An often overlooked part of web writing is the “invisible texts” of an article – metadata for search engines, social media sharing, and content curation. Articles with well-written metadata stand a better chance of being read and shared online. Metadata text writing should be part of the essential skill set for newsroom editors and web writers.
Metadata facilitate searching and sharing of contents
When you use Google, among the many search results, you tend to click on a straightforward headline that comes with a short description summarizing the linked article. You are actually looking at two pieces of metadata: SEO title and meta description – information written by the article author only to be seen and displayed by search engines and other content curation tools.
At other times, you may want to share an article to social media network such as a LinkedIn group. When you attach the article link, LinkedIn automatically grabs the metadata for that article, in the form of a ready-made summary descriptioin. If there’s no meta description, you may need to write a summary by yourself – obviously, you like to share more of those articles that come with a meta description.
If you do content curation using tools such as scoop.it, you also like articles that come with metadata – you copy and paste the link, the summary automatically shows up, and all you need to do is to click the publish button.
Sample metadata text writing for Google, social media and curation
Metadata come in two parts: an SEO title, and a meta description. Let’s look at a sample post on my blog, Digital or Multimedia Journalism Degree Programs in U.S.; below is a screenshot showing the beginning part of that post – it is how the actual post looks like to a visitor:
The “invisible texts” – metadata – are entered in the editing panel; see below for a screenshot of the editing panel for the sample post. Notice that the SEO title is different from the actual post title – SEO title contains some additional keywords that I’m targeting. Also notice that the meta description reads a bit different from the first paragraph of the actual post – it was re-written to fit the length limit of the meta description.
Now let’s check the actual results. Below is screenshots of this post as it appears in Google search results for “digital journalism degree,” in a LinkedIn group, and in scoop.it curation, respectively; it’s worth noting that in the second example, the LinkedIn system fetches the post title (not SEO title), along with the metadata description.