Meta what? Meta tags explained

Meta… What?

Meta keywords, meta description, meta tags and title – all you hear is YOU MUST UPDATE THESE! But what are they, how useful are they REALLY and what should you be doing with them?

Well let me explain…

Pretty much the undisputed authority on web definitions is the w3schools website – if you’re interested to find out more about web programming and the like, it’s a treasure trove of useful information.

Here you will find meta tags defined thus:

“The <meta> tag provides metadata about the HTML document. Metadata will not be displayed on the page, but will be machine parsable. Meta elements are typically used to specify page description, keywords, author of the document, last modified, and other metadata. The metadata can be used by browsers (how to display content or reload page), search engines (keywords), or other web services.”

Source: http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_meta.asp

Essentially the key thing to remember with meta data in websites is that it can impact your search engine optimisation, and the likelihood your websites will offer a more attractive/relevant proposition to any active internet-searcher.

Most respectable content management systems focus on 3 key meta tags, the ‘title’, ‘description’ and ‘keywords’ tag – so that’s what we’ll focus on here.

Meta Title

Quite literally this field defines the title of the web document. These are most commonly found listed in search engines as the big blue underlined link text – mega important when it comes to attracting visitors.

Key considerations:

  1. 1. Title tags should be 50-60 characters long max – no longer else you risk penalisation by search engines – just under half a tweet in lengths please folks!
  2. 2. Suggested format – Primary Term, Secondary Term, Brand Name. At Fifteen Ten Ltd we like using ‘|’ as a separator given it’s appearance in search engine results. So for a roast chicken recipe by Fifteen Ten – you might have:

Delicious Roast Chicken Recipe | Sunday Roasts | Fifteen Ten

Why Meta Titles are important?

  1. 1. It’s commonly known that your meta title is a big deal for search engine rankings. Make it concise, make it relevant to your page, make it logical – you’re onto a winner.
  2. 2. It appears in the actual browser tab – this is simply a user friendly feature, to encourage understanding of your page content and make it easier to find in the computing interface, easier to find = more likely to gain clicks and interaction!
  3. 3. Automated link features such as that found when you post a link to somewhere like Linkedin or Facebook will use the meta title as their title of the page – so it is key that this is punchy and relevant to your content.

Meta Description

First myth debunked – meta descriptions do not literally help your search engine rankings – so please do not stuff them with keywords thinking you’re onto a winner! Google announced that search engine rankings are not impacted by the meta description or meta keywords back in 2009, check it out: http://bit.ly/1kUnTWw

What is the meta description useful for then?

It is useful for hinting and your web page content to search engine users – how many people will find your site. See that grey bit of text under the blue title? Your meta description. This needs to be enticing and relevant to your page content.

Key considerations:

  1. Needs to be no more than 150-160 characters long to avoid being penalised
  2. Make sure you do not duplicate – this looks messy in Google and will likely one day be added to the ‘penalised’ list for lazy content editing.

Looking for more info on how to create a sharp meta description? hear it straight from Google here – http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2007/09/improve-snippets-with-meta-description.html

Meta Keywords

Regarding the meta keywords – it would seem that this feature is becoming increasingly a thing of the past. Manipulated by those looking for a quick fix, cast aside by Google as a result, the old sure-fire SEO hack has since been discovered and abandoned in the woods.

That’s not to say they are to be completely ignored necessarily, you can still add 10-15 terms to your page document (separated by commas) to bolster the informative content about your page to any wandering search engine spider. However, this blog recommends that you might be better off fine-tuning your meta-title, or giving an extra minute or two finding that all important thumbnail picture to ensure your page is as enticing as it can be.

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