The different types of metadata help users separate and locate information based on different indicators. Learn more about the main types of metadata here.

What is metadata?

Metadata is information about other specific data. It separates and organizes files using indicators such as date, size and location. Metadata places descriptors onto files that relay what it includes. The main types of metadata are descriptive, structural and administrative.

What are the different types of metadata?

The three main types of metadata are descriptive, structural and administrative. We’ll give a rundown of each one and explain their importance.

1. Structural

Structural metadata refers to how data is formatted and assembled. Think of it like a table of contents in a book. It explains how data relates to one another. An example of structural metadata would be if JK Rowling included notes in Harry Potter indicating it would be only the first version of many more books to come.

A picture of blocks that spell 'metadata'.
Structural metadata is how data is built.

2. Descriptive

Descriptive metadata is how data is identified. This includes things such as a title, date or keywords. An example of descriptive metadata would be if an audio file was stored in a computer, the run time of the audio would be descriptive metadata.

3. Administrative

Administrative metadata gives important instructions about a file. It informs what type of restrictions are to be placed on the file, such as who can access it or not. An example of administrative metadata would be a business file that is identified as a specific file type.

A detailed example of metadata

You’ve just taken a photo of a bear in the forest. You upload it to your computer and place it into your image database. In order to find it quickly, you’ll use the metadata descriptors to search for it in the future. This is especially important because you have plenty of other bear photographs and you want to be able to recall specific ones.

A bear standing in the forest.
Metadata allows you to search for tagged photos.

Metadata helps narrow your search down using descriptors that identify the image. First, the date the photo was taken and author are noted. This date gives you a good base of where to begin your search for the image. Next, some keywords such as grizzly, forest and bear might be attached to the image. These are its metadata. Using a combination of the metadata keywords, you’ll be able to find this exact image. These types of metadata fall under the ‘descriptive’ category.

Further your understanding of metadata by learning the intricacies of its different types. Furthermore, implement metadata management to automate your process.

Casey Schmidt – Content Manager and Industry Expert

Casey Schmidt – Content Manager and DAM Industry Expert | Canto

Casey is a content management and branding expert who enjoys taking complex subjects and making them easy to understand for readers.