What are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are little tidbits of information that allow search engines to crawl a site faster and more effectively. These tags are “invisible” and are present on the back-end of a site. The meta tags live in the <head> of an HTML file.
There are plugins such as Yoast SEO that allow users of a CMS to quickly change their site’s meta tags while getting instant feedback from the plugin on whether or not the tags are sufficient for SEO purposes.
But before we go searching for a plugin lets learn more about meta tags.
Will Meta Tags Improve My SEO?
Yes. If they didn’t then not many SEOs would use them, which is not the case at all as every SEO I’ve ever met has used meta tags. Now, what their thoughts were on meta tags and the amount of impact they have on search rankings is a bit divided, but it is unanimously agreed that every site should have meta tags in place.
Go to any page, right click, click “View Page Source” or whatever the dev tools are for your browser and on every page there will be meta tags. If you don’t want to do it that way you can download a SEO tool to do it for you.
The Five Key Meta Tags of SEO
There are many different meta tags, but for SEO there is really only 5 key tags. These 5 meta tags should be used regularly on every page of your site. Many SEO “experts” proclaim there are only 4, but that is old SEO, this is 2019-2020.
5 Meta Tags To Be Discussed:
- Title Tag
- Meta Robots
- Alt Tags
- Meta Description
- Responsive Design Tag
Title Tag is the simplest yet most important meta tag. It is also the only meta tag that is on both the front end and back end of a site. What this means is that visitors to your page can see this tag.
The Title Tag is added to a site through the <head> section of the HTML file.
<title> I am The Title Tag </title>
The tag will appear at the top of the browser
Here’s a pic from the angle of the SERPs
A good title tag will typically be no more than 55 characters. It should be short, to the point, and descriptive. Remember to always add value, including a keyword in the title tag is very helpful, but if the tag is just irrelevant gibberish that has no correlation to your site then you are not actualizing your full potential.
Two key points I’d like to stress is to begin the tag with your targeted keyword and that every web page must have a title tag that is unique to the page.
Meta Robots Tag
This tag tells search engines which pages to index and which pages to not index. Similar to robots.txt, this tag is for single pages while robots.txt is used for whole sites or large sections of a site.
Index/noindex instructs search engines to show your page in the SERPs or not and follow/nofollow tells search engines to either follow your links to the subsequent page or not.
Index/noindex = Pages
Follow/nofollow = Links
As with the title tag, these tags are placed in the of the html file.
<meta name= “robots” content = “noindex” />
<meta name= “robots” content=”index, follow” />
Search engines by default crawl and index every page of the site so if you want a page to not show up in the SERPs you MUST implement the robots meta tag into the HTML.
Alt Tags(alternative text)
Images need to be crawled by search engines as well and this is where the alt tag comes into play. Search engines are not capable of indexing images without the use of a alt tag.
These tags are added to the HTML code of a page.
Optimal format of this tag is for it to be descriptive but not spammy. Text should be short and get the point across. The image filenames should be informative. Do not go over 55 characters.
If an image is for some reason unable to load the alt tag will show in place of the image.
The meta description is a small paragraph of text that appears below the URL in a SERP. This paragraph gives a brief summary of your website, what the website is about, what you do, etc. Putting time in to make an effective and convincing meta description is good as the meta description has a rather large influence on inducing a search engine user to visit your site.
Google has stated that meta descriptions do not directly affect your rankings, but the tag is still important for click through rates. Strong click through rates can increase your rankings so in the end you can say yes meta descriptions do help with rankings.
Here’s how the tag looks in html format:
The optimal length of a meta description varies depending on the device being used. For desktop users the optimal length is 150 characters while on mobile it is 130. A tip: do not copy and paste meta descriptions for every page, this will look spammy and show search engines your lack of care for your site.
Responsive Design Tag
This tag allows us to control the layout of the pages for different screen resolutions. It is also termed the “viewport meta tag”. This is found in the head section as well.
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width,initial-scale=1″>
Thats it. A beginners introduction to the primary meta tags for SEO. This should be enough to get you started creating your own optimal meta tags and ranking your pages.
Have any questions feel free to ask as I enjoy helping others. I may go in-depth later on about meta tags.