In Internet Marketing, SEO

One of the most basic components of any search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is making sure a website’s metadata is set up correctly and optimized to ensure the best possible ranking in search results.

Because metadata requires both technical and internet marketing know-how, it is often poorly executed if left to someone whose skills are limited to just web development or internet marketing. An SEO specialist is someone who has skillsets in both fields and can bridge the gap between the technical and marketing aspects in the development and maintenance of a website.

Metadata is ground zero when it comes to SEO.

Just what exactly is metadata?

Simply put, metadata is a set of data that offers information about other data. When we talk about metadata in regards to a website, we are talking about information in the code of a website that helps search engines and other websites understand what that website is about, as well as offering technical and administrative information that can be useful in classifying, indexing, interacting with, and even displaying the website, or elements of the website, on search engines, social media platforms, online mapping tools, web-enabled devices, and more.

A good analogy to describe the value and function of metadata is the tag on a shirt.

If you are wearing a blue cotton shirt, you may get compliments on how the shirt looks on you or how nice the color is. You most likely came to the same conclusion in the store when you tried it on before buying, but undoubtedly, somewhere along the way you looked at the tag to determine what size the shirt was, what type of care the garment requires, and quite possibly, even where it was made. And if you take the shirt to the cleaners, they will be less concerned with the fit and color, but will undoubtedly look at the tag to determine the materials from which the shirt is made so they don’t damage it in the cleaning process.

The information on the shirt’s tag, although it is hidden from the outside world when you are wearing it, is critical to the shirt’s proper function and care. It is the same with a website where metatags in the code offer information about the website’s content, functionality, origin, and technical makeup.

The dangers of “set it and forget it” in metadata

One of the most common problems found on many long-established websites is out-of-date metadata. Developments in Internet technology over the past decade have led to a lot of new information that must be gleaned from the code of a website for browsers, search engines, online mapping services, and social media platforms to properly interact, index, and display a website. If that information is missing, it could have a drastic effect on web traffic.

Going back to the shirt analogy, we can consider that at one time almost all clothing was made from a very limited selection of materials that required similar care, like cotton or wool. Tags, if even present, did not need to convey a lot of information about the care of a garment. Over time, space-age synthetic materials were developed that dramatically widened the possibility of care that could be required for any particular item of clothing. Tags became more elaborate to reflect these possibilities.

So, a website built in the early days of social media will not have the proper tagging to help social media websites display photos and snippets about the website in their user’s feeds. And if a website was made before the explosion of smartphones, it most likely will be missing critical tags that help search algorithms include it in the mobile search results of nearby users. If you have a brick and mortar retail business, the importance of this is profound.

How do you know if the metadata in your website is setup correctly?

First of all, hiring an experienced SEO professional is key. Someone who is a web designer, social media expert, or Internet marketing guru, may not have the expertise in SEO to evaluate and administer the metatagging of your website. Only someone who understands both how websites interact with the latest technologies, and how to interpret your marketing needs into the sparse language of metadata, has the qualifications.

Even if you have a capable SEO professional working on your website, there are tools that need to be in place in order for he or she to effectively move forward. The two most important are, without a doubt, Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If you are unsure of whether your website is connected to these resources, your web developer or the SEO expert should be able to verify this for you. If they can’t, then we strongly advise you to seek help somewhere else.  

Just like the tag in a shirt, the quality and accuracy of the information in the metadata of your website is critical to your appearance on the Internet.

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