Findability is about making information easier to find. After all, if it cannot be found, it may as well not exist. Leading information specialists have been saying this for years, and now with the increasing volume of content and increasing pressures of time, money, and competition, more of us are finding this statement to be true. In addition to traditional controlled vocabulary-based indexing, information architecture has evolved to make browsing and navigation methods more effective, search engine capabilities have been improving to help us find the proverbial needle in the haystack, and bookmarking and social tagging have emerged to help us find our own content, and that we share with members of a social networking group.
The various methods of enhancing findability each have their limitations. Traditional document indexing/material cataloging and web information architecture do not go deep enough. Indexing is usually at the document level, and cataloging only works on the level of the material as a whole (books, sound recordings, video recordings, etc.). Information architecture aids in the navigation of a website, intranet, or portal, but in itself it is often not sufficient for finding specific information. Search engines match user-entered keywords and phrases to those found within the texts or metatag fields of documents, but these are still just word matches and do not necessarily go after the meaning of a document. For example, many words are quite ambiguous, and search results would not be accurate on words such as "state," "log," or "screen"—even in combination with other words. Social tagging only involves files or webpages that the user and colleagues have already viewed or created. More significantly, though, social tagging tends to suffer from inconsistent application of tags, such as using both synonyms (movie, motion picture, film), singular/plural forms, and abbreviations (Corporation/ Corp., information/info).
New techniques and tools are being developed to address the shortcomings of these various approaches to finding information and to deliver better results in an increasingly competitive information industry. "Semantic tagging," in the various ways that it is understood, is a term that describes many of these new (and some not-so-new) findability approaches. Semantic tagging is by no means an accepted concept with an agreed upon definition. Other than the obvious "tagging for meaning," semantic tagging means different things to people coming from different parts of the information management field. It may be used interchangeably with "semantic indexing" in contexts where "indexing" is used for "tagging." Nevertheless, in the quest for better methods of findability, the term semantic tagging is starting to appear in descriptions of information services and products, blogs, online articles, and presentations.