What is metadata? | ITProPortal

What is metadata?

Metadata is data that describes other data, and it is widely used in all forms of computing. In the context of websites, the primary purpose of metadata is to enable search engines to understand the type of information that a web page contains. So all the best website builders allow you to edit the metadata of your web pages.

  • Defines a subject and description of a web page that search engines can easily understand.
  • Defines how the web page will be displayed in search engine results.
  • Provides alternative text descriptions for images, making websites accessible to the visually impaired.
  • Uses a standard format so that third-party tools can process and store the data.
  • Help ensure your web pages appear at the top in relevant search engine results.

Website Marketing

By setting metadata for all website pages, content creators, businesses, and web developers report the content of their pages to search engines and other software tools.

Each website builder allows you to change the meta tags of all your pages. You can set the title and description for each of your web pages by editing their respective meta tags.

Meta tags play a more minor role than ever before in defining at what position a web page will appear in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS), but they are still often used by search engines to define title and title. description as they appear in search engine results.

By including an engaging headline and a strong call-to-action (CTA) in their webpage descriptions, content creators can improve the click-through rate (CTR) to a website, which means more potential customers will see their content.

Social media marketing

Metadata can also be used by those who manage social media. With the right title, description, and keyword metadata on posts and ads, social media sites are better able to categorize and target them. This means that the posts and ads developed by social media marketing teams will appear in front of more types of people who are interested in seeing them.

Data organization and analysis

Laptop displaying website analytics screen

Metadata can be used to analyze the behavior of visitors to a website (Image credit: Pixabay)

Metadata allows developers to add descriptors to data without modifying the information itself, which provides a lot of convenience and power.

Because metadata describes other data in a machine-readable way, departments such as IT can use metadata to better organize data. Metadata about the contents of files can be stored in a database, for example, so that the contents of files can be quickly searched.

Metadata can also be used to see what content is viewed most frequently so that systems can be optimized. Metadata stored on web pages and customer behavior can be used in data analysis, allowing businesses to see what drives customer engagement and sales and adjust their strategies accordingly.

The AWS logo

Amazon Web Services is a cloud provider that offers many tools for manipulating metadata (Image credit: Amazon Web Services)

Creating meta costs nothing except time and human resources. That said, if a business is processing a large amount of metadata, the price can be steep as it requires a large investment in databases and software.

Cloud computing providers like Amazon Web Services can be used to process massive amounts of metadata. To take an example, Amazon Machine Learning can be used to perform metadata analysis with artificial intelligence and machine learning, giving you deeper insight into your data. Amazon uses a pay-as-you-go model for its services and offers a limited free tier for the first 12 months.

Does metadata affect SEO?

In theory, META tags have had only a minor effect on search engine optimization since around 2009. This is particularly the case with the “keywords” META tag, which Google has confirmed to ignore completely.

However, meta tags such as “title” and “description” are still often used to form the title and description of a web page in search engine results, so having better meta tags for these topics will result in a higher rate. higher clicks (CTR). Thus, META tags remain important today during search engine optimization.

Google search results on a mobile phone

Better metadata for your pages means more engaging listings on Google (Image credit: Edho Pratama on Unsplash)

Are there different types of metadata?

Metadata isn’t just used for web pages; it is used in most other facets of computing to describe data. Descriptive metadata for an eBook can include things like title, author, publisher, and genre, for example. A photo’s metadata can contain who took the photo, where it was taken, and when it was last edited.

Metadata can define the relationships between different parts of a resource, such as specifying which files belong to a folder. It is also often used to describe the copyright status and license terms of data.

One of the most important things about metadata is that it only describes data. It does not contain the data itself. A movie’s metadata might include its title, genre, cast, and director, for example, but it doesn’t include the movie file itself.

This has the advantage that metadata can often be shared publicly because it does not provide access to the actual data. It also makes storing and processing metadata in databases less expensive, as the database only needs to store a few text details and not the entire source file.

Although META tags are largely invisible to the end users of your website, they are used by search engines to understand the type of data that your web pages contain. Optimizing your META tags means making sure that the information they contain accurately reflects the topic of your web page and includes key phrases that your potential visitors will be looking for.

With optimized meta tags, your web pages are more likely to appear high in the rankings for relevant searches. Because you’ve included compelling titles and descriptions, people are more likely to click on your site in search engine results.

You can include a few meta tags on your web pages that add instructions to the search engine crawlers that crawl the websites. For example, if you add a “noindex” meta tag to your page, it instructs search engines not to display that page in search engine results.

A similar meta tag is “canonical”. When you have two or more virtually identical pages, your website may be penalized in search engine results for duplicate content. Using meta tags to define one of your web pages as a canonical version sets it as the only real page to show in search engine results pages.

Main takeaways

A laptop with a code displayed on the screen

Metadata is used in most IT disciplines (Image credit: Nathan da Silva on Unsplash)
  • Metadata describes other data, such as defining the subject and scope of a web page.
  • Metadata is important in SEO because good metadata help your web pages rank higher in search engine results.
  • Metadata also describes elements on the page such as images, which improves search engine rankings and is useful for the visually impaired.
  • Your page metadata will often be used as a description in search engine results, so you can use it to entice people to visit your website.
  • Metadata in other facets of IT are widely used to categorize and analyze data.

Further reading

We discuss why metadata has become vital for businesses in our functionality Know your dark data to know your business and its potential! For more information on the impact of AI on information management, see our article on How AI can enable smart and smart content management. And for a list of website builders that offer the best metadata management, check out our list of best website builders available today.

About Madeline Powers

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