7 Essential Meta Tags For SEO
There’s somewhat of a hierarchy of importance in SEO. Many would consider content to be the most important part while others consider backlinks to be most crucial.
We believe that SEO is more of a comprehensive effort and you need to pay attention to everything regardless of how big or small of an impact it can have on your site.
That’s where meta tags for SEO come into play. These tags help tell the search engine what your page is about, how you should approach it, and who the page is designed to cater to.
So, this guide is going to break down various meta tags that you should be using on your website, how to use them properly, and how they can benefit your overall optimization efforts.
What Are Meta Tags?
Behind every website is a series of codes that describe the information you’re reading. As you’re reading through this article right now, all of this information is interpreted on the backend of the website as HTML code.
Meta tags are snippets of information embedded into the HTML code of the page that provides essential details about the content to search engines and visitors.
This is crucial for SEO because it helps search engines understand what a web page is about so it can rank it accordingly for various keywords.
Crafting effective meta tags for SEO can significantly improve a page’s visibility and click-through rate in search engine results.
Why Are Meta Tags Important?
By now we understand that meta tags are important for visibility, that’s clear. But let’s be a little more specific:
Improved SEO – Meta tags containing relevant keywords that are associated with the content helps search engines read the code and identify what the content is about. This makes it easier to rank for the keywords you want to drive the right audience onto your website.
Increased CTR – Your click through rate is important because simply getting people to see your site in the SERPS isn’t enough. You need them to actually click and proper title tags and meta descriptions can help make this happen.
Enhanced User Experience – While meta tags are primarily designed to communicate with search engines, they also serve as a preview for users. A concise and descriptive meta title can give users a clear understanding of what to expect when they click on your page, helping them find the information they are seeking quickly.
7 Crucial Meta Tags for SEO
Now let’s take a look at the exact meta tags you’ll want to optimize to give yourself the best chance of ranking for your targeted keywords.
1. Title Tag
Your <title> tag is one of the most important meta tags for SEO because it’s the main thing people will see when they search for something on Google.
If you searched “how to get more backlinks” you might find this:
But what you’re not seeing is the code behind that:
[<title>How to Get Backlinks: 10 Strategies That Work</title>]
A well-optimized title tag that includes relevant keywords can improve the page’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs), making it more likely to be seen by users.
You can see that the example puts the primary keyword “how to get backlinks” right at the front. This is also because it’s the first thing users will see when they Google the phrase. It seems like a no-brainer.
They want to know how to get backlinks – this article is going to show them how to get backlinks with 10 easy methods.
This title tag clearly describes the content of the page. It provides a clear and concise identification of what users can expect to find on the webpage. This helps search engine users understand the relevance of the page to their search query, leading to better user experience and reducing bounce rates.
- Make sure to keep the title tag between 50-60 characters long so they don’t get truncated in the SERPs
- Put your most important keywords first whenever possible
- Make sure the title tag reads naturally, don’t force anything
2. Meta Description
Your meta description serves as a summary of what the webpage content is about and what the user can expect to learn by clicking through to the page. It provides them with a glimpse of what they’re going to get when they land.
Here’s a great example. The meta description below the title tag tells you exactly what you’re going to get.
If you click here, you’ll learn seven strategies for building high quality backlinks in 2023. Perfect!
A well-crafted meta description that accurately represents the content can entice users to click on the link, thereby improving the click-through rate (CTR) from search engine results.
That said, we’ve been told that search engines don’t directly use the meta description anymore as a ranking factor. So why bother?
Meta descriptions are still super important for user experience and CTR. When someone sees a relevant description they’re more likely to engage with the webpage and spend more time on the site resulting in improved rankings.
When you’re giving the user an accurate preview, it increases the chances of them being satisfied with their experience on your site.
Also, don’t throw keyword usage out the window either. A thoughtfully crafted meta description that includes relevant keywords can enhance the visibility of a webpage in search results. When a user’s search query matches the keywords in the meta description, search engines may display those keywords in bold, catching the user’s attention and increasing the chances of a click.
- Keep your meta descriptions between 145-155 characters
- Include any and all relevant keywords that you can naturally include
- Use buzz words like learn, discover, and reveal
3. Heading Tags
Heading tags are HTML tags used to structure and break up content on a webpage. H1, H2, H3, H4, and so on are all examples of this. These tags are used for readability but they’re also important for SEO.
If we look at the code of an article published on Linkwhisper.com – we’ll see this:
These are all header tags indicated by the <h2> or <h3> tags.
