The Ultimate Guide to Metadata

Oct 13, 2021 | Content Management

Have you ever wondered if there was a better way to organize and tag content?

If you aren’t currently using metadata, you may feel a bit overwhelmed not knowing where to start. We’ve got you covered. Using metadata in content management systems (CMS) is an effective way to keep your content organized and accessible by your team.

Whether you have no idea what metadata is, or you are already utilizing it, this guide can help.

In this ultimate guide, we discuss what metadata is, why you should use it, and provide tangible examples and best practices. In addition, we’ll provide specific steps on how you can configure metadata in various content management systems.

What is metadata?

Metadata is defined as “data that provides information about other data”… Metadata “summarizes basic information about data, making finding and working with particular instances of data easier” (1)


Not quite as complicated as it sounds, right?


Metadata is an underused and often misunderstood asset that can help keep content organized. Various content management systems (CMS) allow users to add different types of metadata to their content. These content repositories typically have a number of standard bult-in metadata options such as author, file name, creation date, content type, and file type.


If you decide to expand beyond the built-in metadata options, creating a taxonomy will create a standard vocabulary for your team to use when implementing metadata.


A taxonomy is a hierarchical classification of terms that are categorized and applied to the content. They form a structure for metadata that consistently classifies documents.


“A taxonomy helps you to organize your content and assets into hierarchical relationships. Classifying content and assets in a taxonomy can make it far easier to search for or browse a Digital Asset Management or Web Content Management System when you aren’t sure exactly what you are looking for.” (2)


Taxonomies enforce naming standards and categories to add consistency across the platform and support enterprise content management. They enable end-users to locate and discover information quickly, helping solve business problems.


Utilizing metadata and taxonomies in your content management system can be beneficial in improving document search relevancy, maintaining uniformity, and effectively scaling with your business.

Why use metadata?

It gives us context

Metadata provides context around where something came from, when it was created, or even who created it. If there’s a question to be asked about data, metadata can provide the answers. These are important variables especially in terms of version control and managing content libraries.


Assists in sorting content

Sorting and filtering content using metadata is a powerful way to group content or locate specific files. CMSs like SharePoint, allow you to sort by date, author, and other customizable fields too. Finding relevant content is much easier using metadata since it provides details about that content. TeamSlide utilizes metadata to do this!


Enforces uniformity across organizations

Organizations that once dealt with content chaos will come to find peace in their repositories once they’ve created a taxonomy and added metadata to files and folders. With organization and uniformity, comes consistency and peace!

Metadata best practices

Take time to plan before making changes

Think through your metadata strategy with your team before laying it out in your slide library. A ‘strategy before software’ approach will save you frustration later.

As you’re planning, consider your content in terms of: What, when, where, who, how, which, why. Thinking about your content in these ways can help you consider the best metadata to use in the brainstorming process.


Consider your most valuable information

Imagine trying to filter or browse by metadata to find your content. What would be the most essential information to you? Browsing by industry, business-specific tags, or customer can accelerate your ability to find the content you’re looking for within your slide library. Here are some examples of custom and standard metadata:


Examples of custom metadata:

  • Department – i.e. Sales, Marketing, Training, HR
  • Location – i.e. Europe, North America, Asia
  • Quality – i.e. Shareable or Internal
  • Customer – i.e. Cisco, Oracle, IBM

Examples of standard metadata:

  • File name
  • Author
  • Creation date
  • File type
  • Content type
  • Folder

Use consistent terminology

A taxonomy allows admins to build consistent metadata that is shared across a content management system. Further, terms defined in a taxonomy can include synonyms and multilingual variants. This allows all users to apply a consistent classification to documents using a defined set of terms. Using terms that are likely to be used when searching is beneficial.


How to use metadata in various content management systems


In SharePoint, you can utilize metadata by creating a site level or a list/library level column.


What is a list?
“A list is a collection of data that you can share with your team members and people who you’ve provided access to.” (3) SharePoint has many ready-to-use templates or you can create a custom list. Some examples of lists include contact lists and to-do lists.


