Metadata are elements contained in the source code of a website. Some of them are visible to users – these meta tags should be optimized in such a way that they support the positioning of a website or store.
What does metadata optimization look like step by step? Learn tips from experts who know how to optimize meta tags to make them attractive to both users and search engine algorithms.
What is metadata?
Metadata, otherwise known as meta tags or meta tags, are page code elements contained in the header of the website (in the <head> section). Why is metadata optimization important? Because, among others, on the basis of information contained in meta tags, Google algorithms obtain information about the content of the page and learn its content. Among the most important meta tags, we distinguish:
- title – page title – visible to Google users in search results,
- description – page description – also visible in search results for the user,
- ALT – alternative description for images (for now, Google’s algorithms are not able to “read” images, so you should include their alternative description in the page code),
- canonical – these are meta tags used in the event of page duplication – they indicate to Google robots which page should be more important to them and which URL should appear in search results,
- robots – this is a meta tag that tells search engine robots how they should index the page and which pages they should exclude from indexing;
- viewport – a meta tag that informs algorithms about adapting the page to mobile devices, as well as about how the page should be displayed on devices with screens of different sizes (i.e., which part of the page should be visible without scrolling).
Meta data optimization includes, above all, title, meta description, and alternative descriptions, and we will focus on them in the article. Other meta tags deal with technical aspects of the page.
Meta tags and SEO – do meta tags affect positioning effects?
Most meta tags directly or indirectly affect positioning results. Among them, the title of the page stands out, which is visible in various places on the Internet – including the page tab in the browser, as well as in search results and in posts shared on social media, especially on Facebook. It informs Google algorithms and users what the subpage is about. The description tag does not have a direct impact on SEO effects, but it is still worth optimizing in line with the expectations of users and robots because an effective password contained in the description can increase website traffic and CTR. Also, alternative descriptions (ALT tag) used to describe images can affect the SEO results in the Google gallery because they inform Google robots about the content of the image.
Read also: 6 Advantages of Long-Tail Keywords
How to optimize metadata? Title
The title is the title of a web page that is useful to both users and search engine algorithms. It tells you what the page is about. In the HTML code, the title of the page is between the <title> tags. The title of the agency’s home page looks like this:
<title>Effective SEO + SEM Agency. We increase visibility and sales. </title>.
How to optimize title metadata? Take advantage of some valuable tips:
- When creating the title, think primarily about users, but do not forget about optimization – put the key phrase in the title, preferably as close to the beginning as possible.
- Create a title that will be short and catchy – it should contain a maximum of about 60-70 characters with spaces (max. 600 pixels). If it’s too long, Google will shorten it and leave an ellipsis at the end (however, the entire title will be included in the page code).
- Create a unique title for each subpage – then the user and Google robots know what is on it.
- Include your company name in the title.
- Use | separators instead of dashes, which have fewer pixels and take up less space in the title.
- Try to optimize the title for many keywords, but don’t force anything – you shouldn’t oversaturate the content of the title with keywords. It should sound as natural as possible.
- Choose keywords that are related to a given subpage – do not use others just because they have a large number of searches. You can read more about the selection of keywords in the article “How to choose phrases effectively?”
- Avoid cannibalizing keywords in titles – try to ensure that each subpage title (and thus the subpage) is optimized for different keywords.
- Use words, phrases, and expressions that may interest the user (e.g. free, gratis, promotion, free courier delivery, etc.).
- You can include dates in the title of blog articles if they are relevant or if you have updated the article.
If you like to experiment, you can use different titles on the website and on social media – if you use WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin will help you with this.
Title and H1 heading in positioning
Title and H1 headings are two tags that differ mainly in the way they are displayed. While the title is not visible directly on the website, in search results, social networks, and in the tab in the browser, the H1 header is visible to the user on the website. Typically, the title and H1 header are the same (when creating a page title in WordPress, you are actually creating an H1 header). However, if you are using the Yoast SEO plugin, you can set a title other than the H1 heading.
How to optimize metadata? Meta description and positioning
Meta tag description is a description of a website. It is visible in the search results just below the title. Although, according to Google’s web developers (statement from 2009), it is not a ranking factor, you should still optimize it. Why? Because meta description optimization can affect the number of visits to the website, and thus the website traffic and CTR, and these indicators affect the positioning effects. If you do not optimize the meta description, Google itself will select a fragment of your website and place it in the description. You can see this in search results for Wikipedia, which does not have optimized meta descriptions.
It also happens that despite optimizing the meta description, Google decides to display a different fragment. This usually happens when a given subpage fragment better responds to the user’s query than the meta description you created.
How to optimize the meta description tag on individual subpages? If you use the WordPress CMS, you can install the Yoast SEO plugin, which will allow you to easily edit meta tags on individual subpages. Most other content management systems also offer the ability to edit the meta description without interfering with the website code. However, you can add the meta description manually in the head section of the page. It should be about 150-160 characters – then it will be fully displayed in the search results. If you write a longer meta description, it will be indexed, but it will not be visible in its entirety.
Learn valuable tips that will allow you to optimize your meta description and support positioning:
- Make sure that the meta description concisely and attractively summarizes the content of a given subpage.
- Create a unique meta description for each page.
- Put one meta description on each page.
- Try to include the keyword in the meta description, but in a natural way. Don’t force phrases. If the user enters a given keyword into the search engine, Google will bold the phrase in the meta description.
- Use an attractive call to action; tell users what they will gain by going to your site, for example: “free delivery from USD 100” or “Buy.”
- Think about users and their needs – you create meta descriptions primarily for potential customers to increase the rate of page views (CTR).
- Avoid tools that automatically add meta descriptions- creating your own meta description is much more beneficial.
How to check if the meta tags on your site are well-optimized? For this purpose, you can perform an audit available in the Ahrefs tool in the “Site audit” tab.
Read also: Link building – what is worth knowing?
How to optimize photo meta tags? Optimization of alternative descriptions in positioning
Optimizing meta tags also includes creating descriptions of alternative photos that inform Google robots about what is in the image. Google’s algorithms are not able to “read” graphics, infographics, and images, so you can inform them about it through an alternative description. What’s more, if the browser is unable to load the image, the user will see the description marked with the “alt” attribute instead. As John Mueller from Google reported on his Twitter account, alternative descriptions also enable the display of a given subpage in image search results.
How do top webmasters optimize image meta tags? Above all:
- Create alternative descriptions for various types of images – product photos, infographics, and photos in the content of blog articles,
- Match the images to the content on the website – place graphics that are related to a given topic,
- Place keywords related to the topic of the page in alternative descriptions.
Meta data optimization – important not only for SEO but also for users
Optimization of metadata, otherwise known as meta tags, is one of the elements of technical SEO. However, it is worth remembering that you also create both page titles (title) and descriptions (meta description) for users. Therefore, they should encourage entering the site, which contains elements that call to action and interest the user. For example, do you offer free delivery? Do you have a lot of feedback from satisfied customers? Show it off in the meta description! Thanks to this, you can increase the click rate and reduce the bounce rate, and these indicators directly affect SEO results. Meta data optimization is, therefore, an important element of technical work on website and conversion optimization.