Let’s talk about meta tags: what they are, why they matter, and how to do them better.

If you found this article via a search engine, there’s a good chance you found and clicked this article because of meta tags. If search engines clearly recognize what a page is all about, then it’s because that page has meta tags. 

Meta tags are the foundation of SEO, and they are the first thing you’ll find yourself setting up when building a web page.

What Are Meta Tags?

Meta tags describe a page’s content. They make sure that the information visitors need to know about your site is displayed upfront by highlighting the most important information of your page’s content, thereby making it rank well on the SERPs. 

Meta tags are important because they influence your website visitors on whether or not they should click through your website. In other words, meta tags are ‘’click-baits.’’

Websites that have no meta tags are missing out on an opportunity to rank highly in the SERPs. 

Meta tag types that are relevant for SEO in 2021.

Title tags:  

Just like the title of a newspaper catches your attention, a page’s title tag is the first impression many people have of your page. It serves as a headline to summarize your page’s content. If the title tag is eye-catching, it stands out from similar titles on the SERPs and will invite people to click on your page.  They are used in 3 key places ie;

  • Search engine result pages. (SERPs)
  • Web browsers
  • Social networks.

Writing a good title tag. 

  • Put important keywords first.
  • Keep it under 60 characters, because google displays the first 50 t0 60 characters of a title tag.
  • Keep it short so that it is not cut off with an ellipsis. {…}
  • Write for your audience.

Meta description.   

With meta description tags, webmasters can sketch out the content and quality of the web page.

A more descriptive, provoking, attractive, and relevant description motivates the user to click on your page than a description that is not well written.

Meta tags do not directly affect SEO, but because they show up in search results, they affect click-through rates, so they should not be ignored.

Writing a good meta description.

  • Place the keywords at the front of the meta description.
  • Write different descriptions for each page.
  • The meta description should be between 130 to 160 characters. 
  • Make it eye-catching, relevant, and compelling. 

If the meta description is missing, search engines like google will just pick a piece of content from your page that is most relevant to the user.

Canonical tags.  

If you have duplicate content available under different URLs, canonical tags help you to specify which version of the pages is the main one so that it can be indexed.  Canonical tags tell search engines which URL represents the master of a copy of a page, making it the one to appear in the search results. If search engines have to go through too much duplicate content, they may miss your most important content, or pick the wrong URL as the main one. 

Canonical tags are useful because they help you control duplicate pages.

If you don’t write a canonical URL,  Google will pick what they think is the best URL version.

Robots meta tag. 

To prevent crawling and indexing of unnecessary pages, you can use robots meta tags. Meta tags provide crawlers instructions for how to crawl or index web page content. 

According to Semrush, robots meta tags control how search engines index your web page’s content in the following ways;

  • Whether or not to follow the links on a page.
  • Whether or not to include page search in the results.
  • Requests not to index the images on a page.

Understanding how to use meta robots correctly and how they work is very important for SEO. Meta robots help SEO by enabling search engines to crawl your site more efficiently. 

Meta viewport tag.

When a web page is not made responsive for smaller viewports, it looks bad and weird on small screens like mobile phones. The meta-view tag helps control the layout of a web page on small screen browsers. It tells the search engines how to display a page on different devices.

According to Google, the meta viewport tag gives the browser instructions on how to control the page’s dimensions and scaling.

Tips.

  • Use relative width values such as; ex, vh, em, vw, rem, ch, etc.
  • Avoid using a specific width to your website since different devices have different widths.

It is very important to add the viewport tag to the head of your site. However, avoid using this tag if your website is not designed to be responsive.

Mistakes to avoid in meta tags for SEO.

Lack of relevant keywords. Failure to use relevant and topically related keywords will affect your page’s ranking. Because search engines always highlight keywords that are relevant to your page’s content, a lack of keywords will decrease your chances of being noticed and ranked by these search engines.

Too short or too long meta descriptions.  A good meta description should have between 120 and 160 characters, for both mobile and desktop devices. While writing a meta description, put the relevant keywords at the front, because a long meta description will be cut off with ellipsis{…}. Short meta descriptions on the other hand might be viewed as lacking. 

Meta descriptions that are in conflict with the content. While writing a meta description, make sure it actually reflects the exact content of your page. If they’re in conflict with your page’s content, then they will not be used by search engines, thus affecting your ranking.

Duplicating title tags. Do not use title tags that are similar to your website’s or business name. Every content on your page should have its own unique title.

Multiple versions of rel=canonical.  When pages include multiple rel=canonical links to different URLs search engines might ignore them all, including the relevant one. Pages linked to the relevant re=canonical will be ignored, and their ranking will be greatly affected. 

Canonicalizing content that is paginated. If you canonicalize only the 1st page of your content, that means the rest of the pages will not be indexed, even though they have good content. If you cannot use  rel=canonical to view all pages, then use rel=” prev” and or rel=” next”. 

Using specific width elements for viewport tags.  Different devices have different screen widths, ie, a mobile phone’s screen is smaller than a desktop PC’s screen. For this reason, use different width values for viewport meta tags.

 

Bottom line. 

Meta tags offer more details about your website to search engines and website engines. Optimize them to highlight the most important parts of your content, and they will make your website stand out in SERPs

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