Last Updated on January 14, 2021 by David Bryan
Metadata and meta titles (also known as page titles) are critical elements of SEO, making up a core element of Google’s search algorithms1. Like so many elements of writing content for the Web, creating meta data for SEO involves walking of a delicate tightrope.
What is metadata for SEO?
Table of Contents
In this post we will explore the following topics:
- 1 What is metadata for SEO?
- 2 How does metadata influence SEO?
- 3 How do I view metadata for a web page?
- 4 How to create an effective meta title
- 5 Do’s and don’ts of optimisation
- 6 Conclusion: write the perfect metadata & optimise your page for amazing SEO results
The first question many website owners ask, is ‘what is metadata?’
It’s not a term we use much in every day life, so it can be confusing to understand.
The Wikipedia definition of metadata is:
“data that provides information about other data”
To simplify this and explain within the context of SEO, it’s essentially code that describes your webpage and is generally hidden from visitors when they view your page.
On a Google search, web pages will feature the title of the page followed by a description. The former will initially catch your attention and the latter will convince you to click the link.
This is why it is so important to consider metadata for SEO. Unless you operate in a particularly unique business niche, there will be competing websites all fighting for the same traffic and keywords as you.
Metadata is your opportunity to convince users that they should be visiting your website!
How does metadata influence SEO?
Metadata and SEO go hand-in-hand, probably more than any other SEO activity.
Imagine that you are browsing the shelves of a bookshop. You will have an idea of what you like to read, so you’ll likely head to a particular section of the store.
You will scan the shelves looking for something that catches your eye. When this happens, you’ll flip the paperback over and read the blurb on the back. Based on that, you will know if you are interested enough to crack the spine and flip through the pages. Think of this as the ‘real-life’ equivalent of metadata and SEO.
The browsing of the shelves was the equivalent of searching Google for a particular term of question. Particular keywords or images likely captured your imagination. The blurb, meanwhile, was the metadata of the book. It offered a short, sharp summary of what you can expect to find between the covers.
This, in a nutshell, is how metadata influences SEO. The metadata used on a search engine will make use of keywords that match a user’s search intent. If the user finds this appealing, they will click on the link. Suddenly, your traffic has increased by one.
Keep this up and your page ranking will boost, ensuring that more users see the metadata and click on your site.
How do I view metadata for a web page?
You can easily view meta data in one of three common ways:
1. View Page Source
This is the quickest option to view metadata but it’s advisable to be familiar with HTML code first.
Firstly, right click and select Click View Page Source (or equivalent) in your browser.
Then look for the below code:
The metadata is usually found near to the top of the source code. The most important elements for SEO are the <title> tag (meta title) and <meta name=”description” content=”Would you…”> tag (meta description).
2. Check on search engine results pages
Simply search for the web page you would like to check in a search engine like Google:
In the example above, the part which says “Google” is the meta title and the part which says “Search the world’s information…” is the meta description.
3. Use a free tool
There are various free tools for analysing meta data and showing this in a nice user-friendly way:
How to create an effective meta title
Meta titles (page titles) are the most important piece of metadata when creating a web page – and also for SEO.
As can be seen in the example above, this takes the below form:
<head><title>This is a meta title</title></head>
In the past, meta keyword tags were used to add words that describe the web page. This has become more or less redundant now and isn’t used by Google. The meta title however is still used by Google and all other search engines and has become the most important place to add your keywords.
Meta title guidelines for 2020
Meta titles should be snappy headlines (calls to action) to encourage visitors to click the link when browsing search engine results. The trick when it comes to SEO, is to ensure the meta title also contains relevant keywords to help your page to rank and be found in search engines.
This makes it tempting to cram as many keywords into a title as possible, a popular blackhat SEO tactic undertaken in the past, especially when the meta keywords tag was still in use. It’s very likely this will be automatically penalised by a Google algorithm.
Instead of packing as much as possible into your title, try to word it to attract visitors while also inserting relevant keywords that have search volume. More on keyword research can be found in this article.
Here are some general guidelines and best practices for creating your meta title:
- Carry out your keyword research first and consider search intent
- Make sure every page has a unique meta title – this will help to differentiate them in the eyes of Google
- Keep them short and catchy – try to avoid exceeding 60 characters
- Add keywords near the start of your title tag
- Use pipe eliminator to separate parts as this takes up minimal space
- Include your brand where possible
- Capitalise your title tag to help it stand out
- Embrace long-tail keywords 2
- Try to group related keywords and don’t over-use them, e.g.
