You probably also do your homework and research keywords before writing a new blog post - if not you should start doing that. (Read more about fatal blogging mistakes in our recent blog post 10 Common Mistakes That Kill Your Blog & How To Fix Them.)
Metadata is information that is submitted in the code when your web page gets called upon. It includes the title tag, meta description and possible alt img tags.
So why bother with metadata that is buried in the code or barely visible at the very top of the tab in the browser. Especially since Google and the other search engines don't put as much weight into it as they used to?
Well, remember the "Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression" tagline from the classic Head & Shoulders commercials?
Making a great first impression is probably the main reason you should optimize your metadata. You can see it as organic (as in not-paid-for) advertisement.
So, before your awesome piece of content gets analyzed and scrutinized by the all powerful Google algorithm, make its organic advertising stand out.
How Metadata Is Seen By Searchers
In the SERP's (search engine results pages) searchers are going to see several things, your title tag, meta tag description, URL, maybe your Gravatar and name, how popular you are in Google + and maybe some other possibly pertinent information, see below.
When a searcher sees your result on the page, is it inviting? Sure, maybe their eyes are drawn to your bio pic or awesome cartoon caricature (gravatar), or the hundreds or thousands of circles you are in on Google+. Or maybe you watch the video that is so spammy that the girl says to look for the product in the comments, probably because they have to change the website url once Google catches up and penalizes them.
But what does your title say? Is it the asking the same question they just asked? Is it giving the answer to that question? Is it relevant to the search query and well written? Does it make you want to click?
On the other hand, is it completely irrelevant? Does it have that horrible auto generated "domain.com - blog 485xe?Company Name" title? Is it misspelled or grammatically incorrect? (see above screenshot) If you look at the title and the url together, do they look even more spammy?
That title, with or without your branding (having your company name in it) is so vital to keep the searcher engaged. Remember to keep the title under 70 characters to keep it from being cut off. It is better to have a great descriptive title without having your company name at the end, then to put your branding in and have it cut off.
So after the title is your url, does it mention the problem or solution again? Is it clean looking, i.e. words separated by dashes, no weird characters? Also not overly long like domain.com/page1/page2/page3/yourpost
The Internet's Elevator Pitch
After the title tag comes your meta description. It's basically a ~150 character, 2 sentence elevator pitch that has to be enticing to get that user to click through. Again, same as the title tag, does it give a solution, offer something, promise something, say click me for your answers?
Just FYI: If you don't make a meta description, or make a really bad one Google will make one for you by pulling the most relevant information or the first 150 characters. That will usually not be very convincing for someone to click through.
The top result from the example above, wikihow, has 160 characters of its 240 character meta description showing. While Google might index and take into consideration the other 80 characters, no searcher will see it.
Special note, if you wrote content around a long-tail keyword, Google will not only display your meta description, but also in addition an excerpt from the content, double win.
Bottom line: Metadata is your first impression! Make it a good one.
Your content and your marketing of that content is what will ultimately get you noticed, but great copy on metadata will increase your click-through rate to the people that see it.
If you spent so much time creating, developing and marketing your content, why give it an ugly or non-existent facade?
Plus while Google doesn't give the metadata as much weight as let's say some high quality backlinks, it will help Google figure out what your overall message is.