Choosing the right meta data

by Matthew Ryan

When website design is the topic of conversation, there are usually some strange terms that only a few people understand immediately. One of these terms is “meta data”. Where a website is concerned, the meta data is the information about the information on the page. Yes, it is that confusing.

Fundamentally, when we speak of meta data it is usually directly related to the “meta tags” embedded in a website. This is actually information that is hidden in the HTML version of any web page. You can always view the Internet in the HTML format, and there you would find the code that creates the visual page and you would also see the words that are part of the meta data.

Where You See Meta Data

So, if you look at a web page you NEVER see the meta data? Actually, it does appear in many places. For example, if you use a search engine and see that the results have some sort of description next to them, you are viewing the “meta description” created by the website owner or designer.

For instance, let’s say you have a cupcake company that sells homemade cupcakes and ships them overnight to any part of the continental United States. You give your page the meta description “Cupcakes made fresh today and on your table tomorrow”. When someone searches for your type of business, and your page appears in the results, they see that description, from above, next to the link to the page.

Meta data is also seen in the keywords used on the page. When you want the search engine “crawlers” to identify your chosen keywords, you frame them with “meta tags”. In this way, the meta keywords are telling the search engines what a page is about in the same exact way that the meta description tells the visitor what the entire site is about.

The Significance of the Meta Data

Why is it so important to tell visitors and search engines what the site is about? It all has to do with search engine ranking. For example, if the person who owned the cupcake business wanted to be sure that they were among the top results from any search for such a business, they would want to take steps to ensure that all of the world’s search engines could find the site easily. They would also want to be considered as one of the most authoritative sites about this issue, and it is through meta data that such a thing would happen.

Let’s continue to use the cupcake business as the example. The owner wants anyone looking for “mail order cupcakes” to be directed to their site. While they may not be able to always hold the top spot in the results for this search, the meta data in their website guarantees that the search engines will read the tags and recognize the subject matter of the site. This gives this particular website what is known as “relevance” and this is usually the way that the site would be placed in the first two pages of search engine results!

Thus, meta data is one way to ensure excellent SEO and traffic, and any online business will want to be certain their meta data is a good as possible.