The Importance of Meta Tags in SEO

By 28th November 2011Digital Marketing

Meta Tags are snippets of information, visible to search engines. The idea of Meta Tags are to make it easier for them to find pages, relevant to a searchers query. Just like we tag up books in a library or blog posts, Meta Tags are there to help us find relevant content in a jungle of information.

Meta Tags are part of the HTML of your web pages and are added into your code as your site is built. Most content management systems will provide you with the option to add and edit your Meta Tags without any development work though.

Meta Tags are very important but not the full story when it comes to SEO. Search engines look at more than 200 signals to determine whether or not a page is relevant to a query.

There are four different main types of Meta Tags:

  • Meta Keyword
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Description
  • Meta Robots

What is the Meta Keyword Tag?

This is a somewhat obsolete tag. It was used in the hay days of SEO but can today be safely ignored. The intention of the Meta keyword was to help search engines to understand what a page was all about. This was wildly abused by people who added irrelevant keywords in order to fool search engines and people to click through to their site. Search engines are less dependent of keywords now and due to abuse, have stopped using this. Meta keywords can still be used by smaller search engines though like smaller directories.

What is a Title Tag?

The Title Tag is one of the first things a search engine is likely to see on your site. It’s the name of your actual page. The Title Tag will show up in two places. It will be the actual, blue link above the snippet in the SERP and the text in the browser tab.

The Title Tag is a direct SEO signal in that it affects search engines and how they rank you. It also affects your potential visitors since they are more likely to click through from the SERP if the Title Tag is well written and relevant to their query.

Like with the Meta Description, the Title Tag should be unique for every page.

What Exactly Is The Meta Description Tag?

Your Meta Description Tag is a summary of the content that appears on your page. Think of the Meta Description as the sales text of your page. It’s the last chance for you to convince your potential visitors to click through from search to site. The description contained in the Meta Description Tag should be concise, well written, interesting and again optimised for the same keyword or phrase.

The Meta Description is a so called non-direct SEO signal. It doesn’t affect the search engines in any meaningful way but impacts your potential visitors to click through or not. A unique and well-written description will increase your search to site conversion.

The Meta description tag is the text that usually appears in the search engine ranking page (SERP), under the title of the page. If you do not write one yourself, the search engine will provide one for you. This isn’t always optimal so make sure you add your own.

There are few cases when it makes sense to leave your Meta Description empty. If you for example have a page with a long list of various and different products, it might be better to leave the job to the search engines since it will find the part of the text that is relevant to the query that triggered the result.

Use of the Meta Robots Tag

The Meta Robots consists of two types of tags:

  • Index/noindex
  • Follow/nofollow

With the index/noindex you tell search engines if they should index your page or not. We often forget that search engines like Google “only” shows results for pages that are indexed. If your page isn’t indexed it becomes a bit of an island with low accessibility, tough terrain and no bar.

With the follow/nofollow tag you tell the search engines whether or not they should follow the links on your pages. Search engines are great but they work even better if we help them to find content on our site (thus the use of sitemaps). If we have a good internal link structure, it is easier for search engines to understand the content of our site and the relevance of its content (to a search query). However, if you feel that the links won’t help search engines to understand your site (e.g. for a topic-irrelevant external link) you can add the nofollow tag.

Hope that was helpful!