There are various parts that comprise a successful SEO strategy, and the meta tags of an individual web page are one piece of a much larger puzzle. However, these tags are critical for keyword targeting. Most meta tags are located in the Head section of the source code of your website. I suspect most of you just furrowed your brows and quickly thought, “What?” Each web page is built with code and each web page has three sections:
- Head section
- Body section
- Footer section
Each section is identified in the code in the following manner:
- The Head section begins with a <head> tag and ends with a </head> tag.
- The Body section begins with a <body> tag and ends with a </body> tag.
- The Footer section begins with a <footer> tag and ends with a </footer> tag.
We are going to discuss the various meta tags that are typically located in the Head section of your website.
The goal of Search Engine Optimization is to educate the search engine crawlers about the subject matter of a particular web page or digital asset (i.e. image, video or document). The Meta tags located in the Head section set the table by defining an individual web page’s subject matter or the page’s target keyword.
The Title Tag is part of the SEO Trinity. This tag must align completely with the page’s URL and content (The other components of the Trinity). It is one of the strongest signals that informs the search engines that a page is about X and directly impacts keyword ranking. There are a series of basic best practices for crafting an optimized Title Tag.
- Use a maximum of 65 characters (including spaces).
- The page’s target keyword should be at the beginning.
- Each page must have one Title Tag.
- Each Title Tag must be unique (never use the same Title Tag on other pages).
- Branding always appears at the end of the Title Tag.
- Separate branding with a hyphen or pipe.
A user sees the Title Tag on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The user will not see this content on the web page itself.
Meta Description Tag
The Meta Description Tag indirectly impacts keyword ranking and greatly influences SERP click-through rate. SERP click-through rate directly impacts keyword ranking so the Meta Description Tag is very important. Here are some basic rules to follow when writing a Meta Description Tag.
- Never exceed 150 characters (including spaces).
- Utilize the page’s target keyword near the beginning of this tag.
- Each page must have one Meta Description Tag.
- Each Meta Description Tag must be unique (never use the same Description on other pages).
- Use call-to-action language that will convince the user to click on your search result.
Users will see this snippet on the SERP, and it will not be visible on your web page.
Meta Robots Tag
Use with caution. You really need to know how to properly deploy this tag and you need to clearly understand the various directives of this tag. Some directives instruct the search engines to index the page and some tell the search engines to pound sand. Meaning you do not want the search engines to index the page, which means that page will receive zero organic search engine referrals. Here are some of those directives:
- <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”>
- <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”INDEX, NOFOLLOW”>
- <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”>
The first set tells the engines to not include that page in the index, but to follow all the hyperlinks on that page. The second set tells the engines to index the page, but to not follow the links on the page that point to other pages. The final set of instructions tells the engines to ignore the page and all the links on the page. That effectively renders the page useless for organic referral traffic.
Open Graph Tags
Open Graph Tags (OG Tags) are used for crafting customized share messaging on some social network platforms. Facebook is the primary social network that pulls OG Tag information to create a user’s status update. Here are the typical OG Tags:
- meta property=”og:title”
- meta property=”og:description”
- meta property=”og:type”
- meta property=”og:url”
- meta property=”og:image”
- meta property=”og:site_name”
These tags do not impact ranking directly. However, studies have shown the top ranking pages for competitive keywords tend to have the most share totals from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other networks.
Meta Keyword Tag
The Meta Keyword Tag. What can I say? It really serves no constructive purpose for U.S.-based websites. Google does not give this tag any weight, but if abused it can lead to a penalty. Rumor has it, Bing relies on the Meta Keyword Tag if two pages are tied after Bing has analyzed the pages against 200-plus other ranking factors. Since it really provides zero benefit, but it can potentially harm your site, there is no reason to use this Meta Tag.
Other HTML Meta Tags
There are dozens of other Meta tags that can be utilized in the Head section of a website. However, I would not use them. Every line of code impacts page load speed and you want your web pages to load as fast as possible. A faster loading page is super important for improving your SEO. Since those other tags do not help with SEO and can negatively impact page load speed, it is best to avoid using them.