When you are designing a website, you are bound to come across metadata. Meta titles, meta descriptions, meta robots, and so on. Without taking full advantage of this data, it’s impossible to achieve high rankings on search engines, thus undermining your promotional efforts.
Digital marketing specialists are paying utter attention to the arrangement and design of metadata on the website to ensure it ranks properly. Whether you are just starting on your road to marketing achievements or contemplating a proper website design, it’s important to learn everything you can about metadata and how it can affect your SEO efforts.
What is Metadata?
Metadata is the information used to describe another piece of data. For example, metadata for a book might include the author’s name, publishing date, publisher’s name, etc. Metadata for a music file could include the singer’s name, the album’s name, and the release date.
A common place where most people face metadata is a computer file. It contains the size, the creation date, and location. Some files may have their metadata stored in separate files.
Metadata is behind-the-scenes data used in many places and by numerous industries. Be it online retailing, social media, websites, and software, you are likely to find useful metadata describing files.
Metadata can be generated automatically or typed in manually, depending on the purpose it serves. Its key goal is to make the search for information easier.
Four Types of Metadata
To learn why metadata is important, you should have a basic understanding of what the common types of metadata are.
1. Structural Metadata
This metadata has to do with the organization of the digital asset. For example, it shows how notes make up a notebook in OneNote or how the book is arranged to form chapters. It also shows if the file is part of a multiple collection, thus simplifying the navigation of an electronic source.
The examples of structural data are page number, sections, chapters, indexes.
2. Administrative Metadata
This metadata describes the technical source of a file. It usually includes file type and creation/change data. Administrative metadata includes information about intellectual property and rights to the file.
3. Descriptive metadata
This metadata is used for discovering and identifying assets. It describes the file, including its title, author, and relevant keyword. This data allows you to navigate the library to find a book of a certain genre published after 2018. Basically, this data is used to simplify the search for a digital asset.
4. Webpage Metadata
This metadata helps the search engines collect information about your website to give it the right rankings. Examples are meta descriptions and meta titles.
It’s also possible to section metadata into the following categories:
- Descriptive metadata – title, subject, author, creation/change date
- Property metadata – copyright status, rights holder, license terms
- Technical metadata – file type, size, creation date, compression type.
- Preservation metadata – file’s place in hierarchy or sequence
- Markup metadata – heading, name, date, list (used for navigation)
Why Is Metadata Important?
Metadata is vital for ensuring that the vast collection of digital assets is properly organized and easy to navigate. Without metadata, the most important assets could be lost in the sea of other information.
This data allows you to figure out if you are working with the most recent information and prevents unauthorized users from accessing restricted files.
When it comes to SEO, the importance of metadata is hard to overestimate. It’s critical to demonstrating the relevance of a website to a search engine. As the search engine evaluates your website according to its purpose, your metadata is the means of communication. The website sends information to the search engine using the metadata.
The majority of metadata you use on the website stays invisible to an average user. However, when it comes to communicating with the search engine, it becomes a highly important weapon.
What is Metadata in SEO?
Metadata in SEO refers to the metadata on your website. It includes information about a page that you send to the search engine while it’s crawling the website. Website metadata includes everything from meta titles and descriptions to keywords and links. It’s important to understand which metadata elements influence your website rankings the most.
1. What are Meta Titles?
The meta title is the main title of a page. It’s one of the most important elements of SEO efforts. By adding the right title you are influencing your rankings directly.
The meta title must include the main or focus keyword at the beginning. In the end, it should have a website name or branding.
It’s important to pay special attention to the length of the title, which might vary depending on the devices most often used by the target audience. I.e. for mobile users, titles should be shorter than for desktop users.
2. What are Meta Descriptions?
This is a description of your page. It’s a short summary of the information the user should find on a certain webpage. Google used to work with this description to figure out what the page is about. These days, it simply crawls the entire page, collecting all metadata available to make a decision.
Meta description often appears below the link to your website when a user makes a search. Instead of assisting Google, it now helps users decide if your page is worth browsing. However, Google can sometimes choose another snippet from your website to demonstrate below the link to better suit the request.
3. What are Meta Keywords?
Meta keywords used to be influential. However, they aren’t important for SEO anymore.
