Meta Tags 101: How They Work and Why They Matter

Meta Tags

Whether you’re new to the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or well experienced, meta tags are a regular and important part of the job. 

The meta tag attribute helps shape and place your content page into a user’s search engine result page, or SERP, helping you to get valuable clicks from searchers. So you want to craft them carefully in order to reach as much of your goal demographic as possible. 

We definitely have a strong passion for optimising search results and making your content as available and popular as possible to users — and that passion includes helping you learn how to best present your web page to users and search engines alike. 

So let’s talk about meta tags, why they matter and how they can help.

What Exactly Are Meta Tags

Meta tags are on-page or off-page descriptive tags that your website, search engines and social media use to communicate. They specify the content and quality of your page and search engines use them to determine whether or not your page will be included in the results of a consumer inquiry. 

Meta tags can live directly on your page (on-page) as headers (H1, H2, H3), content titles and content attributes or they can be found embedded within the HTML code (off-page)

Five of the most important meta tags that we’ll discuss in this article are:

  • Title Tags
  • Meta Description
  • Meta Robot
  • Meta Keyword
  • Viewport Meta Tag

Each tag is extremely useful to you, the search engine, and the consumer, so it’s important to put in the effort to make them as successful as possible.

Title Tags

Title tags are what they sound like — the title of a page or article. This is a character set (charset) you can use to tell search engines how to present your content to the consumer as they’re searching. 

Title tags are particularly important because they could make or break the connection with you consumer. If your title tags aren’t exactly what they’re looking for, they may skip you and keep scrolling till they do find what they want. 

Some suggestions for making a successful title tag would be: 

  • Don’t use titles that remind the viewer of clickbait. Online users have become extremely aware of online threats and sketchy pages, and if your title tag has any similarity to an obvious clickbait attempt, users will move past you pretty quickly. 
  • Keep it short and sweet. The title shouldn’t have too much going on; only as much as the reader needs to know in order to determine if your content is what they’re looking for. Keep it brief and as related as possible to your page content. 
  • Be creative and interesting. Customers want to find what they’re looking for, but a boring page is almost as bad as the wrong page. Keep things on-topic but try to hook the consumer in with something that stands out. 

Meta Description

The meta description tag goes hand in hand with the title tag. However, the description is what a search engine crawler shows under the title tag as a small blurb of what your page is all about. 

If the title tag is what catches the consumer’s attention, the meta description is what provides the additional information to convince them that your page is what they’re after. So it’s just as important to create something that the user feels confident in clicking on. 

Some tips for writing a great meta description:

  • Keep it straightforward. Your description should perfectly encapsulate what your page is about without dragging on, or you may lose the reader’s interest.
  • Make each meta description voice match the content of the page. Depending on your content, it’s always important to relate to the consumer you’re most interested in making connections with. For instance, a car soap company and an online course provider should have significantly different, distinct brand voices. 

Combined with the title tag, advanced search engines use both of these meta tags in a system of multi-layered algorithms to determine how relevant your webpage content is to the user and rank it accordingly. 

Meta Robots

Robot meta tags aren’t visible to your consumers, but they are doing some heavy lifting nonetheless. 

These tags are written into the HTML tag of your page and instruct the search engine to either crawl or index sections of your page. 

Whether your page is indexed or not determines whether that particular page shows up in the search engine results. You might choose this option if you have the information you would like to keep accessible only from within your own site or if you want to avoid having duplicate content pages surface under the same search tags.

META KEYWORDS

Meta Keywords are essentially a thing of the past as Google decided they were too easy to abuse by marketers. Similar to meta robots, meta keyword tags live in the page’s HTML code and aren’t visible to the consumer. 

They would be a string of words related to the page’s content and, the more keywords your page had that matched the user’s search, the more relevant your page would appear and thus be placed towards the top. 

However, meta keywords were immediately taken advantage of by marketers and programmers. They would spam their HTML with every imaginable word someone could use to increase the odds their page would pop up. Now, Google hasn’t acknowledged meta keywords since 2009, and most major search engines made the same decision.

Viewport Meta Tag

Currently, more than 54% of all searches are conducted on mobile devices, and if your page isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re highly likely to lose customers’ interest. 

A viewport meta tag lives in the HTML, like the meta robot tags, but instead of telling the search engine to index your page or not, viewport meta tags relay information to the consumer’s browser instead.

Web developers will typically create scale options for useful websites on different screens- Laptop or mobile being the most popular. The viewport meta tag indicates to the browser (ie, Chrome or Safari) to use the scale created by the developer for the user’s specific device. 

Most users will back away from a website if it doesn’t work particularly well or even look good on a mobile device, so making sure that your viewport meta tag is there to make that adjustment can save you some rejection.

Why Are Meta Tags So Important

Your main goal regarding the search engine optimisation of your page is to make sure that anyone looking for the content you provide finds you instead of someone else, right?

75% of users only look at search engine results from page one, meaning that if you and your webpage show up on page two, you’re missing out on the vast majority of potential consumers. 

Not to mention that major search engines like Google employ algorithms that read and analyse meta tags, particularly titles and descriptions, in order to determine which pages in their index will be the best response to a user’s unique search. 

If you’re interested in reading Google’s own suggestions when it comes to creating titles and descriptions, or as they call them “snippets,” they’ve actually written out an interesting article of their own. 

Well-crafted meta tags in your webpage, either visible or included in the HTML, are one of the strongest tools you have to connect yourself with your consumers as they search.

In Conclusion

Meta tags are a fairly simple yet powerful tool in the world of SEO. 

The right or wrong tags can be the difference in whether or not your website is included in a search engine result page and then even still if your website is the one the user chooses. 

Crafting a well-written meta description that perfectly captures your site, your business and your content is key. You don’t want to use meta tags to fool users, only to have that backfire on you and feel like betrayal.  Instead, you want your meta tags to offer a unique and honest glimpse into your site that users can use to decide to visit your page — meaning that they should be an important part of your SEO strategy in the future.

References:

  1. How much time should I spend on meta tags and which ones matter?
  2. Desktop vs Mobile vs Tablet Market Share Worldwide
  3. Nine Stats Internet Marketing – 9 Shocking SEO Statistics of 2017
  4. Create good titles and snippets in Search Results | Search Central
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