Jen McKinnon
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What are meta tags?

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We talk a lot about SEO in the abstract but we often don’t home in on the granular elements that can be optimised. Meta tags are one of those elements and can have a significant impact on your search engine ranking, especially when optimised effectively.

What is a meta tag?

A meta tag is a short, descriptive piece of text used to define the content on any given web page. Meta tags don’t visibly show up in the content on your page but are used as an index behind the scenes to help the Google algorithm sort through the pages and return relevant, useful results to the searcher. Meta tags are a type of metadata – data about the data on your site – and exist only in HTML script.

What are they used for?

Meta tags are used in SEO as a short-form way for Google to understand each of the billions of pages on the internet. Think of it as a brief synopsis for each page on your website. It helps to easily narrow down any given search early on by categorising pages, before crawling the on-site content.

What are the different types of meta tags?

There are many different meta tags, each with their own purpose and benefit to your site; however, the three most important to SEO are the title tag, the meta description and the meta robot attribute.

Title tag

The title tag signifies the title of your page. Your title should include your top keywords to ensure the search engines pick your site up for the right types of search queries.

Meta description

The meta description is a short sentence or two about the content on your page. This is very similar to the title of the page but enables you to elaborate on what the page is about.

It’s important not to just use this as another keyword list. All keywords should be woven carefully into sentences of the right length. Some experts say that you only have 156 characters for an optimal meta descriptions, while recently, others have discovered that some search engines are allowing for up to 320 characters.

Meta descriptions can be visible to searchers but not on your site itself. They are sometimes seen as the description below each link listed on the search engine results pages (SERPs). If you don’t add a meta description to your page, the search engine may dynamically lift the first couple of lines of text from your page and use it as the description instead. Otherwise, a snippet of text containing the searched keywords will appear in place of a description.

While Google denies that the keywords in a meta description have any pull on their algorithm, there is evidence to suggest that relevant keywords in a meta description will help when it comes to enticing a visitor onto your site. The more interaction you receive with your site, the better your chances of scaling the ranks. So, at the very least, it inadvertently helps your SEO by getting people to click onto your site.

Meta robot attribute

The meta robot attribute tells the search engine what to do with your pages. For example, you may tell the crawlers to ‘index’ or not to index the page, which signifies whether want the page to show up in search results or not. You may also direct the crawler to ‘follow’ or not to follow particular links that appear on each page. This is important when it comes to backlinks as you may not want to give up your “link juice” to another site.

 

Although you can’t see them, meta tags are an integral element to optimise when trying to climb the search engine ranks and understanding their function is the first step towards effective use. If you already have an SEO strategy in place, ask your Account Manager to show you your meta data and explain how it’s been optimised. If you don’t already have an SEO campaign and you’d like to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Digital Strategists via email or give us a call!

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By Jen McKinnon


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