Metadata for sections (pages)

Outputting description, keyword and page title metadata

Please note: Only Administrators can edit T4 styles for Site Manager websites.

Many of our sites have these metadata features already activated in T4, but not all of them. If you need to be able to manage page titles, descriptions or keywords in your area using the features described here, contact your local Web Marketing Officer or a member of the central Web Team to discuss your requirements.

The header in every style used for the University website has metadata set up as follows:

<meta name="description" content="" />
<meta name="keywords" content="" />
<meta name="robots" content="index,follow" />
<meta name="revisit-after" content="7 days" />
<meta name="resource-type" content="document" />
<meta name="rating" content="Safe For Kids" />
<meta name="page-topic" content="University of Exeter" />
<meta name="copyright" content="University of Exeter" />
<meta name="author" content="Debbie Robinson" />
<meta name="verify-v1" content="wLM70CLxKduxmkMHoBIBuYGT31jyPWZrc3eZuUEAVDc=" />
<meta http-equiv="reply-to" content="" />
<meta http-equiv="imagetoolbar" content="no" />
<meta name="DC.title" content="University of Exeter" />
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

A Site Manager style is applied to all the pages in amicrosite, so we cannot just put a description or keywords into the corresponding metatags within the style, as the same one would then be applied on every page using that style. We would want to tailor these to individual landing pages - it’s important that each page description is unique.

Each section (equivalent to a web page) has a Meta tab where we can input individual page meta descriptions and keywords:

The Meta tab in a section in Site Manager allows you to insert text in the DC.description,DC.keywords and DC.title fields that will appear in your page's meta tags and page title.

In order to enable the information from this tab to be displayed in the individual page’s metadata when published, we have two navigation objects in the system we can put into our style code using T4 tags. So for each style, we can use a T4 tag in the meta description and keywords ‘content’ attributes to pull in this content:

<meta name="description" content="<t4 type="navigation" id="3507"/>" />
<meta name="keywords" content="<t4 type="navigation" id="3546"/>" />

The ids for these two navigation objects will always be the same, so you can paste in these numbers. They will pull in any content that has been input to each individual section the style is applied to. Having a page description and keywords remains optional - where no text has been included in these Meta tab fields, nothing will be pulled into the meta tags.

These navigation objects are already applied to the top-level styles, www home html, www 1 column and www 2 column. Styles applied to standalone ‘microsites’, where the navigation is restarted, will need these putting in if you want to publish metadata for any of your pages with that style. Only Administrators are able to do this.

When to use description metadata

The meta description does not influence your SEO ranking directly in Google, but can be helpful if intelligently and tightly written to include appropriate keywords, as it will often be picked up as the snippet under the page title in search engine results pages and can help users identify it as page they’d like to visit. So it can potentially increase click throughs from SERPs, which in itself can influence your rankings.

  • Be selective – target two or three top keywords on your home page, top landing pages, and key content pages. It can be especially useful where the Google snippet may not otherwise pick up useful content or keywords to use (eg it may just use some text from a single feature box). You cannot force what Google chooses, but having a good description that includes keywords your main audiences are looking for can make it more likely to be selected.
  • Note that a meta description needs to be unique to the page it is on – do not repeat the same description text on other pages.
  • Search engines tend to truncate descriptions that are more than 160 characters long, so try not to go over this limit.
  • Read more about Google and meta description on the Google Webmaster support site.

Using keyword metadata

Google does not use the keywords metatag - although other search engines may give it some value in their algorithm.

This is not significantly useful for SEO rankings, as the keywords meta tag has been so abused in the past by people using ‘keyword stuffing’ that many of the major search engines don't rate it that highly in their algorithm, if at all. However there are, of course, other search engines: it can be helpful for our internal site search and for some lesser used external search engines.

Some say using the keywords meta tag allows your competitors to see what keywords you are targeting, but if you’re optimising other elements of your page content, they should be able to work that out easily enough anyway.

Page titles – adding extra keywords

Page titles appear in the top bar of some browser windows, in tabs of tabbed browser windows (although you usually need to hover over them to see the full page title), are the first words read out by a screen reader on reaching a page, and appear as the main heading for each page in a search results list. They are therefore very important for search optimisation and usability as they indicate to users the main topic of each page.

Currently, Site Manager pulls in the section name into the page title for any one page on the published site. But sometimes the section name is not really adequate. For example, we can end up with several pages in different parts of the site that have the same page title, such as ‘Contact us – University of Exeter’. When we have a microsite style such as ‘Sport’ or ‘English’, we can hard code this extra subject or service name into the T4 style and it appears across all pages with that style applied. But at page level, we need to have the option to customise page titles in order to optimise individual pages for search, particularly those appearing at lower levels of the site structure, where just the immediate section name does not provide enough information.

Working on the same method as for the description and keyword tags, another navigation object can be used to pull in the DC.title field contents from the section Meta tabs into the page title. This allows you to include additional keywords in the page title where this would improve SEO and also help users when viewing search results.

You activate this by adding the t4 tag <t4 type=”navigation” id=”5786” /> in the <title> tag in the header of your microsite’s style.


<title><t4 type="title" /> <t4 type="navigation" id="5786"/> - Web support - University of Exeter</title>

That initial <t4 type=”title” /> is the tag bringing in the section name.

As this is optional and you won’t want to use it on every page, the t4 tag is right next to the initial one for the section name. In your Metadata tab’s DC.title field, you may want to have an initial space, then hyphen, then space before your extra words or they will just follow straight on from the section name and look odd without these characters to act as a separator.

Page title length

Be careful you don’t stuff your page titles with keywords – they need to make sense to users and be easily read and understood in a search engine results list. So don’t write them for robots, but for people. Keep them concise, but ensure they accurately reflect and briefly summarise the main purpose/content of the page.

Page title length shown in search engine results varies across different search engines, with a cut-off following the maximum length each engine displays. This can be anything between around 60 and 120 characters including spaces and punctuation, but you should aim to have all the important words in the first 64 characters of your title. Try not to make them any longer than they need to be to capture the key focus of the page content.

Including news story headlines in page titles

It is possible to also include the headlines for news stories in the page titles for each full text news story page by adding some extra attributes to that initial <t4 type=”title” /> tag which already brings in the section name.

<t4 type="title" append-content="true" append-element="Title" separator=" - " />

For example, in the header for the main English style in T4, the title tag looks like this:

<title><t4 type="title" append-content="true" append-element="Title" separator=" - " /> - English - University of Exeter</title>

This can be used in addition to the extra keywords navigation object described above. The addition of the attributes ‘append-content’, append-element’ and ‘separator’ to the t4 tag that outputs the section name appends the contents of the Title field from any fulltext page generated by a content template such as our ‘www News’ template to the page title.

So, for the English news stories, the fulltext page title is generated as below, with the section name ‘News’ appearing first and the news headline from the fulltext Title field appended to it:

News - University celebrates Dickens’ bicentenary - English - University of Exeter

This t4 tag has already been applied to all current sites that publish news stories using the www News template. But for new sites or where a News section, or other such section that employs templates outputting fulltext pages, is introduced to a site that didn’t previously have one, this code will need adding to the style in T4.