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Metadata and Searchability

When pages are unable to be found by a search engine, it doesn't automatically mean that the search engine is broken or outdated.

It could be that you need to optimise your pages for search engines, and to maximise their 'searchability' within the University website.

How Search Engines Work

To help people find your website, a search engine interprets what your site is about. A search engine may collect information in three ways:

  1. A search engine may look at the text on your page, called the body text. It scans your page and identifies important words (called keywords), from which it determines the subject of your page. Therefore on your main page, it pays to be very clear about what you're saying and it is helpful to always have at least 50 keywords on the page.
  2. Search engines will also look at the document properties of other files linked to a site, such as Word or PDF documents. This information may include titles, authors, descriptions, keywords and copyright information. See the Metadata (PDF/Word) page for more information.
  3. Finally, a search engine may look at the coding behind your page - the page source code. The most important things in the page source are the meta tags and title tag. Meta tags are elements that record information about the current page. You type in this information as metadata, which includes page title, keywords, two-sentence description and author (or creator). Meta tags can also be used to give information to the server. 

Viewing and Adding Metadata to the Page Source Code

You can have a look at the page source code of any webpage in the following way. To view the source code of a page right click your mouse anywhere on the page and select View Source from the pop-up menu. This will bring up a new window showing the page source code.

The industry standards for metadata are Education Services Australia's National Digital Learning Resources NetworkLink to external website (using the ANZ-LOM Metadata Application Profile) and Dublin Core Link to external website ("DC.").

A search engine may compare your metadata to your body text to determine the subject of your site. You should use keywords in your links, page title and description of your site.

The Page Title

The page title is in the top left corner of the browser and is not the heading in the body text.

Page title

When viewing the page source code, it is the text that appears between the opening and closing <TITLE> tags in the <HEAD>:

<title> About | University Web Guide </title>

When editing the file site-title.html and meta.html (see 'Metadata in TMS sites' below), the "Name of Website" and "DC.TITLE" meta attribute should contain the same content, i.e. if the name of the website in site-title.html is 'University Web Guide', the meta title tag in meta.html should read <metatype="DC.TITLE" content="University Web Guide".

The H1 (Heading 1 or top level heading) tag of the content files (such as index.html) are also used to give more specific information about the page you are looking at. H1 tags are used to style the title of the page, for example on this page the title of the page is 'Metadata and Searchability'. Our web templates contain code to tell the page title to appear with the the text of the H1 and the name of the site, i.e. 'About | University Web Guide'. (older template titles appear in the reverse order).

The content of site-title.html and the H1 are included as a single string, the example above contains 28 characters. The W3C recommendation for site titles is 64 characters or less (Google will only display 66 characters max. for a snippet title anyway). Keep titles short by using ampersand '&' instead of 'and', and eliminate characters such as 'The' if not necessary.


The School of Agriculture Food and Wine should be:

<title>School of Agriculture Food & Wine</title>

Metadata in TMS Sites

The home page of each TMS site has metadata associated with it. This metadata is included from two files. The first of these contains generic information that should appear on all University of Adelaide sites and is maintained by the Web Team.

The content of this centrally stored file contains the following:

<p><meta name="DC.PUBLISHER" content="The University of Adelaide">
<meta name="DC.RIGHTS" content="Copyright <!--#config timefmt="%Y" -->
<!--#echo var="LAST_MODIFIED" -->The University of Adelaide">
<meta name="DC.RIGHTS" content="">
<meta name="DC.LANGUAGE" scheme="RFC1766" content="en">
<meta name="DC.DATE.MODIFIED" scheme="ISO8601" content="<!--#config timefmt="%Y-%m-%d" -->
<!--#echo var="LAST_MODIFIED" -->">
<meta name="DC.FORMAT" scheme="IMT" content="text/html">
<meta name="RATING" content="General">
<meta name="CLASSIFICATION" content="Education">

Editing Your Metadata

The second metadata file, meta.html (which is the file you need to edit), is stored within the site's includes/ folder. It contains information specific to the site and should be customised to suit the requirements of the site. The following example is the recommended format for a school website:

<meta name="DC.TITLE" content="The School of …">
<meta name="KEYWORDS" content="University of Adelaide, Australia, science, application,
course, public, research, school, subject, teaching">
<meta name="DC.SUBJECT" content="University of Adelaide, Australia, science, application,
course, public, research, school, subject, teaching">
<meta name="DESCRIPTION" content="The University of Adelaide’s School of… includes leading
teaching and research facilities. Find information on…">
<meta name="DC.DESCRIPTION" content="The University of Adelaide’s School of… includes leading
teaching and research facilities. Find information on…">
<meta name="DC.IDENTIFIER" content="">
<meta name="DC.DATE.CREATED" scheme="ISO8601" content="2003-01-31">
<meta name="DC.CREATOR.CORPORATENAME" content="Faculty of Sciences | School of …">
<meta name="DC.CREATOR.EMAIL" content="">
<meta name="DC.COVERAGE.JURISDICTION" content="Australia">
<meta name="DC.COVERAGE" content="Global">
<meta name="DC.DESCRIPTION.AUDIENCE" content="students, researchers, scientific industry,staff">

Please use this as an example only. You should use data which is specific to your site. It is better to leave the 'includes/meta.html file' blank rather than to use information which is too generic or just copied from another website.

You can add metadata to each individual page on your website if you like (generally you'd only add the description and keywords on a page by page basis), this isn't necessary though, so long as your page's content uses words appropriate to the content and headings also highlight the main points for the page you shouldn't need to use metadata on individual pages.

For assistance in adding metadata to your website, please contact the Web Team.


Web Team

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