Are Meta-Tags Really Needed?
Meta Tags: What You Need To Know For SEO
Meta-tags are the most fundamental part of SEO and ensure that your site’s pages have a solid foundation of optimization, found in the page title, page description, images, videos, and more…
You add these tags to your page’s header to describe the page using syntax that Google understands.
And when it comes to SEO, best practices for meta tags often need to be addressed while others take priority.
Sometimes, things like content and links may take priority over things like meta tags. That’s understandable because content and links can be more critical.
But ensuring that you optimize these tags correctly can significantly help how Google understands your page.
For example, a quality meta description can mean the difference between poor website performance in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and better website performance, especially regarding a site’s click-through rate (CTR).
Making sure that you include essential meta tags can still get results. It all depends on how you use them.
What Are Meta-Tags?
Meta tags provide information about the website in the HTML of the page.
Search engines use these pieces of code to help determine what the page is about and how relevant it is to the keyword being searched.
While this data isn’t visible to visitors, it does play a role in determining where a site appears in search results.
One important meta tag you want to focus on includes the page title: the blue link that appears at the top of the snippet in the search results.
Another vital tag you should focus on is the meta description, often used to show descriptions of pages in search results.
For example, suppose you’re searching for a product like a computer. In that case, the manufacturer’s description of that product (at least, the one it added to the page) might appear in the paragraph snippet below the page title in the search results.
Getting Started With Meta-Tags
Meta tags are one of the first things you’ll see in a site audit report. They appear in the header above the page content and provide important information about a page.
The first step in understanding what meta tags do is to know why you’d use them.
You would want to include certain words in your product or service, such as price range, features, size, etc. You could use the keywords meta tag to help describe that.
You may want to let people know where your site is, like a city, state, or country. You could use the location meta tag.
If you’re writing a blog post, you might want to add a category meta tag to help others find it.
These are just a few examples of what meta tags can accomplish.
There are many meta tags, including title, description, keyword, image alt text, robots, language, and schema markup.
This article focuses on the most common ones, species descriptions, and keywords.
Why Meta-Tags Are Important For SEO
When it comes to SEO, meta tags are significant. Maybe not quite as important as content or links, but still, they are significant to the overall optimization process.
Better title tags may mean the difference between the success or failure of your page.
Having blank meta tags (such as an empty title or meta description) may mean that Google will choose what it thinks are the best ones for your page. Its algorithm is not perfect and could create less than what you want to see.
That is why it’s crucial to include at least a physical page title and description for your page. Otherwise, you leave it up to Google’s algorithm to choose it.
Page Title Meta-Tags
The page title tag is the primary descriptive element of your page.
Your title tag is the one thing that everyone sees when they come across your site in the Google search results.
This is why ensuring it reflects the page’s content is crucial. For example, if you’re writing a blog post, you want to ensure that the page title accurately reflects the post’s content.
You want people to know exactly where they are and what they’re looking at.
While some sites still rank very well despite having poor title tags, others don’t care much about the title tag.
Why do some sites spend less on the title tag while others continue their usual optimizations? Well, it depends on the type of site. Some websites focus heavily on video, while others focus heavily on text. Some websites are focused on a specific topic, while others cover multiple issues.
There are many reasons a site might choose to put less effort into its title tags. However, the truth is that having a quality title tag can be a significant determining factor in how Google understands your page.
If you’re building a brand new site, you probably won’t need to worry too much about SEO efforts on your title tag. However, you’ll want to track bounce and conversion rates once your site starts getting traffic.
By tracking those metrics, you’ll be able to determine whether the title tag is impacting your performance and where to go to optimize it better.
Google’s Search Essentials documentation explains the following about page title best practices and how to influence them in the search results correctly:
- You want to ensure that every single site page has a physical title tag with a page title specified.
- Descriptive and concise page titles are Google’s recommendation. It doesn’t want to see anything vague such as “Home” for the home page. Also, it does not want to see “profile” for a person’s profile. Google also recommends avoiding unnecessarily long and verbose text, as it is highly likely to be truncated in the search results.
- Be sure that you avoid boilerplate and redundant text in your page title. What happens here is that the boilerplate text causes confusion between pages for users and search engines. So, Google recommends distinct and descriptive text in your page titles. It also discourages utilizing long text that doesn’t change except for specific information. Don’t include text within your page title that’s useless to users or that would be considered uninformative.
- Google also doesn’t like keyword stuffing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have descriptive terms in your page title. However, you don’t want to include the exact words and phrases often. Doing so could be similar to keyword stuffing, making your search results look spammy to Google and its users.
