What is metadata?

What is metadata?

It might sound a little abstract, but metadata is really rather straightforward! Here’s all you need to know about it…

When it comes to copywriting, the first thing that comes to mind is often the stuff you see on the surface. The persuasive writing techniques, the call to action, the tone of voice and more all make up what we call copy. But behind the scenes, there are other players at work. SEO is one example of this — using the right words to get your copy noticed by search algorithms. One other example is metadata: the data that describes the article.

But what exactly is metadata, and how can you use it to boost your blog? Let’s take a look.

What does metadata mean?

The ‘meta’ prefix is often used to mean ‘about’ in a self-referential way. This one’s a little hard to explain without examples, so here are a couple… A meta-joke is a joke about jokes. Meta-discussions are discussions about discussions. 

So, what is metadata? It’s data about data. 

Anything ‘meta’ looks at its own category from a more detached perspective to analyse itself, and has even expanded its meaning to become an adjective in recent years. Nifty, right?

What kinds of metadata are there?

Metadata sees usage in all kinds of areas — not just in copywriting. Libraries have been some of the first places to employ metadata, using them to simplify resource discovery, identification, and organisation. Moving away from libraries, you can even find metadata right at your fingertips — when you search through your computer files, they’ll come with labels such as the file size, the date modified, and so on.

These kinds of labels are essential for understanding our data, especially when you’re dealing with large amounts (like say, a museum collection). Various kinds of metadata, such as archival data or computer files, also tend to have their own standards.

In copywriting, metadata tends to look like data that describes a web page. This usually comes in the form of a title tag and a meta description, which are both identified at the top of the HTML of your web page. Essentially, it’s a recommendation to a search engine of what it should display on the search page.

Let’s take a look at one we made earlier! Here’s a very meta example: our metadata for this article. 

Screenshot: metadata for a Zipcopi blog

The title tag is the title of the link that shows up in the search page, while the meta description is a short summary of the page that appears under the title tag. Here’s what they do…

What is the purpose of metadata, and why is it so important?

On the machine side of things, metadata is part of what helps search algorithms identify the relevance of your content — and the more relevant the content is to a user’s search question, the higher it will rank on the SERP. And it goes without saying that your SERP ranking is essential to getting your blog out there in a world where 75% of users don’t even go past the first page.

This doesn’t just go for the title tag and the meta description. Your blog’s images also benefit from optimised metadata.

And on the human side of things, metadata serves to tell readers what the content of the webpage is about — and whether it will be worth their time. Those few sentences are the place to hook your readers with an engaging description. Inconveniently, search engines like Google won’t always display the metadata you so painstakingly wrote, meaning that writers don’t always have absolute control over what the robotic arbiters of relevance deem to be the best option for internet users.

How can I use metadata in my blog articles?

If you’re writing an article for your blog and want to optimise your metadata, there are some handy tips you need to know.

1. Stay within the character limit

A good rule of thumb for title tags is to keep it between 50-70 characters — a title tag that’s too long risks being cut off. A meta description can technically go up to around 300 characters, but the sweet spot is up to 155, which keeps it snappy and increases the chance of it displaying correctly.

2. Include your keyword(s)

Using the webpage or blog title for the title tag is a good strategy, although longer titles may need some rearranging to keep them within the limit. Balancing the character limit, the keywords, and the readability can be difficult, but it’s worth it.

The meta description gives a bit more room to include keywords, but it’s important to remember that even though keywords are important, nothing will turn human readers away faster than unnatural-sounding keyword stuffing — and search engine algorithms don’t like it either.

3. Use an optimiser

This can be a big help for point 1. We’ve found this Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool to be pretty handy when you need to cut down on the character limit. Rather than going strictly by characters, it limits the length right down to the pixel, helping you get in everything you need while keeping it shorter and sweeter.

4. Include a CTA

If possible, offer a call to action that encourages readers to do something — this may be to contact your business, shop your collection of products or click ‘buy now.’

Phone screen with Google search engine

Metadata and copywriting services

Looking for engaging copy for your website? At Zipcopi, we carefully craft a title tag and meta description for all our website copy to make sure it reaches as many people as possible — and pleases the whims of temperamental search engines!

Whether you’re looking for regular blog content to drive traffic and show off your expertise, or compelling product descriptions to help boost sales,our services have it covered. Just get in touch at hello@zipcopi.com or tansy@zipcopi.com, or send over a message on social media at Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook.