The hidden art of good metadata


So, have you ever right-clicked a webpage and chosen ‘view source’ to have a look at the gubbins that actually makes the webpage you are looking at? It looks a bit scary, doesn’t it? The good news is that all that code is there for a reason, and all of it is really quite useful.

With ‘google’ having become a verb in its own right, the way ‘hoover’ has, it has never been more important to maximise your website’s performance in search engines. This task has become a science in itself, the mythical Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). In this article we will look at two elements hidden in that code – metadata – that, if executed properly, will help boost your website’s performance.

Metadata is coded elements in each page’s underlying code – the HTML or XHTML – that provides information about that web page. These elements are found in the page’s <head> section and they are used primarily to help search engines categorise the page they are found in correctly. They are not the only factor search engines use to rank pages, but they contribute to the overall performance of the page in search results.

The two descriptive metadata elements that search engines ‘look’ at are: ‘title’ and ‘description’. The page title is the element that usually displays in the window title bar of a web browser. It also forms the clickable search snippet link in search engine results. A good page title will be a short statement (65–70 characters) that is highly relevant to the page it refers to and will contain a key word or phrase.

The second important element is the page description. This is the text that appears under the link in search results. Phrases in it that match the search term used to find it will be picked out in bold. This description should be written in a natural way, be no longer than 160 characters long and be unique to the page. It should incorporate known successful search terms in a natural way, include your brand message and a clear call to action.

These two elements are as important to your page as the copy you can read on it. If you can create pages for your website yourself, you will be able to manage these two key aspects of your SEO. If you are reliant on a web designer, make sure that page title and description text are supplied along with the page copy. If you would like to know more about effective SEO and page copy – seen and unseen – get in touch with us today.