Noun: A set of data that describes and gives information about other data.
Hmmm… that doesn’t really mean much to most people, so what is it really? Well, one of the ways I like to think about it is by considering a book for sale in a bookshop. The book has a title, an author and a price. They are not part of the book itself but describe something about it. The book may also have a subtitle, but this is not a mandatory piece of information – it is optional metadata.
So how is this relevant to your posts and web pages? When your carefully crafted words are written and published to your website, you want the search giants such as Google and Bing to find your page and let people know about it. The search systems will index the text on your page but cannot really tell what the page is about… they just make best guesses based on your headings and the contents of your paragraphs of text. You can help them by giving your page a meaningful title and a description. Many sites will have a simple system for you to do this, for example I use FV Simpler SEO for WordPress which adds two extra text areas to the bottom of your editing screen for you to type your own title and description – here is the one for this page:
As you can see this plugin shows your character count for each piece of metadata and has advice on what are sensible maximum lengths for each. These counters turn yellow when you are getting near to the limits and red when you go over. In addition, you get a “SERP Preview” which shows you how your page might look in a Search Engine Results Page. It also warns you when you try to publish your page if you have forgotten to complete them.
Some systems also offer a place where you can type keywords, but it has been proven that Google doesn’t use keywords and worse, Bing uses them as a signal that your page might be spam!
If you read my earlier article about image metadata you will be well on the way to making your site and posts totally Search Engine Optimised.