I answered a question about metadata on a list, and I thought I’d post my answer in an abbreviated form:
Yes, it is still important. ;-D
- Focus on the most relevant terms for a website. At various times, depending on their algorithms, some search engines have truncated keywords at a certain limit 25 words, even 250 characters. Any other that = seo spam So, choose keywords very very carefully and weight the most important ones at the beginning of the keywords list 😉
- Use all of the metadata FIELDS that you can. There is much more metadata to be included beyond title, description and keywords. Use all of the fields which are applicable to your website.
- Use the correct metadata formatting for your website type. XHTML, XML, HTML Transitional 3.0? Make sure it validates.
- Use a robots tag. Do you want this site to index, cache, refresh/dump after a certain time period, or conversely not index (like my resume!) , etc.? Most crawlers will look for the robots tag and follow those instructions. If you have none, they will usually crawl & index, but you can control more of their behavior by using the robots tag. Of course, some search engines just ignore the robots tag, too. 😉
Here are a couple of DC (Dublin Core, a Library of Congress initiative) metadata generators
DC dot (auto – generates everything)
user input generator – just generates codes
I find I still have to do a tiny bit of cleanup with DCdot (i.e., take out the irrelevant).
As for metadata in general, it goes up and down in usage and ranking in various search algorithms, so don’t feel that you have to spend a lot of time on it. However, in addition to have well written copy/content within the body of the website, including the basics of meta are important. With a focus on the copy and the metadata, your site should be fine.