Tagging data

A tag is a text string that you apply to a data source, layer, or map. Tags enable better search results for map editors who are using Google Maps Engine and better organization of your own data.

You can use a tag to identify anything you like about the item that you're tagging, but tags typically identify the item's data characteristics and themes. To enable good search results, it's a good idea to have some standardization in your naming, description, and tagging style, whether the workflow in your organization is highly distributed or you are the only person creating maps for others to use.

Try to make tags meaningful and describe the content of spatial data in ways that are important to the map editors who'll be using it. For example, consider these issues:

  • Why is this data important?
  • What type of end user will use this data?
  • For what exercise or crisis response is this data pertinent?
  • What landmarks are in the data?
  • Will a piece of imagery data be part of a mosaic? How can you tag the mosaic's imagery elements so that you can quickly select them and form a mosaic?
  • Are there specific themes for the data?
  • What are the features of the data? For example, is it natural color imagery, color infrared, or a topographic map?

These are some ideas that might be useful:

  • General
    • Create a scheme for categorizing data sources, layers, and maps. It doesn't have to be a complex cataloging system, but it should specify the important categories by which all items will be tagged.
    • Whether you work alone or for a large organization, document your scheme. In a large organization, the documentation is important to enable all taggers and searchers to use the right terms. Even if you work alone, you may need the documentation for your own purposes or to pass to another person eventually.
    • Use both broad and specific terms based on potential user search patterns. Use whatever categories and terminology are relevant to your environment, whether maps are related to government regulations, industry standards, or other domain-specific knowledge.
    • Create categories that reflect various aspects of the same data. For example, if you're working with land parcels in Montana, you might use the terms "parcel," "county," and "Montana."

      What if you live and work in Montana? Is it useful to tag with "Montana" if you work for a Montana agency and work only with Montana data? It might be useful if there is a possibility that your organization will sometime share data with other jurisdiction. It will be more difficult to go back and tag data later than it is to add the extra tag now.
    • If there is a formal plan for data reporting, such as an ID code that you need to use in government reports, tag that data.
    • Use whatever organizational plans you already use for other data, such as the name of your organization or division.
  • As an organization
    • Try to use consistent tags. For example, avoid using parcel and parcels; use only one form of a term. The type-ahead feature should help map editors choose existing options rather than creating new variants to tags.

Tags are not case sensitive and can contain spaces.

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