This standard describes the minimum amount of metadata to be supplied on The Open University websites and any documents linked to from web pages. This standard applies to both public-facing and intranet sites.
Metadata is the term given to data that describes the content (or subject matter) of web sites, web pages and documents, which allows it to be indexed appropriately by the University’s search engine, as well as other search engines such as Google and Bing. All the metadata tags specified in this standard are used by OU Search but may not necessarily be used by an external search engine.
It might be helpful to think of metadata as describing the contents of a page or document (what it is about), which is not necessarily what you see on that page.
For example: how do you ensure a Google search using the terms 'OU course funding' will return the page entitled 'Ways to pay for a qualification', which does not include this phrase within the body of its text?
Summarising your page succinctly and using synonyms and alternate phrases to describe your content in your metadata will help ensure its visibility and inclusion within relevant search results.
The presence of metadata ensures that search results are meaningful to users. It also improves the chances of a document or web page being given a high relevancy ranking, and therefore appearing higher in the list of search results. In 2015 Library Services carried out a case study demonstrating the huge positive impact metadata has on the ranking of web pages in search results. It showed that 81% of web pages moved up in search results when metadata was added - and the figure was 92% when looking just at keywords. Documents fared just as well: adding relevant titles increased their rankings in 75% of tests. Please see the full case study for further details on the testing and results.
Using inconsistent or inappropriate metadata, or omitting it altogether, can prevent users finding your content and can cause frustration.
Careful consideration ought to be given to metadata early in the authoring/production process. The Library can offer advice on appropriate taxonomies (or controlled vocabularies) to use in your metadata.
This section describes the metadata that MUST be included on web pages.
As a minimum, you MUST include the following on each page: title, description, and keywords.
If you are publishing pages on an externally-facing website you MUST also refer to the information in the SEO guidelines to ensure your site is fully optimised for external search engines. Please consult Digital Services.
The title tag MUST be the first metadata element of the head section of a page.
Each page SHOULD have a unique title tag up to 80 characters long.
Home pages MUST have a unique description specific to the website.
Content pages MUST have a unique description specific to that particular page.
Descriptions SHOULD be limited to approximately 25 words as search engines often truncate them in search results.
You SHOULD use words that you think people might use in searches to find your page. Consider what attributes the page has that make it unique.
You SHOULD use words that will distinguish it from other similar resources.
If possible, you SHOULD use a minimum of 3 keywords per resource; however if you are not able to specify 3 keywords then enter as many that are relevant.
You SHOULD NOT exceed 250 characters.
Many search engines do not like pages to have too many keywords and will push them further down the search results page. Excessive keyword repetition is known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and will adversely affect search results.
You SHOULD use lowercase.
All search engines will find keywords in lowercase, but only some search engines will find keywords that are written in capitals; therefore, to obtain the optimum results you should always write keywords in lowercase, including proper nouns and acronyms.
If you are using acronyms you SHOULD include both the acronym itself and its full name;
For example: “ou” and “the open university”.
Individual terms from keyword phrases SHOULD NOT be separately entered.
For example: “equality and diversity training” is sufficient, “equality training”, “diversity training”, “equality” and “diversity” do not need to be separately recorded.
Home pages SHOULD have a set of keywords relevant to the whole website.
Content pages SHOULD have unique keywords specific to each page.
You SHOULD NOT repeat keywords across pages as this reduces the effectiveness of indexing and the relevance of search results.
Example from the University's Human Resources web site (this is what you would see if you right click on the ‘About Human Resources Development’ and choose to view source)
<title>Human Resources Development: About HRD</title>
< meta name="description" content="Website providing a learning and development resource area for all staff at The Open University." />
< meta name="keywords" content="staff training, leadership, inclusion, compliance, diversity in the workplace, equality, valuing diversity, management development, learning, organisational development, change" />
The default language of the page MUST be encoded as an attribute of the html:
Example: <html lang="en">
You MUST NOT use the meta element in the document head, as this is no longer accepted practice and has been classed as ‘non-conforming in html’ by the W3C
When there is content within the page that is different to the predominant language, you SHOULD add a language attribute to an element surrounding that content.
<p lang="fr"> would signify that the text within the paragraph is French.
Here the attribute is added to a span to show that part of a sentence isn’t in the default language:
<p>In Spanish that would be: <span lang=”es”>la biblioteca es a través del campus</span>.</p>
The robots meta tag allows you to control how a webpage is indexed.Mostly, indexing choices will be made automatically by the content management system being used. However, sometimes these choices should be made manually.
You MUST NOT index a page if it does not have standard toolbar navigation; for example, a page that will appear in a pop-up window.
This is because users who click on links to pop-ups from a search results page have no way to get back to the page they were previously on.
You MUST NOT index a page if it is not meaningful out of context; for example, a page presented in response to a form submission, or a transactions page.
For more complex indexing requirements contact Digital Services who will forward on your request to the relevant team in IT.
Document metadata is generally contained in a document's properties. For instructions on finding and completing document properties refer to Adding metadata to document properties.
This section describes the metadata that MUST be added to the properties of documents included on OU websites.
As a minimum, you MUST include the following on each page: title, keywords, date and owner.
You MUST ensure that you provide a meaningful title for your document with sufficient information to enable user to understand the context.
You MUST include a list of comma-separated keywords that summarise the contents of the document.
Use terms that specify the general content of a document. These should be included when they have been omitted from the full text of the document.
Use synonyms, including:
These keywords SHOULD NOT repeat words in the document title; however, you MAY choose to put in the full text if the title contains an acronym (for example, if the title is CDSA you can use "Career Development" and "Staff Appraisal" as keywords).
You MUST ensure that each document has a clearly identified owner, either an individual or a team.
You MUST include a date on the document, preferably at the end of the text.
You MAY include the date in the document's footer; however, be aware that this is only viewable if the document is being displayed in page layout view.
You MUST ensure that you update a document's properties if you are reusing it (copying an existing document) otherwise the old metadata will remain and return inaccurate search results.