SEO Meta Tags: The Ultimate Guide

Like the 90% of an iceberg that lies beneath the surface of the ocean, SEO meta tags are rarely seen, but it’s vital that you know they’re there and that you be able to navigate your way around them correctly. Besides having great content, meta tags can be the differentiator that sets you apart from competitive websites and increases your click-through-rate by users searching for your product or service. In this post, we’ll review some of the most important SEO meta tags, like title tags, meta descriptions, and more.

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What Is a Meta Tag?

Simply put, a meta tag is information (called metadata) about your webpage that can be seen in the HTML source code of the page. You won’t see this code on the page itself, but it can be seen and read by crawlers and search engines.

Search engines use metadata for three primary reasons:

  1. To understand what your page is about
  2. For ranking purposes
  3. To display snippets (page descriptions) in search results

There are a number of different meta tags that web developers and SEO professionals use, but not all are considered essential by everyone. Let’s look at four types of meta tags that are considered “must-haves” by SEO pros.

Title Tags

The title tag describes the topic of a page. As you’d expect, it’s found at the top of a browser in the title bar and also on the search engine results page in the blue listing titles. Search engines consider the title tag to be a very relevant factor in ranking a page.

You’ve probably noticed when you conduct an online search that some of the words you entered into the search bar, which are found in the results, are in bold print. This is a direct result of having title tags relevant to the web page itself. Properly formatted title tags can also help your click-through-rate, since searchers can quickly scan the results and see that the words in bold print indicate that your page has the information that they’re looking for.

Title tags must be related to your web page’s content, and your main keyword should be the first word in the title or as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible. In general, title tags should be no longer than 70 characters.

Meta Descriptions

Another important SEO meta tag is the meta description, which provides a brief description of the content found on a page. Like other meta tags, this won’t be visible to site users. Search engines use meta descriptions as the brief snippet that you’ll see in the search results underneath your title tag.

Meta descriptions must be well-written since they’re what will best determine if a searcher deems your page to be worth visiting. It’s basically advertising copy, and time should be invested in writing the most compelling copy possible because of its importance in driving traffic to your site. Be sure to include your target keyword(s) to attract users who will likely be searching for your content. In general, meta descriptions should be between 140-160 characters in length.

Meta Robots

Once you’ve gotten the search engines to visit your page, you’ll need to tell them if and how to crawl it. Misusing meta robots tags can be catastrophic for your site’s visibility in the search results.

These are the values you can use in this tag and what they tell the bots visiting your page to do:

  • index: tells visiting bots to index the page
  • noindex: tells the bots not to index the page
  • follow: tells the bots to crawl the links on your page
  • nofollow: tells the bots not to crawl the links found on your page

If a page isn’t indexed, it won’t be shown on the search engine’s results pages. If you have a bot crawl the links on your page, you’re vouching for that link’s credibility. If you don’t have them crawl the links, you’re not.

Alt Text

Alt text is added to an image tag in the code and helps search engines understand exactly what an image is about. Alt text can also be picked up by screen readers for those with visibility issues. Search engines can’t see images on websites, so they rely on what’s written in the alt text. Most searchers aren’t looking for images, but you’ll be missing an opportunity to strengthen your brand and losing out on traffic you could have had by not having descriptive text.

Alt text should be clearly and concisely written and contain text that clearly describes the image. Alt text is important not only to search engines, but it ensures that your site meets basic accessibility standards. The key here is to not overdo it. Don’t spam your keywords in image alt text.

Other SEO Meta Tags

There are numerous other types of SEO meta tags that are used by developers, some of which are now considered not as relevant as far as the search engines are concerned. Sticking to these “core four” is a great start to maximizing your page’s visibility on the web.

Improve Your SEO Today

Understanding how to appropriately implement SEO meta tags is essential, as getting these wrong can seriously damage your rankings and organic traffic. At ClickGiant, we have years of experience optimizing businesses’ websites for search, and we can help you get discovered in a noisy online world.

Contact us today, and let’s talk about getting your business the online recognition it deserves. We’re always ready to help!