Wondering what meta tags mean in terms of SEO or search engine optimization? In a nutshell, meta tags are a brief description or snippet of the page’s content. Think of meta tags as an elevator pitch of what the page’s content is about.
However, meta tags are not incorporated into the page’s content. The tags are inserted into the page’s source code or HTML to tell the search engines what that online content is about. This HTML code usually appears at the page’s top and can only be seen by search engines.
In addition to meta tags, there is metadata. This is information about the data contained in a page’s meta tags. Let’s look at how meta tags impact SEO and your online content’s search engine rankings.
While meta tags can boost your SEO efforts, this isn’t a fast and hard rule. In other words, some meta tags won’t have an impact on your search engine optimization at all. You can find out if a page has active meta tags by viewing its source code.
You can do this by right-clicking somewhere within the page and selecting “view page source.” From there, another page will launch and you’ll see the page’s HTML. If meta tags are used, they should appear at the top of the source code.
Keep in mind that not all pages will use meta tags and it’s not necessarily a requirement to rank. However, if you are going to use meta tags, you should know what types exist. Let’s look at the different types of meta tags next.
Search engines recognize four different kinds of meta tags. Some of them are somewhat outdated and not as useful as others. Nonetheless, some meta tags can impact your organic traffic and should become a part of your SEO best practices.
Four different types of meta tags you should be familiar with include meta keywords attribute, title tag, meta description attribute, and meta robots attribute.
The meta keywords attribute contains relevant keywords that apply to a page’s content. A title tag is what search engines display as your page’s title in the search results. The meta description attribute describes what your page is about.
Finally, the meta robots attribute tells web crawlers and bots what to do with the page. Now, we’ll look at each of these meta tag types in detail.
A meta keywords attribute is something that no longer holds much water with search engines. And that’s because people abused it and search engines had to fight back by dropping its value and influence in SERP rankings.
While meta keywords had some impact in the past, it’s a practice that you may not have to pay much attention to. When people abused the practice, they’d put meta keywords into a page’s code that weren’t relevant to the content.
These keywords were usually trending and generating lots of organic traffic. But imagine searching for that topic and pulling up a page that had nothing to do with it. This creates a poor user experience and search engines had to crack down on it.
Although you can still include meta keyword attributes that match your page’s content, be aware that they won’t have a huge impact on your rankings. In fact, Google does not factor meta keyword attributes into rankings whatsoever.
Yes, title tags have a real impact on your content’s search engine rankings and results. Out of all the meta tags, title tags should be your top priority. These tags are visible to your audience and those searching for solutions to their problems.
Title tags are basically the headlines and bolded text you see in the search engine results. These tags also appear at the top of the browser when you click on a page. Title tags are the brief summaries or elevator pitches that can make a real difference in organic traffic.
They essentially tell someone what your content or page is about. So, if you’re searching for pizza restaurants in Chicago, title tags that contain variations of this phrase will be more appealing.
The meta description attribute is also helpful when you’re optimizing your online content. A meta description attribute picks up where the title tag left off. It gives audiences more details about your page.
However, meta descriptions are not consistent in terms of whether they display in a person’s search results. Sometimes search engines will show another text snippet from your content. And while the keywords in a meta description won’t impact your rankings, clicks will.
So, if your meta descriptions are enticing enough to increase your page’s click-through rate, your rankings will improve as a result.
A meta robots attribute tells search engines whether to index or follow your page. Indexing means it will show up in search engine results and a no index attribute will tell the engine to not display your page.
A follow attribute says to trust and follow the links on your page. A no follow attribute tells search engines not to follow those links.
You might want to tell a search engine not to index a page if it’s related or somewhat duplicate content. Some content creators also use no follow attributes for paid links or nonorganic backlinks.
To summarize meta tags and how they impact SEO, the most important tag to pay attention to is the title tag. If anything, the title tag by itself will influence your rankings. However, descriptive tags can tell people what your page is about and motivate them to click through to your content.
Meta keywords are things that search engines no longer factor into your site’s rankings. Too much keyword stuffing and abuse in the past led to search engines ignoring meta keywords. Anyone can put meta tags into practice, as long as they’re familiar with basic HTML.