21 March 2013

Metadata for marketers

Tags:Accessibility, Innovation, CMS

Metadata is a term that can be a little daunting for many marketers. It's the kind of thing some would rather put in the too-hard basket and pass off to the web agency or tech team down the hall. But metadata is becoming more and more important when it comes to creating a search and human-friendly website, so we wanted to take you through a short overview of how metadata works and how it can help you achieve your marketing goals.

What is metadata?

To put it plainly, metadata is data about data. It's the stuff that describes the content of a webpage in specific terms and can be harnessed by a search engine to display a wealth of information, increasing click-throughs and engaging users. It also optimises your SEO by generating keywords and tags that make it easier for search engines to find and display your content.

How does it work?

Metadata can be incredibly complex or incredibly simple, depending on how you use it. From a marketing point of view, it's as simple as defining the exact types of metadata you require - such as page title, tags, keywords and descriptions - and then applying them to every page throughout your site.

Metadata has become more and more standardised as search giants like Google and Bing have come together to create guidelines for the industry. The emergence of HTML5 has also had a huge impact because it will only let you use officially-recognised metadata fields when you're creating and publishing content. In a way - that makes it all just a little bit easier.

How can you use it?

In the olden days of the web, keywords caused a lot of pain because they needed to be created for every page of a site in order for a search engine to index it. These days, Google is smart enough to figure out what your content means without being given these keywords. However, Google does use metadata descriptions prominently within its search results.

By 'metadata description' we mean the little blurb of text that sits under the link on the results page. Because this is the first thing potential visitors will see when searching for your site, it's vital that you take control and create a description that will give a great first impression and optimise click-throughs.

It's not just external search engines that you can hone your metadata for. If you've implemented next generation site search, like Funnelback, you can gear your metadata to serve up personalised content or alter ranking behaviours behind the scenes, creating a seamless and engaging experience for your users. And they won't even know it's happening!

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