What are Meta Tags and how do they Work?

Thanks to the internet, we now live in a society that is driven by a hunger for information; we crave information and we want to access it fast. Search engines such as Google have become the homepage of the world, and are the place for us to find what it is we are looking for quickly and with minimum fuss. As a business, you want internet users to come to you for their information – doing this requires you featuring prominently on search engines.

The idea is for you to have your website on the first page of Google and as close to the top of the rankings as possible – this will allow people to find you easily. In turn, you can supply visitors with what it is they need and they will return the favour by investing in your product.

Now, to achieve a high ranking on Google you will need to learn about search engine optimisation (SEO). This is a practice that involves employing a number of different methods and techniques to improve your website and elevate its search engine position. Traditionally, Meta tags have been an important part of SEO.

What are Meta tags?

Meta tags are snippets of code placed in the source code of a website that help give search engines more information about a web page. These tags are located within the <head> section of an HTML document, meaning that they are completely invisible to the site user, but can be seen by search engines which can use the information to index web pages accordingly.

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There are around a dozen or so different Meta tags that can be used, but Title tags and Description tags are the only two that really hold any importance. The Meta Title is the title of your page, while the Meta Description is the description of your page.

How do Meta tags work?

You can see exactly how Meta tags work by doing a simple search on Google. When you type in certain keywords, you are delivered a list of results that Google thinks are most relevant to those words. The blue underlined text in the results is the Title tag and the two lines of text describing what the site is about is the Description tag.

By including Meta tags in the title and description of your website, it will help you rank better for your key phrases, giving you an advantage over competitors that have neglected to include Meta tags on their own site. A website doesn’t have to have Meta tags to rank, Google will simply pull a snippet of text from a page to display; the downside to this is that there is no guarantee of the text displaying something to help the user understand what your website is about. For this reason, Meta tags are highly recommended in page titles and descriptions.

Meta tag format

If you were to delve into the HTML of your website, you will see how Meta tags are used. The usual format for this will be:

<html>

<head>

<title> Your Title Goes Here </title>

Directly underneath the title will be the description, which will look something like this:

<meta name= “Description” content= “Free blah blahdy blah, The best blah blah” />

Ideally, a Meta title should contain 55-60 characters and no more than 70, while a description tag is best kept to around 155 characters. You should also remember not to repeat keywords any more than once.

Meta tags in 2019

In the early days of search engine optimisation, Meta tags were highly valued as search engines would use them to find out what a page was about; therefore, webmasters would use keywords and phrases in Meta data in order to rank highly for specific keywords. What this did though was open the door to spammers, who would cram as many keywords as possible into the Meta tag area, resulting in search engines lessening their importance.

Today, keyword Meta tags are no longer a factor in the ranking of a website. Google algorithms are now highly intelligent and focus on the content of a site, completely ignoring the keyword Meta. The only real purpose a keyword Meta tag has in 2019 is to give competitors an idea of what words you are trying to rank for, allowing them to try ranking for the very same phrases.

Title and Description Meta tags are the only tags that hold any weight these days, and while they will not directly influence your ranking, if they are well written they will have a positive influence on your click through rate – providing they are not full of spam, that is!

Inputting Meta tags

Creating your own Meta tags requires the use of HTML, which is unfamiliar to many people. HTML is not overly difficult to learn but does require time and patience. Fortunately, we now have content management systems such as WordPress that make adding Meta tags a simple process by installing plugins to take care of the HTML on your behalf. There are also plenty of Meta tag generator tools out there that will use your information to produce HTML code, which you can then simply copy and paste into the <head>.

Google might have diminished the authority of Meta tags over the years, but when used correctly, they can still prove useful in a search engine optimisation strategy. So long as you do not intentionally over-use keywords and phrases in your titles and descriptions, you may benefit from an increase in visitors to you site. Search engine users want to see links with clearly displayed information in their search results. By using Meta tags correctly, you can provide them with just that.

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