What is the Value of Metadata to Search Engines and Users?

By Megan Marshall, Friday, November 11, 2022
Metadata Image 1
Photo by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash

Picture this… You search for something on Google. This could be something like “best orthodontist in Austin.” Google provides you with hundreds of thousands of search results that could direct you to the perfect orthodontist for you. But of all of the links that you see, you aren’t going to blindly start clicking. Instead, you are going to read the information that comes with each link. This is known as metadata.

There are many businesses that ignore just how beneficial metadata is to their web presence. They just choose to use the automatic information that is pulled from their site. If you want to get the most value out of a web page, however, you also have to recognize the value of metadata. Manually creating metadata enriches the entirety of your website by making it easier to find and manage. Let’s briefly discuss why it’s so important.

How Metadata Came to Be

The value of metadata has certainly changed since its start. Its concept was first introduced in 1967 by Stuart McIntosh and David Griffel from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In their piece entitled “ADMINS – A Progress Report,” the two men drove home the necessity of a digital meta language. With its preservation and archival of data, this language would assist users with fulfilling research and discovering resources.

Fast forward to the 1990s and Adobe was developing a technique to embed metadata into digital files. And when you fast forward even further to 2007, Google was expanding its search platform, with new metadata being introduced into images, videos, and news. Nearly 56 years after McIntosh and Griffel’s publication over metadata, the language continues to be a powerful force, driving the appropriate traffic to relevant websites.

Metadata is the Key to Big Data

Users need to have context before they commit to clicking a link. Metadata provides that context. To put it simply, metadata is data about data. It describes everything that users—and search engine crawlers, for that matter—need to know. As mentioned earlier, when you search for something on Google, you see titles of web pages and brief descriptions of what you can find within them. The value of metadata is that it gives information involving the intellectual content of a web page, or otherwise digital object.

Despite receiving potentially millions of search results, descriptive metadata filters all of the websites on the internet in order to improve the browsing experience. It does this by paying attention to keywords, products, and authors. Google wants you to have the best possible user experience. That is achieved when data has been effectively sorted. For this reason, to be identifiable, your site needs descriptive tags that make sense with your content.

Metadata Image 2

Photo by Nathana Reboucas on Unsplash

What is Structured Metadata?

Metadata isn’t solely what you are able to see within search engines. It’s also part of the code of your website. Structured metadata essentially showcases how information is being put together. Think of it like the pages that make up a chapter of a book. With one page missing, that chapter doesn’t completely make sense to the reader. So, to get the most value out of metadata, you need to be thoughtful about your in-page markups. In fact, Google has a list of structured data guidelines that it expects every website to follow. Here are some of those expectations:

  1. Your information needs to be up-to-date.
  2. You cannot mark up misleading content.
  3. Your information must be uniquely your own.
  4. You cannot pretend to be someone else.
  5. Your in-page markups should be visible to readers.

Best Practices for Titles and Descriptions

There are many moving parts when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). Keywords are integral. They let users and search engines know about the content on your web pages. When you are constructing your meta titles and descriptions, make sure to use keywords. If we go back to our earlier example, an orthodontist may include “best orthodontist in Austin” in their meta tags. You achieve the full value of metadata by being considerate of what users are actually searching. Keyword-rich meta titles and descriptions will help your site rank higher on Google.

Keep in mind that there is only so much space to get your point across through meta tags. You have to be concise and pick out only the most relevant information. For titles, aim for around 50 to 60 characters. Descriptions, on the other hand, should be between 150 to 160 characters. Beyond that, your metadata could get cut off in the search engine results pages.


WEBii is an SEO company based in Austin, Texas. Our services include an SEO health check audit, a setup process, or a campaign that comes complete with content marketing. In each instance, we are able to provide your organization with insight into what your metadata should look like. We can even expertly write your tags for you, based on best SEO practices. Consider signing on with us so that you can get more value from your metadata.

Posted in: Internet Marketing, SEO, WWW Learning Center

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