Meta-Data Overview

Meta-data is information about a web page that is not part of the “core” content of the page. It provides useful information regarding the page to various pieces of software (a browser, search engine crawlers, etc.). From a structural perspective, meta-data is stored in a different part of the web page’s HTML code than the usual web content that people see.

While Google does not take much notice of some Meta Data lots of other engines do so it is important to get it right and make sure it is relevant to the rest of your site.

There are three primary pieces of meta-data that you should be concerned with.

Title: This is without a doubt, the most important piece of meta-data there is.

One could further argue that it is the most important part of your web page, period.

Why?

Two reasons.

First, the title is what is recognized to be the one piece of information that describes what the page is about. (Similar to a book title or article title). It shows up at the top of the browser when users are browsing your site. It is the default title your browser and book-marking sites will automatically use when people decide to “save” your site for future use.

Second, it is what search engines also use to figure out what the site is about. Compared to everything else on your page, it gets the most “weight” from the search engines. Think of your meta-data title just like you would if you were writing an article for the Wall Street Journal or authoring a book. The title is immensely important.

Description: This is an “abstract” or summary of the web page. Most SEO experts will advise you that you should ensure that important words and terms about your site should be crafted into the description somehow.

I would agree.

Another use of the description is that currently Yahoo! (and possibly other engines) use this provided description, or a part thereof, when your site “matches” on a given search term and it has to show a small summary of your site below the title.

Keywords: This element provides a set of key terms or words that describe the web page.

Many years ago, when search engines were first introduced, the keywords element was very heavily weighted towards determining the context of a web page. It was a quick way for the search engine to “figure out” what a web page was about (instead of having to scan all the content).

But, as time went on, people started abusing this “feature”. They stuffed words into the meta-keywords element that had nothing to do with the web page’s content. (The rationale was that by stuffing “popular” words, they’d draw some traffic).

As a result of this abuse, the importance of the meta-keywords element has been greatly diminished. Search engines no longer look at this information as the definitive way to figure out context. However, most SEO experts continue to advise that it is important to use the keywords element because it is still used.

That’s it. Basically, the key is to make sure that you understand what the three most important pieces of meta-data are and ensure that you include them in your web pages.

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