Metadata and Search Engines: Why Bother?

While it is true that metadata has become less important for relevance ranking, it hasn’t lost it entirely. But why bother with it at all? Here are my reasons:

#1. Many search engines still use metadata.

MSN, Yahoo, AOL, and some other engines using Inktomi (What is Inktomi?) still rely on meta keywords for effective relevance ranking. They are aware of the consequences but claim that they are able to detect common spamming techniques and penalize the guilty websites by throwing their ranks to the bottom of their index.

#2. Google still looks at metadata.

Google creation of sites’ titles and descriptions is completely automated and takes into account both the content of a page as well as references to it that appear on the web. While Google uses a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the META tag for each page, they say that accurate meta descriptions can improve click-through, though won’t impact your ranking within search results. But Google frequently prefers to display meta descriptions of pages as page snippets when the meta description accurately represents the page content. To me, that’s reason enough the get metadata in order.


#3. Accessibility and contextual relevancy.

The purpose of meta data is to increase accessibility and make it easier to find what you are looking for. Think about libraries back in the day when we had no Internet: all categories were labeled, all books were sorted, and a good librarian always knew where to find what you asked for.

Even though search engines are becoming more sophisticated, there still remains an issue whenever the relationship between keywords and their context are complex and interlaced. Metadata allows us to document and maintain the context – thus, improving authenticity and structural integrity of our website content. The end result? If your metadata is intuitive, descriptive, and accurate, the happy visitors will help you get credited for it through better traffic and higher ranks.

#4. Multi-versioning

For websites that create multiple and diverse versions of their content, metadata is vital for distinguishing between all versions and pointing out which one is a hard copy original and a digital version.

#5. For your own sake!

Accurate metadata makes it easy to manage and update page content, shows which terms we are targeting, and represents the contents of the page. It is a great way of organizing data and staying on track, so think about yourself before you go ahead and ignore your website metadata.

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