What is Metadata on a Website?

In the world of web pages, the term “metadata” refers to keywords or phrases that describe the topic and content of the page. This data is typically placed inside HTML tags and serve two purposes:

  • To inform the reader of page’s topic
  • To help search engines decipher the topic of the page

Metadata can also go beyond information about the page’s topic. This data can be used to communicate with servers and/or browsers as well. CSS style sheets, for example, are linked up inside metadata tags.

Website owners are typically only concerned with three pieces of metadata:

  • Title – Provides a brief description of the page’s topic.
  • Description – Provides a lengthier description of what the page is about.
  • Headers – Used inside of the content to emphasize certain bits of data.

When viewing the web page’s HTML coding, the page’s title and description tags are located at the top of the page inside of the tags. The meta title, often referred to as the “title tag,” is displayed at the top of the web page and is typically visible on the web page’s tab in your browser. The description is typically not visible on the web page itself. This information is used primarily for search engines and is displayed underneath the page’s title in the search results.

Headers are visible on the web page and are primarily designed for formatting purposes. By default, text contained within an H1, H2, or H3 will be larger than the rest of the text on the page.

A meta keywords description is also included in a page’s head tags. Keywords for the web page can be placed here, but there is little evidence to suggest that doing so will benefit our website in any way.

Why is Metadata Important?

Metadata is important from an SEO perspective simply because search engines use this information to properly index and rank a website. Including your keywords naturally inside of the page’s title, description and headers will let search engines like Google know what your page is about.

A web page without any metadata may have a more difficult time ranking in the search results simply because search engines will have a difficult time discerning what the page is about. The same can be said for metadata that is irrelevant or does not contain targeted keywords.

Metadata is an essential part of every web page and is used to inform readers, search engines, servers and browsers what a web page is about and how to display the information. Ensuring that your web page’s metadata is both relevant and keyword rich will improve your rankings in the search engines and ensure that your message is clear to your readers.

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