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If you’ve been around the web, you’ve most likely come across the term metadata, but do you know exactly what it is and how you can take advantage of it? Metadata is vital to effective SEO work, and technical website optimization.

Let’s break down the term first. Metadata literally means data about data. In our case, we’re talking about descriptive metadata. Descriptive metadata is data describing some content. Think of it as a quick summary of the important parts of a piece of data.

What is Metadata?

The easiest to understand examples of metadata are photo rights and credit. Many photos on the internet are owned by individuals or companies and subject to copyright laws. While some make it hard to use these pictures without consent by adding watermarks to the picture, nearly all picture files will have some metadata stored in it.

Metadata example

This metadata will contain the name of the owner of the image, copyright information, keywords relating to the image, and can even contain things like the type of camera/lenses used to capture the image. While this protects the photo from being stolen or misused, this also allows search engines to categorize them and index photos to be brought up when keywords are searched for.

This same principle applies for each page on your website. Each page will contain a meta description, some meta keywords, and information on any photos you have on the page.

The most common problem with poorly optimized websites has to do with the meta description and meta keywords. People tend to use one meta description for every page on their site. They figure that since every page is related to the home page in some way, then the meta description can just be copy and pasted over.

If you really want a professionally technically optimized website, then you don’t want to do that. Having specialized meta descriptions for every individual page on your site will increase its weight in search engines.  By doing this, search engines can better differentiate between the pages on your site, and bring them up in more relevant searches. This can greatly strengthen and increase the effectiveness of the silo structure website you’ve built. (You don’t have one? Well luckily, here’s where we explain Why You Need a Silo Structure Website.”

Including your targeted keywords in both your meta description and meta keywords will help those pages rank for those phrases, and increase traffic to your entire site. So how do you go about changing the metadata?

Optimizing Your Metadata

Web code

First, you’re going to want to be using an internet browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Both of these browsers will allow you to view the source code of your website, but Chrome allows you to view the code natively, while Firefox requires an additional plug-in. To view the code, right click on your web page and click “View Page Source.” This will bring you to a page of code. If you are unfamiliar with code, this might be somewhat confusing, but there’s an easy way to find what you’re looking for.

Using the Find option (CTRL-F) still works on this page of code. By using CTRL-F and looking for “meta name” you will be able to find both the meta description and meta keywords. Further into those individual lines of code, you will be able to find a sentence or two of text within quotes, and this is what you want to change to be unique for every page.

Once you have unique meta descriptions and keywords for each of your pages, you’ll find that they will start ranking a lot higher than they did before. Hopefully this quick guide has helped you better understand metadata and its applications in technical optimization. Looking for more SEO tips? Check out our News section for more SEO, SMO, and Web Development tips and guides.


Photo Credit: Jim Flanagan, Sean Molin

Jamie Bates
Online Marketing Director