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What Is Metadata and Why Does Your Site Need It?
  • By Mark Harrison

    Copywriter

By Believe it or not, the key to great web design and copywriting isn’t only what you can see on the screen. While functionality and aesthetics are crucial to a good website, your content needs to be put in context for customers to find you. That’s where metadata comes in. To put it simply, metadata is descriptive data. Remember, when customers are looking for the kind of products and services you offer, that means they cannot see you yet. Metadata enables you to describe each page and each element of your site to someone who doesn’t know what you look like. This data helps search engines to evaluate individual pages of your website, affecting whether or not they rank highly on results pages. Components that feature relevant keywords, such as page titles, page descriptions, image alt tags, and even the URL, have all become more readable as search engines have advanced. At Web.com, we write metadata for each and every page on your site, which means we know all about the different types of metadata your site needs, and the benefits of using them well. In this post, we’ll cover all the essentials, and also try to shed some light…

Believe it or not, the key to great web design and copywriting isn’t only what you can see on the screen. While functionality and aesthetics are crucial to a good website, your content needs to be put in context for customers to find you. That’s where metadata comes in.

To put it simply, metadata is descriptive data. Remember, when customers are looking for the kind of products and services you offer, that means they cannot see you yet. Metadata enables you to describe each page and each element of your site to someone who doesn’t know what you look like.

This data helps search engines to evaluate individual pages of your website, affecting whether or not they rank highly on results pages. Components that feature relevant keywords, such as page titles, page descriptions, image alt tags, and even the URL, have all become more readable as search engines have advanced.

At Web.com, we write metadata for each and every page on your site, which means we know all about the different types of metadata your site needs, and the benefits of using them well. In this post, we’ll cover all the essentials, and also try to shed some light on what makes great metadata.

 

What’s the Difference between Metadata and Content?

In essence, metadata means data that is about data. In terms of your website, it should concisely summarise your content, making it easier to find by giving people the right information at the right time.

That’s why you should take just as much care with writing metadata copy as you do with your primary site content. As in all things, well-written copy will always convert more potential customers than bland sales patter.

As well as boosting clickthrough rates, good metadata copy tends to rank higher in search results, meaning more site visits from organic searches. It’s usually an undervalued aspect of your copywriting strategy, so let’s look at the key features you need to explore.

 

Metadata and Copy

Let’s say, for example, that you provide business courier services in London. Your company is called Universal Exports and you transport customers’ goods, belongings, and important documents from London to locations across the UK.

Here’s how you might want your homepage to appear in search results…

 

Universal Exports

Page Titles

Universal Exports | Professional Business Couriers in London

Your Page Title will not only appear on the browser tab when your customers visit each page on your site but also right at the top of each search listing.

Most search engines display page titles of up to 580 pixels, (approximately 60 characters) including your Primary Keyword and your Location.

While you may also wish to include your Company Name, it’s not essential for every page, especially if this makes it more straightforward to stay inside character limits. For the best search results, you should always include your keyword and almost always include your location.

In the latter case, if you’re serving more than one area or you don’t want to include information about where you are based, it’s acceptable to omit geo-tags and location keywords from your metadata copy.

For this example, we’ve used the company’s location rather than the nationwide service area. People are more likely to be looking for a local company when they use search engines and as described, the business is based in London. You will have other opportunities to mention your service area.

This applies to most pages on your website, but for blog posts and similar content, the post title will usually suffice. Be mindful of the character limit when creating headlines for your blog posts and make sure you keep it short for maximum effect.

 

URL

www.universal-exports.co.uk/home-business-couriers-london

Optimising your URLs for searchability is about more than just choosing a domain name. From your home page to your contact page, you can once again maximise your results by making sure you include your keyword and location.

While our example concentrates on your home page, the same applies for every content page on your site. After the forward slash, you should also include the Page Name, (not to be confused with the page title) the Primary Keyword, and your Location, each separated by a hyphen.

For example, if you were based in Stockton-on-Tees, and were moved to start a website offering keyword research services, your services page might look like this:

 

http://greatmetadata.co.uk/services

or like this:

http://greatmetadata.co.uk/services-keyword-research-stockton-on-tees

 

As with your Page Title, search engines can read the information and determine how relevant your product or service pages are to users’ enquiries and rank them appropriately.

For this reason, you can usually forego the Primary Keyword with non-content pages (i.e. testimonials, galleries, FAQs) but you should still include the Location. For example:

 

Testimonials: http://greatmetadata.co.uk/testimonials-stockton-on-tees

Gallery: http://greatmetadata.co.uk/gallery-stockton-on-tees

FAQs: http://greatmetadata.co.uk/faqs-stockton-on-tees

 

When it comes to blog posts and other content, the title of your post should be suitable, sans keywords and geo-tags. If metadata is descriptive data, your headline will suffice to describe the content and also attract users who search in questions like “what is”, such as:

What Is Metadata and Why Does Your Site Need It? :
http://greatmetadata.co.uk/what-is-metadata-and-why-does-your-site-need-it

 

Page Descriptions

With more than 50 years' experience, our business couriers serve clients nationwide. Contact us today, in London, to discover more about our courier services.

