Definition: Metadata describes unseen HTML elements that directly communicate and clarify website information for search engines, playing a critical role in effective Search Engine Optimization for retailers. This series of micro-communications includes page titles, description tags and other protocols, and they may describe purposes, characteristics and general content.

Metadata is a structured way to communicate information about a data set, which is used in a variety of settings with special relevance for ecommerce businesses.

Metadata for SEO and social media

Metadata allows XML-based applications to categorize and contextualize pieces of data — for marketers, this data is usually a web pages. A search engine's job is to crawl a web page and interpret its relevancy to a given search query. While keywords matching within body content and backlinks to the page play a large role in determining ranking, metadata says more about the purpose of a page. Search engines can crawl a website and guess its general purpose based on these elements; metadata enables webmasters to tell search engines what a page's title is, which says a lot about what search queries it may be relevant for.

Metadata is used in similar fashion by social media platforms such as Facebook. Open Graph (OG) protocol marks up web pages with information that is then displayed when a web page is shared on Facebook.

Common metadata elements

Meta tags include basic keywords, description tags that summarize content, and robots that index pages or pass on link authority.

  • Title tags are an important search engine ranking factor and should include most relevant keywords, product(s) and article name.
  • Image tags identify URLs, while alternative attributes provide related text, measurements and some SEO signals.
  • Canonical tags are used to consolidate similar pages and attribute the value to only one, reducing the likelihood of duplicate content penalty and providing a straightforward user experience.
  • Structured datadenote aspects of content that can help promote them within search results like Google answers and maps.

Metadata is the key to big data working smoothly

Metadata provide a powerful tool for tailoring and targeting e-commerce; in a Social Media Today study, 32 percent of respondents reported extremely positive results from using social to pursue client care objectives. Yet, the large amounts of data that such tools may deliver can make it difficult to assess customer engagement. However, organizing and identifying trends within those large-volume data sets supports more effective customer service and marketing outreach. With the addition of Google-specific metadata like authorship and publisher tags, as well as plug-ins provided by CMS like WordPress, these data analytics can deliver positive effects for a company’s bottom line.

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