In my first post of this SEO Basics series, I talked about keywords – what they are and how to use them. I’d strongly recommend reading that post before continuing with this one. Without your keywords, writing your metadata is a bit of a futile task!
What is Metadata?
Metadata is essentially the little bits of information which help Google figure out what your post or page is about. Robot language, if you will.
At the heart of SEO is user intent – offering both value and relevancy for the user. By providing accurate metadata, you are helping Google to rank your page for the most relevant search terms. This will make it more likely that your website ranks higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), as Google can be sure that your page or post is offering the relevancy and value that it looks to deliver to its eagle-eyed users.
Well-written metadata will also make your site look good on the SERPs, meaning that users are more likely to click through to your site. As long as the information you are providing in your post or page is what the user was looking for, then they are more likely to stay on your site for longer. This will lower the bounce rate in your analytics, demonstrating a higher quality user experience on your site.
By far the easiest way to implement metadata on your site is by using a plugin. For WordPress, use Yoast SEO. You may already be using it but it is by far the best option available and it is insanely easy to use. For Blogger sites, I understand the most recommended option is the All in One SEO Pack. However, I do not have personal experience with this plugin so I’m afraid that I cannot give you my word.
Any good plugin will you give you fields to enter your metadata. In the case of Yoast SEO, it also provides handy tips and advice to help you improve your data. So even if you haven’t a clue how SEO works, Yoast will hold your hand and do all the hard work for you.
So why am I bothering to write this post at all if Yoast does it all for you? Sure, it goes some way to improving your SEO but I believe it’s important to understand why you are doing it. It’ll improve your overall SEO strategy in the long run if you actually know what you’re doing a little bit.
Writing your Metadata
My guidance here will be on the assumption that you are using Yoast SEO. However, it should be the same for whichever way you are implementing your metadata. The first step is to enter your focus keyword (see previous post for help with generating this). You can then check to see whether you have used it enough, not enough or too much throughout your post and in your title.
As I explained in my previous keyword post, you should be mentioning your keyword throughout the copy, but not too much. If you include it an unnecessary number of times then this is known as keyword stuffing. It is considered spam by Google and you could therefore be penalised with lower rankings.
Don’t overthink this though. If you have chosen your keyword correctly then it should occur naturally in your copy anyway.
The next step is to write your SEO title and meta description.
Firstly, the SEO title should be no more than 55 characters or the whole of the title may not be displayed. It should also feature your focus keyword along with any other keyword you deem necessary. This could be as simple as your blog name or description, or it could be another keyword that you feel your post should be ranking for. It is advisable that each keyword is separated by a pipe (|). Each keyword separated by a | is called a title tag. So, for example, the SEO title of this post could be as follows:
SEO Metadata | Blogging Advice | Pocket Wanderings
Here I have used three title tags; it is advisable to use either two or three title tags, never more and never less. There are a whole range of combinations I could use and if you have the time then it’s worth doing a bit of research into which title tags are more popular.
Ultimately though it should be about relevancy and value for the user. I know I sound like a broken record but they really are the foundations of SEO.
The meta description is the little snippet of text that shows in search engine results pages. It should give a brief but accurate representation of what your post will contain. Google may include a different meta description depending on the search query but you must always write one anyway.
Google does not actually pay any attention to the meta description in terms of SEO. But hold your horses, you still need to write a description. This is because a meta description is often the factor to make users decide whether to click on a result or not. Plus, if the search query appears in your meta description, Google will highlight it in bold.
Your meta description should be roughly between 150-160 characters – certainly no more than 160 or it will be truncated. As with the SEO title, it should also contain your keyword.
Other than a slimy mollusc found in your garden, a slug is the URL title of the page. It tends to be automatically generated from your page title and should therefore already contain your keyword. For example, the automatically generated slug of this page is written as follows:
You may not need to change it but if your title is a little long then there is no harm in shortening it. Yoast SEO will also advise against including ‘stop words’ in your title. These are link words like ‘and’, ‘is’, ‘of’, ‘for’, etc. It is really up to you whether you deem it useful enough to remove these.
Once you have your keyword, metadata takes all of five minutes to write and it can make such a difference to your Google rankings. Stick to the character limits, include your keyword and make it relevant, valuable and accurate. Yoast SEO will show you a preview of your snippet and once you are happy you can go ahead and publish your post.
In the final SEO basics series I will be discussing ‘readability’ and how to make your posts easier for the Google bots to crawl. Any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below and I would be delighted to help.