In the modern digital age, data is the new gold. Just like in the olden days when people would go out and pan for gold to make a living, you need to sift through your company’s data to find the valuable nuggets that can help your business thrive.
When it comes to getting your content found online, “the devil is in the metadata.”
Metadata is additional information about a specific set of data. For example, if you have a collection of photographs, the metadata could include information about when and where the photos were taken.
The concept of metadata originated in 280 BC, when the Great Library of Alexandria attached a small tag to the end of each scroll. The tags gave the title, subject, and author of individual scrolls—allowing library users to search for a specific work without having to unroll each scroll.
- What is Metadata?
- What’s the Importance of Metadata?
- How Do You Optimize Metadata?
- 1. Title Tag
- 2. Header Tag
- 3. Meta Description
- 4. Canonical Tag
- 5. Alt Text Tag
What is Metadata?
Metadata is a set of data that describes other data. In simpler terms, metadata is information that represents the data in a document, web page, or file. It provides information about a particular piece of content, such as its author, the date it was created, and its subject matter. Search engines can use this information to organize and display content in ways that make sense to you.
Metadata is traditionally used in the card catalogs of libraries, but the term was first applied to digital data when libraries began building databases. When computer-based formats became prevalent in the 2000s, metadata continued to describe digital data using what are known as “metadata standards.”
However, the first mention of computer metadata dates back to an academic paper published in 1967 when Stuart McIntosh and David Griffel at MIT discussed the need for a digital “metalanguage.”
What’s the Importance of Metadata?
Metadata is important in data management because it keeps your data organized and accessible. Metadata is the information that describes a piece of data. It tells you what kind of information you’re looking at. It tells you who created it, when it was created and last updated, where it lives, how big it is, and how reliable it is.
This information helps organizations make informed decisions about managing and using their data more effectively. It ensures that all the right people have access to all the proper documents at any given time—even if those documents are spread across multiple locations or systems in an organization’s IT infrastructure.
Marketers must understand that metadata optimization drives search engine content optimization. Without metadata, marketers weaken their ability to demonstrate relevance to search engines.
How Do You Optimize Metadata?
There are a few key areas to concentrate on when adding metadata to your website:
1. Title Tag
The title tag is what people see when they search for your site online. It’s also what appears in search engines like Google when someone searches for your company or brand name. Search engines use title tags to find matching results when someone types a word or phrase into a search bar.
Title Tag Best Practices
1. Title tag length should not be more than 60 characters.
It’s advisable to keep your title tag short. When Google deems a title tag too long, irrelevant, or spammy, it may shorten or amend it to clarify the topic.
In August 2021, it was reported that Google was utterly rewriting title tags. When a user’s query was better answered with headings or internal link text, Google replaced the text on the page. In fact, Zyppy.com studied 81,000 title tags from 2370 sites and found that Google altered 61.6% of them.
2. Keep your title as descriptive as possible.
When writing a title tag, don’t just use the name of your business or product. Be sure to include the benefits or prominent points of interest for someone who might be searching for your main keyword on Google.
3. Use keywords where appropriate.
You can usually get away with stuffing keywords into the first part of the title tag or any metadata if there’s enough space left over. However, try not to go overboard—you’ll look spammy, and people might distrust your site because of it.
In addition, start your title tag with your primary keywords. According to Moz, keywords appearing at the beginning of title tags significantly impact search rankings.
In his article on “Real estate search optimization”, SEO expert Oleg Donets recommended using two main keywords and a brand’s name when writing the title tag.
2. Header Tag
Header tags are HTML elements that separate the page’s information from its presentation. They typically precede any text on a page and are used in conjunction with other HTML elements to provide structure to a page. The importance of header tags is ranked from H1 to H6. Heading tags with H1 tags are the most important, while H6 tags are the least important.
Header tags are crucial if you have an SEO strategy that relies on keywords because header tags help search engines understand the contexts of those keywords. According to Moz, search engines like Google consider it one of the most crucial ranking factors.
Header Tag Best Practices
1. Keep header tag word count and header tags to a minimum.
Too many header tags on a page disrupt the user experience and will make your page intimidating to read for visitors. You want to keep these to a minimum, only using them where necessary.
In the same vein, your header tags should be as short as possible. Headers are used to organize your content and help users find what they’re looking for, so the more information you can fit into them, the better. But if you make them too long, they become distracting and can even cause issues with screen readers. As a rule of thumb, keep your header tags’ word count to a minimum (under 20-70 words).
2. Don’t use more than one <h1> tag per page.
Using more than one <h1> tag per page is a common mistake that can make your content look unprofessional. If you’re using multiple H1 tags, you’re declaring that some text is more important than others. For search engines and users trying to read quickly through your content, this can make it difficult to understand your page.
3. Optimize header tags for long tail keywords.
When you optimize your header tags using long tail keywords, you are essentially telling the search engines that your content is relevant to specific searches. This can increase the likelihood that your site will show up in search results for very specific terms or even in the snippets section of Google.
