If you are recreational web surfer and gadget users like me, it’s unlikely you know what metadata, meta-tags and meta-descriptions are. You could get a SEO or web guru to explain it, using fancy tech jargon and complex, detailed explanations. Or you could opt for human speak and read this post, in which I will endeavor to guide you through the world of “meta” (no, not that meta) and explain why it’s so important.
Here’s the biggest reason you should feign interest in anything HTML: using metadata helps narrow the traffic to your blog. You’re probably wondering: why would I want to narrow my web traffic? Shouldn’t I want it expanded? Well, yes, but you want the right type of traffic. You want visitors who will stick around and navigate your entire website or blog, not land on your welcome page only to click back to their search results 20 seconds later. You want visitors who want to be on your page, who are looking for the type of content you are offering. Good metadata (the umbrella term for this type of SEO) demands a paradox: it must be general and specific.
Unless you paid someone to create your website or blog entirely from HTML, WordPress and other blog hosts usually have tools to help you optimize SEO and improve traffic through metadata. (Note: sometimes the term “secondary data” is used). You can add these tools and edit your pages or blog posts by filling into a few text boxes with terms or phrases in under a minute. It’s quick and simple. Just be sure you are distinguishing between meta-tags and meta-descriptions; the text should vary in box, page and post.
Meta-tags are simple terms – a single word or a short phrase – indicating the subject or topics of your content, ranging from a parenthetical comment (“Katy Perry sings with Elmo”) to the general focus of your blog (“pop music”). To see an example just look at the meta-tags of this post, located near at the bottom of the page after the social sharing icons.
Meta-descriptions, on the other hand, are sentence-long summaries of the page. Approach writing a meta-description as if it were a basic writing exercise. You rewrite a sentence over and over to include the most specific and relevant information about your website. The meta-description needs to describe your content and capture the interests of your audience in a single grammatical sentence. The meta-description for this post will be something like “How-to guide for implementing simple website and blog metadata easily with tags and secondary descriptions for search engine improvement.” Sounds silly, right? But this type of description is good because I’ve covered a few terms or phrases users might search for: easy, simple, how-to guide, and improvement. Furthermore, I include “metadata,” “tags,” and “secondary descriptions” because any of those terms could be used in a search.
Still confused about metadata and its importance to your website or blog? Let me break the concept down without indulging in specifics. (Psstt! The folks over at HubSpot explained it well for me a while back, through one of their web marketing guides. If you like web traffic and sales, HubSpot is the best free resource out there).
So, it’s like this. Say you need a lawyer and live in San Francisco. You go to your computer or use the internet app on your smartphone and type in “law practice” or “lawyer” into a search engine. You get over 200,000 hits. Quickly, you realize you need to refine your search. You need someone local, not that big impressive firm in Chicago or Belize that topped the list of results. So you add “San Francisco” or “Bay Area” to your search. Now you get only 600 hits. Better, but not helpful because you don’t have time to sort through even 100 websites to find a good lawyer. So you specify the type of lawyer you need, whether it’s civil, tax, corporate, public interest, or (god help you) criminal. You add this parameter and your search results yield 35-50 hits. This is a number you can handle so you browse a few websites and read testimonials. You browse confidently and focus on qualifications and fees; no need to freak out because you settled on a law firm in Latvia (I mean, really, the nonsensical words should have been a clue).
Meta-tags and meta-descriptions help search engines filter content, cross-reference information, and generate sub-categories. If your website only appears in search engines when a user types in a general query (“need a lawyer”) and not in searches for any combination of relevant terms (“lawyer,” “legal practice,” or “criminal law,”) then you are in trouble. Not only are you turning away potential clients, but you are wasting your time. Meta-data, generally speaking, keeps your site traffic relevant and accurate because visitors intend to be there.
For writer and author websites or blogs, the same filtering system applies. You don’t want to turn away potential readers by limiting your search engine appearance only to your name and occupation. You want to attract readers who are interested in your genre– say, science fiction – as well as your narrative niche – apocalyptic science fiction featuring robots. By using a variety of terms to describe your work you reach out to a broad yet relevant range of web traffic. Your metadata should reach users who search for “sci-fi” instead of “science fiction”; “end of the world” instead of “apocalypse”; “artificial intelligence” or “A.I.” instead of “robot”. You can’t assume the visitor is going to use the same search terms or replicate your exact phrases. Even though all my editorial instincts jerk in revulsion, this is the one time that I recommend redundancy for writers and authors. Break out the thesaurus and use those synonyms!
Craft your most verbose sentence and use it to attract a following – one of readers who enjoy your real writing, not all this poseur HTML stuff.
Check back this time next week for part two in my series of easy website and blog upgrades. You won’t want to miss more free advice on improving your professional platform. (Hint: Next week I discuss widgets – oh, all the wonderful things a widget can do!)