The largest part of your search listing metadata is the Page Description. Limited to 160 characters, this is a short and precise description of everything your customers need to know.

On every page, your keywords will include a Primary Keyword, a Secondary Keyword, and a Location. All three of these values must appear in your Page Description for maximum SEO benefits. You must also include either a Question or a Call To Action. (CTA)

With more than 50 years' experience, our [business couriers] Primary Keyword serve clients nationwide. [Contact us today] CTA, in [London,] Location to discover more about our [courier services] Secondary Keyword.

Making the most of the space, we’ve also included the following information:

  • Industry Experience
  • Service Area

If we were to use a Question instead, a description for the same page might go as follows:

Looking for reliable business courier services? With more than 50 years’ experience, we serve clients nationwide. Contact us today, in London, to discover more.

Questions may also act as long-tail keywords. With the advent of voice search and digital personal assistants, more and more people are searching in conversational terms.

If, for instance, you run a kitchen design company, an example of a common query might be “how to design a kitchen”. Here’s how we could embed these questions in Page Descriptions:

Question: Wondering how to design a kitchen? Addressing all of your needs, our skilled team make your dream into a reality with a personalised kitchen design service.

CTA: Our skilled team know how to design a kitchen. Contact us today, in Middlesbrough, Cleveland, to find out more about our exceptional kitchen design services.

When you don’t have a page description, most search engines default to a passage from the beginning of your content, which may cut off at the 160-character limit or otherwise appear ungainly and perfunctory.

 

Metadata and Images

Image files come with a wide variety of metadata, but for SEO purposes, you primarily need to be concerned with the Alt Description and Alt Text. These tags are literally about describing what is shown in an image, providing valuable context for your content.

(MARKETING, please embed an image of a uniformed courier dropping off a large parcel for a client outside an office building)

Using fewer than 125 characters, your Alt Description should literally describe what appears in the image in specific detail. So, while the simplest description of the image above is “Courier delivering a parcel”, there’s additional information you should include in the description.

  • The courier wears a uniform – “Uniformed courier delivering a parcel”
  • The client is collecting the parcel – “Uniformed courier delivering a parcel to a client”
  • The delivery is in a large box – “Uniformed courier delivering a large parcel to a client.”
  • The delivery takes place at an office – “Uniformed courier delivering a large parcel to a client outside an office building.”

Literally, your Alt Description is how you would describe the image to someone who is unable to see. Not only will this make your site more accessible but also help you to hoover up traffic from users who are searching for related terms.

Your Alt Text will be shorter and will usually have some SEO benefit. You may wish to use the Primary or Secondary Keyword for the page on which the image appears, but please note that each piece of Alt Text should ideally be unique to each image.

 

Metadata and Social Media

Analytics have shown that the appearance of information on a web page is an important factor in whether users take notice of it and click through. The appearance of your links on social media feeds can be determined by metadata, specifically Open Graph data.

 

Open Graph Example

Open Graph posts include a link title, a brief description, and (usually) a thumbnail image. By selecting and curating this information yourself, you will be able to make your pages appealing when displayed in social media posts, which will in turn increase visits from social platforms.

As with your Page Description, it’s vital that you write content expressly for this purpose, because otherwise, the social platform will usually grab whatever data it can find and display it willy-nilly. Social-specific metadata grants you a degree of control over what your potential customers see when they see a link to your content.

 

Metadata and Analytics

Finally, the major benefit of having a metadata strategy is to make data easier to find, not only for the customer but also for yourself.

A well-honed strategy allows you to give your potential customers the right information at the right time and analytics regarding site traffic and search queries will provide an accurate representation of what pages are the most useful and informative.

When your keywords are properly seeded through your metadata, (rather than dumped into the copy, which is a no-no) you will see which keywords and more importantly what content you should make more of. This will also allow you to identify areas for improvement.

Above all, metadata is about context. If your customer journey is easily understood by you and your customers alike, greater traffic and conversions will surely follow.

 

5 Top Takeaways

  1. Metadata is descriptive – from your Page Title to your Page Description, write your metadata copy as you would write an advert for your company.
  2. You must include Keywords and, when suits your business aims and service area, a Location in your metadata.
  3. Keep your copy within character limits to make sure your page appears correctly on search engine result pages and doesn’t get cropped or truncated.
  4. Make use of your analytics to determine what’s going well and what isn’t, and then refine and repeat your strategy accordingly.
  5. There are no tips or tricks that can trump unique, compelling copy – you should take as much care with your metadata copy as any other part of your site’s content.

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