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The Ultimate Guide to Meta Tags For Search Engine Optimization

Meta tags are powerful. With a short piece of text, you can tell people on organic search what your site is about. You can also control whether or not your site is indexed. In this guide, we’ll review the different types of meta tags and show you how to optimize your site correctly for search engines with them.

The Important Meta Tags

Title Tag

The title tag of your website page is the first thing that search engines see when they crawl your site. On search engines, the title tag is the blue headline text that shows on Google. 

Google typically displays the first 50 to 60 characters of a title tag. If you keep your title tags under 60 characters, Google will display them 90% of the time. We recommend the following format for your title tags → (Primary Keyword) | Brand Name. 

The Meta Description

The meta description is an important signal for search engines also. Even though it’s only a small factor in ranking signals, it is the first call-to-action that people see when they land on your website. Google will generally truncate meta descriptions that are more than 160 characters. Here is the format that we recommend for meta descriptions:

“This is the first sentence of your description that should include the keyword. Your second sentence should be a call-to-action.” 

Robots Tags

This is one of the most important tags, as it controls whether or not search engines crawl your website. Keep in mind that Google will simply treat these as “suggestions” if your page is already indexed. There are several different parameters that you can provide for the robots tag:

  • Noindex: This will tell a search engine not to index your website or page.
  • Index: This tells a search engine to index your website or page. If you don’t set a robots tag, this will be the default. 
  • Follow: This will tell the search engine to follow any of the links on a particular page of your website, even if you have the noindex parameter. 
  • Nofollow: This will tell the search engine NOT to follow links from a page of your website. This means that links from the page will not pass page rank. 
  • Noimageindex: Use this tag if you want certain pages to not allow their images to be indexed. 
  • None: This is similar to using no-follow/no-index attributes for your robot tags. 
  • Noarchive: This will tell search engines not to cache your page in the SERPs. 
  • Nocache: This is the same as noarchive, but applies to IE and Firefox. 
  • Nosnippet: Use this robot tag if you don’t want search engines to show a snippet of your page. 
  • Unavailable_after: This tells search engines to stop indexing a page after a certain date. 

Canonical Tags

Certain types of CMS platforms will sometimes create “copies” of a particular URL (i.e. /, /index, /index.html, etc.) Using the canonical tag on pages of your website will help search engines identify the master copy. Search engines are smart and can often make this distinction. However, it is still a good idea to use canonical tags if you know that your website will produce “copies” of a particular page. 

Expired/Useless Meta Tags

Keywords

No one uses meta keywords anymore and most search engines ignore them. Back in the early days of the Internet, these tags told search engines a little bit about how to prioritize website pages in search engines. The idea here was that people would put the keywords that were only relevant to the page. People tended to abuse this and search engines started ignoring them. Most SEO plugins for CMS platforms like WordPress don’t even give you the option of adding the meta keyword tag.

Revisit-After

This is a tag that would compel search engines to revisit a page at a certain date. This tag is no longer acknowledged by search engines. 

Abstract 

The abstract is kind of like a shorter version of your meta description. At only 90 characters, some minor search engines recognize these, but these tags have no impact on your website’s SEO. 

What Are OpenGraph Meta Tags? 

Open Graph tags are used by social media sites, especially Twitter. They are not required and are therefore not useful. Some plugins on  WordPress will simply use your actual site title and meta tags as your Open Graph tags. 

How To Correctly Optimize Your Titles and Metas for Organic Search? 

We recommend spending a considerable amount of time on your titles and meta descriptions. In addition to being an important search engine signal, your title and meta tags are the first call-to-action that people see before they visit your site. Good titles and meta descriptions are essential. Here are our suggestions for writing titles and metas:

How To Write Great Title Tags: 

  • Keep your title tags within the 60-character limit. 
  • If you must go over the 60-character limit, front load your keyword.
  • If you have a trademark or a registered trademark for your business, use it in your title tag (®, ™). This will increase click-through rates.
  • Make sure that you only have one page for each keyword that you want to rank for. Use that keyword in the title tag of your page.
  • Make sure that your title tags for product pages are representative of the product that you sell. 

How To Write Great Meta Descriptions:

  • If you are a service business, consider putting your phone number in your meta description.
  • Make sure that you stay within the 150-character limit.
  • Make sure that your meta descriptions use the keyword in the first sentence.
  • Keep your unique value proposition for the page in mind when writing your meta description. 

How to Test Great Title Tags & Meta Descriptions 

If you have the budget to run a PPC campaign, we recommend that this be the testing bed for your title tags and meta descriptions! In Google Ads, you get three ad headlines and two descriptions. We recommend taking your best headlines from your PPC campaigns and your best ad descriptions and using these as your SEO titles and metas!