The Scoop on Metadata for SEO
What are meta titles?
Meta titles are one of the most important places to focus on when setting up your website for SEO success. A title should be keyword-focused, concise, and purposeful; this is where you display your web page's primary topic and purpose. Meta titles are predominantly the first thing a user will see when searching for a business like you in the search engine, so you want to make every one of those approximately 50-60 characters count. Also, note your title will also appear in the browser tab when a user is on your page, and many social networks will display your title when your page is shared. Search engine bots will 'read' your meta titles for keywords and locations that will help them rank you where it makes the most sense. Your most important keyword should be as close to the beginning of your meta title as possible. Remember, your title is your first impression; a well-written title versus a poorly written title can make a massive difference to your click-through rate (CTR).
What are meta descriptions?
The meta description is an HTML attribute that provides a brief summary of a web page. Search engines such as Google often display the meta description—typically up to 160 characters long—in search results.
These short paragraphs are a webmaster's opportunity to "advertise" content to searchers, and a searchers' chance to decide whether the content is relevant and contains the information they're seeking from their search query. We like to call this your 'elevator pitch' - so don't waste any space here!
A page's meta description should intelligently employ the keywords the page is targeting and create a compelling description that a searcher will want to click. It should be directly relevant to the page it describes and unique from the descriptions for other pages.
Meta descriptions can impact a page's CTR (click-through rate) on Google, positively impacting a page's ranking ability. For that reason, among others, it's essential to be sure you use meta descriptions.
What are meta keywords? Are meta keywords a waste of time? Does Google even use meta keywords?
Meta Keywords are a meta tag with a list of keywords placed on each page of your website, defining which keywords are important for that particular page. In the past, this meta tag helped rank pages appropriately in the search engine, but they became so flooded with keyword stuffing that Google has since completely stopped looking at them. Keyword stuffing is a type of Black Hat SEO practice in which website owners would type dozens or even hundreds of 'keywords' so that they could target a broader range of traffic and 'pirate' traffic from more popular pages. This practice became a problem, as many times, the keywords entered weren't even relevant to the page at hand, and visitors would come to the page to find that it wasn't at all what they were looking for or expecting. To eliminate this inaccuracy and frustration stemming from meta keyword tag stuffing, Google completely devalued them and created different algorithms to determine the best way to rank pages.
So, where does Google look for keywords? Meta Titles, Headings, and in your pages' written content.
What are heading tags?
Headings aren't just there to highlight the topics of each section of your website; they also give it structure and meaning behind the scenes for search engine bots to 'read' and understand. Your headings are a way of outlining your site for both human and robot visitors to understand what your website is all about. They allow humans to find what they are looking for quickly and robots to understand what is most important so they can rank your site appropriately in the search engine.
What are image alt tags?
Alt tags are also known as "alternative text" for an image. Alt tags describe an image or what an image is representing. Alt tags help search engines determine the best results for when a user searches for images and helps Googlebot get to know what your website is all about. Your website will display alt text in place of the image if the image cannot load.
What is structured data?
Structured data (AKA schema or JSON-LD) is a special type of website metadata that Google uses to display rich snippets at the top of search results. Structured data is on-page markup that enables search engines to better understand the information currently on your business's web page and then use this information to improve your business's search results listing.
Structured data is valuable because it gives Google and other search engines data in the format their AI can most easily understand. This dramatically improves your likelihood of being featured in search results since Google has more confidence that what's listed is accurate and up to date.
So, what exactly does structured data look like in search engine listings? You see structured data in action when Google features a company's logo and social media links, 1-5 review star ratings, or quick access to customer service or online ordering. If you've ever asked Google for a recipe or to check a fact, those results are likely taken from structured data, too. How-to guides, FAQs, recipes, products, events, et cetera are great places to use structured data.
If your website is not using structured data as a part of your SEO strategy, your business is missing out on an important opportunity to rank higher in SERP.
Metadata is SO crucial to the SEO success of your website. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! Set up your metadata first before taking any deeper dives into your SEO plan so you have a strong foundation you can build upon to bring in the traffic you want onto your website.