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Do you ever wish finding things in the real world was as easy as finding a piece of information on Google? What if, when you lost your car keys, rather than anxiously tearing the house apart for a couple of hours, you could just say “car keys” out loud and they would instantly appear? While that kind of technology may never be part of our lives, this kind of experience is possible in the business world.

Rather than frantically searching through various drives and servers for the product shots from last fall, it’s possible to simply type a few keywords into a search bar and quickly find exactly what you need. Making this possibility a reality, however, requires planning and work.

As digital assets become more and more prevalent in today's business world, managing them effectively is becoming increasingly important. While Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems are designed to help organizations keep track of all their digital assets, finding specific assets within a large library can still be time-consuming and frustrating.

You can make finding your assets much easier by applying custom metadata. In this blog, we'll discuss how these keywords enable Google-like search and why they're the key to effective digital asset management.

What Are Custom Metadata Keywords?

Metadata is information about data. In the case of digital assets, metadata includes information like file type, file size, creation date, and more. Custom metadata keywords are additional pieces of information that you can attach to your digital assets to make them easier to find. For example, in your personal photo library, you might assign keywords like "beach," "sunset," or "family" to individual photos from a family beach vacation.

Imagine that your personal photos are organized into a robust DAM program with keywords attached to each one. When someone wants to find a specific family photo from your 2012 beach trip, all they need to do to find it quickly is search for it using the right keywords.

Some metadata is attached to assets from the moment they're created. For photos, nearly all the data held within a digital camera is automatically attached to each asset. This typically includes capture time and date, the size of the file, the resolution, exposure, lens information, and more.

Other, custom metadata, needs to be attached to assets after they're created. This can be done manually, using editing or creative software like Adobe Bridge or PhotoMechanic, or through an automated DAM system that uses artificial intelligence to identify specific items within an asset. Some systems only allow metadata to be attached to assets within the system, making them searchable as long as they stay there. This can cause headaches when migrating assets to a new system.

How to Enable Google-Like Search Using Keywords

Google is known for its powerful search capabilities. One of the reasons it's so effective is that it uses metadata to categorize and organize information. Custom metadata keywords work similarly, enabling users to search for digital assets using natural language terms. Using our previous example, a user looking for a photo of a family at the beach might type "family beach photo" in the search bar. If you've attached those keywords to the relevant photos, they'll show up in the search results.

The problem for many organizations looking to enable this kind of search is two-fold. First, they have a difficult time creating a taxonomy—an organized way of categorizing metadata that allows users to successfully search for assets. Second, they often lack the time to attach metadata to their typically large library of assets properly. Without both of these, a Google-like search experience isn’t possible.

If your organization is struggling with either of these issues, contact Stacks! We help organizations, regardless of industry, develop robust and understandable taxonomies and apply them strategically to their assets. To give you an idea of our expertise, below are a few of our best practices for using metadata to enable Google-like search in a DAM system.

Stacks’ Best Practices for Enabling Successful Search

  • Use a phased approach. Developing a taxonomy and applying it to assets is often overwhelming due to the large volume of assets that need to be processed. To reduce this burden, divide your assets into sections to work through one phase at a time. Start by developing categories of metadata that apply to all your assets. Next, for each category, decide what other relevant pieces of information you want to attach. From there, work through each section according to how relevant and useful it is to the day-to-day operations of your organization.

  • Prioritize signal and cut down on noise. When it comes to metadata, less is often more. One metaphor that’s been useful to our team is that of signal and noise. When using a radio, the “signal” is what you’re trying to hear. “Noise” is the static and other sounds that make it difficult to hear your signal. It’s all sound, but not all of it's useful. The same applies to metadata, specifically keywords. If there's too much information applied to assets or the same keyword is applied to everything, it hurts your search results. Be sure to prioritize signal over noise.

  • Document all standards and train end-users. As you create your metadata taxonomy, document it. A taxonomy is something that changes with your organization, so make sure it’s easy to edit and tweak. It should also be easy for anyone who references it to understand. Alongside this effort, make sure that the end-users who will be applying and using this metadata to organize and find assets are involved in the process of creating it. It’s important that they understand what metadata is and how it can make their lives easier.

  • Regularly collect feedback and audit metadata. Once you’ve begun using metadata to enable search, determine how useful it is. Are your end-users able to find things more quickly? What keywords are proving to be signals, and which are just noise, muddying up search results? Whether you pull this data from your digital asset management (DAM) platform or collect it by word of mouth, it’s important to know what’s working and what isn’t. As time goes on, make sure that someone is managing the metadata in your system, auditing assets, and keeping your taxonomy up to date.


Custom metadata keywords are a powerful tool for digital asset management. By assigning relevant keywords to your assets, you can enable Google-like search for your end-users, making it much easier for them to find what they need. This saves time, reduces frustration, and ultimately leads to more efficient and effective use of your digital assets.

If you're not already using custom metadata keywords in your DAM system, it's time to start! Contact Stacks today if you need help with this process.

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