Even though there is no one-size-fits-all SEO solution, every site owner wants their content to get the most bang for their buck. That’s why optimizing every piece contributing to your site’s performance, visibility, and health is necessary for a successful SEO campaign.
Metadata is one quick tweak many ignore that can turn things around in the SEO game. It plays a crucial role in organizing your content, helps search engines understand the context of your content, positively affects your rankings, and more. Painfully, this is what many people miss.
This article will discuss the most commonly made metadata errors, their negative impacts, and how to avoid them.
What is Metadata?
Everyone describes metadata as data that provides information about other data. However, in the context of websites, metadata is the information embedded in a web page’s code, providing context and structure for search engines, your audience, and other automated systems.
In other words, metadata helps to describe the information on your pages for search engines and readers to understand better. There are several types of metadata, but the most common are:
1. Title Tags
The title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. It appears in the browser’s title bar, search engine result pages, and social media shares.
The title tags tell your audience and search engines what your page is about, and your title should feature your primary keyword naturally.
A compelling and relevant title tag can increase your page’s CTR. Based on Google’s primary goal, which is to provide its users with the most relevant and highest quality results, they reward sites with more click-through rates with a boost in rankings.
2. Meta Description
The meta description summarizes a web page’s content. Most importantly, it gives your readers your value proposition and prompts them to click through to a certain page.
Meta descriptions appear beneath the title tag on search engine result pages. Also, your meta description should include your primary keyword to help search engines understand the page better.
Even though meta descriptions are not ranking factors on SERPs, they are like online banners that increase click-through rates and organic traffic.
3. Header Tags
Header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) specify the importance and hierarchy of your content.
4. Alt Text
The alternative text describes an image that appears when the image cannot be displayed due to low-bandwidth connections or other technical errors. It provides context to search engines and accessibility for visually impaired users.
5. Image Alt Tags
Alternative tags provide alternative text for images, which helps search engines understand the image’s content. Including descriptive alt tags can improve the accessibility and SEO of a web page.
6. Canonical Tag
The canonical tag is an HTML element that indicates the preferred web page version when multiple versions of the same content exist. Including the canonical tag can help avoid duplicate content issues and improve the SEO of a web page.
7. Robots Meta Tag
The robot meta tag instructs the search engines on crawling and indexing a web page. Including the robot’s meta tag can help improve the visibility of a web page in search results.
Casey Jones, Founder of CJ & CO, recommends one more element.
“Apart from these obvious elements that should be in your metadata, I recommend geotags to specify the geographical location of your page. This is especially useful for local businesses that want to improve their visibility in local search results.
Now that we have a basic understanding of metadata, let’s look at the most common metadata errors.
If you want to read a full wiki of SEO terms, visit our glossary and pin it for future reference!
Common SEO Metadata Mistakes
1. Missing or Incomplete Metadata
One of the most common metadata errors is missing or incomplete metadata. Many website owners and marketers need to pay more attention to the importance of metadata or optimize it properly. Why? Without information, it’s difficult for search engines to understand your content.
This will result in lower search engine rankings.
Not to mention, if a web page doesn’t have a meta description, search engines will automatically generate one, which may not accurately reflect the page’s content.
2. Duplicate Metadata
Duplicate metadata occurs when multiple pages on your website have identical metadata elements. This can confuse search engines and make it difficult for them to understand your content’s context, relevance, or hierarchy.
For instance, duplicate title tags can confuse search engines. If Google decides to prioritize a page that is not your bread and butter for those terms, your original source will be affected in rankings. It’s vital to ensure that each page on your website has unique metadata.
3. Keyword Stuffing
In the early days of SEO, keyword stuffing was a ranking catalyst. The more keywords you use in your content, the better your ranking on SERPs.
Is the story the same at the moment?
Let’s hear from Google itself.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines provide detailed information about Google’s opinion about keyword stuffing.
“Keyword stuffing refers to loading a web page with keywords or numbers to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.”
The big problem is that most people still follow this practice to optimize their keywords’ metatags. They include too many keywords in their metadata to manipulate search engine rankings. This black hat SEO tactic can result in penalties from search engines and a poor user experience.
To avoid keyword stuffing, create descriptive and relevant metadata that accurately reflects your page’s content. Use keywords sparingly and naturally, and ensure they are relevant to the content on the page.
4. Lengthy Titles and Descriptions
Lengthy titles and descriptions can negatively impact your click-through rates and user experience. Search engines and social media platforms may need to correct your title and description, making them easier to read and understand.
Keep your title tags under 60 characters. Backlinko’s four million Google search results study shows title tags within 40-60 characters have higher click-through rates than lengthier ones.
Also, ensure your meta descriptions are under 160 characters to avoid lengthy titles and descriptions. This will ensure your metadata is fully displayed in search engine results pages and social media shares.