4. What are Meta Robots?
Meta robot tags tell Google how to treat your page to index it or to follow links. Google respects your meta robot tag much more than it does your robots.txt. While robots.txt file directives give the crawler suggestions on how to crawl or index the page, the robots tag has firmer instructions.
- Index/noindex – these robots tell engines whether to list your page in the search
- Follow/nofollow – tell the engine what to do with the links on the page (trust and follow or not)
While the below data used to be important for your rankings, it’s not influential anymore. Nothing bad will happen if you use it. However, it’s a waste of time. In the race to make websites competitive, some designers spend too much time on unimportant metadata.
- Author/web author – names the author of the page
- Rating – describes the maturity rating of the content
- Expiration date – tells when the page will expire
- Copyright – the footer of any website has this information anyway
- Abstract – used to place an abstract of some content for educational purposes
- Generator – notes the program, which created the page.
How to Optimize SEO Metadata
Optimizing metadata for SEO isn’t complicated. However, numerous nuances exist. It’s important to pay special attention to the content, size, and design of all metadata elements on your webpage. Even the smallest mistake could cost you a ranking level.
1. How To Optimize Meta Titles
According to Ahrefs, Meta titles have more SEO value than most people realize. How can you optimize the meta title to bring you top results for your SEO efforts?
- Focus keyword should be at the beginning of the title
- Second most important keyword should follow the focus keyword if possible
- Brand name should follow the second most important keyword
Focus (primary) keyword>Secondary keyword>Brand name
- How long should title tags be? Title length – 50 to 60 characters, spaces included
- Each page on your website should have a different title tag. Replicating meta titles could affect your visibility.
- Title tags must be relevant to the content of the page. They should be easy to read.
- Headline (h1) tag should be different from the title tag.
- Overstuffing title tags with keywords could make them badly written. Google could penalize you for it.
Remember, in some cases, Google may not like your title tag and rewrite it to suit the user’s request better by pulling the information from meta description of page content. Most likely Google-generated tags won’t be as good as something you can create. So it’s always better to present a keyword-rich highly readable and relevant tag.
2. How to Write Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions aren’t just aimed at getting high rankings, they can help users figure out if your website is worth your attention. Let’s look at the best practices to stick to when creating meta descriptions for each page of your website.
- Meta description length shouldn’t exceed 155 characters, spaces included. Optimal length may depend on your needs. However, truncated descriptions don’t look good to the user.
- The meta description should be easy to read. It must flow naturally in a non-spammy manner. The description must include the keywords that the page is targeting. Meanwhile, it should comprehensively describe the content of the page.
- Just like title tags, each webpage must have a unique meta description.
- Meta description drives readers to a website from the SERP. That’s why it must be highly informative yet intriguing. These 155 characters are your chance at getting valuable conversions.
- Remove all non-alphanumeric characters from your description in order for Google not to cut it off midway.
Sometimes, it could be reasonable to avoid creating a meta description altogether. You may want to consider it in case your page is targeting three or more keywords. In such a case, Google will populate the description by itself.
3. How to Work with Alt Tags
Since search engines can’t read images, alternative text is vital to making them visible. You should always add proper alt text to each image and video so a search engine knows what to do with it.
Alt tags allow you to add graphics to your website without damaging its SEO potential.
- Always use a relevant description in the tag
- Use a keyword only if its 100% relevant and natural
- Be clear and to the point
- Don’t use more than 125 characters, including spaces
- Don’t start the description with “image of”. Google already knows that it’s an image
- Try not to cram your keywords into the alt text of each image on the website.
Remember, Google doesn’t just use alt text to identify the image, it also checks how well the image relates to the rest of the content. Make sure the description is as specific as possible. General alt text is a bad alt text.
While alt text is important for SEO, it’s not the key weapon you should use. It’s better to follow the rules and be descriptive instead of overstuffing keywords and getting penalized.
The importance of metadata for SEO must be acknowledged. Without the right approach to metadata optimization, it’s hard to get recognized by search engines and deserve high rankings. While it’s better to start optimizing your website’s metadata for SEO at the website-building stage, it’s always possible to do it after the website is finished.