Back in 2006, when I was just introduced to the world of SEO, meta tags were the “craze”. Everyone was talking about stuffing their meta tags with keywords–and it worked. Meta tags were a big ranking factor back then even though it’s easy to manipulate.
Of course, Google was able to detect that right away and gave less importance to meta tags. Even though it’s not a strong ranking factor as before, it’s still an essential part of SEO.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are codes inside the <head> tag that provide information about the page to search engines and browsers. That’s why meta tags are still important. Without them, search engines and browsers would have a difficult time figuring out what your page is about.
Add These 5 Meta Tags to Your Site
The list below is the 5 most important meta tags for SEO. Use these tags correctly and it will help Google rank your sites for your keywords.
1. Title Tag
The title tag tells search engines what a page is about. It’s the title that shows up on the tab of your browser. It’s also the title that usually shows up in the search results. I said usually because sometimes Google doesn’t use a page’s title tag if it thinks there’s a more relevant title it can use in its search results.
Here are some dos and don’ts when writing your title tag:
- Add your keywords in the title tag
- Put the most important keywords first
- Use 40-60 characters
- Write attractive titles (Not only will you get more clicks, but you’ll also get better rankings eventually through RankBrain)
- Stuff your title tag with keywords only
- Use ALL CAPS on unnecessary words
- Use repeat variations of your main keyword (Google understands variations of your keywords. That’s why if you optimize for the keyword “seo”, you’ll also rank for “search engine optimization”)
Example: <title>What Are Meta Tags? Add These 5 Important Tags on Your Site</title>
Here’s what it will look like on Google:
2. Meta Description
The meta description tag is used for one purpose: to describe the page to searchers as they read through search results.
Meta descriptions can help you get better rankings… indirectly. It’s the text that appears at the bottom of the URL of a result on Google. People read it. It’s part of the copy of your website.
If you write an attractive meta description that gets people to click on your search result, then like the title tag’s influence on ranking via RankBrain, the meta description will indirectly affect your rankings, too.
Example: <meta name=”description” content=”What you put in the meta description tag of the page goes here. The optimal character count is between 120-160 characters.”/>
Here’s what it will look like on Google:
3. Meta Robots
The meta robots tag tells search engines what to do and what not to do on a certain page.
We use this tag here at carlocab.com because there are some pages on our site that we don’t want indexed. For instance, we don’t want Google to index our success page. It’s where our visitors go to after they use our contact forms. It has thin content and we don’t want it part of Google’s record of our site.
These are the most common meta robot commands:
- noindex – This prevents Google from indexing the page.
- nofollow – This tells Google not to follow any links on the page.
- noarchive – This prevents Google from showing a cached version of the page.
If you want Google to index and follow the links in a page, you do not need to use a meta robots tag as Google, by default, indexes and follows links on a page,
Example: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”/>
4. Meta Viewport
The meta viewport tag tells Google that the page is mobile-friendly. This is important for SEO as Google has implemented mobile-first indexing on most sites.
Paste the sample code below if your page is mobile-friendly. If you’re using WordPress, this is automatically added to the code of your site.
Example: <meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″ />
5. Rel Canonical
The rel canonical tag is crucial to avoid on-site duplicate content. Yes, duplicate content can happen within your site–on the same URL.
Did you know that you can show different content on www.domain.com and domain.com? That’s why Google treats those two as two different websites if you don’t redirect one from the other. Google also treats these URLs as different pages if left with no rel canonical tag:
You can tell Google which is the main URL by using the rel canonical tag. Aside from using the rel canonical tag, it’s good practice to canonicalize your domain as well by implementing 301 redirects.
Example: <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.carlocab.com/meta-tags/” />
Avoid The Meta Keywords Tag
Forget about it. It only worked before. However, people took advantage of it by stuffing huge amounts of keywords on it so Google stopped using it.
Other Meta Tags
These are tags that you can do without but can be useful for different sites for specific circumstances.
- Social meta tags – This tag is not important for SEO but can be helpful for social media. If you correctly set up the 5 important meta tags above, your posts will look good on social media so this tag won’t be necessary.
- Language – There’s no need to use this meta tag unless your site is not in English, which will require you to declare the main language used in pages.
- Geo tag – This meta tag is not supported by Google. If you want to geo-target your site, verify it via Google Search Console and use the international targeting tool.
- Site verification tags – If you’re trying to verify your site on Google Search Console or some SEO tool, you may be required to paste a small snippet of meta tag that includes a verification code.
- Rating tag – This tag indicates the maturity rating of a page. If your website does not contain adult content, you don’t have to think about this tag.