One of the more important, yet underrated and misunderstood, elements of a website is its metadata, which includes the meta tags on each web page. What is metadata, and why is it so important to the organization, marketing and SEO of your website?
The Importance Of Properly Labeling Your Website
Metadata is defined by Wikipedia as simply “data about data”. Your website, like all other websites on the Web, is a collection of data that is available, either publicly or privately, for others to access. Metadata contain labels, descriptions and key words that help search engines, web browsers and other web-specific applications such as RSS readers categorize your website. As the Internet and its search engines have evolved, the metadata contained in meta tags has evolved as well, with certain tags gaining and losing relevance.
A Hypothetical Situation
Imagine visiting your local hardware store in search of a very specific bolt that you need to repair your lawnmower. The owner of the hardware store informs you that a shipment of bolts arrived that morning, but when he opened the crate he discovered that hundreds of bolts in various sizes were mixed up and shipped together without packaging or labels. The bolt you need may be in that shipment, but it will take days for the store to measure and categorize each bolt in the shipment, and even once this task is completed, there is no guarantee that the sorting will be 100% accurate. This hypothetical scenario is unlikely to ever happen because the manufacturers and distributors of bolts would never dream of dumping hundreds of different bolts into the same crate without properly packaging and labeling them.
Relevant Search Results
Now imagine that you are seeking a very specific answer to a question on the Web. You visit your preferred search engine, such as Google or Bing. When you enter your search query, you don’t expect Google or Bing to serve up hundreds of random web pages, hoping that if you sort through each one, there is a slight chance you will find a page relevant to your search query. Instead, search engines have mastered the art of providing you with the most relevant list of websites available, and search engines are able to better locate and categorize websites based on the metadata contained in meta tags on each web page of a website. Just like the hypothetical bolt distributor, web designers voluntarily provide this information to assist search engines in properly categorizing the website in question. If a web designer were to omit metadata, there is a good chance the website’s search ranking would be penalized a result.
Why Should I Care About Metadata and Meta Tags?
If you have commissioned a web designer or web design firm to build a static website for your business and your business does not expand, relocate or evolve in any way, then the metadata on your web pages can remain static as well. However, most websites contain dynamic content, such as blog posts, and most businesses periodically expand, relocate and evolve, and when the data is either added, deleted or altered on a web page, metadata should be added, deleted, or altered as well. In addition, search engines also evolve and alter the algorithms they use to list websites, therefore it is important to ensure that the metadata listed with your website is current and relevant to search engines. Therefore it is important to understand how website metadata and meta tags work and to properly utilize them when publishing websites and dynamic website content.
In our next post, we will discuss each meta tag in more depth and explain how listing accurate and complete metadata in relevant meta tags can provide an SEO boost to your website.