What is metadata and why is it important?

What is metadata and why is it important?

We are all now very used to hearing the term “metadata” thrown around in digital marketing, but what is it really? In essence, metadata is the data regarding your data. This data summarizes basic information about your data, which can make finding and working with it easier. The term metadata has existed for decades, used to categorize and classify information of all kinds, down to the Dewey Decimal System and the books at your local library.

In a digital information sense, metadata is a term used to describe basic stored information like author, file size, date created and date modified. In the metadata, there is the possibility to include a description of the file or page, including keywords vital to the search engine optimization of that page. Being very much behind-the-scenes and following the increase in SEO focus in digital marketing, many websites have had a tendency to participate in “keyword stuffing” their metadata in an attempt to trick Google and other search engines into ranking their sites as more relevant than others. This trick, just like any other trick utilized by digital marketers that Google sees as skewing the results in a way unhelpful to its users, has been largely rendered ineffective as Google refines its search algorithm. Even though Google announced in September 2009 that neither meta keywords nor meta descriptions factor into their ranking algorithms, metadata is factored in when indexing pages in search engines to a certain degree.

Meta descriptions for web pages allow for a brief description (between 150-160 characters) of the page that is shown in the Google search results. These descriptions are very important as they are what draw a reader to a website from the search engine results page (SERP).

Though metadata is not as important as it once was, when utilized effectively it can be an integral part in the search engine optimization process and therefor useful for digital marketing specialists. Proper implementation would be inserting keywords naturally into the meta description, avoiding keyword stuffing, and having legitimate, quality content on the page itself.

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