October 27, 2022

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A beginner’s guide to DAM taxonomy

If you want your creative teams to produce their best work, then they need instant access to digital assets. But granting access to these materials is easier said than done. Not only do you need a centralized Digital Asset Management system (DAM), but you also need a streamlined DAM taxonomy that classifies assets in a way that your users can understand. But what is a DAM taxonomy exactly?

Julie Allouch

Julie Allouch

Search Marketing Manager

If you want your creative teams to produce their best work, then they need instant access to digital assets. But granting access to these materials is easier said than done. Not only do you need a centralized Digital Asset Management system (DAM), but you also need a streamlined DAM taxonomy that classifies assets in a way that your users can understand. But what is a DAM taxonomy exactly?

A Digital Asset Management (DAM) taxonomy is a label used to classify and categorize digital assets into related groups that users can navigate. The category of the label can be physical, i.e., how the asset is stored, or virtual, i.e., how the asset is perceived/navigated. Defining a taxonomy enables a company to enhance virtual navigation to assets so employees and customers can find assets easily.

One of the main challenges of building a taxonomy is recognizing that how customers navigate is different from person to person. For example, on a retail site, Person A might navigate to shirts via Women > Tops, whereas Person B might get there via Tops>Women. A taxonomy enables a company to build virtual navigation on a site so that every customer can find what they’re looking for easily. Facilitating the asset lifecycle and production.

Organisations like retail companies can use taxonomy language to set out a process for customers to find relevant products. For instance, building a taxonomy where a user searches for women’s tops through the following search path women>tops or tops>women. Taxonomy categories include anything from a keyword to a tag, file format, photographer, or department.

A user can define a taxonomy to group digital assets and build a framework for other users to search for creative assets.

Netflix provides an excellent example of a simple taxonomy process. The site breaks down films into categories, like Action & Adventure films, Comedies, Documentaries or Netflix Originals, so that users can easily navigate to the content they want to see.

There are many ways that DAM process can enhance your creative process. At a higher level, you can create DAM Workflows that can help improve your productivity. Cloud-based Digital Asset Management workflows can eliminate the lack of transparency and inefficient manual processes over assets by providing you with structured workflows that automate the asset management process.  

Why is a digital asset management taxonomy important? And how is it different from metadata?

A DAM taxonomy is important because it provides a consistent language for users to find digital assets. DAM users can navigate to assets by using optimized predefined categories, so they don’t have to search for content through ad-hoc tags, metadata or a traditional folder structure.

In other words, digital asset management folder structure taxonomy defines the route that a user can take to find an individual asset outside of a hierarchical structure, helping to meet the contextual needs of the user navigating. The more relevant the tags and categories, the shorter the user journey is, and the faster the user can locate the assets they need to create marketing materials.

It’s important to note the difference between taxonomy and metadata, the latter being a term that refers to all the collective information you hold about an asset. Digital Assets Metadata includes information like title, file type, description, location, and licensing. Hence, software performing on a search term will get too many search results.

The main difference between metadata and DAM taxonomy is that the former is all the data held on an asset, whereas the taxonomy is the categories used to find those assets.

Digital asset management taxonomy: Five steps to build a DAM taxonomy

The process for building and implementing a DAM taxonomy involves five main steps:

1. Conduct a digital asset management audit

The first step in building a DAM taxonomy is to identify who needs to access what assets and what type of assets they want to store. Identifying who will use and store assets on the Digital Asset Management system will help you create a more relevant taxonomy structure with classifications that your target users can understand.

Consulting users is essential if multiple teams are going to be accessing creative assets. For example, if your marketing team and your sales team need to access the same assets, then you’ll need to communicate with each to find categories that are relevant to each team’s requirements.

2. Audit existing digital assets & folder structures

The next step is to take an inventory of all existing assets in relevant folders, personal drives, cloud storage solutions, or network drives and consolidate them into a single location. For the best results, import all assets that your employees will need to use on a day-to-day basis.

3. Identify new categories for your digital assets

After identifying your assets, it’s time to think about the categories and sub-categories you could use to organize them. For example, you can use videos and photos as parent categories and then have sub-categories like social media or print marketing to filter through more assets.

When creating new categories for assets, you can start by listing them on anything from a sheet of paper, a whiteboard, or a spreadsheet, whatever gives you a list of categories that your team members can use to locate the content they need. The most important thing is to customize these categories to the needs of your users.

4. Document your DAM taxonomy & file naming conventions

Once you’ve decided what categories you want to break your assets down into, you can start to document them. Tools like Microsoft Excel and Google sheets provide you with a solid foundation for documenting taxonomies because they are simple and easy to edit, which allows you to change your categories if you need to.

It’s important to note that it may take a few rounds of revisions before your taxonomy is ready for deployment. Whenever you finalize your preliminary taxonomy using the data structure you created, you can then import it to your DAM platform for your users to try out.

5. Test and update your digital asset management taxonomy

After finalizing the taxonomy, you should periodically test it (quarterly or annually) and revise its categories to ensure that the tags you’re using enable users to discover assets quickly. One way to test your taxonomy is to give some users a list of files to discover and see how long it takes them to find them. You can also review past search logs to view successful and failed searches.

At this stage of the process, testing and updating your taxonomy is about seeing if you have the optimal tags for employees to use and maximizing the speed at which they can find assets. The fewer clicks it takes to discover creative content, the more effective your taxonomy is.

A clear DAM taxonomy pays dividends

Taking the time to set out clear and concise Digital Asset Management file naming conventions will enable your users to find the assets they need without wasting hours sifting through filters to find creative content. While it involves a lot of planning, being prepared will pay dividends over the long term as your digital asset management process becomes more efficient.

Ultimately, the more streamlined your asset management process is, the less chance you have of losing assets, and the easier it will be for your employees to find creative assets and produce high-performance and high-level marketing campaigns.