4 Metadata best practices for Digital Assets

If you've ever used the likes of Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft SharePoint for organising digital assets you'll have probably been frustrated at how difficult it can be to find what you're looking for.

Unless you can remember the file name you won't be able to search for it, and trying to find your way through the folder structure is very time consuming - especially if you didn't set it up or people aren't saving files in the right place.

Structured metadata is one of the most important differences between Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems and simple file storage solutions. In this article we're going to look at four best practices for using metadata as part of a DAM.

What is metadata in relation to digital assets?

When talking about metadata in terms of a Digital Asset Management library, it's the information used to describe or classify an asset. This could be related to colour, image dimensions, audio or video duration, or information about what the asset contains.


The Complete Guide to Metadata

Learn more around how metadata can enhance your digital assets

Read more

Types of metadata

Metadata can be broken down into different categories:


There are two types of administrative metadata (information that helps manage an asset):

  1. Preservation metadata containing details relating to how long the asset can be used.
  2. Rights management metadata which relates to intellectual property and usage rights. This metadata ensures you can't accidentally use an asset after your permissions have expired.


The search functionality of DAMs are intuitive and easy to use, and they're powered by descriptive metadata.

This type of metadata includes anything that would be useful when searching for an asset, including the title, author/creator and any descriptive keywords that could be associated with it.

For example, descriptive metadata for an image of a couple holding hands could include 'couple', 'love', 'people' and 'relationship'.

Structural metadata

Structural metadata relates to how an asset is formatted or configured, for example its size, dimensions and format.

Metadata best practices

Now we've defined what metadata is in terms of Digital Asset Management, let's take a look at the best practices you should be aware of to make sure you're getting the most out of your DAM's metadata.

1. Define the fields your organisation needs


Metadata gives you huge scope for categorising and describing digital assets. However, to make sure your team is using the system consistently, it's best to define your metadata fields and, where appropriate, limit the options a user can choose from. The structure of your metadata is known as the metadata schema.

Draw up a list of around 10 to 20 fields to start with that cover off the most important information about your digital assets. Don't worry, you'll be able to add more fields (and field options) later on.

The metadata fields your organisation needs will depend on the industry you're in, but some common ones include:

  • Asset name/title
  • Product or part numbers
  • Asset creator, author or owner
  • 'Action dates', usually related to usage permissions - 'Date created' and 'Expiry date', for example.
  • Asset type
  • The asset's 'subject', e.g. family, vehicle, building, etc.

Keep your metadata schema clear and concise. Before choosing to include a metadata field ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this information relate to the usage rights of the digital asset?
  2. Will this metadata provide value to the DAM users?

2. Create a clear naming convention for each metadata field

DAM software metadata lets you search for digital assets based on simple keyword searches, but if the system's users aren't uploading similar files in the same way, things are going to get complicated. File naming conventions are important, but this consistency should spread to all metadata fields too.

For example, with high-level asset categories it's useful to restrict the users' options and set specific choices from a drop-down menu. Otherwise, grammatical inconsistencies like tenses, plurals and typos can cause havoc with your DAM organisation.


Your choices for defining your metadata conventions are endless, but whatever you decide, it needs to be agreed on and used by everyone uploading assets to the DAM. Below are some tips for creating your naming convention:

  • Avoid special characters (! ? @ # $, etc.) as these aren't as obvious from a searching perspective, and they also sometimes have special meaning to the operating system.
  • Think about how file names could be interpreted by someone outside of the company, as sometimes they might pop up in embed codes or share links.

3. Provide training for all DAM users

The success of your DAM implementation and subsequent user adoption will come down to the training. This is also the case for making sure DAM users know how to use metadata correctly.

Create a metadata standards document and make sure everyone who'll be using the system understands it and why it's so important.

Getting the whole team involved in the process for defining your metadata schema also makes a big difference for ensuring digital assets are being categorised in the right way.

A detailed metadata standards document is also essential for a smooth transition to a new DAM administrator in the future, if required.

4. Continually refine the metadata used

Your DAM's metadata schema should not be a 'set-and-forget' project. As the system evolves and grows, so should your metadata, and you should be continually refining what's used, removing fields that the team aren't getting use out of and adding new ones when the need arises or they're requested.


A lot of the major DAM vendors, including ResourceSpace, will provide reports on user search activity which is crucial for identifying gaps in your DAM's metadata, or where people are wasting time entering data that isn't searched for. We can also show keywords being searched for that don't return any results, which might be a sign your metadata hasn't been set up correctly, or that your DAM doesn't have the resources people are looking for.

How ResourceSpace uses metadata

ResourceSpace offers advanced metadata functionality and field configuration, including AI automated tagging to save you time when uploading assets.

The recognition tool will automatically detect objects, items, faces and places in visual assets, and suggest appropriate keywords. What's more, any identifiable text can be read to a separate field, while our Facial Recognition function can suggest tags for specific people based on previously tagged faces.

Click here to find out more about our advanced metadata field configuration.

Want to see how your metadata schema could work in ResourceSpace, and see our AI tagging functionality in action? Launch your free ResourceSpace instance with 10GB of storage within seconds, with no time or feature restrictions.