What are meta tags?

Meta tags play a key role in the make up of every webpage online. They are important when it comes to search engine results pages (SERPs) as they contribute towards getting your website to appear on them and if so, how highly.

They’re kind of like a webpage’s DNA, hidden away in the HTML coding and letting search engines know what it contains.

What Types of Meta Tags are There and What Do They Do?

There a few varieties of meta tags to get your head around.

Meta Title: This is the title of your webpage as it appears in search engine results. This also appears in your web browser. A successful meta title needs to closely relate to your content and should ideally feature some of the keywords you want your page to rank for – but beware of keyword stuffing! You also want your meta title to have the right length so it doesn’t get cut out in SERPs – aim for around 55-65 characters including spaces to be on the safe side.

Meta Description: This, as the name suggests, describes what’s on your page in more detail. The meta description also appears beneath your meta title and URL in search results. For Google, it needs to contain fewer than 320 characters and should accurately describe what your page contains and why a visitor might want to click through to it.

Alt text: This is a meta tag that can be included with images on web pages to signal to search engines what those images are about when they crawl your website. To get the best search results, a relevant term to the page should be included. Too many people leave it blank and miss out on this opportunity.

Canonical tags: These inform search engines that multiple pages should be treated as a single page in search results, so you don’t dilute the SEO value to pages you don’t want to rank. Also, if you have discontinued products for example, a canonical tag can be put in place to point search engines to existing products if the content on that page is near enough the same. These work especially well when there are elements of duplicate content.

H1 tags: These can be included as part of your page’s HTML and should go at the top of your page above any of your content. These tags help tell search engines what your page contains and it’s very important that you avoid duplicate H1 tags and only have 1 relevant H1 tag per page. You can also add in H2, H3, H4 tags etc to break up your text and provide more information to the search engines.

Schema: This type of tag allows you to put more specifics about your content and helps enhance what appears when your page shows up in search results.

What to avoid

Search engines only read up to a certain point, so don’t include too much. Keep it accurate and concise. Google recently extended the number of characters a meta description can include to 320 characters before they get truncated.

With regards to meta titles, don’t get ambitious and start to play around too much with these. Sometimes it’s best to simply state what it is your page contains.

How to get Meta Tags right

In terms of a general approach to meta tags, in many ways, this meta information is just as important when it comes to getting your content read as the quality of the content itself.

If you underestimate or underappreciate the role meta tags play in bringing people to your site, the chances are you’ll be somewhat disappointed when you look at the numbers.

Therefore, when creating a new page, don’t rush through the meta tag process. If you have an existing website you fear hasn’t been tagged as well as it could be, a technical SEO web health audit can help you identify and improve this element of your site. And if you’re building a new site, be sure not to lose any SEO value you may have built up over the years.

How might Un.titled help

If you need a helping hand getting your meta tags just right, as well as making sure that your website is in a good technical shape, just reach out to our SEO agency. Our experts can help you enhance your digital marketing strategy to achieve your SEO objectives and much more.