What is the value of standardized metadata (e.g. OAI-PMH, IEEE-LOM, Dublin Core) in the days of search engines? Sites that offer open data (e.g. Open Educational Resources), want their content to be found and used. Often emphasis is put on including correct standardized metadata to this aim. These enable repository harvesting services, such as Jisc's store, Europeana, etc. to find the data.

But I never see one of my students lookup something at such a service, neither do I do myself. Everyone looks up with a search engine, such as Google. Google (or another search-engine) is the default start of a web-look-up. Specific look-up services are only used for specific subjects (e.g. finding flights, hotels, public transport travel information, second hand goods, scientifical publications, etc.), for all the rest generic search engines are used.

Metadata then might help retrieving if the search engines would use them. I cannot find much about that. I only found that Google does not use the 'keywords' tag and stopped using OAI-PMH.

That leaves me with the question 'how important are standardized metadata nowadays'? Isn't search engine optimization with good descriptions and titles, meaningful URLs etc. more important nowadays?

1 Answer 1


Meta-data is more important than ever.

Google and other search engines created their own meta-data and vocabularies over at http://Schema.org.

Google would for example not be able to show you runs of movies in the next cinema in the way it does, if the website didn't offer that as machine readable data (see MovieTheater and Movie and related concepts).

The semantic web and OpenData movement are about making data FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable) for humans and computers alike. Meta-data is one of the key ways to achieve that.

The standards you have mentioned might have gone out of fashion, but meta-data is key --- not only for the web, but also in commercial settings.

Also, that keywords is not listed on that page you link to doesn't mean it is not indexed and used by google or other search engines. (Un-)fortunately Google does not post specifics on their ranking algorithm, because:

  1. It's what makes their search engine better than others
  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) would render their engine unusable.

Note: the transfer standard in my opinion is obsolete, can't say much about IEEE's LOM as it's non-free. DC still is the standard for resource meta data. It is used by various other standards. The concepts have been transferred into the Linked Open Data world and have a firm place and use there.

Relevant information about how California is trying to tackle metadata in their data portals

  • also just because they are out of fashion, doesn't mean they aren't used. keywords isn't use for page rank, but that doesn't mean its not used.
    – albert
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 16:44
  • 1
    I'm not sure if Dublin core has gone out of fashion at all, see DCAT
    – nmtoken
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 7:25
  • @nmtoken it hasn't. dc is used extensively by search engines
    – albert
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 19:19

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