Website metadata…the bits of information (HTML code) imbedded in your site that search spiders see and people do not. The importance of metadata has evolved over time. Early on, people started manipulating it to unfairly beat the ranking system (black-hat SEO) so the search engines made most metadata irrelevant to SEO. So just what is it and how do you know where to invest your time?
Where is it?
Look to the source code at the top of a page on your site. The metadata can be found in the head block. Here’s a great visual example from an article on meta tags from Search Engine Watch:
Here’s a code example of meta tags:
< title>Not a Meta Tag, but required anyway < /title>
< meta name=”description” content=”Awesome Description Here”>
< meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”text/html;charset=UTF-8″>
The meta description has little impact on search rankings but it should be thought of as an important inbound marketing tool — getting free traffic to click through to your site matters! The engines most often use the meta description as a ‘snippet’ in the search results. The text should accurately summarize the products or services that people will find once they click on the search result.
The meta description should be 160 characters long and unique to each page. Depending on the SEO capabilities of your CMS, you can usually add a plug-in that will provide a word count as you write your meta description.
Meta descriptions should be directed at your customers, NOT the search engines. Writing enticing meta copy can really improve click through to your site. Look at how DIYSEO succinctly tells people about their site and manages to provide feature and benefit, then close with a call to action. All in 160 characters!
Some smaller search engines may still pull meta keywords but for major search engines, meta keywords have no impact on SEO. On the down side, including them shows competitors what keywords you’re targeting. That said, you’re probably so good at do it yourself SEO that it’s easy to find them by the title tags and body copy on your site anyway. Whether or not to include them is entirely up to you.
Robots Metadata Tags
These specifically tell the search robots what to do with the pages on your account — ‘follow’ or ‘nofollow’ the links and whether or not to ‘index’ the page. By default, Google bots will ‘follow’ links and ‘index’ pages on a site so you don’t have to specify this in meta tags if that is your intent. More information can be found on the Google Webmaster page on Using Robots Meta Tags.
So if your time is tight, focus on what matters. Quality meta descriptions can directly impact click through to your site which supports your small business SEO goals overall.