Why is Metadata Important?

Kristin Crabb
By Kristin Crabb

For web programmers, technical professionals, and website coders, things like complex web data and algorithms are usually easier to pick up on. 

And while the online world today just seems to be awash in things like metadata, we might have only a basic understanding of what metadata really is… but what’s so special and important about metadata in the first place? 

Should we even care about the inner workings of metadata? After all, modernday professionals like us are sometimes led by the technology world towards a belief that metadata is the ultimate key… but should we buy into this?

And is this idea even worth a second thought?

Read on to get the bigger picture rundown from your team at Power Digital.

What is Metadata All About Anyway?

In a nutshell, metadata refers to the data describing other data. The term “meta” is the prefix that means “underlying description or definition.” And since metadata summarizes the basic details about the data, this can make finding and working with certain information and data much easier. 

Aside from automatically applying itself to document files on a hard drive, metadata is also used for spreadsheets, videos, images, and web pages… 

By now, you probably understand that using metadata on web pages is highly essential. Metadata for web pages contain information about the content of the page, and the important keywords linked to this content. Metadata is usually expressed in the form of metatags.

Metadata For Online Business and Visibility

Metadata that contains the description of the web page and the website summary is usually displayed by the search engines in the search results page. That’s why it’s our responsibility in making completely sure that its details and accuracy are spot on, since this can determine if users will even decide to visit our website or not!

The metatags on the site are also evaluated by each search engine, and they’re evaluated often to help the search engine with deciding on the relevance of a web page. And in modernday business and advertising, metatags and metadata can be leveraged to gain visibility, traffic, and even new business. 

Unfortunately, that’s nowhere near as easy as it once was…

That’s because the increase in Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) towards the end of the 1990s led to websites’ “keyword stuffing” their metadata, trying to crack a code by tricking search engines into making the site appear more relevant and trustworthy when compared to others.

Obviously, search engines today have caught onto that and also minimized their focus on metatags… although these are still important and factored in when it comes to indexing pages online, and assigning them visibility and search engine rankings. Plus, search engines like Google also modify and ‘covertly’ alter their algorithms often, so it’s nearly impossible now to catch on to anyways to “trick” the search engine long term into giving us unfair rankings!

The Purpose of Metadata 

Metadata can be created manually, or through an automated process. The manual creation is more accurate, using human eyes to input and crosscheck information they feel is relevant, needed, and appropriate. On the other hand, the creation of automated metadata tends to be more basic, usually displaying pre-calculated information which yields to more limits than we’d like to admit.

Metadata is not just used on websites either…

Metadata is leveraged when it comes to information about data, document, or probably other information contents

Examples of this are:

  • The title, author, and date of a publication
  • Subject keywords
  • Access permissions
  • Security classification
  • And much more. 

Knowing this, it’s safe to say that Metadata actually services a variety of purposes. Let’s cover some of those in more detail.

Identification

Metadata can identify content and give it a special characterization, which separates and defines this from other content. Metadata identification includes many technical elements like Unique Resource Identifier or URI, File Reference Number or File Name, Title, and Author. 

Management and Organization

Metadata also plays an important function in helping manage a wide variety of content… and thanks to today’s technology, this happens almost automatically. This is to identify who would have access to certain documents, what applications must be used to do so, and what kind of operations and limitations exist in general.

Plus, this formulaic process also does important things on its own like archiving dates, version numbers, access and security permissions, link resources, file format, rights management setting, and more. 

Fast Recall

Helping users find and then retrieve content, later on, is one of the common purposes of metadata. We may not be aware of it, but modern-day descriptive metadata records key things such as topics, document descriptions, and keywords that are added by a user. 

Track and Monitor Content Usage (Used In Marketing)

Smart marketers have realized that one more sophisticated metadata use is tracking usage of documents, and connecting that data to other contents

Take Amazon for example…

They have a section on their online store stating: “people who bought this book also bought …” But how is this figured out? Well, the information is automatically collected by the system online, and it connects these actions based on tracking the behaviors of the users and visitors.  Then it follows a preprogrammed algorithm to display this section to the online shopper, to help themselves generate more sales. (That’s only scratching the surface since the use of metadata may also store download data, user ratings, forwarding data, search terms, links data and more!)

Organizing Electronic Resources

Metadata is also an effective way of collecting and organizing important electronic resources that are used – and linked to – regularly. 

Digital Identification and Preservation

Metadata also assists in digital security and “digital identification,” and is actually an important way to secure important assets and resources – especially if those resources are going to be accessed and looked at again in the future! 

It’s been demonstrated over and over that the primary concern of advanced digital data today is its vulnerability to attack, modification, and corruption… so to protect sensitive information for both professional and personal use, elements of metadata are used for security and preservation – although this exact system and process is beyond the scope of this article!

The Importance of Metadata

Metadata is important because this essentially works to process and recognize some types of key information needed – for a wide variety of marketing and organizational purposes – to be used later. As mentioned: metadata assists with marketing and sales purposes, security reasons, search engine rankings, document organization, and much more!

Plus, an added value of metadata is making affiliations and connections among things that everyday clients, customers, and users interact with regularly: such as an ERP or CRM system. As such, metadata will sort out and track the whole advanced lifecycle of significant business data, including the procedures, methodology, and clients that influence parts of the business… which in the end, helps us when giving an exact review and “audit trail” for our businesses and our industries alike! Securing and arranging an audit trail like this is just one more reason why metadata should be leveraged in your professional and business life.

Leveraging Metadata via SEO in 2019

Metadata is still a highly essential tool to improve a web page’s SEO. 

The search engines often use metadata, combined with other factors, to determine what’s on the web page and how relevant it is (if at all) to the everyday person looking something up on the internet. There are even individuals who check on how relevant the contents are to given searches. 

Here are some ways search engines can view and “scan” your metadata:

  • Description: This describes the specific types of content accessible on the web page. For example, your description for this particular page tells search engines that what kind of content is to be expected and what this page is composed of overall.
  • Title: This is the most important piece of metadata on the page. Title each webpage as appropriately and as accurately as possible each time to increase your chances of better rankings and visibility.
  • Keywords: This shows the search engine extra keywords that are identified and connected with the content on the page. Whether web search tools and search engines still utilize this information is a matter of debate, especially today.

So in The End, What’ The Point of Metadata?

Although metadata doesn’t strike us as exciting or impressive, the true importance of metadata can never be underrated. 

Whether or not we have realized it yet, metadata is being used all the time, around the world, 24 hours a day… plus, utilizing metadata can even help us create more favorable outcomes in marketing, security, sales, and more. The only question left from here is whether or not it is worth it to you to learn how to take full advantage of this. 

 

Kristin is a Content Strategist at Power Digital. She was born and raised in San Diego but headed down south to attend the University of Alabama. With a degree in Communications and Advertising, she enjoys creating valuable and engaging SEO focused content to drive traffic and boost rankings for her clients. Roll Tide!