Meta Tags and Why They Are Important

Meta tags; make sure you're using them to your advantage!

Use Meta Tags to Your Advantage

Meta tags are used to describe certain aspects of each page on your website and are read by search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing for showing organic search results. Meta tags are written in HTML and placed as part of the heading code at the top of each page. Meta tags, when placed correctly, are never visible on your webpage.

Here is a sample of what meta tags on your website may look like:

These are some actual meta tags that are on a website we build for Dancey Pants Disco.

One of the many nice features about having a WordPress website is that you can easily write and update meta tags without having to place them in the HTML code. Depending on the SEO plugins or themes your website uses, each page or post edit screen will typically contain a section where you can enter relevant keywords, description, and other relevant information.  Our website and those that we build for clients utilize the Yoast SEO plugin, which looks like this:

Setting meta data in Yoast SEO for WordPress

What are Meta Tags?

There are several kinds of meta tags, but the ones you want to pay close attention to pertain to the description and title for each webpage.

The description meta tag provides a concise one- or two-sentence description of what the webpage is about. If a person is searching for something that your business provides, but is unfamiliar with you, how would you convince them that your business will meet and exceed their needs? When writing this description, be sure to craft it in such a way that the user will want to click and visit your website to learn more!

The title tag provides the text that will appears in the “tab” area of your browser at the top of your screen and be visible to the viewer as long as your website is open in their browser. You don’t have a great deal of space here, so make sure your business’ name comes first.

In the past there was also a keywords meta tag.  The keywords meta tag provided a comma separated list of words and phrases that describe what information you are providing on that specific page. Though some older SEO plugins or themes may still contain a place to list a long group of key words or phrases, you’ll notice that the Yoast SEO plugin no longer includes this.  (The “focus Keyword” in the box above is merely for telling the plugin your goal for the page so that it can grade you.)  As Amber discussed in a earlier post, search engines are no longer indexing sites by meta keyword because it was being abused website owners.

Keywords  are not dead though.  When writing content for your website, you still need to select a focus for each individual page and post.  This focus is a keyword or phrase that should be highly relevant to your audience and appear in the webpage’s body text, headlines, or meta description in a way that is natural sounding and reader-friendly.  In this way, keywords are more relevant than ever – they just aren’t included in a list hidden in the website’s <head> section.

Setting meta data in Yoast SEO for WordPress

The meta tags for description and title are used by search engines in varying degrees when indexing each page for organic search results. Depending on the search engine, the content you provide in your meta tags may also be what is displayed in their organic search results.  Additionally, meta titles and descriptions are often the information that is used by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to create the preview snippet when a link is shared with others.  Because your meta tags are visible to people and not just search engines, it’s worth spending a little time and effort to create them in a way that best showcases your business.

The best advice to follow, when writing the language for your description and keywords, is to focus on your audience or your customer. Make sure that the material you are offering is readable, accurate, and follows correct grammar and spelling. If you’re not sure where to start, ask some of your best customers what words or phrases they would use to describe your business and what they would use when using a search engine to find what your offer. You can also use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool for free.  Doing a little research in advance can help you out in the long-run!

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