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What are meta tags on a website?

What is a meta tag on a web page?

To understand what website meta tags are, you need to know what meta data is first.

Meta data is data that describes other data.

So, meta tags on a web page describe things about the web page.  They are included in the website code so search engines can read them, but not viewable content when you look at a web page in your browser.  Meta tags help search engines understand what your web page is about. This in turn helps your organic SEO efforts. (Organic SEO meaning optimizations to get your site to show up as a result when users enter keywords into the search form)

The most common web site meta tags are the title, meta description.

Where do you put meta tags?

At the top of an HTML document, you can add these tags into the website code to describe your page. (You don’t see this information in the browser.) This information will help search engines better understand what your website is about. This information displays on the search engine result pages (SERPS).

When you do a search in Google, the search results page will show your meta title and description. Here is an example of how Google uses your website meta tags in the search results page.

Meta Tags In Google Serps

 

Besides helping Google understand what your site is about, you also help the user understand so they will hopefully click on your link. Writing clear and descriptive meta titles and meta descriptions are important for both search engines and potential users. This is your only opportunity to make an impression on the user, so put some thought into your titles and descriptions to entice a user to click on your link.

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What about meta keywords?

You may notice I have not mentioned meta keywords. Google does not use meta keywords anymore when analyzing a web page to determine how it will rank. In the early days of the Internet, they were used, but have been exploited so badly that they are now disregarded. Some SEO experts say you shouldn’t use them anymore, (like the founder of Yoast WordPress SEO plugin). I still do. Not in the context of using them to try to get better SEO rankings, but in terms of meta data and describing my page. I simple include 2 -3 prominent keywords that describe the page. Maybe using synonyms variations or a common typo.

Many clients I work with want me to “put keywords in the page” with the meta keyword tag. SEO simple does not work like this. Writing useful and well written content for your page that uses keywords you want to target in the meta tags, page headings, page content and file names (of the page and images) are the right way to “put keywords in the page”.

Meta Tags are added to your web page HTML

Meta tags go at the top of an HTML page, nested in the header tags.

<head>
<title>This is the title of the page</title>
<meta name="description" content="Use the keyword phrase you want to target within your meta description. Write this description to entice users, not search engines.">
</head>

Rules, Guidelines, Advice for writing meta tags.

Meta Title

  • The keyword phrase you are targeting should be part of the title, preferably at the very beginning.  If the keywords the user enters in the search are part of your title (or meta description) they will be bolded. This draws more attention to your result to hopefully get a click.
  • Create a unique title for the page.  By unique I mean no other page on the website should shares the same title.
  • It should not be longer than 60 characters including spaces. It will get cut off on the search engine result page.
  • Page title is very important. Search engines use it as a ranking factor.
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Meta Description

  • Meta descriptions should also be unique for each page and include your targeted keyword phrase. This should be written to tell users about the page and encourage them to click on your link in the search results. Consider it your “elevator pitch” and your only chance to make impression on user. Make it interesting  so the user want to click on your link and not the “billion” other results returned.
  •  Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor.   It’s what users see to get their first impression of your site, so put some effort into writing it.
  • It should not be longer than 160 characters including spaces. It will get cut off on the search engine result page.

Adding Meta Tags to a web page.

Creating meta tags are pretty easy. How you implement them  in a web page depends on how your website is built. I am not going to go into all of the scenarios for static HTML websites, WordPress, Shopify, Wix…. here.  If you’re looking for a web developer because you need help adding meta tags, or identifying keywords to target on your pages, contact me for a quote.

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