most out of their digital asset management systems for over 20 years, the team at Northplains has learned a lot about what works, and doesn’t work, for implementing an effective DAM metadata strategy. Here are three best practices that we stand by and we believe they will take your metadata to the next level:

Use 50 Metadata Fields or Less

We recommend that our customers first identify the key points that are important to their business and then create a controlled vocabulary of 50 terms or less. This way, a company can ensure users avoid spelling mistakes when entering metadata, and that assets are tagged consistently across the digital asset management system with required elements, in addition to optional tags, for a more complete record.

Don’t Have Make Too Many Required Fields

Make sure you don’t require too many required metadata fields that must be filled or asset metadata tagging will become a chore. For example, if there are 50 fields in a form and all 50 must be filled, it’s unlikely that your users will feel motivated to fill in the required information to effectively put together a complete record. Instead, ensure that your users can choose from a picklist of the most important tags, with optional tags too.

Use Terminology your Users Know

Always plan your metadata strategy around vocabulary that is most relevant to your business. Questions to ask may include: What are the type of keywords that you want to capture? Is it descriptive? Is it a date or number? Is it a theme such as family, social or professional? Asking questions that are relevant to your company goals can help you create like-minded elements to use for your metadata fields and controlled vocabulary.

Find Your Assets Better, Faster and Smarter with Good Metadata

With a stronger understanding of what good metadata entails, we hope that your metadata strategy will enable your users to find the assets they are looking for faster, produce more and search less. While adding metadata may seem tedious, structured metadata is the foundation for building a digital asset management system that enhances searchability, and increases brand consistency. Best of all, good metadata will make it easier for your users to find the assets they are looking for, leading to greater overall adoption of your DAM system.