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Metadata Matters When Managing Digital Assets

Metadata. It’s a small word that can have enormous impact on managing digital assets, files and media, saving you time, money and, potentially, even legal woes. Too bad many marketing departments don’t even know it exists, let alone use it.

But they should. They really, really should. 

The most widely used definition of metadata is that it’s data about data, a description that provides little guidance as to what it actually is, why anybody needs it or how it can help take your digital asset management (DAM) to the next level.

Yet, when understood and implemented properly, metadata can help make your business more efficient and your business processes more productive.

How? By ensuring anyone within your organisation can find what they need - even if they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for. 

digital asset management network communicate metadata


Ok, so I get metadata is important, but I still don’t understand what it is.

Metadata is all the extra information about something. Think of a book. A book’s metadata would be details such as the author, the book’s subject, the language it is written in and the publisher.  

Now, take a song. Regardless of whether this song is digital or analogue, the metadata would include details such as genre, the composer, the record label and the place it was recorded. 

Similarly, for a photograph, the metadata would include the photographer’s name, the date the image was shot, its subject and, perhaps, the image’s copyright status. 

See, metadata really is data about data or, put more simply, it’s just extra information about a digital asset. 

But how does all this extra information help my business?

By adding metadata to your digital assets, you make them much easier to find and sort and share. 

No matter how powerful your DAM’s search functionality, if your files contain little or no metadata, it will be difficult to find resources you need quickly or without performing numerous, time-wasting extra searches. 


Meta Data Expert Computer


To get an idea of the time-saving benefits of metadata, look at the image above, titled “Smiling Professional Woman” and imagine it was part of your stock image library. 

It contains an image of a young, professional woman sitting at a laptop computer.

Logically, when searching for a photo of a happy employee for, say, your Annual Report, your graphic designer isn’t going to type in ‘Smiling Professional Woman.’ 

They would, more likely, search for images that describe the image situation, such as happy, young, 30s, landscape, white collar, female professional, executive, lady, woman, work, laptop, and/or person sitting at a computer. 

The results of this tiny, seemingly innocuous, procedure would be that your graphic designer would not likely ever find this image unless a range of keyword data were associated with the file.  The consequences of not finding the image could range from them spending extra money purchasing another costly stock image; that they may re-use an old image that the company is only licenced to use once or, worst of all, they may just breach someone else’s copyright and use an unauthorised image. 

All three scenarios are bad for your business – and they’re completely avoidable.

However, by adding strategic metadata to the image when it is uploaded to your DAM) platform, you can ensure that the majority of search combinations can be accommodated and even widen the search parameters by adding extra keywords, such as webcam, suit, diary or businesswoman. The possibilities are endless.

The number of additional metadata terms included will ensure this image shows up in at least 12 more searches, but if you were to add dates, versioning, colour information or even more allied terms, suddenly, despite being incorrectly named, this versatile little file will start showing up much more often. 

So, where do I add metadata and what’s the best way to structure my assets?

Metadata can be added to your digital asset directly or via your DAM platform.  When developing your taxonomy structure, it’s important that your metadata consists of the following key aspects.

1. Your business: Your files don’t live in a vacuum but, rather, they are related to your business. Metadata can be used to define a file by your products, brands, markets/geographies and themes (i.e. families, women, men).

2. The file:  Information relating to the title, description, who the file was created by and when, as well as the date of creation, the file type, the file’s unique ID, etc.

3. Copyright information:  Metadata relating to copyright, ownership, licensing, renewal date and other usage information should always be included, especially when dealing with digital assets owned by third-parties or even internal assets related to your own branding.

Here’s a downloadable infographic that will help you think about the best way to structure your digital assets using a metadata taxonomy.


Metadata IntelligenceBank


Adding metadata to a file can avoid unnecessary legal woes such as copyright breaches. 

As mentioned above, the file’s metadata may also contain usage rights, so anyone intending to use that file could be shown that it was already used as part of an email newsletter and, therefore, may or may not be used again as per your stock image account’s licencing agreement. 

Similarly, the metadata may show that the image can only be used editorially or until a certain date. That, too, is crucial information that should be conveyed each time the file is accessed. The most intuitive DAM platforms, such as IntelligenceBank, will even alert you via email when such dates are approaching or an asset is about to expire. 

Wow. Metadata sounds great, but how do I add metadata to my assets?

Just as the metadata for your book can be found on its cover and inside pages, the metadata for digital assets are contained within the file itself and, therefore, go wherever your file goes. 

Metadata can be added automatically, as may be the case with a digital photograph where modern cameras can instantly pick up the GPS co-ordinates of where the picture was taken, the date it was shot and model of camera it was shot with.   Alternatively, metadata can be added manually.

Sophisticated DAM platforms such as IntelligenceBank Marketing offers some serious metadata muscle, automatically extracting any metadata associated with a file upon upload.

It and also enables you to add additional information that may be missing and, among other functions, to control file visibility permissions, to attach parent and child categories or to allocate pre-set ‘tags, all of which ensures similar assets can be grouped together intuitively and automatically.

See. Adding extra information about your information can be of enormous benefit to any business. It ensures the digital assets you’ve spent time and money creating are easier to find, easier to share (but only with the right people) and much, much easier to track. 

Still don't understand metadata? If not, ask your question below and we'll answer it!

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