The Beginner’s Guide to Writing SEO Optimised Metadata
Last update: 1 June 2021 at 02:40 pm
If you have a website, work in marketing or design, or have an IT background, you’ve probably heard about metadata. Meta titles, descriptions, and data make it easier for systems and search engines to understand and interpret files, content, and web pages. It does a critical job, and although most people know that, they still don’t quite understand what metadata is or how it works.
In this article, we’re going to look at:
- What metadata is and how it works.
- Types of metadata.
- Why you need metadata and how it impacts SEO.
- The best practices when writing meta titles and descriptions.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Metadata and Why is It Important?
Metadata has been around for a very long time. In fact, it’s not even limited to online data. There are even specific metadata schemas or structures. More traditional versions are “who, what, when, where, and why.” More recent variants include “title, description, language, keyword, license, file type, author”, and more.
Every photo you take, document you create, and website you visit has some form of metadata. So, what is metadata exactly?
There are many definitions, including a rather complex one set by the International Standards Organization. The shortest and most straightforward way to explain metadata is to say that it describes data or information. It tells you the essential things you need to know about a file, a website, a web page, or an item.
There are so many different varieties of and uses for metadata that it’s difficult to put them into specific groups. However, there are two types you probably encounter every day.
Document Files Metadata
Almost all computer files, documents, or images you’ve ever created contains some form of metadata. It’s all stored within the document, from the file name and data types to user and location information.
For example, if you take a picture with your phone or digital camera, its metadata schema is automatically filled. These data fields contain information like the file size, creation date, the device used, file extension, and more. That basic information might not have much to do with the picture itself, but it tells programs and online platforms how to interpret and use it.
Similarly, an audio file will have information about its creator and the software used to make it, as will any document. Any picture may have info about colour depth or image resolution. These metadata elements describe the item and how it was made, rather than what it contains.
Digital and SEO-Orientated Metadata
Just about anything online contains some form of metadata. For example, many stock images contain meta-information regarding:
- The creator or author
- Image content
- The license and rights reserved
- Meta tags
- Contact information
Similarly, online articles and content contain metadata. The same goes for your pages. Websites use metadata such as:
- Author information
- Content meta tags
- Time created or modified
It even defines how your content appears when you share it on social media. Most of the metadata fields are generated and filled in automatically. However, there are times you might want to step in and write the metadata yourself.
If you include SEO optimised metadata on your web page, search engines will interpret it more accurately and recommend it in search results. It’s a crucial part of search engine optimisation, and it’s often overlooked or forgotten.
Suppose you want Google to understand the content on your web page better and make accurate recommendations to users. In that case, you need to write custom, optimised metadata such as meta titles and descriptions.
So if you are still wondering why metadata management is important, remember that it is what gives your site meaning and for Google to have an accurate idea of what you are trying to offer to its audience.
Do You Really Need to Use Meta Titles and Descriptions on Web Pages?
Do you want users to find your website? Search engines to understand your data and content? People to read an article you wrote or buy products you’ve listed? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you have your answer.
You really, really need to use metadata.
Or, at the very least, you need to use titles and descriptions. These are two kinds of metadata that most website owners have control over. If you use a CMS like WordPress or an SEO plugin like Yoast, you’ll find it relatively easy to start including the right information, tags, and data that’ll help search engines understand the context of your site’s pages.
How to Write Effective, Optimised Metadata That Search Engines Understand
Not all metadata is created equal. Yes, it’s important to include metadata. However, loading the data with keywords and stuffed descriptions won’t do much good. We know you need SEO advice from the experts, and that’s why we’re going to share a few of our metadata writing best practices.
Short, Sweet, and Snappy
Metadata doesn’t have to be overly detailed or descriptive. Instead, the goal is to get your message across concisely, with just the right amount of information. Google has a character limit on both titles and description meta tags.
Ideally, a title needs to be between 50 – 60 characters. If it’s too long, the extra words won’t be displayed in search results. The same goes for descriptions; Google will show between 150 – 160 characters before cutting off the text.
Keep the information short, sweet, and snappy.
Pro Tip: It might be tempting to shorten your titles and descriptions by using non-alphanumeric characters like “@,” “&,” “-” and others. Avoid using these tactics whenever possible. The few exceptions are those companies that have one of these symbols in their registered name.
If length is the problem, try rephrasing the sentence or replace a word with a smaller, simpler synonym. Your metadata will both look and perform better.
Include the Main Keyword
Let’s say you have a web page focused on the keyword “natural bedroom decorations.” The page may be optimised for several keywords, but trying to stuff everything into your metadata isn’t the best idea. Instead, try to focus only on the primary keyword. For example:
“Interior Design: How To Create Natural Bedroom Decorations from Scratch”
Not only is the title too long, but it may also confuse the search engine when it tries to determine how relevant your data is. Instead, try something catchier that highlights the main keyword:
“10 Natural Bedroom Decorations You Can Make at Home”
It’s less complicated and focuses more on the relevant data than stuffing the title with keywords and phrases. The same applies to the descriptions used to describe the web page content.
Users want you to tell them what to do with a call-to-action. What better way to lure than to your website than by including a CTA in your description? For example, instead of ending with a typical sentence, consider adding something like:
- Read our article for the latest tips!
- Click now and get 10% off!
- Download our free whitepaper!
Remember, your description metadata is basically like a free advertisement. By adding an appealing CTA, you improve the odds of someone clicking on the link and visiting your website.
Keep it Relevant to the Content
There’s no faster trick to tick off the great Google than by creating metadata that’s deceptive and not relevant to the content on your website. Context is critical, and the search giant actively penalises sites that use clickbait titles that have nothing to do with a page’s text.
It’s also a sure-fire method to tank your SEO. When visitors enter your website, they’ll realise that they’ve been fooled and leave. That results in a higher bounce rate and, consequently, a lower SEO score. Don’t sabotage yourself by using irrelevant metadata.
Tease the Topic
Metadata, especially descriptions, is a very robust tool in your SEO arsenal. The primary goal is to use the info to show potential visitors that you have the information they’re searching for. However, you can also make it as compelling as a paid advertisement using the right words and phrases.
You can’t use irrelevant metadata, but you can get creative and make your links and descriptions more appealing. Not all types of clickbait are wrong, and as long as you deliver on your promise, you’re still in the clear. Tease, tempt, and tantalise users until they can’t resist visiting your site.
Try to Create Unique Metadata
There are a lot of pages available on the internet. Each publisher is likely trying to develop a new, unique way to describe a topic that’s been covered many thousands of times. However, that’s the challenge we all face when it comes to creating metadata.
Start by doing searches for similar topics and look at the first few pages of results. While there’s nothing wrong with using the metadata to inspire your own, do your best to come up with a unique heading and description as possible.
Metadata doesn’t have to be confusing or tricky, and you don’t need decades of experience to create good titles and descriptions. If you follow our best practices, there’s no reason you can’t create excellent SEO optimised metadata for your web pages. The correct data will draw visitors and appeal to search engines. However, you can’t go wrong with a little expert advice! If you’re in doubt, turn to the experts for relevant advice.