Understanding and Utilizing Your Website’s MetadataA website’s metadata contains vital parts of a web page and when used properly it can provide a great boost to a website’s SEO and search rankings. Which meta tags are currently relevant in 2014, and what information should you include in order to properly label and promote your website?

Website Metadata and Meta Tags

Meta tags, also known as meta elements, are used in web pages to provide structured metadata to search engines and applications such as web browsers and are included in a web page’s header. Meta tags serve the same function as a name tag at a job or networking event – when employees or event attendees are unknown to customers or other attendees, name tags provide a quick and easy way to both introduce and label an individual. There are some cases where the only metadata you’ll need are just a few keywords or phrases (just like a networking name tag), but there will be times when you’ll need to use the full character limit that each meta tag provides for you.

What The Experts Say

As a general rule, search engines do not reveal a lot of insight into the algorithms they use to determine search results – this discourages web designers and SEO experts from “gaming” the algorithms to artificially inflate the SEO of websites. SEO experts are also divided in regards to the importance of metadata, SEO and search rankings. Yet experts generally believe that metadata and meta tags help SEO and provide other important benefits, such as proving instructions to web browsers on how to properly encode and display the web page in question. In addition, using modern proprietary meta tags can provide added special features and added benefits to search engine rankings and social media posts.

The Importance of Meta Titles and Descriptions

The most important meta tags are the Page Title and Meta Description tags. The Page Title tag is self-explanatory – it presents the title of the web page, which should be a straightforward and relevant title for the web page that is no longer than 70 characters. The Meta Description tag, on the other hand, can be used much more creatively. This tag includes a description of the web page in question, should be no longer than 155 characters, and should include relevant keywords and a call to action. Remember to write descriptions for your site visitors, not for search engine algorithms – you are ultimately appealing to people, and most people aren’t interested in reading keyword gobbledygook written for a machine! It is also important to note that the Page Title and Meta Description tags should be unique for each web page of your website – it is vital that you resist the urge to apply a uniform set of tags to all of your web pages, as this may cause your website to be incorrectly categorized and damage your SEO.

A Note On Keywords

You are most likely familiar with the term ‘keyword’, but don’t let it intimidate you. Keywords are just the words people use to describe your products and services. Keywords are nothing mysterious, just words people use to search with. Anything can be a keyword – from flowers and roses to custom made gaskets.

Meta Tags In Social Media

Other relevant meta tags in 2014 are proprietary ones that apply to specific search engines and social media networks, more specifically Google, Facebook and Twitter. Recently Google has begun attributing content in search results to specific authors who have Google+ profiles. The tag that identifies the author is the “Rel-Author tag, which must be immediately followed by either the “Rel-Me” tag, which identifies the author as representing themselves, or the “Rel-Publisher” tag, which identifies the company that the author represents. The proprietary tags created by Facebook and Twitter allow the authors of pages, blog posts and other content to specify exactly what title, description, URL and image they want included in a social media post. It is important to note that none of these proprietary tags are required by the platforms and services in question – if they are omitted, each service will default to the metadata provided in the standard page title and meta description tags.

If you don’t have the time or patience to properly create metadata and meta tags, you can easily add plugins to website and blog Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress that take the hassle out of creating meta tags for your content.