This article will break down meta tags' importance within the world of SEO. If you're new to meta tags, and want some tips on writing an awesome meta description, make sure you check out this piece: What is a meta description?
For those of you who'd rather not click, and simply keep reading, here's the TL;DR:
Definition: Meta Description
This term refers to one of many HTML tags which appears as a snippet on the SERP (search engine results page) and its goal is to give the reader, consumer or customer some context so as to what they'll find on the web page.
Are meta descriptions important?
They're helpful because many users will often read before clicking so as not to waste their time. Bounce rate and meta descriptions complement one another. How? When looking at a page of search results, your customer or reader will look at the meta description to get a preview of sorts.
If it matches their user intent, they click. If for some reason your description doesn't match what's on your page, your reader will probably leave as quickly as they came. Enter: bounce rate.
Bounce rate is not the same as the metric which tells you how long a user stays on your page. That said, it also varies depending on the type of content or service you provide.
I'm not suggesting that bounce rate become your main SEO focus by any means; search engines factor a variety of metrics into their ranking system.
It doesn't make much sense for Google to punish sites too harshly for bounce rate since it varies so much depending on the sector.
For example, Wikipedia probably has an astronomical bounce rate because all the goods are on one page. That's why they send you on fun loops with lots of internal links.
What's the difference between a meta tag and a meta description?
Meta tags refer to a variety of HTML tags that Google reads and interprets such as a title tag or robots meta tag.
Whereas a meta description tag, on the other hand, gives the writer a bit more wiggle room to clarify what the reader will find upon clicking. It appears on the SERP and can be read by anyone who uses search engines like Google. You can write customized ones, or rely on the automatically generated ones by Google.
What are some examples of meta tags?
Understanding meta tags is a crucial element for any search engine optimization strategy. You need to know which tag does what so you can prioritize your efforts.
Title Tag, which you can see in purple. Meta Description, which is directly under the title tag.
Another common meta tag is Alt Text or image alt tags which refers to the text that is displayed when images don't load properly.
It's one way to make your content more accessible while also helping your on-page SEO efforts. All of this HTML code is designed to make your content easier to be crawled and understood by search engines.
If you haven't picked up the drift by now, I'll say it a bit clearer: meta tags matter. Meta tags are important. If you want to feel confident navigating your website's meta tags, keep reading!
6 of the Most Important Meta Tags
Title tag is probably the most important meta tag, and it goes beyond search results. It's the first HTML element that appears on any page, so make sure you make a good impression.
Title tags should always be unique and relevant. You'll want to keep it concise as Google doesn't always have the space for super long titles.
You're telling search engines and the reader what's on offer when they visit your page.
Other header tags help make your content easier to skim and crawl which is why we encourage our writers to use such visual cues.
Meta Description Tags
Meta tags are your elevator pitch: your chance to convince the reader or customer to take the next crucial step which is clicking and visiting your website.
Search engines don't recommend keyword stuffing here, although you should include your most significant keywords in a natural way.
Combined with your title tag, you give a convincing and compelling preview of your page's content. They're basically search results snippets.
We don't want Google to think that your website is simply duplicating information, à la copy+paste, right?
Using a canonical tag tells Google, hey, this is the original, this is the main page, and this is what I want to show up in the search results page. This comes in hands if you have a single url with overlapping content on other multiple URLs.
Here's an example of when you'd use a canonical url:
Imagine your website is www.seorocks.com, but you've also got http://www.seorocks.com and https://www.seorocks.com
We don't want Google to think that all those pages are just duplicates of the homepage, so you add this meta tag to your web page in order to clarify potential search engine doubts.
Robots Meta Tag
This one might be a bit less obvious, but for those experienced in search engine optimization, it's a useful one.
This the way you, a human, are able to communicate with search engines to tell them which pages should be indexed or not. Isn't that a Shakespeare quote: to index or not to index, that is the question!
Social Media Meta Tags
Make sure your awesome content is easily able to be shared with this fun meta tag. If you use Yoast SEO plugin, you may already be familiar.
Basically Open Graph Tags (for Facebook, Linkedin and Google) and Twitter Cards allow your content to reach more people by making it shareable with a click of a button.
Alt Text Meta Tags
Alt text meta tags should be a standard part of your SEO strategy. Firstly, Google can't read images, but they can read meta tags.
Secondly, it's a way to make your content inclusive to the visually impaired.
Thirdly, if that's a real word, it comes in handy when your image doesn't load properly, or if someone hovers the cursor over the image.
Here are a few tips for alt text meta tags:
- your image should be small enough so as not to slow down the page load speed -- but not too small so as to compromise the resolution
- your image should have a file name that matches your keyword + describes the image properly
- your image alt text should be concise
Bonus: Viewport Meta Tag aka Responsive Design meta tag
We're living in the age of mobile-friendly everything.
If your website isn't optimized for mobile devices you're making a big, huge, preventable mistake. This meta tag basically tells a web page how to render on mobile sites.
Conclusion: Important Meta Tags help both SEO and the user experience
All of these meta tags play different parts in Google search results, some more important than others. Search engines typically have one goal in mind: help people find what they're looking for.
Meta tags are your way of sending messages to search engines to make their job, and consequently your job, easier. Title tags are not just decoration, they're an html tag that tells Google's search engine: hey, this is important, let's highlight it!
HTML meta tags aren't things to be afraid of, and I hope you feel confident regarding which ones to use after reading this post! Now, it's your turn to pour over your web pages and get to optimizing!
Happy Surfing everyone!
- Image SEO: How to Optimize Visuals for Higher Rankings
- SEO for Blog Posts: How To Optimize an Article for Organic Traffic
- How to Write SEO Title Tags for Maximum Impact
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