Sunteți pe pagina 1din 7

Best Practices for Metadata in DAM Systems

Best Practices for Metadata in DAM Systems

Best Practices for Metadata in DAM Systems


Whether marketing to businesses or consumers, most companies are placing a greater emphasis on gener- ating content to convert browsers into buyers and customers into advocates. Nearly all of this content is stored as digital assets. An ongoing Widen survey shows that the biggest challenge faced by respondents in working with digital assets is simply finding them. Digital asset management (DAM) systems have the potential to overcome this challenge by automating the process of ingesting, managing, archiving, searching, sharing, repurposing and publishing content in a seamless and collaborative environment.

What are the biggest challenges your company faces while



working with digital assets?



Finding Assets



Providing Access To People Within The Organization



Providing Access To Partners



Tracking Versions



Reusing/Repurposing Assets



Distribution To Multiple Locations



Handling Multiple Formats



Publication In Different Formats



Asset Creation Process



DAM systems rely upon metadata, information that describes a media asset, to direct users to the specific assets they are seeking. The key to fast and thorough identification of digital assets that fit a particular requirement is implementing best practices within your organization that ensure the right metadata is attached to every asset that enables the asset to be appropriately called up in search results. This white paper will provide an overview of the role of metadata in a DAM system and prescribe best practices that will improve your marketing effort by enabling users to quickly find the content they need to build lasting relationships with customers.

Why should you invest in a DAM system?

The move to digital media has led to an enormous growth in digital marketing content. Nearly any organiza- tion with marketing operations most likely has accumulated hundreds, thousands, and in many cases tens of thousands, of digital assets. The problem is that these important assets are usually scattered throughout the organization on the personal hard drives of content creators or marketing staff, department shared drives, etc., creating bottlenecks and inefficiencies in finding and utilizing these valuable assets.

Best Practices for Metadata in DAM Systems

DAM systems can overcome these problems by automating the process of ingesting, archiving, searching, managing, repurposing, sharing and publishing content in a seamless and collaborative environment. DAM provides a central repository for digital media files and a set of tools to store, manage the approval of, find and convert these files to increase their value in the marketing process.

Everyone involved will save a considerable amount of time by finding digital assets much faster than in the past. The net result is that DAM can greatly reduce the time required to make the channel and potential customers aware of a new product. For example, AberdeenGroup found best-in-class companies central- izing access to digital assets report a 23% year-over-year reduction in time to market and a 15% increase in average return on marketing investments.

What is metadata?

One of the simplest and best definitions of metadata was provided by the website EverythingIsMiscellanous. com: “Metadata is what you know and data is what you are looking for.” Tom Bachmann refines the concept by defining metadata in the context of DAM as: “… information that describes a media asset stored in a digital depository. Because metadata is structured information, it allows the distribution of digital assets to be controlled while at the same time making them accessible (via search) to a wide community of end users.” 1 Unlike textual data, many forms of digital media assets do not provide textual information that can be used to find them. As the volume of assets in a typical DAM system grows into thousands and sometimes millions, metadata makes it possible to for users to quickly find assets that meet their requirements.

Metadata is, or should be, associated with every asset in a typical DAM system. The metadata is typically customizable for each site and for different types or groups of assets. For example, a product photo may be searched for by product name, product number, photographer, description and date taken. On the other hand, a video asset may contain metadata for location, producer, language and description. Defining the metadata structure for your DAM system requires carefully thinking about how users will search for and find the digital assets in your DAM system. Some DAM software providers will assist with the task of defining the metadata models and taxonomies that are needed for your assets. The challenge in managing metadata is to ensure that you have enough for users to find the assets they are looking for while minimizing the administrative task of entering and maintaining the data.

Industry standard schema

Rather than reinventing the wheel, it usually makes sense to start with an industry standard metadata schema such as Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) or Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS). For example, the DCMI provides a base of 15 elements that can be used to describe digital assets:

  • 1. Contributor: An entity responsible for making contribution to the resource.

  • 2. Coverage: The spatial or temporal topic of the resource, the spatial applicability of the resource, or the jurisdiction under which the resource is relevant.

  • 3. Creator: An entity primarily responsible for making the resource.

  • 4. Date: A point or period of time associated with an event in the life cycle of the resource.

  • 5. Description: An account of the resource.

