Metadata is everywhere. In every photo you see, every video you watch, and every website you visit. If you haven’t already heard about metadata, now’s a good time to get familiarized with the term. To put it simply, metadata is data about data. It’s hidden data in files that organize, describe, and contain information about other data. It can, among other things, benefit your SEO ranking and secure your copyright. We have produced an overview of the most important aspects of metadata, so you can learn how to take control of it.

The 3 main types of metadata

The  main categories of data are:

  1. Administrative – Contains identification of the creator, location, creation date, copyright information for licensors of the image, and other technical information.
  2. Structural – Refers to how the data is organized and assembled. It’s sort of like a table of contents – It explains how data relates to one another.
  3. Descriptive – Information about the visual content, which may include headline, title, captions, and keywords.

How metadata in SEO can help you increase traffic

Metadata is key when it comes to websites, as it is a big part of what drives SEO. We’re specifically talking about meta tags, and without those, we weaken our ability to drive consumers from search engines to our websites to purchase products or look at services.

How to use meta tags in SEO

Some meta tags are not as useful as they once were. Others are worth using regularly, as they can improve your website’s ranking in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) which will likely increase your traffic. We will be talking about the 3 most popular used tags in SEO:

  1. Title Tag – This is the text you’ll see at the top of every search result. Search engines view this text as the “title” of your page.
  2. Meta Description Tag – A concise description of the page.
  3. Robots Meta Tag – Tells crawlers (bots that index all pages) what they should do with the page.

Title Tags

Title tags are the most important of all of the meta tags discussed here. These tags have a big impact on search rankings and, perhaps just as importantly, are the only one of the tags we’ll discuss here that are visible to the average user. This is particularly useful if you want to give the page one primary title for the user but want to clarify or simplify that information for SEO purposes and for the users who are shuffling multiple tabs on their desktop.

Meta Description Tag

Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide a concise summary of a webpage. They commonly appear underneath the blue clickable links in a SERP. It’s important to note that the description tag won’t always show up in the results of a Google search (Google òften picks a snippet of text from the page itself).

Google has stated that keywords in meta descriptions won’t affect your rankings. However, Google measures the click-through rate of your site and ranks it accordingly. A compelling meta description tag could entice searchers to click through from the SERP to your site, especially if the description includes the keywords they were searching for.

Robots Meta Tag

With this tag, you’re telling the search engines what to do with your pages. A list of them can be found here, but the 2 main ones are:

  • index/noindex – This tells the search engines whether to show your page in search results or not.
  • follow/nofollow – This tells the engines what to do with links on your pages: whether they should trust and “follow” your links to the next page or not.

There are many other forms of metadata relevant to SEO, but these are the most commonly used tags. Other metadata communicates the language and location at which the content is targeted, canonicalization to prevent duplicate content, pagination to help indexation in deep sites, data to identify product attributes like a price for rich snippets, and data used in sharing on social media. When the most important SEO tags are implemented and the copyright information is attached, these are some good attributes to get familiar with.

Data-driven decision-making

How you can secure your copyright by using metadata

Photo metadata allows information to be transported with an image file, in a way that can be understood by other software, hardware, and end-users, regardless of the format.

Data and information are automatically written in the file by the camera when the photo is taken (EXIF), but it can also be entered manually afterward. Metadata is stored in two main places:

  • Internally – embedded in the image file, in formats such as JPEG or TIFF.
  • Externally – outside the image file in a digital asset management system (DAM) or by a “sidecar” file, such as XMP, or an external XML-based news exchange format file as specified by the IPTC.

The metadata stored in an image file must stay with the image. Metadata is essential for identifying the copyright owner. Metadata is also key to smoothing workflow, easily finding digital images via search –and tracking image usage.

Check a file’s metadata

If you want to know which metadata a given file contains, you can run it through Metadata2go. It will list all the metadata that has been stored in it, either by cameras and scanners or manually.

Photo metadata actually works!

Andreas Kleiberg, a photographer based in Norway, experienced the importance of saving his copyright and contact information in the metadata of his images as he uploaded them online. When the English ad agency McCann was setting up a new campaign, they found a lot of fitting images online to define just the right look. But as for many images found online via search engines, the agency didn’t know where the images came from.

Fortunately, Andreas had saved his contact and copyright information in the metadata making it easy for the agency to find him, and thus they used him for their campaign.

How to manually add metadata to multiple photos

Here’s a 3-step quick guide to implement metadata to multiple photos in Adobe Bridge:

  1. Capture the RAW/.jpg image files. Then transfer and open them in Adobe Bridge.
  2. Click ‘Select All’ images. 
  3. Click ‘Tools’ > ‘Append Metadata’ and use a template for your overall information. You can create a template at this time with the basic information that you would like to add to all of your photography. Note that you want to ‘Append’ ( not ‘Replace’) to your existing metadata so that the original information isn’t replaced. 
  4. Then click ‘Apply’.

By doing it this way from the beginning, the metadata will remain with all subsequent files that are created after you’ve cropped, color corrected, downsized, etc. It can always be added at a later time, but it becomes more labor-intensive to add it manually to all individual files afterward.

Important!

When uploading images to a website, many CMS systems strip them of all its metadata, such as ICC (International Colour Consortium) profiles and text metadata, which could contain important information. Check your own CMS’s default system settings, by uploading an image to your website that you know contains an sRGB ICC profile and some metadata. Then download the same image from the frontend of your site and check if it still contains the ICC profile and the metadata. If not, then you have to change the image settings on your site.