- Branding your page title is an acceptable practice for Google. You can include it at the beginning of the page title or the end, per Google’s guidelines. Make sure it’s separate and unique from the rest of the text. To accomplish this, you could use a delimiter symbol, which includes colons, pipes, or hyphens. This can help you avoid making your site’s branding look like a repetitive portion of the page title.
- Make it clear which part of the text is the main title. According to Google’s recommendations, it examines various sources when it generates title links. These sources include the main visual title, main text in the body copy, and heading elements. Google also recommends varying the size of the main label on the page, for example.
- Google also recommends ensuring that your page title matches what’s on the page. Google explains that if it thinks the title doesn’t match the page’s primary content, it might choose different text as part of the page title link. It’s best to have the same page title in <h1> tag to reduce the probability of rewriting by titles on SERP.
What Else Has Google Said About Page Titles?
Aside from its Search Essentials, there are several things that Google has mentioned about page titles that should be observed.
How To Add A Meta Robots Tag To Your Page
The meta robots tag allows you to control the indexing and crawling of your pages. In short, this will enable you to take advantage of a more granular approach to managing the indexation of individual pages.
It is important to note that this setting can be read and followed only when the page is crawlable and accessible to Google.
For example, don’t disallow a page; “no-indexing” will benefit you.
Although there are situations where Google might ignore the robots.txt file, you want to ensure that, in most cases, you are allowing the crawling and indexing of the page so Google can physically observe that particular rule.
<meta name="robots" content="noindex"> (…)
The code snippet above shows how to add the meta robots tag to your pages.
How To Add A Meta Viewport Tag To Your Page
The meta viewport tag is an integral part of meta tags that are added to the page and has to do with making sure that your site is a fully responsive website design.
In short, this meta tag provides specific instructions to the browser on how to render your page on a mobile device. In addition, this tag also shows Google that the page you are editing is mobile-friendly.
Setting The Viewport
Generally, the rule is to include the viewport meta tag on every page you want to be optimized for a mobile device. The parameters within this tag control the page’s dimensions and scaling attributes.
First, mobile browsers will render a page at the width of a desktop screen (at its minimum, around 980px, but this can vary across devices).
Then, they will attempt to make the content appear better by adjusting it to fit the screen and increasing font sizes.
As a result, font sizes could appear inconsistent to different users. To rectify this, one could potentially use a system font instead.
The following screenshot shows how to include and configure the meta viewport tag within your code:
content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1"> …
How To Add The Meta Charset Tag To Your Web Page
The charset meta tag is a tag that allows you to define specific character encoding for your page. This tag is important because it helps provide the vehicle that the browser uses to output characters to text.
If you don’t have the charset tag defined, a browser might output garbage text because of this lack of understanding of the input text. Without this tag, the browser must make an uninformed guess quickly.
While not extremely important in terms of SEO ranking factors, it is crucial if you want to make sure that your page is as cross-browser and cross-platform as possible.
If you don’t add it, it’s not the end of the world. The HTML5 specification does include UTF-8 character encoding by default.
But, if you want to use another type of character encoding for your page – for whatever reason – then, by all means, you may want to seriously consider adding this tag in those situations.
No Sitelinks Search Box Meta-Tag
Did you know that specific meta tags can help you control the appearance of your search results?
One such meta tag is the no sitelinks search box meta tag:
< meta name='robots' content='max-image-preview:large' / >
If for some reason, you don’t want a site links search box to appear on the Google SERPs, then you can use this meta tag to remove it.
Here is how you would implement the nositelinkssearchbox meta tag on pages where you don’t want the search box to appear:
Again, this would be added between the beginning and ending head tags of your page.
For Google Discover
Adding a simple meta tag can increase clicks from Google Discover by 300%. Here’s the code snippet:
<meta name='robots' content='max-image-preview:large' />
Meta-Tags Are An Important Part Of SEO
Some believe that meta tags rank third or fourth on the tier of responsibilities when optimizing your web pages.
But, when it comes to achieving higher rankings, optimizing your meta tags correctly can sometimes put you ahead of the pack.
Don’t think of them as the be-all and end-all for your SEO efforts; instead, they are more supplemental.
Just make sure that you continue to keep your meta tags updated as needed. For example, if your pages change, you don’t want to have a different page title, and meta description than the content reflected on the page.
You also don’t want to have meta tags that are substandard in quality.
In the end, you want to make sure that you have some focus on optimizing these tags – because they can take a page from mediocre to great.
Lead SEO at iLoveSEO
Brian has been doing SEO since before it was called SEO, back in the days of 1998. Back then, SEO…
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