What does it meta?


Q: How much does metadata (webpage titles, descriptions, and keywords) play into improving a webpage’s rating in Bing, Yahoo!, or Google searches?

A: Metadata is an essential element to ranking higher in search engine results, and it is important to include relevant metadata in your webpage properties so your webpages rank higher. While the specific algorithms used by Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and other search engines are kept secret, it is widely known that webpage titles, descriptions, and keywords do indeed factor into the ranking equations.

Consider the following example. Assume that you have a website for your concrete company located in Glynn County, Ga., and a local customer needs some concrete. If the customer searches Google using the word “concrete,” he or she will find 556 million results, as pictured below to the left. Without metadata, your webpage would show up as just one of 556 million results; in other words, you’d likely never be found.


Now consider the impact of adding the word “concrete” to your webpage title. By searching the web using Google’s “allintitle” filter operator, as pictured to the right above, we find only 81,900 webpages that include the word “concrete” in the webpage title. Based on how search algorithms are commonly believed to work, we can surmise that those 81,900 webpages containing the word “concrete” in the webpage title will rank higher than those 555,918,100 webpages that don’t. Carrying this example further, we find only 143 webpages that include both “concrete” and “Glynn County” in the webpage title (shown below); therefore, any search including these two phrases would likely result in these 143 webpages being ranked ahead of the others.


Now imagine how much higher a concrete company’s webpage might rank if the word “concrete” was also included in the webpage description, keyword list, body, and URL. The screenshot below displays the Page Properties for one of the webpages included among the 143 search results mentioned above. You can clearly see the phrases “concrete” and “Glynn County” included in the webpage’s metadata multiple times.


Given this simple example, you might assume that it would be easy for any webpage to rank high, but it is not that easy because you have to know which keywords your customers/readers are most likely to use. For example, if the customer searched Google using the terms “asphalt” and “South Georgia,” then the website featured above would not be included in any of the search results because these keywords are not included in the body of this webpage or its metadata. In conclusion, it is indeed important to determine the proper keywords you should use and then include them in each of your webpages. Metadata usually can be added to any webpage either by selecting File, Properties from almost every webpage editing tool, or by inserting HTML code such as the example code shown below.


J. Carlton Collins ( carlton@asaresearch.com ) is a technology consultant, CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

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