ArcGIS Online

Use tags effectively

When adding new items, authoring maps and apps, or creating new groups in your organization, tags are required. They can be added to any item, can be edited, and are a useful way to boost search results and find specific content.

There are a number of approaches to using tags effectively, and thinking in advance about how you want to use tags to identify and discover your content will help you decide what is best for you and your organization. Here are a few considerations and tips for using tags.


Add and edit tags

You can add or edit tags when you add any item, or save a map, app, or layer. You will be prompted to enter tags, and can choose from previously used tags, or can enter a new tag. Begin typing to find an existing tag, or type to create a new one. Click the X following the tag to remove it.

Save Map dialog with tags

You can also add or edit tags from the Overview tab in the item pages.

Overview tab on item pages

Tags are found down along the right side of the page. Click Edit to add or delete tags.

Edit tags


Search using tags

Each item in ArcGIS Online has a title, summary, description, and other information. When you enter a string in Search, all of these fields are scanned for a match, including the tags. Close matches are also returned via stemming, which finds derivative and closely related words.

For example, searching for “snow removal” will find anything that matches from all the available item information. Results are organized by the default of relevance, or your choice of title, owner, rating, views, and date.

Search using a string

If you want to search for a specific tag, use the keyword tags: in your search string as shown below. For tags using multiple words include surrounding quotes.

Search using tags


Don’t tag on me

When you save a map authored by someone else, existing tags will come along. Shown below are the numerous tags that accompany the Median Household Income map from the ArcGIS Living Atlas.

Tags in the Median Household Income map

Tags are also added automatically to analysis layers. For example, the tags below were automatically added to an analysis layer after buffering store locations.

Tags added by Buffer

Other tags will be also be automatically added when publishing from ArcGIS Desktop, or authoring classic Story Maps. These automatically inserted tags may not be desired, or needed, so can be trimmed down and edited to suit your needs and preferences. If you want to locate the map or items easily, consider adding a very specific tag (or tags) that makes sense to you to help you find it.


Tags start at the source

When adding ArcGIS Server web services directly from the REST endpoint as items, the tags are automatically generated from the listed Keywords in the Document Info section of the service details found the server’s Services Directory.

For example, below is the Document Info section for the Soil Survey map service.

Document info section on service

When added as an ArcGIS Server web service item the Keywords are automatically used as tags.

Service item tags


Tags when publishing from ArcGIS Pro

Using ArcGIS Pro, you can publish maps or layers directly to your ArcGIS organization.

Share tab in ArcGIS Pro

When you publish (share) maps or layers using ArcGIS Pro, tags are also required. When you share a web map or web layer, the share dialog will present the required input box for tags.

ArcGIS Pro publish map dialog

See Share a web map and Introduction to sharing web layers for more information.


Tags and Item Information

On the overview tab for your items, you will find Item Information. It’s a relative scale from Low to High which helps you create better item pages, and identifies areas of improvement.

Tags play a factor in your rating, and below the top improvement for the item is to add more tags.

Item Information tag suggestion

Scroll down along the right to add and edit the item tags.

Edit tags

One tag is required, but add more using your own judgment and following your own tag guidelines. The tags you specify should correspond to keywords you think people will use to search for your item. See Item details for more information.


Tags and groups

group is a collection of items, often related to a specific area, subject, or project. You can create one as a way to organize and share items. Groups also require a tag, which must be entered when a group is created.

Create group tag input

Group tags can also be edited from the group Overview tab.

Overview tab on group page

See Create groups for more information.


Tag tips

Since an overall Search considers everything on the item overview, it’s not important to use word tags that may already appear in your item title, summary, or description. Tags may be more effective if they are used to logically and uniquely identify items you may want to discover separately from other items.

For example, for items belonging to departments, tag using the department name (“Planning Department”). For tagging items pertaining to individual projects use the name of the project (“Memorial Hospital Construction”), or tag using themes (“habitat protection”), or anything else that might be used for search. A little thought about how you and other organization members may want to discover items will help come up with a list of useful tags.

If you want to pre-define a collection of tags to choose from, one technique you can use is to add the tags you want to any private item you own. Use the private item only as your tag storage. When you add or edit your items, the tags will be available when you add or edit tags. However, there is a limit to the number of tags that are remembered when you enter tag keywords, so if you use a lot of tags they may not be automatically recalled.

Other recommendations:

Note that the word test is a special tag that will push the item further down in the search results.


Tag management tools

A free utility for managing tags is ArcGIS Item Information. It’s been developed by an Esri staff member and is unsupported.

Some Esri partners offer tag management tools. GeoJobe is one partner that offers a free version of their Admin Tools for ArcGIS Online that supports tag management for items and groups, that can be obtained from the ArcGIS Marketplace.


More information

For more information see


This post was originally published on January 30, 2017, and has been updated.

About the author

Corporate technology evangelist and advocate at Esri, focusing on ways to broaden access to geographic information and helping customers succeed with the ArcGIS system. On a good day I'm making a map, on a great day I'm on one. Email or connect on LinkedIn (


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