Your website metadata is important for both discoverability and attribution purposes. You want people to find your site and your work, and you also want creators to get credit for their contributions.
There are a number of different ways to work with website metadata but here we will focus on no-code ways for the artist or arts organization to improve metadata. If you have limited time and resources these are things you can do that will improve your metadata yourself. Good metadata is accurate, consistent, and manageable. If it’s missing one of these three then it won’t be doing a good job for you.
We will use WordPress here as an example, but other website content management systems or platforms will have their own similar options. If your website is hand-coded your developer will also code in metadata, and improving this metadata, if necessary, will require a code solution.
When you set up a WordPress website, or add a page, post, or media item you have a number of metadata fields you can fill out. You want to make the most of these options to fully describe your website’s content.
When you build your site there are a number of pieces of information you can fill out that will provide overall site metadata for search engines. When you use a plugin or more complex theme there may be a whole section for site metadata, but even a basic WordPress site will give options for site title and tagline. Other metadata is automatically generated by WordPress.
For more information about how to setup WordPress:
Media Library Item
When you upload an item to your media library you have the option to add or edit the metadata for that item. Ideally all media library items will have human-readable urls that give a clue about the content, have descriptions added, and have alt-titles for both accessibility and discoverability.
Throughout any website the titles should be done using html headings, which is usually a core feature in the formatting box when adding content. Headings tell search engines what the page or post is about, and the level of importance of that content. You want to make sure to use H1 and H2 tags for your most important headings. If you don’t like the way they look it is preferable to change the display settings for a heading than it is to remove the heading.
Tags and Categories
Categories are usually higher-level than tags more about describing structure than content and used by WordPress to display your content as well as by search engines, just as with tags. Categories are useful for structuring website content but only when used with consistency. Categories for your site might be different programs that you run, or different types of content that you post.
Tags are human-generated labels that are usually less controlled than a formal category taxonomy and in WordPress are used to help display your content as well as tell search engines what your content is about. You can use many tags to help fully describe your content. It is a good idea to be consistent with your tagging, including only using one spelling for each tag.
Your pages and posts should all be assigned to a category, and should also have all relevant tags applied.
WordPress will automatically generate some metadata about your site as well, including whether something is a page or a post, and the date it was created or last updated.
XML Site Map
The XML site map is very important metadata for discoverability. It is a machine-readable list of all the pages on your website. It is used to tell search engines what pages you have. Typically, the easiest way to generate and submit an XML sitemap is by using a plugin such as Google XML Sitemaps Plugin or Yoast SEO (there are also many others). If you don’t use a plugin for this you can also manually submit it to Google to speed up the process using the Google Search Console.
To learn how to submit a sitemap manually:
There are a number of SEO tools that can be helpful for managing website metadata. If you have a WordPress site and are not comfortable working in code then it could be that using an SEO tool can help you keep your metadata thorough and accurate quite easily. There are many to choose from. Typical SEO tools are WordPress plugins, Google Search Console, and SEO research tools like keyword planners.
Google’s Data Highlighter is a tool that allows you to mark the metadata that is missing from your site without coding. Any metadata that is already present doesn’t need to be marked here. For example, this is useful if you have a regular webpage for an upcoming event, but aren’t using an event tool that already has built-in event metadata. You can mark the event details such as date, time, and location, and tell Google that this is an event that should be displayed in search results if it matches a query.
To use it you will need a Google Search Console account linked to your website, which is free. Once logged into Google Search Console you can enter the link for your homepage or another page on your site, create a page set with the pages that have the content in question, and mark up the metadata on those pages to tell Google about your content.
For more information about Data Highlighter and how to use it: