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It’s Time to Get Serious About Metadata

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When it comes to the Web, there is nothing more misunderstood than metadata. Technical people search vainly for a way to automate its creation. Many editors and writers want nothing to do with it. And yet without quality metadata a website cannot properly achieve its objectives. It’s time to get serious about metadata.

The Web is an ever growing mass of content. If you have quality metadata, your search engine works much better. People are able to find your content much faster. If you have quality metadata, your content is much better classified, allowing people to find what they need much faster.

We all look for metadata when we arrive at a webpage. There are certain questions we ask instinctively: What is this about? Who wrote it? Let’s say you go looking for a government form. When you get to the form what is the first question you’re going to ask? You’ll want to know whether the form is up-to-date, won’t you?

Let’s say you’re in charge of a website that has 50 forms on it. Let’s say that every Monday morning you have someone on your staff quickly scan those forms to see that they are all still up-to-date. Assuming that they are up-to-date, this person would then write at the top of the form:

This form is up-to-date as of June 28, 2004

Do you think that would be a useful service? Certainly, whenever I ask audiences if having a date as the top of the form would be useful, there is general agreement. This is the function of metadata: to let people know they are at the right content as quickly as possible.

Metadata is an awful lot more than HTML meta tags. Metadata is the heading, summary, date, author. It can appear on the webpage itself, as much as in the HTML. Classification is a form of metadata. Metadata gives your content context. It puts it in its rightful place.

Go to Amazon.com and search for a book. On the page the book information is displayed, you will also find a section entitled “Better Together”. This offers you a discount if you buy the book you are looking at along with another book. This other book belongs to the same classification as the book you are looking at. It makes sense to sell them together. This is only possible because of quality metadata design.

Ryanair is a hugely successful budget airline. The title meta tag on the Ryanair homepage is:

Ryanair.Com – The Low Fares Airline – 50% cheaper than easyJet

This is typical aggressive marketing by Ryanair, targeting its main competitor, easyJet. But the title meta tag could be improved. According to Overture, in May, 5,695 people searched for “low fare”. However, 3,199,895 people searched for “cheap flight”.

Some people think that the only reason to write metadata is for the search engines. This is so wrong. In the first place, you don’t write metadata for search engines. You write it for people who use search engines. This is a subtle but critical distinction.

In a busy world of impatient, scan readers, quality metadata is the hook that catches attention. It quickly gets the right person to the right content. From Amazon.com to Google, that’s what great websites are about.

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern http://www.gerrymcgovern.com

Subscribe to his New Thinking Newsletter: subscribe@gerrymcgovern.mailer1.net

It’s Time to Get Serious About Metadata
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About Gerry McGovern
For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern http://www.gerrymcgovern.com

Subscribe to his New Thinking Newsletter: subscribe@gerrymcgovern.mailer1.net WebProNews Writer
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