<title>What is Metadata? Benefits of Meta Tags for SEO | Opace</title>
Is better tan:
<title>Metadata, Meta data, Meta tags, Meta tile and description, page title, meta description, keywords...</title>
The bottom example is too long, looks spammy and contains the word “meta” five times when there is no need.
How to optimise your page for SEO correctly?
Metadata for SEO is very important and plays a significant role in optimising your page.
Equally though, you need to consider the visible content on the page – the words, images and media that visitors will see when viewing your page.
Poorly written or inappropriate page content will greatly impact your page ranking no matter how good your metadata is.
Here are some basic guidelines for optimising your page for SEO:
1. Use keywords in your page
As with metadata, keywords are king when you look to optimise a page, especially if you have completed appropriate keyword research in advance.
Long-tail keywords (or phrases) can be tough to get right. They can greatly enhance SEO and rankings though, especially where you you have identified a niche topic that hasn’t been published before. If you work in a popular field, broad keywords will provide greater search volume but they are difficult to rank for as everybody will be competing for the same thing. This means long-tail keywords are often a better way to go.
Imagine that you work in the fine art field as a dealer. The term, “fine art” brings up 8,100 average searches in the UK. The longer-tail version “fine art dealer” has 50 average monthly searches, meaning it will be far more achievable and it’s likely to convert better as it’s directly relevant.
When optimising a page for the “fine art dealer” keyword, consider the following:
- Page URL – ideally this should include the keywords e.g. mysite.co.uk/fine-art-dealer
- Heading 1 (H1) tag – next to the meta title and URL, this is one of the most important HTML tags to contain keywords
- Sub-headings (H2 to H5) – these generally have a higher weighting for keywords than body text
- Body text – this is where the main bulk of your content will go so make sure you include keyword, but do so naturally
- Images and media – take advantage of file names, image ALT tags, captions and so on to include keywords and describe your media
- Internal linking – link to related pages on your site using keywords as the anchor text
As always, remember to keep your page content natural and avoid spamming keywords.
2. Write creative, compelling and eye-catching copy
It’s easy to get carried away with keywords. You need to remember one golden rule – keep your visitor engaged!
This can be challenging. Shorter is sometimes better. If brevity is not your strength, enlist the services of a professional copywriter. You must strike the balance between using enough words, gaining curiosity and keeping them engaged, without rambling or wandering off on a tangent.
This copy should be unique and creative. You need to get your point across in a way that attracts attention, whilst separating your offering from your competitors. Get to the point, though. Users are often only skim reading your page, so if you fail to make a compelling case to read on, they will often bounce and visit another site. This in turn can have a negative impact on your SEO.
This is not the time to push a sales opportunity, either. Users want to be treated like human beings, not customers. Use both your metadata and content to convince users to explore your offering further. Do not leap, two-footed, into a call to action.
3. Be honest and aligned
Finally, you need to ensure that your content is entirely honest and accurate.
Return to our bookshop example from earlier. If you were intrigued enough by the blurb of the book (metadata) to read it, you will know what to expect. Your metadata and content should be perfectly aligned.
If you picked up a book expecting a fantasy epic comparable to Game of Thrones, you will be disappointed and frustrated to find that the story itself concerns the marital strife of a couple in modern-day Yorkshire.
If your metadata promises one thing and your content delivers something entirely different, users will feel the same disillusionment. This will also result in a high bounce rate and plummeting SEO results.
Double and triple check your metadata and content. Ensure it is devoid of typos and formatting errors. If the book you picked up could not even get the spelling right on the back cover, you will not hold out much hope for the content. The same applies to metadata and SEO results.
Do’s and don’ts of optimisation
|Optimise your pages with multiple short, punchy headlines||Use metadata or headlines to mislead users – they will lead to bouncing visitors|
|Write compelling, interesting content to keep your visitor engaged||Use basic, generic language that could apply to any service|
|Use keywords in metadata that appeals to visitor search intent and generate interest||Use metadata simply to convince users to make a purchase or take action|
|Treat readers like human beings, not robots or walking, talking potential conversions||Recycle or duplicate existing copy and content, either on your own site or externally|
Conclusion: write the perfect metadata & optimise your page for amazing SEO results
You may be feeling like there are a lot of rules surrounding metadata for SEO and content optimisation. You are right. This is complicated alchemy that requires a careful blend of artistic copy and SEO science. It’s an art that many business owners try to adopt but often get wrong. After all SEO is a specialism in it’s own right and often takes years to master.
References and further reading