What is a site column?
“A site column is a reusable column definition, or template, that you can assign to multiple lists across multiple SharePoint sites. Site columns decrease re-work and help you ensure consistency of metadata across sites and lists. For example, suppose you define a site column named Customer. Users can add that column to their lists, and reference it in their content types. This ensures that the column has the same attributes, at least to start with, wherever it appears.” (4)


Keep in mind, site columns are hierarchically re-usable, meaning that if a site column is created at the top-level site, the column will be available on all subsites. But if the site column is created in a subsite, the column will only be available to the subsite’s child.


List/library level columns are most commonly used, however, you should be aware that any metadata you create at this level stays local to the list/library that it is created in. Site columns are shared on all lists/libraries throughout your entire site, allowing you to define metadata once and then reuse it where you’d like to.


For further details, check out our article How to Use Metadata in SharePoint.

To learn more about creating metadata in SharePoint, check out Microsoft’s instructions here



Box can offer detailed metadata options depending on which type of account you have. For Starter accounts, you’ll be able to utilize Tags and basic metadata. Basic metadata in Box includes:

  • Customizable description
  • Owner
  • Uploader
  • Created
  • Modified
  • Size

Business Plus, Enterprise, and Elite accounts have access to additional metadata customizations, like Metadata Templates.

Box also offers an option to migrate existing metadata if you’re migrating content from another content management system.



Tags are a form of metadata that can be added to folders and files in Box. Once enabled by administrators, tags can be valuable assets. Admins do have control over who can create and edit tags. Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of using Box tags:



  • Search and filter content that contains a certain tag
  • Allows you to group content



  • Tags can be freely written, meaning that there is no way to restrict taxonomy or naming conventions. Users with permissions could add a tag “MKTG Team” whereas the business’ standard naming convention was actually “Marketing Team”


Learn more about using Box tags


Metadata Templates

Users with Business Plus, Enterprise, and Elite accounts all have access to Metadata Templates. These can be added to enterprises through Administrator access.

[Quote box] Metadata Templates:

“Templates are a logical grouping of metadata attributes that help classify content. For example, a marketing team at a retail organization may have a Brand Asset template that defines a piece of content in more detail. This Brand Asset template may have attributes like “Line”, “Category”, “Height (px)”, “Width (px)”, or “Marketing Approved”.”7


The Metadata Templates that Box offers are incredibly helpful in upholding uniformity across all metadata and reduces data entry errors. All departments (legal, marketing, sales, HR) could benefit from utilizing them.

Learn more about Box’s metadata templates


Google Drive

Google Drive users can utilize basic metadata. A few years ago, Google had a beta feature called ‘Custom Properties’ available. Unfortunately, this feature does not appear to be available anymore.

Basic metadata options in Google Drive include:

  • Type
  • Size
  • Location
  • Owner
  • Modified
  • Opened
  • Created
  • Customizable description


If you’re looking to create and add custom metadata to your content repository, Google Drive won’t be a good option for you.


OneDrive offers standard metadata fields, including:

  • Type
  • Modified
  • Path
  • Size

For those looking to add custom metadata, OneDrive won’t be the best option.



In Dropbox, you have access to standard metadata properties on all files. These standard metadata properties include:

  • Uploaded by
  • Date uploaded
  • Last modified
  • Extension
  • Size


The standard properties may differ based on the type of file (image, Microsoft office) that is being viewed.

Learn how to view metadata in Dropbox


The best content systems for metadata


SharePoint is the clear winner for users who are seeking an advanced metadata solution. Most organizations don’t even utilize all of the customizations that is available through SharePoint. While setting up metadata in SharePoint can be fairly complex, this is a robust solution for organizations looking to improve slide and content management efforts.



Box is an excellent solution for organizations that don’t need a solution quite as intense as SharePoint, but who still want to utilize tagging and metadata. This means that users and teams can take group content more efficiently. For Business Plus, Enterprise, and Elite accounts, metadata templates are incredibly helpful in upholding uniformity across all metadata and reduces data entry errors.


Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Share This