Adding Metadata to HTML Pages

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

1. Explain how metadata can be added to an HTML Web page.

2. Identify benefits of using metadata.


Metadata is data about data. For example, if you save an audio file to a database, what might you want to know about that file - possibly, its duration, format, creator, owner, subject, among other information.

The newest approaches to creating instruction with repurposeable learning objects suggest the use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) or a similar language that facilitates the ready use of metadata and retrieval based on that metadata. Although the creation of XML objects is beyond the scope of this module, it might still serve the developer of HTML objects to include useful metadata.

Inserting Metadata

Metadata tags are invisible to the page viewer, but are used by search engines and database routines. To add or edit metadata, the HTML code could be modified directly, or

Example 1. This Page's Header

The HTML code behind this Web page, which you might be looking at as one panel in a frames page, includes a head and a body section. The metadata is listed in the head as follows, with extra spaces added for ease of reading:

HTML Metadata Code:


<meta name="Author" content="Jim Flowers">

<meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 5.0">

<meta name="Description" content="HTML pages objects can be enriched by adding metadata.">

<meta name="Keywords" content="metadata, HTML, learning object, rlo, online education">

<title>Adding Metadata to HTML Pages</title>

<base target="_blank">



Using Web Page Creation Software to Add Metadata

Web page creation software typically has a means to enter metadata, as FrontPage does through its Page Properties dialog box, under the Custom tab:

FrontPage 2002 Page Properties Dialog Box for Adding Metadata

In addition to an "Author" tag, you may wish to create other meta tags to identify the date of creation or revision, or other specifics about creation.

The "Description" tag allows a description to appear under selected search engines.

The "Keywords" content identifies important keywords used for searches, and the use of this is recommended if you would like the objects you create to be found using these searches.

Too often, Web page authors even leave the page title blank. This typically appears in the top of the browser, as the name of the page found by a search, and often can appear in printouts of the page, so it is important to name each page. When one page is used as a template, copied to create other pages, the names are often overlooked, especially since they do not appear on the previewed page.

The final base target tag is not metadata, but an instruction for this particular page that unless otherwise specified, hyperlinks are to open in a new (blank) browser window.

Benefiting from Metadata

One benefit of using metadata is the association of each object with data in a series of fields that are relevant to your situation. You can keep track of creation date, revision date, the name of the person revising the object, and other data of relevance.

Another benefit is that metadata facilitates search and retrieval. The keywords you specify may help those using some Web search engines to find your pages.

Beyond HTML

With the advent of XHTML, FrontPage 2003 and its support for XML, and greater acceptance of the SCORM requirements, serious developers may find it best to leave behind HTML for the extensible languages that offer more support for database retrieval and greater reliance on metadata. But for now, if you create HTML learning objects, try adding some metadata to improve the ability of others to find your objects.

All information is subject to change without notification.
© Jim Flowers
Industry & Technology, Ball State University

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