SEO 101: Everything You Need To Know About Metadata
Published on 27th November 2018
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is key if you’re going to make your website work hard for you, and on-site optimisation is one of the most important areas of SEO to get right.
Before you can start optimising your website pages effectively, you need to know which keywords you’ll be targeting, so make sure you check out our blog post on everything you need to know about keywords before you do anything else!
Once you’ve chosen your keywords, it’s time to dive in – and metadata is a great place to start.
Used correctly, your website metadata will greatly improve your website’s visibility in organic search results, and can lead to a greater amount of traffic to your site.
In this guide, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of metadata so that you can craft brilliant page titles and meta descriptions that help your business reach its full potential on the web.
Table of Contents:
What is metadata?
In simple terms, metadata is data that describes other data.
Your website metadata consists of a page title and meta description for every page. These provide search engines like Google with important information about the content and purpose of each individual page on your website, and help them determine whether your website is relevant enough to display in search results.
What is a page title?
The page title is used to tell search engines exactly what that page on your website is about. This is the clickable headline that is displayed in search results, and needs to concisely and accurately summarise the content found on the page.
Page titles are important as search engines use them to establish what information the website contains, so they can directly influence your website’s ranking in search results.
As well as being shown in search results, your page title will appear in the browser tab and also on external websites such as social networks when a link to your website is shared.
What is a meta description?
The meta description is displayed below the page title in search results, and is there to provide more descriptive information about the content on the website page.
Meta descriptions are not a Google ranking factor, so will not directly affect your website’s position in search results. However, they are still a key part of SEO as when written effectively, they can encourage more people to click through to your website from search results.
As well as displaying in search results, your meta description will be shown alongside your page title when your website page is shared on an external website such as Facebook or Twitter.
How to write great page titles and meta descriptions:
1. Check out your competitors
A great way to get started on your website metadata is to see what everyone else is doing first. Search a few of your chosen keywords in Google and look at the organic listings that show up on page one of the search results.
As a rule, the websites that are displayed on the first page of Google are using metadata that works. Of course, a lot more goes into SEO than just great metadata, but you can definitely use these examples as inspiration to write effective page titles and meta descriptions for your website.
Look at how your competitors are using your target keywords in their metadata, the tone of voice that they’re using, and what other information they’ve included. These are all useful pointers for when you come to create your own.
2. Include your keywords
It goes without saying, but do make sure you’re using your target keywords in both your page titles and your meta descriptions.
As page titles are used by Google to rank your website, including your chosen keywords will help to boost your position in search results for these terms. Whilst meta descriptions don’t directly contribute to your ranking, any keywords in your meta description will be highlighted if they match a searcher’s query, increasing your chances of that person visiting your website.
Each page on your website should ideally target one specific keyword. The most important keyword should always be placed at the start of the page title, and it’s a good idea to include your brand name too where possible, as this is also a keyword that you want to rank for.
3. Pay attention to the length
The length of both your page title and meta description is a key consideration. Make either too short, and you won’t attract any customers or rank particularly well in search results. Make either too long, and you risk important information being cut off and disregarded by both searchers and search engines alike.
Your page title should be around 60-65 characters in length, including spaces. An effective page title will be structured something like this:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword – Brand Name
The ideal length for meta descriptions is around 150-155 characters. In late 2017, Google upped the character limit to 300 characters, but this was changed back to the standard length shortly after.
4. Think specific, relevant, and interesting
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is especially true in the search results.
Your website metadata is essentially your advertising space, providing you with an opportunity to entice searchers onto your website by convincing them to choose your business over the competition.
In order to do this, you need to write compelling page titles and meta descriptions that stand out and make potential customers want to learn more about your products and services. Use your metadata to tell searchers exactly what you’re offering, and why this sets you apart from everyone else.
The dos and don’ts of metadata:
Creating brilliant page titles and meta descriptions doesn’t need to be a difficult task, especially if you follow our tips for what to write and how. It’s also worth remembering these simple rules as you craft your metadata, to make sure it’s as effective as possible:
DO NOT panic – Not seeing the meta description you wrote in Google’s search results? Fear not! Sometimes, in order to better answer a searcher’s query, Google will create its own meta description for your website by pulling in text from elsewhere on your page that it deems more relevant. This means that a different meta description to the one you supplied will be displayed underneath your page title.
DO write for humans – Although the aim of metadata is to help search engine optimise your website, you should always write for a human audience, not for search engines. Ultimately, your page title and meta description are there to attract visitors onto your site, so whilst it’s important to include keywords, make sure both parts of your metadata read naturally and don’t sound spammy.
DO NOT repeat yourself – It should be obvious by now that to rank well in search results, every page of your website will need a unique page title and meta description. This will help search engines understand that your website content is relevant and worth sharing with searchers. If you use duplicate page titles, you’ll only end up confusing search engines over which page to rank, which can lead to lower rankings in search results.
DO keep things fresh – It’s a good idea to periodically update your website metadata to make sure your page titles and meta descriptions are as effective as they can be. This can help you boost the performance of older pages and reach more potential customers. Just make sure you’re not changing things around too much – it can take a while for any alterations to have an effect, so you want to allow ample time to test what works and what doesn’t.
Done well, metadata can make a real difference to your website. Now that you know everything that goes into creating effective page titles and meta descriptions, it’s time to get out there and encourage more visitors to click through to your website.
Don’t yet have a website to work your metadata magic on? We can help! We offer affordable web design services that are ideal for small to medium businesses, and editing your metadata couldn’t be easier. Get in touch with our friendly team today to find out more.
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