Meta tags are HTML codes that provide important information, or metadata, about your web page to search engines and visitors. While they don’t appear on the page itself, they can be found in its source code.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags provide search engines the information they need to know what your content is about, making them an important aspect of search engine optimization.
Unlike tags in blog posts, which are visible locations, meta tags only appear in HTML and can be found at the head, which is usually the top part of the page.
To find a page’s meta tag, right-click (CTRL + U) anywhere on a page and click on “View Page Source.” Meta tags will often be preceded by the words “meta name” or “meta property,” among other variations of elements, and will look something like this:
<meta charset=”UTF-8”> or <meta name= “description” content= “sample descriptive text…”/>
This information can be used by search engines for rankings or to determine how it should be read. When optimized, meta tags can help search engines find the important parts of your content, which, in turn, can make your page stand out from other results on search engine results pages or SERPs.
How Do They Affect SEO?
While meta tags are helpful when it comes to SEO efforts, not all of them can be utilized for such purposes.
Search engines consider pages that satisfy a user’s query to be valuable. Meta tags are useful in such cases as they display relevant page information in a concise manner. Other meta tags tell search engines about a page’s structure, telling them whether a certain page is easy to navigate or not.
Types of Meta Tags for Site Optimization
There are many types of meta tags but not all of them are relevant when it comes to SEO efforts. There are six primary types that are important for optimizing your site:
- Title Tags
Considered the most crucial meta tag, title tags contain important information and can impact a page’s rankings. These appear on SERPs and are easily visible to all users.
Title tags offer viewers a preview of your content, which is why it’s important for them to be clear, concise, and descriptive. Ideally, title tags should be unique and shouldn’t exceed 55 characters. Including relevant keywords within this character limit might help with your SEO, but keep in mind that what you should be offering to search engines and viewers is value.
Stuffing title tags with keywords is counterproductive and won’t always have a positive impact on search results.
- Meta Description Tags
Meta description tags describe what your content is about to both search engines and viewers.
While they won’t directly affect search rankings, they work like organic ads that influence a viewer’s decision whether they should click your URL or not. Having a good click-through rate can send a signal to search engines that your page is valuable, and this might indirectly positively affect your ranking.
Adding relevant keywords to your meta description can prompt search engines to highlight these keywords, thus making it easier for your content to stand out on SERPs.
- Heading Tags
These HTML tags are primarily used to identify the parts of your content, particularly its headings and subheadings.
Having an organized structure is crucial for search engines and users. Having organized headings helps search engines understand your page, thus making it easier for them to see if it has any structural issues. At the same time, headings also act as text anchors that make it easier for users to navigate through your content.
- Robots Meta Tags
Robots meta tags are somehow similar to robots.txt. These tell search engines what to do with your pages, whether or not they should be indexed, or if any links should be followed or not. There are four principal values you can use for this tag: index, noindex, follow, and nofollow.
- Meta Viewport
This meta tag lets page owners determine the “look” of their page in terms of scale and how it’s displayed on devices.
In an increasingly mobile-friendly world, neglecting your page’s viewport meta tags can have some serious consequences, such as users having a poor mobile experience. While it has no direct correlation to page rankings, it does affect user experience.
- Alt Text Tags
One of the most important elements of SEO is image optimization. By using alt text tags, you’re making the images on your content easily accessible to search engines and viewers alike by providing them with descriptions of your visual content. They also make it easier for search engines to know what your images are about.