After years of working as a teacher, when I finally ventured into content marketing, I had no clue of what I was actually getting into. And when I say I had no clue, I literally didn’t have any. My first ‘content writing’ assignment was to write biographies. The writing bit was fine. My company had documented style guidelines that were easy to follow. However, the primary challenge ultimately boiled down to alien meta-data terms such as og:descriptions, meta titles, meta descriptions, and keywords.
I was too embarrassed to admit that none of these words rang a bell. The only word I knew was ‘keyword’. To me, a keyword meant certain important terms my students had to use while framing answers to score higher in their examinations. It came as no surprise thus that I wasn’t cut out to be the content writer my company was looking for. Sure, I spoke and wrote almost impeccable English, but other than that what the heck were these terms supposed to mean?
I began asking questions which my manager was more than eager to explain. There was just one catch—was I asking the right questions? Turns out, I wasn’t. The only thing I learned was that they’re sentences and phrases you use when posting on Facebook with the intention of your message going viral. So all I did was copy a sentence from the article I wrote, made that my meta description; copied a phrase from the same article and made that my og:description.
So, what is meta-data?
It wasn’t until I began writing for Gambit’s blog that I actually paid attention to meta-data. We use Yoast SEO to make our content search engine friendly. When my pages didn’t show up an SEO score, I decided to roll up my sleeves and understand the nuances of meta-data. Now, I pride myself on my ability and willingness to learn and this has got to be one of the most interesting concepts I’ve come across. So, if you’re new to Search Engine Optimization and still trying to grasp all its nitty-gritty, this should help.
We all know a web page has its core content. For example, if it’s a blog post on top marketing quotes, the core content would include the compilation of quotes and images on that post. Meta-data is another element of the web page that includes information for search bots and browsers. It is stored as a part of the webpage’s HTML structure.
The three most important kinds of meta-data that we need to master are:
This is the piece of meta-data that you have to lay the greatest emphasis on. The title is what gives the first overview of the page users are browsing. Most of the time, if it’s a blog post, the headline serves as the title. However, you always have the option of changing the title if you wish to.The title gives search engines an idea of what the web page is all about. It is also used by bookmarking sites and the browser whenever a user decides to save your page for future reference. Thus it is crucial you give some serious thought to the title.
Though there isn’t exactly a character limit on the title, it is a best practice to limit it to 55-60 characters to ensure it shows completely on the browser.
The description, as the name suggests, explains a little more in detail what your web page is about. By default, the meta description pulls up the first few words of your core content. But, this too is customizable. Hence SEO experts advise that we incorporate some important words relevant to the page. This not only gives the user an overview of what they’re about to click on but also helps search engines rank your site better.
Again, you may choose to leave your default description untouched. However, it is always a good idea to limit the page description to a maximum of 160 characters. This will guarantee the description shows up in full.
Keywords are one the most hyped meta-data and rightly so. They refer to significant terms that describe a web page. Needless to say though, they shouldn’t be used without relevance. After all, keywords help search engines to figure out the content of your page. If the keywords you’re using are popularly searched by users on the Internet, your page has more chances of showing up on search engines.
The question of using keywords is a bit tricky though. Stuffing your article with these terms don’t go down too well with search engine crawlers, especially after the Google Panda update in February 2011. But when used (not abused) judiciously, they can draw the right kind of traffic to your website.
Meta-data is as simple as that. You don’t need to know HTML coding if you’re using the right tools to guide you. Once you’ve grasped the idea behind these three terms, creating SEO-optimized content will be a breeze.
If you’re still trying to wrap your head around the concept of metadata, here’s an infographic to help you out.