How to Use Meta Tags for SEO

Emma Grant

Head of SEO

Results-driven Emma heads up our SEO team. A champion of best-practice SEO strategies for search engine success that lasts and delivers best value, Emma’s work focuses on boosting clients’ online visibility with the ultimate goal of increasing sales. Emma applies her extensive skill and experience to create strategies that pay off quickly for faster results. She knows precisely what to do to reduce clients’ paid ad spends for greater profits, and how to boost organic leads for better long term return on investment. After close of business, when she’s not organising exciting travel adventures, you may hear Emma strumming classical guitar tunes or working on her jazz riffs.

Whilst you may not be able to see them, meta tags play a crucial role in search engine optimisation and also in user experience. The use of meta tags ensures search engines and browsers display your content in the search engine results pages (SERPs) according to how you wish for users to see it. Here we look at how to use meta tags for SEO, what SEO meta tags are, and how to create the perfect meta title and meta description.

How to use Meta Tags for SEO

Do meta tags matter for SEO in 2023?

Other than meta tags, there are further factors that will help your website rank well in the search results. High quality, helpful content for one, as well as a positive user experience and a good helping of technical SEO. These are just some of the strategies that from part of our managed SEO campaigns.

But in answer to our question, absolutely yes, meta tags are important for SEO in 2023. But some of them are more important than others. And these are the ones we’ll focus on in this post.

What are the most important meta tags for SEO?

There are various types of meta tags, but these are the ones that are most important for SEO:

Meta title tag

The meta title tag is an HTML element that tells browsers and search engines the title for the web page in question. When the search result is shown in the search listings, the meta title is the first clickable element. It lets users know what the page is about, helping them decide whether or not it’s what they’re searching for. So it’s got an important job to do.

A meta title generally needs to be a maximum of 60 characters, and a minimum of 30 characters.

SEO meta tags

As the meta title is your prime chance to get users to click on your link, it’s important to keep them in mind when you are writing it. Make sure it is attention-grabbing, informative and includes the most relevant keywords. A call to action can also help to increase click through rates.

Prominent brands benefit from using their brand name in the title, as it instantly shows that it is a link that can be trusted. Generally, the title will be separated from the brand name by a dash (-) or a pipe (|) so that the search engines can better understand the text.

Meta description tag

The meta description is another vital component of your search results snippet. Although as SEO meta tags go, the description is slightly lower in importance than that of the meta title because it is not considered a Google ranking factor, a poor description will often result in a reduced click through rate, because it’s the very thing that lets users in on what your web page is going to tell them.

For a meta description to be successful, it needs to be well-written and unique, and succinctly summarise the content of the page. It should be no more than 155 characters, and a minimum of 70 characters.

SEO meta tags

The inclusion of keywords is important, as Google will mark them in bold in your search result snippet, drawing attention to the relevancy of the result for users. Relevancy will also help keep your meta title intact the way you want it, rather than Google rewriting it.

Google sometimes rewrites meta descriptions for various reasons, According to Google’s John Mueller, it could be because the description fails to summarise the page content properly; because Google’s description better matches the search query, or because Google may be trying to match the search query with the content, but the match is missing in the meta description.

It’s important therefore to ensure your meta description is a good match for your page content and is spot on in terms of relevancy to the search query.

Canonical tag

A canonical tag is used to let search engines know that a particular URL is the ‘main’ version when there are other pages that are identical or similar to it. They are used to prevent issues caused by duplicate content appearing on multiple URLs.

By adding the rel=“canonical” tag to a URL, the search engines know that’s the master page.

Meta robots tag

A meta robot tag tells search engines whether to follow links and index pages. Mostly, meta robots tags such as ‘noindex’ and ‘nofollow’ are used to deal with duplicate content issues by ensuring duplicates cannot be indexed. But there are others, such as ‘noarchive’, ‘nosnippet’ and ‘notranslate’ that send the search engines signals to modify how they behave on your page.

It’s very important to check SEO meta tags and ensure your meta robots tags are correctly set up so that they are not blocking search engine crawlers from finding and indexing the crucial parts of your website that you really want users to see.

Alternative text (Alt) tag

Alt tags give search engines a description of an image so that their crawlers know what they represent and can index them correctly. They also help screen reading tools to provide a description of an image to visually impaired users.

It is important to give all images an informative filename, with succinct text that is clear and to the point. Around 50-55 characters is about the right length for an alt-tag.

Header tag

Header tags, also known as heading tags or H-tags, are used to define headings and subheadings on a webpage.

They rank in order of importance, from H1 to H6, with H1 usually being the main page title. Header tags enhance the readability and accessibility of a webpage and help with SEO by helping Google better understand your content.

Meta refresh tag

The meta refresh tag allows you to tell an internet browser to automatically refresh a web page after a given period of time.

It can also be used as a form of redirect, telling the browser to redirect to another URL after the set duration. However, whilst Google claims to treat meta refresh redirects just like any other, they are not recommended for use except in particular circumstances because they can confuse users and are often used by spammers to fool search engines, which could lead to your site being considered spam and removed from the search engine’s index.

Viewport meta tag

The viewport meta tag helps internet browsers define the visible area for users, something that will vary a great deal when a mobile device is being used.

As almost 60 per cent of all online searches are carried out on mobile, and mobile friendliness is a major Google ranking signal, the use of this SEO meta tag is vital to ensure a website is set up for both desktop and mobile use.

Open Graph and Twitter Card meta tags

Not only do SEO meta tags allow you to dictate how your pages will look in the search results, they can also let you set how they will be displayed on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

If you choose your text and images well using Open Graph and Twitter Card SEO meta tags, you stand a better chance of an improved click through rate for your social media posts.

Capturing the power of SEO meta tags

SEO meta tags are powerful elements that have the potential to improve the success of your managed SEO campaign.

Setting up your meta tags correctly can help you increase both your rankings and your click through rate, in turn boosting your online visibility.

If you could use a little more guidance on how to use meta tags for SEO, the technical SEO experts at London based SEO agency Figment will be only too happy to provide the assistance you need. Why not talk to us today to learn more about how meta tags, and the many other SEO tactics, could help enhance your online visibility?

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