SEO basics

Meta Tags: impact on your SEO and good practices

April 23, 2015 - 4  min reading time - by Emma Labrador
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Meta tags are tiny descriptions which are invisible on-page. They describe your content, tell search engines what your page is about, and suggest the text to display in SERPs. The better their content, the more clickable your results, and the better your rankings will be.

Meta tags are located in the HTML (more precisely in the head of your HTML document) and are only visible to search engines. However, there are different kinds of meta tags and not all of them work the same way. Some are worth taking time to optimize in SEO, whereas others are not as useful as they used to be.

Here are the five meta tags used in SEO:

  1. Title tag
  2. Meta Description Attribute
  3. The Keywords Meta Tag
  4. Meta Robots Attribute
  5. Authorship

This post aims to give you more details about how these meta tags can affect your SEO.

1# Title Tag

What is it?

Titles tags are the main tags on which you should focus. They have a real impact on your search engine results and your page ranking. Moreover, they are the only tags visible to your audience, at the top of your browser, so it is necessary to fill them in the right way. It has the benefit to tell exactly what your page is about in a glance.

What are the good practices?

  • Use your main keyword phrase you think your audience will type
  • Write a 60 characters title to respect the Google title length
  • Prefer long-tail phrases: they have the advantage to target the ideal audience and to optimize your ranking on a specific field. Using just a keyword will lost you in the wide range of results related to that keyword

#2 Meta Description Attribute

What is it?

Meta description is a very relevant data to insert in your HTML. It informs search engines in a small summary what your page is about. It goes further than the title tag by displaying more content to your visitors in the SERP.
Even if Google has said that keywords in your meta description are not affecting your ranking, it can compel visitors to click on your site through the SERP if the keywords are the ones they are looking for. So meta description does not matter for its keywords but for its entire meaning!

What are the good practices?

  • Insert a customized description tag: you will have the right to change it; otherwise search engines will display the first sentences of you page content
  • Respect the recommended length: the SERP displays between 150 and 160 characters. Over this length, your content will be cut
  • Avoid duplicate meta description tag: if all you meta descriptions look the same, it will create duplicate content and secondly discourage your audience to open your page
  • Do not use quotes in your description: Google will cut off them. So if there are necessary, use single quotes instead of double ones

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#3 The Keywords Meta Tag

Keywords tags do not matter anymore as it was previously considered as a critical element of the SEO. Stuffing strategies have led to delete that element to search engine criteria. Bing is now the only one rewarding the keyword tag but it just uses it to detect spam content. So you should not bother to add them and you will save time!

#4 Meta Robots Attribute

What is it?

This meta informs the search engine what to do with your pages. There are two different: The first is index/noindex, or a way to tell engines to show your page in the search results or not. The second, follow/nofollow, means if engines should consider and follow your links to the next page or not.
The point Follow/no follow will soon have a focus article.

What are the best practices?

  • If you want bots to crawl your website from the main page and then to the remaining ones, use “Index, Follow”
  • If you want bots to crawl your main page but not the others ones, use “Index, NoFollow”
  • If you want bots to not crawl the main page but the remaining ones, use “NoIndex, Follow”
  • Then, if you want bots to not crawl either your main page and the other ones, use “NoIndex, NoFollow

#5 Authorship

Authorship results that used to be rewarded in search results and rank content using rel=author no longer count. The reason is that it did not bring enough value compared to the amount of resources required to process the data. In fact, Authorship just got a few adopters and was considered as not relevant anymore by Google soon after the implementation. Find a brief history of Google Autorship in this article by Searchengineland.

How to optimize your meta tags?

Meta tag optimization can be time consuming when you handle a large website or even to monitor your existing ones. To know if all your meta are well organized and filled out, you should use an audit SEO tool. This is where Oncrawl can help. Our crawler offers the ability to easily check your meta tags performances and to detect which meta should be optimized.

Emma Labrador See all their articles
Emma was the Head of Communication & Marketing at Oncrawl for over seven years. She contributed articles about SEO and search engine updates.
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