Defining a comprehensive metadata strategy is crucial for DAM administrators to ensure the system meets their set requirements and solves business challenges. The risks of not having a clear metadata strategy in place prior to migrating your assets can result in asset misuse, user confusion, and limitations to the overall usability of the system. The purpose of a digital asset management solution is to make the location, retrieval, usage, and sharing of digital assets a seamless and easy process. Accurate and useful search results depend on accurate and useful metadata, which requires a deliberate and consistent metadata strategy. Today we’re going to talk through some important tips we have around defining your metadata strategy before implementing your DAM solution, but first we’ll quickly review what metadata is and why it is so valuable in DAM.
What is Metadata and why is it so DAM important?
Metadata is the language of DAM. For those that don’t know, the simple definition of metadata is data about data. Metadata is an umbrella term used to group the many different data points attached to an asset that describe and help to identify it. In terms of DAM, metadata in combination with keywords and tags, make assets within your system searchable. Some metadata can be found embedded in the file itself, and some must be manually entered. The first step in developing a metadata strategy is understanding the different types of metadata, and how they work together to make your assets more easily discoverable. Metadata is broken into three main categories. Structural metadata indicates how a digital asset is organized, and may include things like page numbers, sections, chapters, and indexes. Administrative metadata relates to the technical source of the asset and includes data such as file type, date created, usage rights, license information, and more. Descriptive metadata is information that describes the asset such as asset title, author, owner, genre, and file size, to name a few. A good metadata structure uses a rules-based system of attributing metadata that’s intuitive to the user base and makes finding assets within the system painless. Now, we’ll take you through our best tips on developing your metadata strategy prior to asset migration.
#1: Define clear goals you want to achieve through the implementation and use of a DAM system
Defining and clearly stating the goals you aim to achieve through the implementation and use of the DAM is a crucial step to take when defining your metadata structure. Knowing how your users will be working with the system and why, allows you to tailor your metadata strategy accordingly to best meet their needs. For example, if you’re only using the DAM to track and share assets internally between departments, your metadata schema can likely be simple. On the other hand, if you’re using your DAM to share assets to a customer-facing website or with external users and sources, your model should be more complex. Either way, clearly defining business goals for the DAM acts as a framework from which to build your metadata strategy.
#2 Take inventory of your assets
Taking inventory of the assets you’ll be migrating into the DAM system is helpful in so many ways, and should be done prior to asset migration, and periodically once your system is up and running. When it comes to building a metadata strategy however, knowing what types of assets will be in your DAM is crucial. If you’re going to have mostly pictures and videos, the types of metadata that you require will be different than if you’re using your DAM to store office documents or audio files. It is likely that you’ll be using the DAM to host a myriad of file types, and it is important to outline what metadata is needed for each file type. For example, if you have rights-restricted content in your system, metadata can save you from legal hassles by preventing asset misuse and providing information on the status of licenses and expiration dates. Information pertaining to intellectual property and usage rights is categorized as administrative metadata. Regardless of what kinds of assets you’ll be storing in your DAM, its important to take inventory so you can determine what metadata is most important for your users. Conducting a content audit and taking inventory can be a meticulous process, using a content inventory template will help you stay organized.
#3: Keep your users top of mind
Think about your specific use case for DAM, and who in your company will be using the system most frequently. In order to create an effective metadata strategy you must first understand the perspective of the users. Identifying who’ll be using the DAM and how often is important, and it may help to put your users into groups based on parameters that make sense for your business. Understanding what information your users are likely to associate with different types of assets in your content library is fundamental when it comes to developing an intuitive metadata strategy. Identifying what information your users are inclined to associate with assets also allows you to predict what their search queries may look like. This is important because understanding what your users will be searching for helps you determine what metadata fields should be required for all assets.
#4 Use a rules-based system
As previously mentioned, some metadata is embedded in the asset itself, and some must be manually entered, but either way it is crucial that you have a set of rules to govern the metadata of your assets. For example, date formats can vary from country to country and even person to person. If some of users are entering dates displayed numerically, and some are spelling out the month, asset searchability decreases. Using a rules-based system for how metadata should be displayed not only ensures consistency from asset to asset, but also eliminates potential confusion, and increases asset searchability for your users. There are several common approaches to metadata tagging that will be helpful in determining a unique set of rules for your business. Keywords are descriptive terms that are added to asset records using either a free-form text field or by choosing from a pre-existing list.When working with a broad user base or large number of assets, it is important to provide guidance on how you expect users to attribute keywords. Keywords can be subjective, and what is intuitive to one user may not be intuitive to the next. Consider offering suggested keywords, or requiring your users to select from a defined list. Keywords, like other forms of metadata, help to increase asset searchability, but only when applied in a consistent way. Taxonomy is a structured metadata approach that consists of hierarchical keywords. Field-level text are short descriptors (words or phrases) that are organized in categories relevant to a particular subset or collection of assets. Picklists contain descriptive terms users can choose from, and can consist of suggested or required terms. You may determine that one, or a combination of these methodologies will work for your users, assets, and unique use case for DAM.
#5 Draft a metadata procedure & policy document
As we have learned, its imperative that standardized metadata schemas are established prior to asset migration into the DAM. The best way for DAM administrators to ensure metadata governance is by providing a written metadata procedure and policy document for their users. This policy will guide users on what metadata should be used, how it should be attributed, and why this is so important. This document should include data ingestion principles, data security principles, data retention & storage principles, and common metadata terms & usage examples. Providing your users with a comprehensive document that educates them on the value and context of metadata in the DAM helps to minimize inconsistencies. If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to building out your metadata strategy, check out our eBook: How to Build a Clear Metadata Strategy for your Business.
So now we know that metadata is essential to ensuring your DAM system works effectively and efficiently for your users. Without a deliberate and comprehensive metadata strategy in place, discovering and using the content within your system can become a messy process. The DAM is intended to be the single source of truth for all of your digital assets, and metadata is the final piece of the puzzle that organizes and makes your entire content library searchable. With a clear metadata strategy, an educated and trained user base, and a robust DAM system all working together to achieve business goals, the sky is the limit!