3. Meta Description
Meta description is a brief, descriptive paragraph that summarizes the content of a web page. The meta description appears in the search results when someone searches for your website. It tells the searcher why they should click on your link to visit your site.
Meta descriptions are helpful because they give the user an idea of what to expect from your page. They are also used by search engines to determine what your page’s content is about and whether it should be displayed in search results.
Meta Description Best Practices
1. Ensure they’re at least 150 characters long.
Meta descriptions should be at least 150 characters long. Google will shorten any meta description that’s too long. Researchers have found that 70% of the time, Google rewrites meta descriptions.
2. Include your keyword(s) at least once in the description.
While meta descriptions play no direct role in a page’s SEO rankings, they affect a page’s click through rate. You must include your keyword(s) at least once in the meta description without affecting the user experience.
This is significant because it tells both Google and the end user that your content is what they’re looking for. When a searcher’s query and keywords appear in your meta descriptions, Google bolds them. Think of meta descriptions as a way to sell your content to readers without appearing spammy.
3. Write them in an active voice, not passive.
Google recommends that you write meta descriptions in the active voice and avoid the passive voice. A description written in the active voice will usually be easier for the reader to understand than a passive voice description.
4. Avoid duplicate meta descriptions.
The use of duplicate meta descriptions might not lead to your website being penalized by Google, but it could result in less important pages ranking higher.
4. Canonical Tag
For big websites, you simply cannot avoid duplicate content and duplicate URL issues on your site. In these cases, you need the canonical tag. A canonical tag is an HTML element that tells search engines which version of a page should be indexed. The most common use of the canonical tag is to specify whether the primary domain or subdomain should be displayed in search results.
Canonical Tag Best Practices
1. Use only one canonical tag per page.
When Google decides which page is worth pointing to when someone searches for a particular topic, it uses a complex algorithm that considers the number of links and words on the page. If multiple pages on the same site seem to be about the same thing, Google will choose the one that seems more complete or useful.
If you don’t specify a canonical URL, Google will select the most appropriate version of the page. In the case of multiple rel=canonical declarations, Google will likely disregard all of them. This means that a lesser quality page might rank higher.
2. Use absolute URLs instead of relative URLs
The <link> HTML tag allows the inclusion of both relative and absolute URLs. Relative URLs, like images/cupcake.png, include a path “relative” to the current page. Absolute URLs, like (http://www.example.com/path/to/image.png), specify the full path.
It is recommended that you use the following structure:
<link rel=“canonical” href=“https://example.com/sample-page/” />
As opposed to this one:
<link rel=“canonical” href=”/sample-page/” />
3. Prioritize HTTPS over HTTP.
Google prefers to index HTTPS pages instead of HTTP pages. But the following practices can cause Google to prefer HTTP over HTTPS.
- Using a bad TLS/SSL certificate and the use of HTTPS-to-HTTP redirects
- Including the HTTP version of your page in your sitemap or hreflang entries, rather than the HTTPS version.
4. Use a rel=”canonical” link element in the <head> section of a page.
The rel=”canonical” link element is a core component of your site’s SEO strategy. It tells search engines which page should be considered the canonical version of your content, so that they can rank it appropriately. You should include this tag in the <head> section of every page on your site, including self-referential canonical tags for main pages. It’s pretty easy to set up canonical tags with the Yoast plugin.
But whenever Google encounters a rel=canonical in the <body> instead of the <head> section of a page, it disregards it. This is because Google wants to see a rel=”canonical” in the <head> section so that it knows where to send users—and Google wants to handle this information immediately upon arrival at the page.
5. Alt Text Tag
Alt text is a short description of an image that provides context for people who can’t or don’t want to see the image. It’s also useful for page indexing, and search engines often use it to determine what images are on a page.
Despite its lesser importance, alt text is one of the most significant attributes of an image when it comes to SEO. Search engines can gather additional keywords and other information from the alt text tag. As a result, they can better understand your topic.
Alt Tag Metadata Best Practices
1. Be sure to include keywords.
One of the essential aspects of optimizing your website for Google is ensuring that you include keywords in the alt tag when you link to an image. Users can read these keywords and understand what the image is about when they can’t see the picture. According to Yoast, including keywords in your alt tag increases your chances of ranking on Google.
2. Use simple language.
When writing alt tags, it’s essential to use simple language that describes the image in a way that’s easy for search engines to understand. The words you choose should describe the image’s content, not just its name or file extension. You can use this tag to provide alternative text for images if they don’t display correctly on screen readers or other accessibility tools.
3. Keep it short, if possible.
Detailed and long alt texts are not recommended. There should be no more than 125 characters in the alt text. As a result, the alt text will be “read” by the search engine in its entirety.
Metadata helps search engines categorize and understand your pages. In this article, we’ve seen some basic metadata optimization ideas to improve search rankings.
Social media platforms are also search engines. You can optimize metadata, such as location tags and hashtags, in your posts to help them get found.
For developers, Mention offers a search engine to find relevant content on web and social media using complex filters such as keyword proximity constraints, influence scores, author country, language and more. It can fetch social media content metadata on Tiktok, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter.