How to Use Meta Tags for SEO
September 16th 2021 | By Emma Grant
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.
What are SEO meta tags?
Meta tags are used by internet browsers to display content in the right way, and by search engines to better understand what the content is about.
You won’t find meta tags displayed on a page, but you will see them in the source code of the page.
There are various types of meta tag:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Capturing the power of SEO meta tags
SEO meta tags are powerful elements that have the potential to improve your SEO success. 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 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?