1 Tom Bachmann, “Video metadata modeling for DAM systems,” Journal of Digital Asset Management, Vol. 6, 5, 247-256, 2010.

Best Practices for Metadata in DAM Systems

  • 6. Format: The file format, physical medium, or dimensions of the resource.

  • 7. Identifier: An unambiguous reference to the resource within a given context.

  • 8. Language: A language of the resource.

  • 9. Publisher: An entity responsible for making the resource available.

    • 10. Relation: A related resource.

    • 11. Rights: Information about rights held in and over the resource.

    • 12. Source: A related resource from which the described resource is derived.

    • 13. Subject: The topic of the resource.

    • 14. Title: A name given to the resource.

    • 15. Type: The nature or genre of the resource.

File naming standards

While a file name convention is not essential to using a Digital Asset Management system, the creation of and adherence to consistent file naming will help to optimize asset/metadata entry; manage conflicts, duplicates, and versions; and search in a collaborative workflow. Criteria for file naming should be established by a top level administrator and published for all users to follow.

While there is generally no right way to develop your file naming standard, here are a few tips that may help you get started. Typically, about 25 characters is a sufficient length to capture enough descriptive informa- tion for naming an asset as some systems may truncate file names beyond a certain length. Ensure that the file name is independent of where the asset is stored as assets are intended to be agile and move around quite frequently. File names may commonly include customer number, product number, style code, brand, job number and other common identifiers used and understood my multiple departments or groups outside of those immediately responsible for DAM. Most importantly, be consistent with your file naming inside and outside of your DAM system.

Try to avoid the use of special symbols such as “*”, “?”, “:”, “\”, and “/” that are often assigned specific tasks in software programs. As an example, both the Windows and Macintosh operating systems use the “ . ” symbol to separate file extensions. The Microsoft Windows operating system uses the forward slash to provide a boundary between different levels of folders. The Macintosh operating system uses the “ : ” symbol for the same purpose. It’s also wise to avoid the use of spaces in file names because they are often replaced with “%20” in the web environment which can create confusion in identifying the file name.

Controlled vocabularies

The quality of the user experience of a DAM system is largely dependent on the quality of the metadata that is used, especially the keywords that are used to describe digital assets. If users are allowed to freely tag assets the odds are that similar assets will be described in widely varying ways and very different assets may

Best Practices for Metadata in DAM Systems

end coincidentally with the same tags. Groups of co-workers may share common terminology that the rest of the organization is unaware of.

The solution is to develop a controlled vocabulary that limits the use of keywords describing digital media assets to a predefined and unambiguous list of terms. A controlled vocabulary includes a defined set of terms (values) using controlled field types and is typically defined by a thesaurus that provides a listing of the controlled vocabulary, identifies synonyms and provides a cross-reference of metadata terminology. A key function of the thesaurus is typically to identify a preferred term in the case where multiple terms are commonly used to describe a certain type of asset. A list of synonyms that the preferred term should be used in place of are included in the thesaurus. Another role of a thesaurus is to define a relationship between general terms, such as “dog”, and specific terms, such as “collie.” It’s important to note that a thesaurus can be very sparsely populated with terms that do not pertain to the organization’s primary focus while diving down to a much higher level of detail in closely related subjects.

A thesaurus improves the usability of a DAM system by providing a common tagging language across the organization that makes it easier for users to find the assets they are looking for. Users can browse the thesaurus to identify search terms that will help them find what they are looking for. Assets described with more specific search terms will be found when searching on a more general term. A good thesaurus increases the number of potential hits from a fraction of the actual matches to nearly every actual match.

Importing metadata

Content imports are the first place to look in generating metadata because they dramatically reduce the manual labor and lead time required. Metadata can be automatically populated into a DAM system through several different methods:

Extract embedded metadata from a digital file and populate the metadata fields when the file is uploaded

A one-time initial import to transfer metadata from another system into the DAM repository

Using an application programming interface (API) to integrate between the DAM solution and another application for continuous imports in real-time or on a schedule

Digital files may have metadata already embedded in EXIF, IPTC, or XMP metadata fields. These embedded metadata can be automatically mapped directly to searchable metadata fields within the DAM system. When the asset is uploaded into the system, the metadata is automatically extracted from the digital file and placed into that asset’s metadata field in the DAM system. The metadata field mapping can be set up during the site implementation.

