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What impact do meta and title tags have on the search engine?

What impact do meta and title tags have on the search engine? When optimizing your website, meta tags play an essential role in helping the search engine identify what your website is about. It will also help you feature in the search result snippets. We will describe what meta tags are and how they can help optimize your website for better SEO rankings.

What are meta tags?

Meta tags are metadata descriptors that identify what your content is about. It does not appear in the content itself, but rather it is part of the page’s source code. The source code is what search engines use to determine where your webpages should appear in their indexes for a certain query.

meta tags

If you want to find out if a webpage is using meta tags, just right-click anywhere on the content and choose ‘View Page Source’ from the context menu. You will be presented with something like above if the web page is using meta tags.

Types of meta tags

There are many meta tags that you can use but 6 of these meta tags are most important. Some meta tags have lost their usefulness while others are worth using frequently and will most likely increase your traffic. The 6 types of meta tags I will describe here are:

  1. Title tag – This is the title shown in the search engine listing. It is very important to include your focus keywords here.
  2. Meta Description tag – A summarized description of your page.
  3. Robots tag – To guide search engine bots how to crawl your page.
  4. Alternative text tag – Search engines cannot read images and so alternative text is used to identify what the image is about. This will help you rank in image searches.
  5. Open Graph meta tags and Twitter tags – Promotes integration between social media platforms and your websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. Similarly Twitter tags work the same way as Open Graph but specifically for Twitter.
  6. ViewPort meta tag – Is used for web designs to set up how a page scales and displays on any device.

Benefits of using meta tags

Here are a few reasons why using meta tags can help boost your website in search rankings:

Helps search engines index your website

Meta tags help search engines index your content with the right queries. This is important because it helps your website be shown in the right listings.

If the search engine finds your title and meta description to be relevant to the queries, it will be more likely to rank your website higher.

Your keywords are ranked

Meta tags will help your site rank for the relevant keywords and rank higher than others in the search results. By inserting the keywords into your meta tags, you help search engines index your page correctly. Although adding meta tags doesn’t directly affect your rankings, it does affect your click-through rate (CTR). This is because people are more likely to click on your website if relevant to their query. This, in turn, will help your rankings because search engines take CTR into consideration.

Improves your user experience

Meta tags not only help crawlers index your website, but they also help to organize your page and present information about your page to your visitors. Users will be able to determine if your page fits their request. Moreover, meta tags help make your content more readable by separating your web page’s text. Making your content clearer means that users will spend more time on your page. Longer sessions are one of the key factors in increasing your search ranking.

Why are title tags the most important?

Title tags are crucial because they have the biggest impact on search rankings. It is the only meta tag apart from the description that is visible to the user. The title is featured both in the browser tab as well as the first text that appears in the search listing.

The title tag is the first tag in the HTML document, and it specifies the nature of your website. It is supported for all major browsers.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your title meta tag:

  • Limit your title character count to under 60.
  • Include words that demonstrate what your content is about such as “How To” and “Tips” for guides, “Review” for evaluation, “Find” and “Buy” for research and commerce.
  • Make use of long-tail keywords.
  • Add numbers to your title such as “10 .NET common interview questions”.
  • Begin your title with your focus keyword.
  • Don’t overstuff your title with keywords. Make sure it is readable and concise.
  • Make every title unique.

Meta description

A meta description is an HTML tag that summarizes the content of your web page or blog. Google doesn’t necessarily use the meta description as one of its ranking factors. However, since the description can attract a user to click on your page, this will give rise indirectly to an increase in rankings.

Search engines will typically show your meta description below your title tag. However, it is not guaranteed that it will use the meta description you provided. This could be for several reasons. Here are some tips to provide an optimized meta description that is more likely to be shown by the search engine:

  • Keep the length of your description to less than 130 characters (to cater also for mobile devices)
  • Avoid adding duplicate meta descriptions.
  • Add a clear call to action (CTA) in your descriptions such as “Check out” or “Apply Now”.
  • Add your target keywords in your description.
  • Include any offers or discounts you provide.

Meta Robots

When using this attribute, you are instructing search engines on how to crawl your pages:

Index/NoIndex – This will indicate whether you want the search engine to index your page in the search results.

Follow/NoFollow – This attribute informs search engines whether they should trust and follow your links to the next page or not.

Alternative Text Tag – Improve your image search rankings

Since search engines cannot read images, Alt Text tag is an important tag to use. Otherwise, search engines will not know how to interpret them. By including alt text tags to your images, you will also be listed in the image searches for a given query. Alt-text is also a great way to make use of your targeted keywords.

Here are a few suggestions to use when adding alt text to your images:

  • Use a relevant caption and never over-stuff your keywords
  • Use readable filenames that are related to your image
  • Be concise and clear
  • Create an image sitemap
  • Do not use more than 16 words
  • Use tools such as Tinypng.com to reduce the file size for faster page loading.

Open Graph or Twitter meta tags

Open Graph meta tags are used to integrate social media networks such as Facebook and Linked to your website. Similarly, Twitter meta tags are used to integrate your Twitter account to your website. Whenever your page is shared on one of these social platforms, your information will be displayed with a neat UI snippet. It will include a thumbnail image, title, description, and a link of your webpage. Although these tags do not necessarily impact your search engine rankings, it will ensure that your shared page is informative when shared via social media. This will in turn increase your click-through rate.

ViewPort meta tag

Use responsive design tags on your website.

To understand why viewport meta tag is needed, look at the images above. In the first example, the image is not scalable, and the text is too small to read. In the second example, both the text and the image scale properly and fit the dimensions of the screen. This is very important, especially since you need to cater for different screen sizes.  The way your page is displayed can have a negative or positive effect on your visitors and an unreadable page can stray users away. Therefore, it is critical that you use make use of this.

This meta-tag does tend to decrease the performance in page speed. So, make sure that your page is already very responsive before adding it.

Is Meta Keyword Attribute still relevant?

A meta tag we did not mention in our list is Meta Keyword attribute. Before, this tag was beneficial to improving your search rankings. Marketers would add keywords relentlessly in their page’s source code even if the page was unrelated. This was a way to drive traffic away from popular pages by using a technique called ‘keyword stuffing’. However, Google realised this pattern and decided to remove the keywords meta tag from its ranking altogether to avoid misuse.

Therefore, this tag is no longer useful and should be avoided.

Conclusion

Not all meta tags will help optimize your SEO rankings. However, the 6 meta tags I mentioned here are crucial and need to be added to every web page on your website. Some of these meta tags impact directly how the search engine indexes your website while others will affect the way users view your website. User engagement and click-through rates both play a major factor in ranking your page. Therefore, all 6 meta tags need to be considered.

FAQ

What are meta tags and why are they used?

Meta Tags show information about the webpage in the HTML source code of the document. This information is called metadata and it is read by web crawlers when indexing your website. Meta tags can help search engines index your website in the right listings for given queries.

Which meta tags should I use?
  • Title
  • Meta description
  • Meta Robots
  • Alt Text
  • Open Graph or Twitter tags
  • ViewPort tags
Where should I place meta tags?

The meta tags should be placed in the HTML document of your page. <meta> tag is placed inside the <head> tag of your HTML. Meta tags have different attributes such as description, character-set, author, viewport, alt text and more. The title tag is the only tag that does not have a meta tag, but it is still considered as metadata.

Why are title tags important?

Title tags are important because they allow readers to know what they should expect when they click your page. It also allows search engines to understand what your page is about and determine the relevancy of your page for a certain query.