What Is Metadata and How Does It Help With SEO?



May 30, 2023

Image of magnifying glass over the word "metadata", concept for what is metadata in SEO.

You might have heard the definition for metadata is “data about data,” or something similar. But this is a confusing definition that doesn’t help anyone understand how critical metadata is for your business’s SEO strategies. Fortunately, this guide clarifies what metadata is and how it helps your SEO.

Jump ahead:

What Is Metadata?

Metadata helps to describe the information on your webpage in a way that Google and other search engines can better understand. When search engines crawl and index your page, they use the metadata across your site pages and posts to determine topical relevancy to a user’s search query. There are two main types of metadata.

Descriptive metadata includes basic information about a piece of data, like what it is, what it contains, and where or when it was developed. Both people and machines can use this to understand more about a piece of data.

Structural metadata describes where the information on a web page or in a blog post fits on a larger scale. What are its broad topics and how does it relate to other, similar data?

Where Do You Use Metadata for SEO?

When adding metadata to your website for SEO, there are a few key places to focus:

Title Tags

Title tags are important for your content because they’re one of the first things that search engines scan to understand your content. They explain exactly what topics your webpage covers. They also include the main keyword that your content is targeting.

You can find title tags in the HTML code of your webpage by searching for the <title> section at the top of the source code. Web designers often add these tags manually. But most website builders offer an easier way for non-coders to include them on each webpage.

Meta Description

The meta description is a quick summary of what people can find on a webpage or piece of content. They often appear on the search engine results page (SERP) in both mobile and desktop searches. Though meta descriptions have no direct impact on SEO, they can still help increase your page views and traffic. In fact, meta descriptions can work wonders to entice people to click on your page and read your content.

If your descriptions accurately talk about the topic of your content, searchers might be more willing to click on it. When search engines see that people are reading your content, that often helps improve your search ranking.

Image Tags

Similarly, image tags also don’t influence SEO directly. But they do provide search engines with information about the image, like what is and how it appears. Search engines take this information and display these images in other places, like the SERP or in rich snippets. Image tags also help to ensure that the image loads correctly and displays to the person viewing your content.

Image Titles and Alt Attributes

Search engines look at image titles and alt attributes for more keywords and other information. This helps to further solidify their understanding of your content. Keywords in your image title might also help the picture show up in image searches. Alt attributes provide a description of the picture or image.

These attributes can help make your content serve accessibility needs and provide another place for you to include your main keyword. Just be careful not to use alt attributes for keyword stuffing, or search engines might dock your ranking.

Schema Markup

Schema markup is code that lists information about your company. This code can include your business or brand name, type of organization it is, and the products or services it sells. With schema markup, your content is easier for search engines to read and understand.

It also creates opportunities for your brand to improve SERP rankings, including getting content to rank in featured areas like rich snippets or Google’s knowledge graph. Take a look at the screenshot below. It showcases how the schema markup that the GM brand uses helps it appear in Google’s knowledge graph:

Because schema is a snippet of code, using a web designer is one of the most effective ways to add it to your content. But there are other tools for creating schema markups yourself. In fact, there’s a range of plugins you can use for web-hosting services like WordPress and Squarespace. Check out some of more popular plugins you can find:

Importance of Metadata for SEO

Search engines crawl your web pages to recognize keywords and other information. Then, they compare that with the metadata to organize your web page in the SERP. Using metadata boosts your SEO efforts because it’s written in the search engine’s language. This helps search engines better understand the topic of your web pages and content. It also helps them display more relevant results to searchers.

For example, let’s say you write a resource article for your audience titled, “how to change a flat tire.” In the article, you might include a heading two (H2) labeled “how to change a flat tire while on the highway.” Search engines know that the title tag is more prominent than the other heading. That means, they know which piece of information the content is more likely to talk about in-depth.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter how much you focus on improving your SEO through metadata. Because when it comes to improving your ranking, content and well-targeted topics are always the most important factors. Talk with experts who understand SEO and the best ways to boost your search engine ranking through metadata and beyond.

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