The entire internet is flooded with the concept of metadata, and yet the majority of users have no clue what metadata is or how it works. In essence, the word meta translates to beyond.
The specific interpretation of metadata cannot be pinpointed as the meaning depending on the context of use. However, as per most information glossaries, the prefix meta stands for an underlying definition or description.
In other words, metadata refers to obtainable data used to explain other data.
Metadata can be described as data packed with specific information, such as type, textual description, length, and other key characteristics.
This post discusses the use, purpose, and strategies in implementing metadata for your business.
Metadata can be created manually or by using an automated process. The manual process is considered a far more accurate tool, as it enables better cross-checking of information and inputting it in an appropriate, necessary, and relevant way. On the other hand, creating metadata using an automated process is basic and displays the information calculated in advance. It also yields a few additional limits while using it.
Resource discovery is one of the most common metadata purposes. Some of the many purposes of metadata include defining resources, identifying theses through an array of criteria, and gathering similar resources while distinguishing dissimilar ones simultaneously.
Metadata is highly effective in organizing electronic resources and can be easily recognized by both humans and machines. Simply put, metadata facilitates the search of viable resources online.
However, perhaps the most important use of metadata is to protect its resources and ensure their future accessibility. This comes as a result of the fragility of digital information as it is and its susceptibility to alteration or corruption.
For preservation and archiving purposes, metadata elements track the object's lineage, thus describing its behavior and physical characteristics to be replicated on future technologies.
Metadata can be divided into three main type categories:
- Structural: Indicates how information is aligned -- file types and sizes, for example.
- Descriptive: Used for identification, discovery, and including information such as the title, author, keywords, and abstract.
- Administrative: Enables resource management improvement by showing available history in the resource creation.
Investing time and money to develop metadata will create benefits in three main areas:
- Extending data longevity: The lifespan of a typical dataset can be quite short, all due to unavailable, useless, or non-existent relevant metadata. When full metadata is maintained and developed, it counters the degradation and entropy of the typical data.
- Facilitating data sharing and reuse: Metadata is the key element to ensure that complicated or highly detailed data is easily processed, analyzed, and interpreted by the data's originator.
- Maintaining historical records of long-term data sets: This makes up for inconsistencies that tend to occur when documenting data, methods, and personnel.
Metadata containing the web page's description and summary is usually displayed on the search engine results page. So, metadata creators need to ensure that the details displayed are spot-on, as these can determine whether users will visit the website or not!
Meta Tags (HTML tags used to display structured metadata) are also search-engine evaluated, determining a web page's relevance. Modern-day advertising and business can be coordinated by metadata and metatags, which helps acquire traffic, visibility, and even a new business. Earlier, these processes were easier; however, today, this rising complexity comes from the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) demands.
In the 1990s, website owners used metadata keyword stuffing to crack the code by tricking search engines into making a certain site appear more trustworthy and relevant than others. Today, Google often modifies and alters its algorithms, making it almost impossible to 'trick' the search engine and simultaneously obtain unfair rankings!
Very often, metadata can be leveraged for information on documents, data, or other relevant information. For example, it can be used to subject keywords, access permissions, security classification, and digital identification and preservation, among others.
You can also use it for marketing and targeting potential customers through identification, fast recall, management and organization (a highly beneficial aspect!), and tracking and monitoring content usage. The best example of this is Amazon.
When buying a product on Amazon, the website suggests similar products relevant to the customer through engaging taglines like "People who bought that product also bought...", thus further triggering the user's interest and stickiness.
Search engines scan your metadata through the description, title, and keywords. The description still has a decisive influence on click-through rates and the title and keywords that provide more information about the page contents. All of this accounts for the validity and accuracy of the page. The search engine determines the final web page score based on the description, title, and keywords' compatibility.
Metadata assists search engines about what users can find or expect from a particular page. Hence, it is essential to maintain and optimize metadata to stand out in the search results and increase the overall click-through rates. Metadata has been and will continue to be relevant even in the near future. When properly understood, metadata can be used as an enormous advantage in building a page's SEO.
Metadata does not represent an optional marketing tool but rather a technological necessity in running a successful modern-day business.
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