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How to Build a Digital Asset Management Taxonomy: Best Practices

Have you ever spent hours searching for a specific digital asset only to come up empty-handed? Frustrating, isn't it?

Fortunately, a well-built digital asset management taxonomy is a game-changer that helps to find any digital assets in no time. In this blog post, we’ll talk in detail about what a digital asset management taxonomy is, how it works, and how to build one.

What is Taxonomy

At its core, a digital asset taxonomy is the organization, categorization, and classification of brand assets for end-users of DAM software. It includes metadata and a controlled vocabulary of descriptive terms to tag and organize assets.

The two main types are nested taxonomy and flat taxonomy.

A nested taxonomy features a hierarchy of parent categories with multiple levels of subcategories, resembling a computer folder structure or Google Drive. Users access subfolders by navigating through parent folders and high-level subfolders. 

For more information and tips on how to create a proper folder structure, check our article on this.

Example of nested taxonomy:

Marketing assets

  • Images for social media posts
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIn
    • Instagram
  • Images for newsletters and emails

In other words, to access some nested folders, you need to manually click through all the folders on the top level. Such an approach is both inconvenient and time-consuming. 

On the other hand, a flat structure in taxonomy supports multi-faceted searching, allowing users to apply any combination of facets or filters to refine their results. This approach is more modern and offers greater flexibility in searching for digital assets. 

Flat taxonomy shines in digital asset management (DAM) systems - digital assets can be located in multiple folders at the same time and there's no need to create duplicates in different folders. In DAM, you can use keywords and other metadata to search for files faster and easier. 

Let's talk about the same marketing assets we’ve mentioned when explaining nested taxonomy. Imagine you’re looking for the image used in yesterday’s Instagram post. For this, you only need to type the keywords “Instagram” and “post” in the search bar and choose file format - images in this case. 

In the results, you will see all the images with these tags, which makes search much, much easier. There’s no need to go through multiple folders navigating to that one collection Instagram posts 2023, for instance. 

What’s more, this picture can have other tags, like “newsletter” or “September 2023 Ads”, which makes it even more searchable. With all these keywords combined, other teams and users can easily access and use the same image. 

To sum up: 

Flat taxonomy

  • does not require prior knowledge to find files quickly
  • all categories are visible, which improves browsability
  • makes your digital asset library more usable

Nested taxonomy

  • Requires prior knowledge for fast search
  • Categories are hidden in folders

In the screenshot below, you can see what the digital asset library taxonomy looks like in Pics.io DAM. On the left, we have all the folders (collections) and websites with a little globe sign. On the right, you can see different asset types located in the folder.

Digital asset management taxonomy in Pics.io DAM
Digital asset management taxonomy in Pics.io DAM

Additionally, you can use multiple metadata search options.

Digital asset management taxonomy: advanced search

A strong taxonomy structure gives users the ability to navigate through categories and utilize a search bar powered by descriptive terms (tags, keywords), making the asset retrieval process a breeze.

So, whether you’re setting up your first DAM system, switching from another solution, or optimizing your current structure, investing time and effort into building a well-designed taxonomy will pay dividends in the long run. It will not only make your DAM platform more usable but will also simplify the search process. 

Building A Custom DAM Taxonomy: Best Practices

Here are the most important steps to follow to build a successful taxonomy for a digital asset management system:

Analyze User Needs and Preferences

The creation of a user-centric DAM taxonomy hinges on a thorough comprehension of how users navigate and hunt for digital assets. Begin by conducting surveys and engaging in conversations with different teams to capture their navigation habits, preferences, and pain points.

Focus on how they search for brand assets, the information important to them (dates, location, language), and the specific terms they require. This information will help you create metadata, tags, and filters that cater to user needs and provide a smooth DAM experience.

You might also want to get rid of old duplicates and unnecessary files for a fresh start. 

Identify Key Categories and Metadata Fields

Having analyzed user needs and preferences, it’s time to determine the most important categories and metadata fields. Start by identifying the categories with the most digital assets and those used most often by users.

Some of the useful questions can be:

  • What content the users are most often searching for? 
  • How are they looking for digital assets now? 
  • Will dates, months, and years will be useful as metadata fields for our organizations?

Establish Consistent File Naming Conventions and Metadata Mapping

Consistent naming conventions and metadata mapping are essential components of an effective DAM taxonomy. A standard set of terms and categories to describe your assets helps to keep them organized logically and consistently. This consistency simplifies asset tagging, enhances searchability, and can potentially automate metadata tagging processes.

First of all, decide what categories go to the top level (parent) and which ones will be at the lower level (child). For instance: 

  • Blog assets - Featured images
  • Social media - LinkedIn

Secondly, think of metadata mapping and naming conventions. These should be simple and understandable to all DAM users. 

To make things even faster, check out our AI keyword tagging feature that creates keyword lists and tags assets automatically.

Implement and Launch Your New DAM Taxonomy

Once your tailored DAM taxonomy is ready, the next step is to roll it out and set it in motion. Start by informing users about the new taxonomy and providing training courses to familiarize them with the updated system. This will ensure a smooth transition and adoption of the new taxonomy.

Once the taxonomy is live, follow these steps to ensure its effectiveness:

  1. Track usage analytics to gather data on how the taxonomy is being used.
  2. Send out surveys to gather user feedback on the taxonomy.
  3. Use the information gathered to identify areas for improvement and make the taxonomy more efficient and user-friendly.

By following these steps, you can continuously improve and optimize your taxonomy for better content management. Continual support, training, and monitoring will pave the way for the successful adoption of your new DAM taxonomy, creating a frictionless experience within your organization.

Continuously Optimize Your DAM Taxonomy

As your organization evolves, so should your DAM taxonomy structure. Regular optimization of your taxonomy is a must for maintaining an efficient and pertinent DAM system. Here are some steps to follow for regularly reviewing and enhancing your taxonomy:

  1. Review your taxonomy at least annually to ensure it’s still effective in helping users find assets.
  2. Keep an eye on new teams, digital assets, and user feedback to identify areas where adjustments and enhancements to your taxonomy may be needed.
  3. Make necessary adjustments and enhancements to your taxonomy based on the insights gained from the review process.

By regularly reviewing and enhancing your taxonomy, you can ensure that your DAM system continues to meet the needs of your organization and users. Regular updates and improvements to your DAM taxonomy will allow it to adapt to internal changes and make sure it continues to be a valuable tool that caters to the shifting needs of your users.


A digital asset library taxonomy that works makes file search smooth and painless. If you want to learn more about Pics.io DAM and its benefits, book a demo with us below. 

Did you enjoy this article? Give Pics.io a try — or book a demo with us, and we'll be happy to answer any of your questions.

Pics.io Team
Welcome to Pics.io blog, where you'll get useful tips, resources & best practices on how digital asset management can help your business to manage & distribute digital content on top of cloud storage.