If you’ve ever wondered how search engines sort their results, keep reading. Companies have engaged in outbound marketing channels like print and display ads forever, and inbound marketing has become another essential piece of a company’s business presence.
Good inbound marketing converts people who already want what you sell to customers who buy what you sell. That conversion happens when your website rises to the top of the search engine results page (SERP).
You may also have heard of search engine optimization (SEO). Google uses more than 200 ranking factors to determine whose site goes first. The top site gets about half of all the clicks from searchers, and the rest of the results share the rest of the clicks.
Web developers can work these ranking factors straight into the code to move their sites up in the search results. Read on to find out how this “metadata tagging” works to improve your website’s SEO rank.
What’s Up, Bot?
After you publish your website on the internet, search engine robots known as crawlers read the contents of your site. Google then indexes the contents and uses that information to rank your site in its results.
Some ranking factors are visible to site visitors, like the domain security padlock and good site design. The HTML code contains other invisible factors that only appear in the page source. Search engine crawlers examine all of the site’s contents, including the code, to evaluate the rank of the website in the SERPs.
What is Metadata?
Meta tags are the metadata for a web page. Other types of metadata include camera type and resolution for photographs, or playlist names and time codes for videos. Metadata is data about data.
A more basic example is the metadata automatically generated when you create a file, modify it, and add to it. Your computer logs the creation and modification dates and adjusts the file size. Metadata can also be entered manually: a user can decide which information is needed or relevant to describe their files.
What is a tag? HTML code uses tags to classify the contents of a web page. Page contents are tagged with keywords to define the topics within the content. For instance, a webpage about lions could contain “big cats”, “Africa”, “lions” and “lioness” tags.
In the HTML file of a webpage is a section called the “head”. Within this section, denoted by <head> and </head> are the page title, a few code types, and meta tags.
About Meta Tags
Meta tags are broader sources of information for search engine bots. Some meta tags include information about the page topic, page type, and author. Search engine bots used to use the keywords metatag information to boost search engine rankings but over time, this metatag was abused and many search engines now ignore it.
Current web developers coding for SEO must pay the most attention to the description meta tag and the content-type meta tag. The content-type tag identifies both the type of content and the character set that defines how the web page is displayed.
The description tag is one of the most important tags because search engines directly use this information to rank your page. This meta tag describes what kind of information the page contains and is around 150 characters.
More on Metadata Tagging
When you open a webpage, you’ll see a title at the top of your browser window. What this text says is defined in the title meta tag. This is one of the meta tags that a visitor can see and is heavily used by search engine bots. A good title can help a user find your page in a window full of tabs and can simplify your page’s information for SEO purposes.
One last meta tag that webmasters use is an instruction tag for search engine robots. You may have seen a results page and seen under the title “robots.txt“. That tag instructs the crawler bot to show or hide your page in search results, follow your page links or not, and even tell it when to revisit your page to refresh the results.
How to See Meta Tags in Action
Just for fun, search for a site and click on it. View the page source, either under developer tools or “view” menu. At the top of the code, you will be able to see which meta tags the developer used for that page.
It’s interesting to see now that you know what you’re looking at. These lines of code define the name of the tag, and then the contents of the tag. Even though search engines tend to ignore the keywords meta tag, developers still use it. New marketing trends and SEO blog writers are including “long tail keywords” which are designed to match a multi-word query in the search bar.
The SEO Race
Manipulating search engine results shouldn’t be easy. It would be too simple to fool the system and push websites to the top with false information. To thwart this type of rigging, search engines frequently change their ranking algorithms. Google has said that they change theirs every 48 hours.
Search engine rankings are about trust. Google wants to be able to trust that your site is what it says it is, provides a good visitor experience, and accurately fulfills a user’s query. Google’s reputation is at stake as well as yours; they are the most-used search engine in the world and have taken responsibility to deliver the best results.
SEO Content Creation
Your website’s ranking starts with the code under the hood. We have shown you how metadata tagging affects your SEO and have explained what the most important ones do for your SERP visibility. The next steps are for you to fill your site with well-crafted and relevant content that will increase your visitors and convert them to customers.
We can help you curate material that is enjoyable for your visitors and good for your online visibility. Contact us and see how we can help your business grow.