What happens if your title tag or meta descriptions need to be shorter?
Google will cut them out!
5. Wrong Metadata Arrangement
James Taylor, SEO Consultant at James Taylor SEO, explains this practice in detail.
“The most common metadata error I see is websites putting their brand name at the start of the metadata.
Ultimately you want to have the primary and secondary keywords at the start, as you want to avoid these getting cut off. You’ll likely rank for brand-related keywords anyway, so it matters less if these get cut off.
I’d recommend formatting your title tag as ‘Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name’ to ensure that it is brand-only if search engines truncate anything.”
6. Non-Optimized Alt Text
Alt text is a vital metadata element that provides context to search engines and accessibility for visually impaired users. However, many website owners and marketers fail to optimize alt text properly, resulting in poor search engine rankings and user experience.
Some fail to include relevant keywords and accurately describe the image’s content.
Avoid using generic or irrelevant alt text, and ensure that it is adequately formatted.
7. Inaccurate Metadata
This error happens mostly when blindly going through existing metadata and making some tweaks.
Most people make changes without checking the page’s content. This can confuse search engines and result in poor search engine rankings and a poor user experience.
8. Ignoring Metadata Requirements
Another common metadata error is ignoring metadata requirements. Many website owners and marketers need to pay more attention to metadata requirements set by search engines and other automated systems, resulting in poor search engine rankings and user experience.
9. Incorrect Character Encoding
If the character encoding is wrong, it can cause issues with how the page is displayed in different browsers and impact search engine indexing.
The Negative Impacts of Metadata Errors
– Poor Search Engine Rankings
Metadata errors can confuse search engines and make it difficult for them to understand the relevance of your content. This can result in poor search engine rankings and lower visibility for your website.
For instance, a page without a meta description might get a generic one from Google, which may not be a direct explanation of the page’s context. Ultimately, this may result in low CTR and an automatic drop in search engine rankings.
– Poor User Experience
Metadata errors such as missing or incomplete header tags and alt text can negatively impact the user experience on your website. Only accurate metadata can lead to clarity and satisfaction for users, resulting in a good user experience.
Imagine you input a search query into Google’s search box; definitely, you will have a list of sites on the result page. You click the second article on the result page since it has a compelling headline. The next phase is a giant wall of text fused like the Great Wall of China. You click away immediately without an apology.
This is the experience of pages with poor header tags; they lose their visitors like corn hair blown away by heavy wind.
Header tags improve your content structure, readability, and accessibility for people who can not easily read screens. More so, alt text allows digital assets like images, infographics, and more, accessible to people with disabilities.
– Lowers Click-Through Rates
Metadata errors such as lengthy titles and descriptions can lower click-through rates from search engine result pages and social media shares.
Search engines truncate them in whatever way appears fit, and you may lose essential words that will entice readers to read or compel them to click on your page.
This can negatively impact your website’s traffic and engagement.
– Penalties From Search Engines
Black hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing can result in fines from search engines. Search engines penalize sites that practice keyword stuffing by downgrading their rankings or not showing them in the result pages.
– Duplicate Content Issues
Imagine two of your pages appear for the same search query.
“If you are not taking care of duplicate titles and descriptions within your search pages, you may find Google and other search engines place two or more of your pages within the same query, and these compete for rankings.” Ryan Jones, Marketing Manager at SeoTesting
Duplicate content confuses the search engine and forces it to choose one to rank on the top results generically. This might be a big blow because there is a high possibility that the original page might not be the top pick.
Marise Mubili of Pearl Lemon highlights the impact of metadata errors on social media previews and brand identity.
“If metatags are missing or incorrect, it can result in inaccurate or unappealing social media previews, impacting click-through rates and engagement.
Also, accurate and consistent metadata can help establish a clear brand identity. If the metadata is inconsistent or inaccurate, it can confuse users and create a less cohesive website experience.”
Metadata mistakes are visibility inhibitors. To avoid these errors, ensure that you include all necessary metadata elements on every page of your website, create unique and accurate metadata, and follow metadata requirements set by search engines and other automated systems.
However, fixing metadata errors is not the endgame of a successful SEO campaign. You need to track the performance of your pages on search engine result pages.
That’s why SERP tracking is a day-to-day practice of successful brands. This technique helps you check the impact of your SEO strategies, vet your competitors’ practices, and provide insights to perform better. But the workload required in tracking your keywords can be daunting.
That’s why thousands of site owners sign up for Keyword.com. It provides accurate SEO rank tracking and insights to outrank your competitors on search engine result pages.
This tool makes it easy to see how your site is performing for its keywords on SERPs. Interestingly, you can export your data as CSV or use the API feature to pull unlimited data for your workflow.
Most importantly, you can track unlimited sites with any of its plans. Try your 7-day free trial now!