Metadata is most commonly imported in CSV or XLS format. The data must contain a unique identifier to match up the data with the digital asset within the DAM system. The unique identifier is commonly the filename of the digital asset. Along with the unique identifier, the metadata fields and values for each asset need to be included.

When integrating with a content management system it often makes sense to populate metadata into the DAM library continuously. DAM systems often provide an API that makes it possible to write methods to update the metadata in real time or on a batch basis at any desired interval.

Best Practices for Metadata in DAM Systems

Applying metadata in bulk

When implementing a DAM system, it can be a major challenge to enter metadata for an enormous digital asset base that has been built up over the years. Yet entering metadata is critical to obtaining full value from your full library of digital assets. Batch editing has the potential to greatly reduce the time required to enter common metadata for large numbers of assets. Batch editing makes it possible to apply changes simultane- ously across a large number of assets, for example classifying groups of assets as logos, product images, lifestyle images, brochures, etc.

DAM systems frequently offer several batch editing tools that can be used to substantially reduce the data entry task at the time of ingest or after the assets are already in the system. These tools make it possible to select multiple files and apply common metadata to all of them simultaneously. Assets may already be orga- nized in a way that will simplify metadata entry. For example, they may be organized into folders based on the type of asset or the product involved.

Preexisting file naming conventions often provide information such as the product or division that the asset pertains to. File name extensions usually determine the type of digital asset such as video or still image. In most cases, additional metadata needs to be added to the individual files but the DAM system can save large amounts of time by automatically entering the majority of the needed information.

Caption best practices

Captions are short descriptive sentences that are designed to provide a quick summary of the assets’ contents. The importance of captions arises from the fact that they are typically used in search results as the primary identifier of the nature of the assets. The organization should provide guidelines to ensure that users can easily identify the assets that are most likely to meet their needs from within the search results. The caption should be carefully selected to call out the significance of the asset to potential users. The seasoned caption writer should be able to summarize the significance of the asset in a short sentence that commu- nicates whether or not the asset will meet the user’s needs. It’s important to note that captions need not duplicate existing metadata since the search results are already limited to specific metadata criteria.

Evaluating metadata effectiveness

If metadata is all about finding data, then the key to evaluating the effectiveness of metadata is to determine how easily and quickly users are able to find the digital assets they are seeking. Marko Hurst, consultant in the fields of search, measurement, content strategy and user experience says: “To deliver the most relevant results possible today, you need more than algorithms, you need a human understanding of language. You need someone who understands content modeling and structure, your audience’s natural language, and your business vernacular in the form of metadata: taxonomies, ontologies and metadata schemas… Search analytics provides a quantifiable way to measure the relevancy of search results, as well as to inform how well or poor the design and overall user experience are performing against your business objectives.” 2

2 Marko Hurst, “Search relevancy got your down? Learn how to use metadata to lift your results (and your mood,” Journal of Digital Asset Management, Vol 6, 5, 285-290. 2010.

Best Practices for Metadata in DAM Systems

Benefits of metadata

Proper use of these and other metadata best practices will help to ensure maximum benefits from a DAM system implementation. Better metadata enables users to find digital assets faster which in turn improves productivity and helps speed time to market. Metadata not only enhances search-ability, but can also be used to maintain and track key pieces of information dealing with copyright compliance, process and workflow consistency, and digital asset reporting and auditing. Following metadata best practices also helps to ensure compliance with regulations that require that assets be made available promptly to various constituencies. Another advantage of implementing metadata best practices is that you will be prepared to substantially scale up the DAM system as the use of digital assets increases within your organization.


With the explosion of digital assets, a DAM system is becoming essential for the success of every marketing organization. Following metadata best practices and establishing metadata guidelines for your organization is one of the keys to the success of a DAM system. The time and effort devoted to metadata should be propor- tionate to the benefits that are received. Fortunately, tools are available that can automate large portions of the metadata entry process. The use of a complete and efficient thesaurus can also improve the quality of metadata and ensure the completeness of search results. Captioning plays an important role by enabling users to quickly identify relevant assets within search results. All in all, time invested in metadata will provide a substantial return by increasing the productivity of digital asset users.

For More Information

International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC)

Abobe’s Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP)


Controlled Vocabulary

The Photo Metadata Project