This is part 1 of our 3 part series on Meta data.
- Use Meta tags to increase traffic from Google and Bing
- Use Meta tags to increase traffic from Facebook users
- Use Meta tags to make your Twitter tweets more enticing
What is a Meta tag?
A Meta tag is a hidden element on your web page that you can’t normally see without going into your web browser’s settings and viewing the HTML source code of the web page. They are hidden from view in the invisible <head> section of a web page, a place where only search bots, computer programs, and web nerds care to explore. Even though you can’t see them, they are incredibly helpful in increasing traffic to your website. However, they don’t just work by themselves; you need to know about the different types of Meta tags and how to set them if you want your website to have an advantage.
The Description Meta tag
Let’s start off with an example of a Meta tag. Here is one from Twitter’s home page:
<meta name=”description” content=”Instantly connect to what’s most important to you. Follow your friends, experts, favorite celebrities, and breaking news.”>
The description Meta tag for Twitter’s homepage describes what the company does. You won’t see this text anywhere on the web page unless you peak behind the curtains at the source code. So what good is it if you can’t see it? Google and other sites that crawl your site use that text to describe your site to their visitors. So when Twitter’s homepage comes up in a search result, it looks like the following:
SEO specialists have different opinions on whether or not Google uses the Description Meta tag for indexing purposes. A proper description tag may or may not rank you better on a specific keyword search, but it will sure make your search result more enticing for a user to click on. Also, if any of the keywords in your search are found in the description tag, Google will bold the word. For example, if you search for “follow on twitter” you will see the following with the word “Follow” in bold:
Rules of Thumb when crafting your Description Meta tag:
- Don’t go crazy with keywords. Add a few keywords but make sure that the sentences are human readable. The best is to see if keywords come up naturally. Google analyzes natural sentence structure.
Describe what your page is about.
- Each description should be unique per page.
- Don’t duplicate the language from the Title tag.
- Keep the length to 1-2 lines, no more than 160 characters.
- Run the description through a spelling/grammar checker.
Keywords Meta tag
In the old days of the Internet, search engines were not very advanced. So they relied on the Keywords Meta tag to tell the search engine what the page was about. However, many sites would add all sorts of keywords that didn’t really relate to the content on the page. So when more advanced search engines evolved, such as Google and Bing, the Keyword Meta tag was and still is ignored. So the bottom line is: “Don’t waste your time inserting keywords into the Keywords Meta tag.” Better yet, don’t add a Keywords Meta tag at all into your web page. Below is a sample Keywords Meta tag for a hair product company:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”hair products, shampoo, conditioner, mousse”>
Yet again, this is a waste of time. Google will read all the visible text on the web page to figure out what the page is really about.
The Title tag is not really a Meta tag, but it is often lumped into the same conversation as Meta tags. The title tag is a required tag and also resides in the invisible <head> section of a web page. If you look hard, you will actually see it in the following places:
- It appears at the very top of your web browser
- Search engines use it as the display in the search result
- When you save a bookmark, the browser names the bookmark after the Title tag
Here is the code example of a Title tag for Amazon.com:
<title>Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more</title>
Here are some screenshots of where you can actually see the title tag:
In your browser:
In Google search results:
Some people think the title tag is the big piece of text on the web page. But that text is actually an H1 tag or a “Page Title Display”.
The big bonus is that search engines use the Title tag in their algorithms to rank your page on certain keywords. So we saved the best for last. The Title tag is the most important piece of content on your web page.
Rules of Thumb when crafting your Title tag:
- You only have about 55-60 characters for your Title tag. Google can truncate any text beyond 60 characters.
- The title tag does not have to be a natural sentence. Add keywords that are relevant to the web page.
- Describe the content of your page; Google gives you extra credit for this.
- Each title should be unique per page.
- Run the title through a spelling checker.
- If you have a lot of pages on your website, think about hiring an SEO expert to help you keyword your Title tags and make sure that they are all unique.
Add keyword rich Title tags to all your web pages following our guidelines. If you are not sure how to do this in your content management system, call your website provider.
Add 1-2 lines of description text to the Description Meta tag for all your web pages. Remember keep it brief and make sure that it entices your customers to learn more in a friendly, non-spammy way. Again, if you are not sure how to do this, contact your web designer.
This is important stuff. If you’re not a good copywriter or are not confident what to write, contact an SEO expert.
Learn how to drive more traffic to your website by reading the next article in our series: Use Meta tags to increase traffic from Facebook users.