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A term that derived in the late 1960s, metadata is simply data about data. What seems like a dry topic, is of very important use in a variety of applications to make finding and working with particular instances of data easier; effective search engine optimization (SEO) is one of them. Without metadata, we make it more difficult for users to find our website through search engines. The focus of this article will be specific to metadata and SEO.
Metadata lives backstage in the (metaphorical) theatrical world of SEO, speaking directly to search engines to communicate important information, just like a stage manager would to its backstage crew. It is often described as micro-communications between your site and search engines, like conversations between the back-stage crew and theatre marketing department.
How does metadata work?
Metadata can organize and classify information and can harvest deeper insight into your business and this is why it’s so valuable.
Using another analogy, Google is a rather large library. As a librarian would assign books to categories like author and publish date (making it easier for readers to find their chosen books), Google sifts through metadata on a webpage when adding pages to its search index, meaning that webpages with metadata are more easily retrieved when a search query is made.
If you weren’t aware of metadata before now, it’s most likely because you’ve never seen it. Metadata is invisible to the average user and you can only view it in the HTML version of a webpage. You can find out if a webpage is using metadata by right-clicking anywhere on a webpage and clicking “View Page Source”.
Having completed this action, you should be able to identify different types of “meta tag” which the most important are:
- Meta Title
- Meta Description
- Meta Keywords
This is the main piece of text used to describe a page’s content and has been long considered one of the most vital elements for metadata and SEO. It can have a real impact on search engine results and should be user-friendly as it can be seen by your website visitors in different places:
- In your browser
- On search engine results pages
- In external page links
Your title tag should consist of 60-65 characters and start with the most relevant keywords. Your website should have a unique title tag for maximum SEO value.
This is a brief description of a page’s content. Search engines no longer use the description tag as a ranking factor but it can help increase your customer click-through rate due to its visibility in most of the same places as the title tag (apart from browser tab).
Similarly to the title tag, your description tag needs to be unique to your individual webpage and it must contain at least 11 words but content past 150 characters may not be displayed.
Since 2009, meta keywords have had no impact on Google search rankings and are never visible to the average user unless looking at a webpage’s source code. It is however a good idea to make use of the keyword tag as we never know when Google may make another change to its search algorithm and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Just ensure your keywords are appropriate for the webpage they are assigned and there should be no risk of penalization for spammy keywords. Don’t overload your metadata with various variations of keywords as this will likely result in penalization.
In conclusion, using metadata in your website is something you can do yourself to optimize your website for search. It’s probably best to cover all bases to get onto Google’s first page. A lot of what has been discussed relies on knowing your “money phrases” which requires in-depth keyword research or planning – companies like MA Design, Cheltenham’s go to Web Design Agency can help you with this.