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DAM Best Practices

Building Order from Chaos: The Importance of Metadata Taxonomy

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Jun 27, 2024

Metadata taxonomy

In today's digital landscape, organizations often experience chaos and disorganization due to accumulating large amounts of content and digital assets across various locations like servers, hard drives, cloud storage systems like Dropbox, and DAM platforms

This disorder can hinder productivity, collaboration, and decision-making processes by making valuable digital assets hard to find and use. Even when assets live in the same location, they can be difficult to sort through and find due to the sheer volume of content brands create and store. 

Organizations can transform chaos into order by first collecting assets into a single location, which you can learn more about in this blog post, and then implementing a well-structured metadata taxonomy, enabling efficient search, dynamic filtering, and complex workflows.


Defining the Terms: What is a Metadata Taxonomy?

Metadata taxonomy is a systematic approach to organizing and classifying digital assets based on their metadata. Metadata includes the descriptive information associated with a file, such as its title, author, date created, and keywords. Some metadata is created automatically when assets are created, and other metadata is added to digital assets in a custom workflow. This type of metadata, also called “custom metadata,” is what a taxonomy works to organize and structure. 

A taxonomy is a hierarchical classification system that groups related items together. In this case, organizing your custom metadata into a taxonomy allows you and your team to enrich digital assets with extremely specific and powerful information in an organized way that leads to results.

Aim to set a solid baseline for your DAM, but in the initial phases avoid overcomplicating solutions and covering all potential use cases – avoid “boiling the ocean”. 

Maja Pejcic, Director of Delivery & Competency Management, Aprimo


Creating a Structured Framework: Designing Your Metadata Taxonomy

Building a taxonomy for your metadata is not only vital to future success but also can be a complex and confusing task for those who have never done it before. Below we’ve listed a few best practices for preparing and executing this project. If you’d like additional information and resources related to metadata taxonomy, contact Stacks today. Our team of DAM managers build and maintain taxonomies on a regular basis. 


Export a Snapshot of Existing Metadata

As we mentioned earlier, a taxonomy is simply a method of organizing like things together. To begin doing this, the best thing to do is, if possible, export a spreadsheet of existing metadata attached to your digital assets. In order to do this, all your priority assets should be collected in a single repository, ideally in the cloud. This allows you to get an idea of the types of metadata that you are working with.

Understand Your Content

Along with reviewing metadata, conduct a thorough audit of your digital assets, including their types, formats, and use cases. This audit helps identify the categories and subcategories needed in your taxonomy, much like analyzing inventory in a store. Along with looking at your existing metadata, you should have a great idea of where to begin.

Involve Stakeholders

Engage stakeholders from different departments to understand their content needs and preferences. Their involvement ensures the taxonomy is user-friendly and meets organizational requirements, similar to involving different teams in organizing store sections.

Agree on a Single Term

Along with your stakeholders, work to narrow down the scope of your metadata and agree on a single way of describing certain terms, use cases, and content. For example, if you are an apparel company, decide on whether you describe the jackets of a suit as a “suit jacket,” “sport coat,” or “blazer.” This will significantly improve search results and organization internally.

Organizations can create a powerful framework for organizing and managing their digital assets by combining metadata and taxonomies. This framework allows users to easily navigate, search, and retrieve relevant content, similar to how shoppers find items in a well-organized grocery store.


Ensuring Consistency: Implementing and Maintaining Metadata Taxonomy Standards

Once you have a documented taxonomy internally, it will need to be applied to your DAM program in a real way. Implementing a robust metadata taxonomy is crucial for several reasons:


Improved Content Discoverability

With a well-defined taxonomy,  users can locate the content they need more quickly, decreasing search time and increasing efficiency. Just like aisles in a grocery store are organized by product categories, a good taxonomy helps users easily find digital assets.

Enhanced Collaboration

A shared taxonomy ensures that everyone in the organization uses consistent terminology and classification, facilitating better collaboration and communication. This is similar to everyone using the same map in a store to find products, resulting in smoother coordination.

Better Content Governance

Metadata taxonomy enables organizations to establish clear guidelines and policies for content management, ensuring consistency and compliance across all digital assets. Just as a store’s management team maintains order by categorizing products, a taxonomy ensures digital assets are well-organized and governed.


In order to implement your metadata taxonomy, you’ll need to invest time and energy in applying, editing, and organizing the existing metadata attached to your assets. Ideally, this activity would occur while assets are centralized but prior to their ingestion and upload to the DAM platform they will eventually live within. Below we’ve listed some of the key activities involved with this implementation.


Mapping Metadata to the DAM Platform

With your metadata taxonomy in place, you can translate this organizational structure into your DAM platform to ensure that it provides real-world impact. This involves building custom metadata fields, populating them with associated terms, and ensuring they are directly related to IPTC fields to help with the ingestion process.

Setting Up Required Metadata

To ensure that your metadata taxonomy is followed and metadata is applied correctly and regularly, be sure to set up required metadata within your DAM platform. This allows you to govern the metadata being applied to your digital assets while also ensuring that a baseline is applied. 

Applying Metadata to Existing Assets

Where the previous activities ensure that future assets are searchable according to your metadata taxonomy, this activity allows you to create the same benefit for your existing assets. While there is a significant benefit to this activity, it also is incredibly time-consuming. Be sure that you enrich only priority assets that provide real value to users today rather than your entire archive.

Metadata taxonomy


Optimizing Search and Retrieval: Leveraging Metadata Taxonomy for Enhanced DAM Performance

Once your metadata taxonomy is created and implemented, you begin reaping the benefits. A well-designed metadata taxonomy optimizes search and retrieval, enhancing overall Digital Asset Management (DAM) performance in the following ways:


Improved Searchability

With a structured taxonomy, users can easily search for and find the content they need. This efficiency mirrors how clearly labeled aisles in a grocery store help shoppers quickly locate items.

Enhanced User Experience

A user-friendly taxonomy improves the overall experience for employees and stakeholders, making content retrieval intuitive and less time-consuming.

Data-Driven Insights

By analyzing how users interact with the taxonomy, organizations can gain insights into content usage patterns and make informed decisions about content strategy and management.



In this age of digital transformation, organizations can’t afford to operate in a state of content chaos. By implementing a well-designed metadata taxonomy, they can unlock the full potential of their digital assets, enabling better collaboration, decision-making, and overall productivity.

Ready to bring order to your content chaos? Contact Stacks today! Our experts will work with you to create a customized metadata taxonomy solution tailored to your organization's unique needs, ensuring effective management and utilization of your digital assets to help drive your organization’s success.

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