Meta tags are a group of elements that help to “catalog” and describe different components of a website. They are an important fundamental for an SEO optimized website and should follow the latest industry guidelines. To get the most out of the time you spend writing meta tags and to ensure they do their job properly, let’s run through some of the basics.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are HTML snippets of code that can be added to each page of your website to identify website details for search engines and users. Although the details of each meta tag aren’t actually displayed alongside the content of your website, the information they contain is picked up by search engines and shown in various places within the browser and search result pages. In turn, these details help search engines return web pages in relevant search results and help users determine if a search result is related to their search.
Why Should You Use Meta tags?
When you use meta tags on your website, you can:
- Help users determine relevant content within a sea of search results
- Control the information that is displayed about your website in search results
- Send more purposeful and well-suited traffic to your site
- Influence how your website is indexed by search engines
- Determine which pages and links on your site are crawled by search engines
What Are the Different Kinds of Meta Tags?
There’s not actually a singular, all-purpose meta tag. Rather, there are multiple types of meta tags that identify unique categories of website information or topics of content. The detail of each meta tag is then displayed in web browser tabs, in search results or simply shared directly with search engines.
For this post, we’ll concentrate on meta title tags and meta description tags.
Meta Title Tag
Just like the title of a book, the meta title tag offers a straightforward synopsis of what a particular page of content is all about. In many cases, the meta title tag may be made up of the topic of a page along with the company name. For example, the title tag of this page is What Are Meta Tags? | Deep Footprint.
The title tag appears in multiple places, including the browser window tab, the main page link in search results and also pulls through when a page is shared via social media. And, with the title tag as a known ranking factor, it’s important to identify them for every page of your website.
When you add meta title tags to each page of your website you help to eliminate guesswork for search engines, minimize irrelevant traffic and assist meaningful visitors with finding your content in search result pages (SERPs).
Meta Description Tag
With the meta description tag you can provide more detail about the topic of each page on your website in SERPs. This meta description tag is often a sentence or mini paragraph of text summarizing the content of a page, and appears beneath the meta title tag and page URL in search results as well as when shared through social media.
Although the meta description tag is not a confirmed ranking factor, it is still an important meta element that can help create desirable web traffic. Using concise and compelling language you can align the quality content on your website to related search criteria.
How Should You Use Meta Tags?
When you create meta title tags or description tags there are certainly rules of thumb that should be followed to ensure the information is properly picked up by search engines and displayed appropriately.
For both meta title and meta description tags, it’s important to bear the following guidelines in mind:
- Write your meta title tags and meta description tags with people in mind.
- Make sure that each meta title tag and meta description tag is unique from all others on the website.
Meta Title Tag Best Practices
When you write meta title tags for each page of your website, you need to pay attention to the following details:
- Length – each meta title tag should be no more than 55 characters, including spaces. Technically, the limit is 512px. Thus, the exact character limit will depend on the letters used in your title tag. While use of 55 characters is a good rule of thumb, it’s still possible that your meta title could truncate in search results or when shared on social media.
- Keywords – you should include pertinent keywords in your meta title tags. However, don’t use more than 1 or 2 or you’ll risk diluting the topic of the page or possibly get penalized for over-stuffing with irrelevant keywords.
- Keyword Placement – try to use any targeted keywords earlier in each meta title tag. This practice can help searchers see how your content relates to a unique search query, especially when Google bolds those terms within the results.
- Use of Company Name – use your company name at the end of the title tag separated by a pipe to help strengthen your brand recognition, like this: Targeted Keyword + Title Tag Description | Brand or Company Name. Some websites are set up to automatically add the company name to the end of your meta title, so be sure to check a live example for any duplication and remember to account for these characters when calculating the total length of your meta title tags.
Meta Description Tag Best Practices
Meta description tags work alongside the meta title tag to help describe web content and topics with enticing language and phrasing. While some meta title tag best practices also apply to meta descriptions, meta description tags have their own set of guidelines, including:
- Length – meta descriptions should be no longer than 155 characters in length. If the meta description is longer than this the remaining text will get cut off and show as an ellipsis in search results and social media posts. This is unfortunate as it can make it difficult to properly understand the entire text, resulting in fewer clicks. Although description tags can be a maximum of 160 characters, leaving it at 155 will ensure that you avoid the ellipses regardless of the characters used and search engine.
- Keywords – keyword density should be minimized. Although Google doesn’t consider the meta description to be a ranking factor, it is still helpful to use significant keywords that tie into the page content to show topic relevancy within search results for users.
Where to Add or Edit Meta Title Tags & Descriptions?
Most websites will include mechanisms for you to edit meta title and meta description tags directly through the content management system. Other meta tags, however, may require the assistance of your web developer to properly integrate within your website.
To edit the meta title and meta description tags in WordPress, you’ll find a section for Theme SEO Settings on the edit screen of each page and post. The Document Title and Meta Description fields can be used to enter your meta title and meta description details respectively.
To edit the meta title and meta description tags on a Drupal-based website, you’ll find a field clearly labeled Meta Description on the editing screen for each page of the site. The meta title field, however, will be accessible by clicking on the Page title settings tab near the bottom of the page editing screen.
Meta Tags For Web Usability & SEO Success
Meta tags, especially meta title and meta description fields, can help improve your organic search engine rankings by following the Google’s approved standards along with current usability best practices.
Hopefully, this post helps you to address the question of What are Meta Tags? But, if you need additional assistance finding the meta title or meta description tag fields on your site, or wish to discuss alternate SEO strategies, please get in touch with the Deep Footprint team!