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Your Simple Guide to Meta Tags for SEO

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, there is no "set it and forget it" mentality. It's critical to stay up to date and learn the latest search engine algorithms, optimize for updated technologies, and track social media trends.

Good news is that all of these updates and new technologies make searching more convenient and can make it easier for users to discover your website. The bad news is that SEO is never really complete. This might seem discouraging, especially if you're just learning about SEO, but there is still hope!

A basic and often overlooked practice in SEO is ensuring that the meta tags on your site are complete. Meta tags or "metadata" are a type of HTML tag used to enhance the visibility of your website to humans and search engines. By not having these placed or written improperly can negatively affect your rankings.

There are many types of meta tags that can be placed on your website, and some are more useful than others. Knowing which of these are most important and executing them well can make all the difference. Meta tags have been around since the beginning of SEO and they continue to play an instrumental role today.

What are Meta Tags?

Meta tags are snippets of code that describe your web page's content. They are found in the

section of a web page and can only be seen in the HTML code. To view the meta tags of any webpage, right-click anywhere on a page and choose "View Page Source".

If you're using Chrome a new tab will open in your browser and will display the HTML code:

There are various meta tags used to describe your website's content to search engines, but the most important ones tend to be the title and description. The title and description are displayed on the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) after you run a search query.

The page's meta title and meta description act as a digital billboard giving the potential visitor a quick overview of that page.The SERP is your SEO opportunity to show the user that your site has value to offer them through an engaging title and inviting page description. For most, first impressions are crucial and when it comes to search results they can make or break an opportunity for a new visitor.

By far the most popular search engine is Google, capturing94% of the world's mobile search engine market share. If your SERPs are written clearly and perform well in Google search you will notice an increase in organic traffic.

Part of any successful SEO strategy includes using HTML meta tags. The meta tags listed below are the most important ones to pay attention to as you begin optimizing your website for SEO.

Title Tags

Title tags appear in browser tabs, external websites, search engines, social posts and have more value than most realize. They are probably the most important meta tags as they can have a direct impact on your search rankings. Having a well-written title alone will not magically rank you higher and increase clicks.

Title Tag Best Practices

  • The length of title tags should be between 50 and 60 characters.
  • Include meta keywords you are trying to rank for and place them at the beginning. Avoid keyword stuffing which can have a negative effect on your rankings.
  • Always include your brand name on each page as well as a unique title.
  • Write each title for search engines and humans. Include all of the above but write them in a way that is clear and attractive for the user.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions summarize the content of a webpage and appear directly below the title tag. They don't actually help improve your rankings but they can, however,impact a page's click-through rate (CTR) in Google SERPs, which can positively impact a page's ability to rank.

Meta Description Best Practices

  • Although there is no limit on the length of meta descriptions, Google generally shows the first 160 characters in the SERPs. Keeping descriptions between 50 and 160 words is recommended.
  • The description should emphasize target keywords in a natural, humanized way.
  • Each description should be original and avoid duplication.
  • When appropriate add call-to-action copy: "Learn More", "Buy", "Subscribe", "Shop", etc...

Image Tags

Search engines cannot see images, so they require image tags (also known as "alt text") to describe the contents of an image. Image tags are especially important for those with vision disabilities or websites who need to beADA compliant. Adding more context around your images will also make it easier for Google Images to provide users with the best image based on a search.

Image Tag Best Practices

  • Still use keywords if you can when describing images. Not including keywords shouldn't have a huge impact on visitors or search engines.
  • Optimize your most prominent images first.
  • Because the file path of your file name is a ranking factor, when uploading images to your CMS, name images appropriately and avoid having images that read "DSC-HX99" and tell nothing about the image.

Header Tags

Header tags (or heading tags) rank in the order from H1 to H6 and split your page into easily digestible sections. Header tags help search engines to understand and crawl through your website but having these in place makes for a much better user experience which Google will notice as well.

Header Tag Best Practices

  • Include relevant keywords and headings relevant to the body text.
  • Avoid naming your headers by chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, etc...
  • Be interesting and consistent with your other pages.
  • Make sure all of your H1s are unique.

Conclusion

Meta tags are one piece of the SEO puzzle and a great first step to enhance your search rankings. Make sure to include target keywords in meta titles and descriptions to help boost your SEO efforts. Adding image tags and header tags will also help your site rank higher with search engines.

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