Website Meta Data
Meta data consists of fields in the code of your webpage that are not visible on the rendered page. The purpose is to describe the content of your web page to search engines.
Historically web pages had just 3 pieces of meta data (Page Title, Meta Keywords and Meta Description) that let developers tell search engines what their content was about and influence the ranking in search result pages.
Unfortunately, this meta data was abused by unscrupulous website owners with techniques like keyword stuffing and fake use of popular keywords that were unrelated to the content. As a result, the Meta Keywords tag is no longer used by search engines, although the Page Title and Meta Description remain important.
The internet now hosts a colossal amount of varied content and making sense of it so it can be reliably indexed by search engines is no simple task. So, in 2011 Google, Bing and Yahoo launched the schema.org initiative to define a common set of schemas for structuring the data on web pages.
The rich previews you see in Google search results pages when searching for things like jobs, hotels, event, recipes etc. are generated from schema. Consider this search for “cupcake recipes”:
Google can show the photo, name of the publication, rating, cooking time and ingredients all from the search results page, giving the user more information and reason to chick through to the webpage.
The schema is actively maintained and recently extended to cover ‘Work from home’ in the ‘job’ schema type following the coronavirus pandemic.
The schema is now very extensive and covers almost every type of content you can think of. Have a look at the full hierarchy of types here - https://schema.org/docs/full.html
It’s a good idea to consider a schema when first designing your website. The schema is based on the information users expect to see so it can also serve as a check-up to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Social Meta Tags
With the rise of social media and the different types of content that is shared on their channels, there soon became a need to let website owners influence the small snippet of information that is used when someone shares their content. It is a small advert after all and needs to snappy and to the point, with a relevant image to entice the user to click through.
The Open Graph protocol was developed by Facebook back in 2010 so content shared on the platform could be treated as rich ‘graph’ objects with the same functionality as other Facebook objects.
The result is you can influence how your content is displayed when shared on Facebook – for example have full control over the preview image, title and description.
You can also specify what type of content you are sharing, such as music, movie, book and provide relevant information with is, such as author, ISBN number etc.
Open Graph has been adopted by many social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
More information on the Open Graph protocol can be found here - https://ogp.me/
Twitter has its own version of Open Graph called Twitter Cards. It is much simpler and less “open” but implementation is easy because you can use the same fields to generate the tags that you are using for Open Graph.
Interestingly, if Twitter cannot find any twitter-card properties when processing the page, it will fall-back to the related Open Graph property.
More information on twitter cards can be found here - https://developer.twitter.com/en/docs/twitter-for-websites/cards/overview/abouts-cards
So, there is potentially a lot of data to be created and managed. Fortunately, using a content management systems (CMS), such as Umbraco, we are able to automatically use the fields in your content to populate these social media tags and generate schema.
This saves a lot of time and ensures consistency between the on-page content and the meta data.
There are occasions when a website requires granular control over the exact meta data, and we can implement an interface to manage that too, but this requirement is rare.
Structured Data such as schema.org is used to help search engines present your content in their results pages.
Social Meta Tags such as Open Graph and Twitter Cards are used when sharing your content on social media sites.
Whilst the impact on search engine ranking is a much discussed topic, there is a proven effect on conversion and click-through rates.
Hope this has been helpful and feel free to reach out to us if you would like to know more.