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Does Metadata Still Matter?

February 2019

If you’ve read much about search engine optimization at any point in the past five to ten years, you’ve probably seen at least one proclamation that “SEO is dead.” Indeed, Google’s algorithmic changes have altered the landscape of SEO significantly since the dawn of search engines 20-plus years ago. For instance, long-tail keywords have taken precedence in recent years. Despite these changes, all aspects of SEO remain essential in 2019, including keywords, backlinking, and yes, metadata.

Related: Five Foolproof SEO Tips for Law Firms

For most SEO beginners, metadata is the most confusing part of the equation. Keywords make sense, and authority links are easy enough to add, but meta tags? Since most metadata exists as HTML and doesn’t appear on your website itself, it can be difficult to get a handle on what function metadata serves.

With that thought in mind, let’s start by taking a quick look at what metadata is and what it does for your website. Meta tags exist within the source code of your website, which means they don’t show up as part of your content. They exist solely for the eyes of search engine crawlers. One of the first touchpoints any search engine has with your site is with your meta tags. These tags convey what your site or page is about, thereby helping the search engine determine whether the page is relevant within the context of a search.

These meta tags are still a vital part of SEO in 2019. Search engines may be adapting how they search and prioritize sites, but they still rely on those tags for key context clues.

It’s important to note, here, that they are many different metadata tags on each of your pages. Every page on your website should have a title tag, a meta description, and H1 or other heading tags. Other meta tags may include alt tags (for images), canonical tags (for URLs), robots meta tags (to help web crawlers know which pages to index), and social media meta tags (which help enable better integration between your site/pages and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter).

How metadata interacts with search engines varies from tag to tag. Above, when talking about the “first touchpoint” between search engines and your web pages, we were mainly referring to the title tag. The title tag is the most important piece of metadata for any page, at least as far as search rankings are concerned. With that said, search engines also look at heading tags, referring to them for more information about what the page is about (the H1 tag) or checking them to see what individual sections are about (H2s, H3s, and other headings and subheadings).

The meta description tag, meanwhile, has no actual bearing on how your page ranks on Google. Instead, the meta description is important because it gives you the opportunity to decide which description or text blurb will appear beneath your page title and URL on a Google search results page. It is the description, in other words, that readers will see when deciding whether to click on your page.

Bottom line, SEO is not dead, and neither is metadata. If you want to learn more about metadata or need help harnessing it to make your site more search-engine-friendly, contact Inherent today.