I’m certain you are familiar with search engines and how to use them. When you type in your query in the search box, the search engine result page (SERP) displays several links to different websites containing information that should answer your query. Usually, a search result consists of a title, snippet, URL, site links, and (possibly) related searches. All these parts put together play vital roles in the display of your web page and the ranking of individual sites on the SERPs.
SEO Meta tags are important as the force behind how seriously search engines take your web page. They tell the search engine all it needs to know about your web content, and consequently if it’s display- and rank-worthy.
Let’s discuss this relationship in detail:
What are SEO Meta Tags?
Let’s take our minds back to a typical SERP of any search engine. Now, each result has enough information visible to the user; the information gives the user a summarized view of what is present or should be found on the web page. SEO Meta Tags are more like snippets of code that compile the information about your web page to the search engine.
These SEO Meta Tags are only visible in the HTML code; therefore, they are most visible to search engines or anyone else who knows how to find them. Finding them, if they are in use, is quite easy anyway. You just need to right-click on the web page and select “view page source.” The snippets of code would appear on your screen. The “meta” in the title phrase refers to metadata, which is the data about the content (or data, if you like) of your web page.
Lest we drift off the subject matter: a keyword here is the acronym SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It, therefore, begs the question: how do Meta Tags affect SEO? Do they even help?
The truth is not all Meta Tags help SEO. Some do and some don’t. I mean, that’s why it requires work – you know, to get it right. That should be a reason why you’re reading this so that you can do better with your web page’s SEO ranking and to recognize which Meta Tags can help you do that.
Types of Meta Tags
There’s no webpage without Meta Tags. In this section, we will take a look at the four types of Meta Tags and how to use (and not use) them for SEO.
Just as the phrase implies, this is the web page’s title that the search engine in use shows in its SERPs. Although you should note that sometimes, Google, for instance, for some reason displays something else. Such reasons may include irrelevance of your title to the search query, too short or too long title.
Let’s not forget that the essence of putting this topic under the microscope is to improve our web page performance metrics on SERPs. Hence, we must be able to answer the question regarding the importance of an SEO title.
I believe Google, the world’s leading search engine, explains it best; “Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.”
The title tags should be enticing enough to attract a click. More so, search engines also consider them to interpret your web page. Now, this is probably getting you worried about finding the exact keywords for your web title. Now, while I recommend that you should do keyword research before creating your title, it shouldn’t be a hassle. Why? Since the advent of Hummingbird, Google can now respond to synonyms and queries in a conversational style.
It is also vital to note that title tags are entirely different from H1 tags. The confusion is understandable; I mean both tags are often the same words. How so? Answer this: if you clicked a particular title on a SERP, would you expect to find the same title on the web page? Yes, I believe. The clarity and consistency that it brings are why both tags are often copies of each other. But how can you tell the difference?
The title tag is what users see on their SERPs and when your web page is shared on other platforms. This is what appears on the tab of your browser. H1 tag, on the other hand, is the title of the content the users see when they visit the web page.
Here are some pointers in crafting a title page:
- avoid title tag truncation by keeping it fewer than 50 to 60 characters
- be concise, yet descriptive while avoiding vague titles
- use only sentence or title case
- include keywords
- craft a title that attracts clicking
- match search intent
This is the summary text of what you should find on the web page. They are the snippets search engines display on their SERPs. Sometimes, like Meta title, Google displays something other than Meta Description. This is due to poorly written or inappropriate descriptions per the search query.
See Google’s description; “A Meta Description tag should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that convinces the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”
But unfortunately, according to Google, the search engine does not use your Meta Description in ranking search query results.
Some pointers in crafting a Meta Description:
- accurate, unique content summary
- keep it under 160 characters
- only use sentence case
- include keywords
- craft a description that attracts clicking
- match search intent
You probably must have heard of crawlability when it comes to SEO. Crawlability/Crawl accessibility is how search engines access and can read your site. Meta Robots instructs the search engine on how to go about crawling your web page or if the search engine should even bother to crawl the page in the first place.
Crawlability is an essential factor in your page’s SEO ranking. Should your site have crawlability issues, it negatively impacts user access and the site’s presence on SERPs.
In crafting Meta Robots tags, here are recommended values to use; they tell bots what to do:
- follow: “bots, yes, crawl links on the page; they are trustworthy”
- nofollow: “bots, no, do not crawl links on this page; I can’t vouch for them”
- index: ”bots, yes, index the page”
- noindex: “bots, no, do not index the page”
Some pointers in crafting Meta Robots:
- use only when a restriction is needed in the crawlability of a search engine
- avoid blocking pages with robots tags in robots.txt
There are times you have visited a page from different devices; either a mobile or computer or tablet and you observe that in most cases, the views are different. Meta Viewport is the snippet code behind how the web page is displayed on different screen sizes. In technical words, it sets the visible area of a web page.
The Meta Viewport is what tells the search engine that your site is mobile-friendly. Every time a user backs up from your page almost too quickly is a warning sign to the search engine about an undesirable effect from your page.
Some pointers in crafting a Meta Viewport:
- Ensure to use meta viewport on all web pages
- Use standard viewport tag unless you know better
Where should SEO Meta Tags be set?
As earlier opined, Meta Tags are snippets of code only visible in the HTML code; they are coded in your CMS and placed in thecode section of an HTML document. Crafting SEO Meta Tags varies with different website-powering platforms; they can be either challenging or easy. WordPress, however, has made crafting Meta Tags easy with their dedicated section for Meta Tags.
Why are SEO Meta Tags important?
If you have patiently read through up to this point, by now, you should be able to tell how essential SEO Meta Tags are, but for the sake of clarity and emphasis:
Search engines use Meta Tags to understand what your page is about; they are more like “your appearance is how you’ll be addressed” or “first impression.” So, your Meta Tags affect how well your web page performs on SERPs and whether or not users visit the site.
In most cases, we assume all that search engines do is display several web pages and their links in response to a search query, and that they couldn’t care less what and how each web page delivers, but that’s false. Search engines care about users’ experience and that’s why all these measures are in place to satisfy a user’s query by suggesting the most appropriate web page.
Although it is arguable if Meta Tags are directly relevant to SEO ranking as they used to be, I think the argument in itself is irrelevant. Whether directly or indirectly, SEO Meta Tags, when done right, consequently increases the number of web page visits you attract, and is that not the goal after all? Besides, consequently again, directly or indirectly, Meta Tags affect SEO ranking.
You know what? Just do it right! At the very least, search engines require them and you want your web page to be visible to search engines, right?