When you look at the live article about topic clusters, it looks like this:
These header tags help make the content more skimmable by breaking it up and providing headers that help users navigate to specific sections they want to learn about.
But these tags do a lot more than that.
One of the main reasons heading tags are useful for SEO is their ability to provide search engines with a clear understanding of the content’s structure and context. Search engines analyze heading tags to comprehend the topical relevance and hierarchy of information within a webpage.
By utilizing proper heading tags in a logical order, with H1 being the main heading followed by subheadings, you can help search engines interpret the importance and relationship between different sections of your content.
- Make sure your header tags follow a logical order from H1, to H2, to H3 and so on. Think of them like chapters.
- Don’t overuse the same keyword in too many headers
4. Canonical Tag
A canonical tag helps address issues with duplicate content to ensure that search engines index only the right pages.
John Mueller from Google has said that correctly using canonical tags helps Google consolidate all your work and pass the efforts towards the page version you want.
We get that this is a complicated subject that can be difficult to understand but here’s an example from Moz.
What this code does is tell the search engine that this is the newest and most accurate page so the search engine should index and favor this page over any other pieces of duplicate content.
When duplicate content exists across multiple URLs, the ranking signals can get diluted. This means that search engines may divide the ranking value between the various versions of the content, impacting the visibility and ranking potential of each individual page.
Canonical tags help consolidate these ranking signals, ensuring that the preferred version receives the majority of the ranking value. Redirecting traffic to a single page can improve the overall visibility and ranking potential.
- Use this tag on pages with similar content covering the same topic
- Be careful using canonical tags on pages that are closely related
5. Robots Meta Tag
This type of meta tag for SEO is very important as you start to scale out your content and publish a lot of blog articles or pages on your website. A robots meta tag provides instructions to crawlers regarding the indexing of a page.
You can choose to have a “noindex” tag on a page. If you do, the search engine will not index this page so it won’t appear in the search results. This is useful for pages that are no longer relevant or contain information you don’t want to appear in the SERPS.
We find that noindex tags are also useful for pages that have no intention of ranking and may only soak up the crawlers time on your site. These can include:
- Category pages
- Affiliate disclosures
- About us pages
These are all pages that typically won’t rank no matter what you do so it can be useful to put a robots.txt tag on them so Google doesn’t crawl them anymore.
- The more time Google can spend on your important pages, the better
- Make sure you don’t accidentally deindex important pages
- It can sometimes be worth deindexing old and outdated content as well
6. Image Alt Tags
Search engines can only “see” in text. Remember that. Text is the most important aspect of your website but of course, images help break down complex topics and make content easier to absorb.
For crawlers, we use alt text to describe an image so the search engine can know what it’s about.
For example, the alt text for this image is:
“Graphic that shows the flow to explain what are topic clusters”
While that may not read beautifully, it gives search engines an idea of what the image is so they can understand it. It also contains the keyword “what are topic clusters.”
Another time alt text is useful is if an image doesn’t load. Even if the image doesn’t load properly, the crawlers can still read it because it has alt text.
So, what happens if you don’t add alt text? Nothing really, but you’re simply missing out on another opportunity to pick up keywords.
- Don’t forget that Google can display images as a search result so this is another reason why it’s important to optimize them
- Be reasonable with keyword usage in your alt text
7. Schema Markup
Schema markup is a structured data vocabulary that allows webmasters to provide explicit and detailed information about their web content to search engines.
It involves adding special tags or code snippets to the HTML of a webpage, which provide additional context and meaning to search engines beyond the basic content. This markup helps search engines understand the content better, enabling them to present richer and more informative results in search engine listings.
If you’ve ever seen a “featured snippet,” this is typically the result of schema.
So, how do you actually add structured data to your website? We highly recommend checking out the guide linked there from Google Developers. It’s a complicated topic but it’s broken down very well by the almighty Google.
Think of it like this: Whatever you want Google and people to know about the page can be displayed as structured data. This can include pricing, ratings, business hours, and so on.
- Figure out what information is most important from your most powerful pages
- Use Structured Data Markup Helper for extra help
- Test various markups to see what works best
We put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making our websites as optimized as possible. Just when you think you’ve done it all, Google throws another curveball at us but something that has been here all along has been meta tags for SEO.
These tags might not seem like an important ranking factor but many of them are and you don’t want to neglect the little things.
We’ve always looked at SEO as a battle of the small things. Making these small changes and doing them properly can be the difference between a number one and a number two ranking which can result in a lot of cash.