What are meta tags on a website?

What is a meta tag?

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 are small snippets of code that include content that describes 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, browsers and other software to 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)

Common Meta Tags on a Webpage

  1. Title Tag: The title tag is a crucial meta tag that specifies the title of a webpage. It appears in the browser’s title bar and is also displayed as the clickable link in search engine results. A well-crafted title tag helps convey the topic or purpose of the page to users and search engines.
  2. Description Tag: The description tag provides a brief summary or description of the webpage’s content. It is often displayed as a snippet in search engine results below the title.  I describe this as your “elevator pitch” about the page.  Writing a good meta description can entice users to click on your webpage in search results.
  3. Keywords Tag: In the past, the keywords tag was used to specify relevant keywords related to the webpage’s content. However, its significance has diminished over time, as search engines now rely more on analyzing the actual content of the page.
  4. Viewport Tag:   The viewport meta tag is commonly used to control and define the behavior of the viewport in mobile browsers. It allows developers to specify the initial scale, width, and other properties of the viewport. By using the viewport meta tag, web developers can ensure that their web pages are rendered appropriately on mobile devices and that users can zoom, scroll, and interact with the content effectively.

 

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.

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.

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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”.

Are meta tags necessary on a web page?

Meta tags are not necessary in the sense that your web page will still load. They do not have anything to do with how a web page displays, or functions.  But, if you want to follow best practices and build web pages that will be found in search engines and get users to click on your links in search engines, they are necessary. It is tedious work to create good quality meta tags, but important if you want to optimize your website for search engines.

Do meta tags help SEO?

Absolutely, when written properly. More importantly though, they help you get traffic to your site.  SEO in terms of getting your site to rank in search engine results is only HALF the battle.  Getting the user to click on your link and visit your site is the other half.  Writing meta tags to help the user understand what your web page is about, along with getting them to click on your link is just as important.

 

Rules, Guidelines, Advice for Writing Meta Tags

Meta Titles

1. Clear and Descriptive: Ensure that the meta title accurately reflects the content of the webpage. It should provide a concise and clear description of what the page is about. This helps both search engines and users understand the topic of the page.

2. Relevant Keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords in the meta title that are related to the content of the page. This helps search engines understand the context of the page and improves its visibility in search results.

3. Unique Titles: Each web page should have a unique meta title. Avoid using duplicate titles across multiple pages, as this can confuse search engines and affect search rankings.

4. Length Limit: Keep the meta title within the recommended length limit, typically around 50-60 characters. Search engines display a limited number of characters in search results, and longer titles may get truncated. A concise and focused title ensures that it is fully visible to users.

5. Branding: If applicable, include your brand name or website name at the end of the meta title. This helps reinforce your brand identity and improves recognition. However, prioritize the relevance and clarity of the title over branding, especially for new or lesser-known websites.

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Meta titles play a crucial role in both search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience. By following these best practices, you can create effective and engaging meta titles that improve your website’s visibility and attract more visitors. The meta title is often the first impression users have of your webpage, so it’s essential to make it compelling and informative.

Meta Description

1. Be Concise: Keep your meta descriptions concise and to the point. Most search engines display around 160 characters, so aim to capture the essence of your webpage in a clear and succinct manner.

2. Unique and Relevant: Each web page should have a unique meta description that accurately reflects the content of that specific page. Make sure your meta description provides a brief summary of what users can expect to find on the page, using relevant keywords.

3. Engage Users: Write compelling and engaging meta descriptions that entice users to click through to your webpage. Consider using action-oriented language, highlighting key benefits or unique selling points of your content, and creating a sense of curiosity or urgency.

4. Focus on User Intent: Understand the intent of users searching for relevant keywords or phrases and align your meta descriptions accordingly. Tailor your descriptions to address their needs and expectations, showcasing how your webpage can fulfill their requirements or provide valuable information.

5. Avoid Keyword Stuffing: While it’s important to include relevant keywords in your meta descriptions, avoid keyword stuffing. Maintain a natural flow of language and ensure that the description reads well to both search engines and human users. Aim for a balanced approach that emphasizes readability and user engagement.

By following these best practices, you can create effective meta descriptions that not only attract the attention of search engine users but also accurately represent your web page’s content, ultimately improving your click-through rates and user engagement.    While search engines user meta titles as a ranking factor, they do not use the meta description. Write this for your users, don’t think about SEO.

How do you add meta tags to a web page?

Even though meta tags are referred to as a code snippet, they are simply a line of text . Anyone can create one easily.  Meta tags go at the top of an HTML page, nested in the header tags.

<head> 
<meta name="title" content="The meta title for your page">
<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>

They do need to be inserted into the web page code. 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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