Explained in 60 Seconds: Metadata

December 01, 2015

In general terms, metadata is basic information that describes other types of data. Even though it’s significance in the search engine optimization space has changed over the years, metadata still proves to be useful as a way of learning more about a particular webpage, image, or other piece of content. When it comes to files, some of the common metadata categories are author, file size, date created, and date modified. Here, we’ll briefly describe the four main website meta tags and their impact on search engine rankings.

Meta Keywords

Meta keywords were originally created as descriptors that would tell search engines what the general topic of a page was. Sounds pretty useful, right? Well, it was until content creators abused this tool by including long lists of unrelated, traffic-driving keywords into their metadata. Because of this, websites with low page authority were showing up near the top of various search engine result pages with inaccurate information.

The inaccuracies and reduction of value from these keyword stuffing sites ultimately caused search engines to devalue meta keywords in their algorithms. So why even bother with these meta keywords now? Since search engines protect their search engine algorithms as if they are their own personal nuclear codes, it is unclear whether or not they have removed meta keywords completely from their calculations (Google announced in September 2009 that they have). If there’s a chance that they could help your site rank against other competitors, meta keywords should still be utilized in moderation.

Title Tag

Even though the title tag is pretty self-explanatory, it is critical to SEO and social sharing. Unlike meta keywords, title tags can be directly seen when a user looks for a webpage on a search engine. Aside from search engines, the title tag is what the user sees when they navigate between tabs in a website browser. Third, social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter use the title tag when converting content into rich media forms that are much more shareable than normal links.

The improvement of title tags can have a large impact on SEO, but does not take an abundance of effort. One thing to keep in mind with title tags is the length of the text. If your title is under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly. Another strategy than can boost optimization is placing important keywords near the beginning of the title, as users will be attracted to the words they are searching for in the first place. As a general rule of thumb, the optimal format for a title tag is: Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

Meta Description

Located below the title tag in search results, the meta description is a useful piece of information that provides a brief explanation of the contents of a webpage. Even though meta descriptions do not have a direct impact on search engine rankings, they are important in boosting click-through rates from users.

An optimal meta description is somewhere between 150 and 160 characters and includes numerous keywords. Keywords are important in meta descriptions because search engines bold keywords in the description when they match search queries. Overall, meta descriptions must contain succinct, yet compelling ad copy in order to drive traffic through SEO.

Meta Robots

Meta robots are a slightly more complicated piece of metadata that tells search engines how to interact with your pages. While there are multiple values that can be used with meta robots, the most popular functions used with them are noindex and nofollow. If your company has a webpage that is only meant for internal use, the use of the noindex meta tag tells search engines to not put the page in search results. Likewise, the nofollow meta robot tells search engine robots to not follow any links of the page.

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