Website Metadata FAQs

What is (website) metadata?

Wikipedia states: “in common use, the prefix meta- is used to mean about (its own category). For example, metadata are data about data.” So, website metadata is data about your website – it’s a reflexive term. Website metadata can be data that tries to tell Google what is on a page or what an image or photo is. It can also be information that the website provides to social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

A website’s metadata is pretty much invisible when you are viewing the website, but the same metadata appears when links to the website appear in Google search results or on social media.

Is metadata just text?

Metadata is mostly text, but it can also be images. For example, when you view information about a web page on Google or when a website link is shared on social media, a title and description of what’s on the web page appear in text form. But images related to the shared web page can appear on social media.

Keep in mind that if Google crawls a web page and sees an image, it does not know what the content of the image is. The filename of the image (e.g., puppies-photo.jpg) might give it a clue, but otherwise it doesn’t know. Website owners can tell both Google and accessibility programs what an image is by assigning an “alt text attribute” to an image. So, that photo of puppies can be assigned the alt text metadata “photo of Joe’s puppies at Christmas 2021” in order to let Google and others know what is in the image.

What is social media metadata?

As stated above, social media metadata is information a website sends to social media platforms. For example, when you share a link to a web page on LinkedIn and an image and title of the web page automatically appears in your LinkedIn post, the image and title that automatically appear are metadata that the website provides to LinkedIn.

What if I don’t have social media metadata on my website?

When you share a link on a social media platform, the platform (e.g., LinkedIn) will try to display the largest image that is on the web page. For example, if you are a consultancy and don’t have metadata explicitly defined on your website page, but there is a photo of two people on that page, LinkedIn will display that photo. So, the image might make it appear that you website is a dating site.

How do I explicitly put metadata on my website?

In a WordPress environment, we recommend using a plugin such as the Yoast Premium SEO plugin. This plugin allows you to define both social media and SEO metadata. For each page, you select an image and write a title and the social media platform that displays your page will automatically display the selected metadata.

Can’t I just upload an image directly to, say, Facebook or LinkedIn rather than depending on metadata?

That is an option. But what happens if someone else shares your page link? That is an idea situation – when someone else is promoting your website. If and when that happens, you want to have already defined how the link will look when that person shares the page. You control that by defining the metadata.

What is search engine (SEO) metadata?

The Yoast SEO plugin also allows you to define a title and description of each page of your website. While Google may not use the exact title and description that you define, it is best that you at least explicitly define what is on the page. (Google modifies the actual page title and description based on the searcher’s keywords and intent.)

Is metadata really necessary?

Whether you choose to define your metadata or not, your pages will appear a certain way. If someone shares an important page of your website and there is no image or description, it may end up looking like spam, and no one will click on it. So why not define the metadata? We like to think that not defining your page metadata is like running 98 yards of a 100-year dash. Why bother unless you go all the way?

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