Are you trying to boost you rankings in top search engines? Adding meta tags will not land you on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs), but by optimizing your tags, you are on your way to better click-through results. Tags can help browsers understand what your content is about and give visitors valuable insight into what the content is on any given page on your website. Good titles and meta descriptions can mean the difference between a viewer clicking through to view your content or overlooking your site in favor of another with a content title and description that appears more engaging or relevant.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are optional page descriptors found in the <head> of the HTML code of your site. While your audience can’t see these tags, they are helpful because they tell the browser and the audience what your page is about. Here is the rundown on the meta tags you should be aware of.
The title tag is not technically a meta tag, because according to the W3C, it is a required page element. The title tag can be found in the <head> of your HTML code and looks like this:
<title>Place keyword optimized title here</title>
How does you potential customer see it? Your page title will be highlighted and underlined on search results pages and, depending on the browser, may also appear in a tab or bar at the top of the browser.
It is important to choose targeted, relevant text for this tag as it will be visible to readers. Keep the following tips in mind when creating your title tags:
- Create unique title tags for each page on your site; don’t use the same title tag for every page or you may be inaccurately describing your page and missing out on keyword opportunities.
- Don’t stuff your title with keywords…keep it to one or two important keyword phrases based on your actual page content! Here is an example of keyword stuffing:
Meta tags - Title tags - All tags | Company Name
Instead, set it up this way:
Meta & Title Tags | Company Name OR Meta tags-Title Tags | Company Name
- DO NOT write the title tag using the word “and” because Google will assume your search term is “meta and title tags” rather than “meta tags” and “title tags” separately. Using the ampersand indicates to Google that these are two different search terms.
- Title tags should be no longer than 70 characters (this includes spaces).
- According to SEOMoz, the best way to set up a title tag is with pipes between your keywords and your company name. Place most important keywords first in title tags.
- Keep your title short and sweet. It shouldn’t look like a complete sentence. For example, use “Optimizing Meta Data | OpenVine” instead of “Optimizing your title tags and meta tags | OpenVine.”
There are varying opinions on whether or not to include your company name in the title tag. You can do so for branding, but it isn’t necessarily needed. If your company has a reputation issue, leave the company name off. It your company has a very strong, popular brand, you might want to include it as the first item in your title tag.
Meta Description tag:
While your audience will not be viewing your HTML code, these descriptions ARE visible to viewers. They show up as the description on SERP results.
In your site’s HTML code, the meta description tag will appear this way:
<head><meta name=”description” content-“This is what a meta description looks like in HTML. You will often see this in search results under the page title.”></head>
- Include page relevant keywords in your meta description tag.
- Avoid using the same keyword more than once. Instead, use similar keyword phrases. Need ideas on how to come up with keywords? Check out our blog, “’A Beginner's Guide to Keyword Research.
- Keep your meta description between 150 and 160 characters in length (including spaces). If you have more characters, the search engine will place an ellipse after the description reaches 160 characters. If you have no description, the search engine will automatically pull text from your site for a description which may or may not be something you want to appear on SERPs. For each page of your website, use a meta description that is relevant to that specific page’s content. This way you can ensure that the description and keywords in your tag actually match the page content.
Meta Keywords Tag:
These are not visible in SERPs. In the <head> of your HTML code, they appear this way:
<meta name="keywords" content="first keyword phrase, second keyword phrase,… ">
According to SEOMoz and other SEO gurus, these keyword tags are no longer a ranking factor for the major search engines. Furthermore, by including them, you are allowing your competition access to the keywords you are targeting. It is better to include a couple of effective keywords into your page content rather than including them in the keyword tag.
That said, if you do choose to use the meta keywords tag, here are a couple of guidelines:
- Avoid keyword repetition by using relevant keyword variations in the keyword tags. You can use keywords repeatedly if they are a part of unique keyword phrases. For example, you can use “website optimization,” “small business website optimization,” and “website optimization tips,” because they are all unique keyword phrases.
- Use keywords specific to each page you are adding tags for; don’t use the same keywords for every page.
- Separate keywords with commas.
Robots Meta Tag:
You may have pages on your site that you don’t want indexed by search engines. To indicate that you want these pages excluded from indexing, consider adding a link to the <head> your HTML code that looks like this:
<meta name=”robots” content=”no index”>
This notifies search engines that while they can visit the page, they cannot display its URL in results.
By using these tags, you are enhancing your search marketing and giving potential customers clear, relevant information about the content on your site.
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