Meta tags are those curious little bits of information encoded in every web page. They don’t show up on the page when you view it. Meta tags hide behind the scenes but do a whole lot of work, particularly when it comes to usability and SEO. What are these powerful little snippets? Let’s find out.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are html codes that provide web page information for website visitors and search engines. Encoded in the html head of each page, meta tags include descriptive elements that include title and description relevant to that specific page. Meta tags parse data, or, in other words explain the page in ways that browsers understand. More importantly, the title and descriptions tags show up in search engine results. The meta tag text is what people see when your site comes up on Google, Bing and other search engines. Meta tags are an important part of your SEO efforts and are essential for your site to index correctly in search engines.
The Title Tag
If you look at the upper tab in your browser on this website for example, you can see what a title tag does. The title tag tells visitors as well as search engines what the page is about in a concise and descriptive manner. For example, an online health portal title tag might read ” Your Free Online Health Portal from Company Name.” No sales speak, just the basics.
Title tags are utilized in a number of ways. Social media channels and other websites pull the title tag and use it as anchor text when your site is shared. The title tag text is also that big blue link that shows up in Google search results. It’s what searchers see first and if it grabs their interest, makes them click through. Title tags are an important aspect of a complete SEO strategy.
How can you write a great title tag that brings in visitors and improves your search engine results? Try these tips:
- The optimum title tag length including spaces is 50-60 characters.
- Describe what your business does first using your main keyword, then secondary keyword. Put your company name at the end, like the health portal example above. Do not repeat keywords in the title tag.
- Make each page title tag unique.
- Make sure title tags accurately represent the page.
The Meta Description
The meta description is a short, concise description of the page contents. You have a little more room here to describe your business and mission, but the description tag should still be concise and to the point. The description you write is what appears under the bold link in search engines. Written correctly, the description can increase click through rates.
For example, if you give golf lessons, an effective description for the signup page might read “Sign up here to improve your golf game fast. A hands-on learning program designed for intermediate golfers who want to move up to the next level.” Describe the page and include a call-to-action. Make interested visitors want to visit your page and sign up.
Like title tags, there are some rules to creating great description tags. Overall length should be approximately 135-160 characters. Most search engines cut off the remaining text. If you have to use a longer description tag, place the most important information first, but try to keep it less lengthy. Do not repeat keywords or duplicate descriptions on other pages. This is your chance to encourage people to visit your site. Put some thought into it.
The Keyword Meta Tag
The keyword meta tag used to be important but not anymore. In fact, using a keyword meta tag can get you into more trouble than it’s worth now. Bing in particular looks for keyword meta tags as a sign of spam content. Not a label you want. It’s best to avoid this tag altogether.