Guides By Eshop Hosts 6.3.2012 2 Comments

Understanding the Importance of Meta Data

We regularly have conversations with our ecommerce hosting clients where we try to explain the purpose and reasoning for setting good Meta Data for the products listed on their ecommerce web sites. Many online shop start ups are keen to get their website online and populated with as much stock inventory as possible in the shortest time possible. Many online shop owners populate their sites using product feeds from suppliers giving them an instantly populated web site that requires minimal input from them. Great!.. or is it?

The concept of trading online involves using software and facilities to automate as many processes as possible like shopping cart software to ensure smooth customer browsing, transactions and order processing as well as automating promotional activies such as auto-posting on social media sites and sending newsletters etc but some things require a little human intervention that involves a little time and effort to increase your online shops optimisation for the search engines. This will, in time improve your website ranking and therefore increase your website vistor numbers as well as improve your online sales.

Meta Data for Online Shops – The Basics

Understanding what meta data is and the need for setting good meta data is the something that many new online traders only realise the importance of after months of being live with their new ecommerce websites when the reality of not featuring in good or high positions within search engine result pages for keyword searches that they would like or expect to feature high for. This then often means that they have go back to basics and do something about it.

What is Meta Data?

Meta tags are not visable to human website vistors and are included within the HTML inside the < head> section of your website pages with the purpose of telling the search engines what your web pages are about.

Most shopping cart software will easily allow you to configure three elements of Meta Data for your online shop categories and products. These are, Meta Title, Meta Description and Meta Keywords.

The best way to understand what meta data is and how search engines use it is to look at a typical search results page like the example below.

meta data for ecommerce search listing example

The above search result listing example was for the search keyword term ‘Model Kits’ and the results shown are made up of the following:-

Meta Title

The larger Blue Text displayed is the Meta Title for the web site pages shown in the search results. The purpose of the meta title is to show both people and search engines what your page is about. On search result pages, most search engines will show the first seventy characters of any meta title that is set for the website page, if you set a meta title longer than 70 characters like the bottom result in the image, the search engines will cut it short and display three full stops to indicate it is abbreviated.

The meta titles you set should be relevant to the content on the pages and include the keywords that you are targeting, your meta title should also be worded in a way to encourage the person viewing the results to click on your result over the other listings on the same page.

The smaller Green text is the link to the website page.

Meta Description

The Black text at the bottom of each result displayed is the Meta Description that is set for the page (sometimes search engines will use snippets of content text from the page if it is deemed as relevant to the search keywords used). Like the meta title, there is limit to how many characters are displayed and is usually a maximum of 160 characters so the meta description should be an understandable and short keyword rich call to action that encourages the person viewing the search results to click your link instead of any of the others displayed.

Meta Keywords

Although Meta Keywords are not displayed in the Search Engine Results they are still useful to configure for your ecommerce website product pages. It is best to define your meta keywords as the words or phrases that you would expect your potential customers to type into a search engine search box, eg ‘model kits’ as used in the image above.

For better page optimisation it is best to ensure that the meta keywords you set are relevant to your page and are included in the title, content eg product description and even product image names and alt tags to reinforce the relevancy.

You will notice that in the two example search results shown in the image above, some of the words are displayed ‘bold’. These words are the keyword term used for the search which was ‘Model Kits so it gives you an idea of how the search engine cross references the keywords typed in by the browser and the meta data set for the website pages shown in the results.

Meta Data Summary

Here is a quick summary of points to remember when writing the meta data for your online shop categories and products pages:

Carefully Choose Your Keywords

Select the most important and relevant words (keywords) that you will use within your meta title, meta description and meta keyword list, ensuring that the words are also included within the website page content.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Remember that your meta title tags should be a maximum of 70 characters long, including spaces and punctuation and your meta description should be 160 characters or less.

Readable by Humans

Your meta title and descriptions are used by search engines to display to humans so it is important that you create short, simple, readable phrases that easily understood calls to action eg click your link. It is advisable to omit words that like: and, if, on, the, etc where possible to make the most of the limited number of characters you have.

Avoid Duplicate Meta Data

Each of your website pages should have unique meta data. If you have lots of similar products with similar titles and descriptions then consider using the product id numbers as part of the meta title, this can be good for an ecommerce site to do regardless as many potential customers are likely to know manufacturer product id numbers etc and use them in their searches.

Important

Although all meta data is important, used and rated by different search engines in varying degrees, the meta title tag is considered to be the most important meta tag on your online shop pages as it explains to the search engines what your page is all about. So taking the time to create meta titles using the points above will pay dividends as part of your ecommerce website SEO strategy.

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