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The term “meta data” is used to describe information within the coding of your site that the search engines use to index your site. The search engine companies send programs called “spiders” out to gather information about your site and determine how to display it in the search results page. Your meta data is the key information which tells your users and the search engines what your site is about. If your meta data is consistent with the intended theme of your site, it increases your chances of ranking well in the search results and increase the odds of attracting qualified traffic.
This article will break down the three types of information which are included in your meta data and show you how to gain access to and edit your them.
Three Types of Meta Data
There are three types of data in your meta data:
You can view all three of these for any website by selecting the “page source” option under “view” in your browser toolbar. For example:
Which would present you with a page of code, within which you can view your meta-data (the numerals 1,2 and 3 will not be present in actual source code):
In the example above, the numbers 1, 2 and 3 represent the three types of meta-data that we’ll be covering in this article:
You can use this “view page source” approach to view the meta information of your site or a site of a competitor who is already ranking high in the search engines.
Now, let’s break down the three types of meta data, their impact on your SEO and how they affect your visitor experience.
#1 Your Meta-title tag
Your meta-title tag is visible to users and to search engine spiders and it shows the search engines and your visitors what your page is about. For example, below is how your meta-title appears when a link to your site displays in the search results:
The meta titles are the underlined text in the example above. The example below shows how your meta-title appears when visitors are viewing your web page:
As you can see, it’s crucial that your meta-title makes it clear what the theme of your web page is. It’s also important that the primary keywords for the web page are contained within the meta-title. For example, if the theme of your site is “how to overcome anxiety” and the primary keyword of the page is “overcome anxiety” then “Discover how to overcome anxiety” would be a perfect meta title.
Keep in mind also that only the first 35 characters (including spaces) of your meta title will be visible to your visitors.
#2 Your Meta-Description
Your meta-description appears directly below your meta-title when your site information displays in the search engine results page:
As you can see, your meta-description is like a classified ad for your web page. The more relevant it is to the theme of your site, the more likely it is to encourage the right visitors to click on your site. It’s also important that your meta-description is interesting and gives your visitors a reason to visit your site.
For best results, use your keyword once within the first five words of your meta-description. Making your meta-description match the first 160 characters of your web pages content will also ensure that your visitors get exactly what they expect when they visit your site (see also our article on keyword research).
#3 Your Meta-Keywords
Your meta-keywords aren’t visible to your visitors like your meta-titles and meta-descriptions are. Instead, your meta keywords tell the search engine spiders which keywords your site is optimized for. In the exmaple below, number three is the keyword data (the numerals 1,2 and 3 will not be present in actual source code):
It’s important that your meta-keywords are consistent with the keywords which your page content is optimized for and that your meta-keywords are assigned to each page according to the overall structure of your site (see our article on silo structure for more information).
Editing Your Meta-Data
Viewing the page source in your browser won’t enable you to edit your meta-data. However, with a program like Dreamweaver, you can go to the code view, find the meta information and simply type the desired information in for your meta-title, meta-description and meta-keywords.
The other option is to select the meta data you want and hire a web programmer to input it into your code. As long as you’ve already provided the meta information you want, this job should take no longer than two minutes per page. So if your site is less than 30 pages, you shouldn’t be paying a programmer for more than one hour worth of work.
Optimizing these three types of meta data will help promote the value of your site to the search engines and to your visitors alike, increase the amount of visitors to your site and present you with more opportunities to monetize your web traffic or gather leads for your business. For more information about optimizing your meta descriptions, see the articles on this site about on page optimization and keywords research.
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