What Is Metadata, And Why Should You Care?

What Is Meta DataHey there, folks! Today we’re going to talk about Metadata. For the uninitiated, that’s just a fancy way of saying we’re going to talk about data which is focused on other data.

The topic’s neither as boring nor as useless as you might at first believe, particularly from an SEO standpoint. The truth is, a thorough understanding of the metadata on your website is vital if you ever want to properly optimize your site.

“It’s critical that marketers understand the metadata that drives search engine optimization,” explains SEO expert Jill Kocher. “Without metadata, we weaken our ability to drive consumers from search engines to our sites. The metadata we use most for SEO speaks to search engines directly from each page crawled, to communicate important information or request a specific action from the search engines.”

Metadata, then, is the means by which websites ‘talk’ to search engines behind the scenes. It’s how your website identifies itself to Google, how it quantifies and categorizes itself on the SERP. You’re starting to see why it’s so important now, aren’t you?

Speaking broadly, there are three different types of metadata that come into play where search is concerned, according to Andrew Delamarter of Search Engine Watch:

 

  • Schema.org Markup: As Google’s worked to make its search engine more functional for the end user, it has begun to move away from standard keyword-based search and into…something else entirely: semantic search. Although we don’t really have the time to offer a full breakdown of how semantic search works (there’s an excellent explanation here), the short answer is that it’s based on entities, which are defined by a series of traits (an Apple, for example, is a fruit, is red, and is food).
  • Open Graph Markup: Open Graph is similar to Schema.org, in that it’s a semantic informational tool. The main difference is that Open Graph is primarily used by Facebook, whereas Schema is primarily used by Google.  Though there’s some contention over which of the two markups websites should use, it’s probably a safer bet to go with Schema – it’s more comprehensive, and provides more information to search engines.
  • Other Metadata: Last, but certainly not least, we’ve meta descriptions, title tags, keywords, and the now-defunct Authorship and publisher meta tags. This is probably the form of metadata you’re most familiar with. Although it’s less important than it was in the past – semantic search gains more prominence with each day – it’s unlikely that it will become wholly irrelevant.  

 

If you want to successfully optimize your site, you need to understand all three of the above types of metadata. That’s where we come in. Over the course of the next several weeks, we’ll take a more in-depth look at each particular color of metadata, and how they relate to SEO.

Our first topic will be Schema.org – look forward to it.

Image: Flickr/gruntzooki

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