Beginners Guide To Meta Tags

By Ricky on August 26, 2014

Meta tags are key to success in search engine optimisation.

Perhaps nowadays people may tell you that they aren’t as relevant as they were a couple of years ago, but it’s still vital that you understand how to use them if you want your website to rank well.

In technical terms, meta tags are simple portions of HTML code located in the headers of web page. Meta tags play an important role in helping search engines understand what the content of a website relates to.

Why Are Meta Tags So Important?

Quite simply, the information contained in them is used by search engines to index a page. The pages on your website won’t be identified by search engines if you don’t use meta tags correctly.

 

What Information Should Meta Tags Contain?

The key pieces of information to focus on are the title of your webpage, a description of what it’s about and some relevant keywords.

 

Title Tag

The title tag is the text that will appear in the navigation bar of a search engine. It’s important that the title gives an accurate summary of what a page is about, and it’s your opportunity to attract searchers to click through to your site.

Title tags must contain the main keyword for your site, and it should come first in the text. For example, if your site sells mountain bike accessories, a good title tag would be “Mountain bike accessories – Quality at Best Prices.”

Example of title tag code:

 <title>Example Title</title>

 

Meta Description

The description tag is not a Google ranking factor itself, however huge important to give concise summary of what your website offers to a reader, and an opportunity to give them a compelling reason to click through to your page.

For a mountain bike accessory store, a description might be “We stock the best mountain bike accessories at the best prices. All products guaranteed, buy with confidence.” Try to express benefits in your description tag to attract visitors.

Its best practice to include a call to action within your Meta description to give your reader a clear instruction of what action to take and why.

Example of Meta description tag code:

<meta name="description" content="This is a meta description. 
This text will show up in Google’s search engine results page.">

Related: How to write compelling title tags and meta descriptions

 

How Do You Choose The Right Keywords?

SEO is often more of an art than an exact science, and choosing the right keywords is a big part of it. Your Meta tag keywords must of course be relevant to the content of your site, but you also have to be realistic about the type of searches you might rank for.

Broad keywords generally have high competition, and mean you have little chance of ranking well. If you select narrower niches, your site will generally do better.

For example, if you have a website about Italian food, more exact keywords like “pasta recipe” and “pizza topping” will probably work better than “Italian food.”

 

Are Meta Tags Still Relevant To SEO?

The short answer is yes. Whilst it’s now accepted that the meta description tag does not directly influence search ranking, the title tag still plays a very important role within the Google search results page.

One meta tag that is of no use however, is the “keywords tag”.

The keywords tag was used by search engines in the 90s but was abused by “keyword stuffing” to the extent that Google deemed it no longer a reliable quality indicator of a website. This was confirmed by the head of Google’s Web spam team Matt Cutts back in 2009.

 

Your Say!

As always, let us know your best practice for title and meta description tags. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask within the comments below.

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