Understanding Search Meta Tags & Using them Effectively

In search engine optimization (SEO), meta tags play a crucial role in helping search engines understand and index the content of a webpage. However, not all search meta tags are created equal. Understanding the various meta tags can be the key to optimizing your website’s search visibility.

In this article, we’ll look at the different types of meta tags and how they can effectively impact your website’s search ranking. Whether you’re a seasoned SEO expert or just starting, understanding search meta tags is a must-have skill in today’s digital landscape.

What are Search Meta Tags?

Search meta tags, or metadata, are HTML tags that provide information about a web page’s content to search engines and other web crawlers. They are placed in the head section of a web page’s HTML code and are not visible to users visiting the page.

Meta tags include a title tag that specifies the topic of the page’s content, description tag that provides a summary of the page’s content. And other tags such as author, robots, and keywords tags that offer additional information about the page. It also includes the Image alt tag, and heading tags.

These tags play an important role in SEO as they can affect a page’s ranking in search results and impact user click-through rates. By providing accurate information through search meta tags, website owners can help search engines better understand their content. This will increase the likelihood of their pages appearing in relevant search queries.

11 Most Important Search Meta tags for SEO

1. Title tag

The title tag is a crucial meta tag for SEO as it can help search engines and users understand the content of a webpage. It is a short HTML element that appears in the head section of a webpage’s code. It appears as the clickable headline on the search engine results page (SERP).

The title tag is also used as the headline in social media shares, bookmarks, and browser tabs.

Best Practices for Title Tag Optimization

  • Keep it concise. The title tag should be under 60 characters to ensure that it is fully displayed in the SERP. Longer titles may be truncated, affecting the page’s click-through rate (CTR).
  • Use descriptive language. The title tag should accurately describe the content on the page to help search engines and users understand the topic. Use clear and concise language that accurately reflects the main subject or theme of the webpage.
  • Include keywords. Incorporate relevant keywords into the title tag to help search engines understand the page’s focus. However, avoid keyword stuffing and ensure the keywords fit naturally into the title tag.
  • Create unique titles. Each webpage on a website should have a special title tag that accurately reflects its content. Avoid duplicating title tags, as this can confuse search engines and reduce the visibility of your pages in search results.
  • Consider branding. Incorporating your brand name or website name into the title tag can help build brand recognition. It can also increase click-through rates for users familiar with your brand.
  • Review and update. Regularly examining and updating your title tags can ensure that they accurately reflect the content of your web pages. And remain relevant to search engine algorithms and user search intent.

2. Meta Description 

The meta description summarizes the webpage’s content and appears under the title tag in SERPs.

Although meta descriptions do not directly impact SEO, they can increase page views and traffic. A well-written meta description will entice users to click on your page and read your content. Search engines also notice when users engage with your content, which can help improve your search ranking.

Meta descriptions should be optimized with relevant keywords and include a call-to-action to entice users to click through. 

Best Practices for Meta Description Optimization

  • Keep it concise: The meta description should be between 155 and 160 characters to ensure it is fully displayed in the SERP. Longer descriptions may be truncated, affecting the page’s click-through rate.
  • Use descriptive language: The meta description should accurately describe the content on the page and include relevant keywords. Use clear and concise language that accurately reflects the content of the webpage.
  • Write unique descriptions: Each webpage on a website should have a distinct meta description that accurately reflects its content. Avoid duplicating meta descriptions, as this can confuse search engines and reduce the visibility of your pages in search results.
  • Include a call-to-action: Including a call-to-action (CTA) in the meta description can help to entice users to click through to your website. A CTA is as simple as a directive to “learn more” or “discover the benefits.”
  • Avoid duplicate content: Duplicate meta descriptions can lead to confusion for both search engines and users. Ensure that each webpage on your website has a unique meta description that reflects its content.

3. Heading tags

Heading tags are HTML tags that separate headings and subheadings from other text forms in your article (e.g., paragraph text).

Google maintains that headings aren’t at all ranking elements and certainly not in the sense of “hierarchy.” The H1 tag isn’t more important than the H2 tag, which isn’t more important than the H3 tag, and so on.

Headings are however, important for the text and content organization. They are helpful for describing a sizable portion of text. Utilizing heading tags properly enhances the content’s architecture without a doubt.

Headings help Google understand your content rather than help it rank higher on the SERPs. They also guide users in a sea of text, helping them navigate the page and making it simpler to understand.

Best Practices for Heading Optimization

  • Maintain the relevance of your headings to the section of text they are describing.
  • Ensure that the headings you use correspond to the tone of the text they are put over.
  • Avoid overusing the tags and the keywords included within them. Users should be able to read it.

4. Image Alt Tag

These tags describe images and other media on a web page for users who cannot view the visual content. Such as those using screen readers. Alt tags can also help search engines to understand the context and relevance of images for indexing purposes.

Best practices for the Image Alt tag

  • Use descriptive and relevant alt text to provide context and improve accessibility for visually impaired users or users with images disabled in their browsers.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing in the alt text as it may be seen as spam by search engines.

5. Meta Keywords

Meta keywords are distinct meta tags that used to be very important for search engine optimization (SEO). Their importance has decreased over time as search engines have become smarter. And can better understand the content on a page without relying on meta keywords. 

However, meta keywords are still beneficial for some purposes, including internet site search or internal keyword tagging systems.

Best practices for using meta keywords include

  • Use relevant and specific keywords: Ensure that the keywords accurately reflect the content on the page. 
  • Avoid keyword stuffing: Using too many keywords on a page to manipulate search engine rankings is known as keyword stuffing. This can dilute the page’s relevance and make it difficult for search engines to understand what the page is about. Keyword stuffing can also attract penalties from search engines, leading to low rankings.

6. Robots Meta Tag

Robots meta tag instructs search engine crawlers on indexing and crawling web pages. The most common instructions are “index” and “no index” to allow or disallow indexing. And “follow” and “no follow” to allow or disallow following links on the page.

Best practices for the Robots meta tag include:

  • Use the “index, follow” value for pages you want to be indexed. And “no index, follow” for pages you don’t want to be indexed but still want to pass link equity.
  • Avoid using the “no index, no follow” value, as it prevents search engines from indexing the page and following any links.
  • Be cautious when using the “no index, follow” value. As it may result in the page not being indexed if no external links are pointing to it.

7. Canonical Tag 

Canonical tags indicate to search engines the preferred version of a web page, especially when multiple versions of the same content exist. They help to prevent duplicate content issues and consolidate link equity to a single URL.

Best practices for the Canonical tag

  • Use the canonical tag to consolidate duplicate content and avoid the negative impact of similar content on SEO.
  • Use the tag only when necessary, as overusing it may confuse search engines and impact SEO negatively.
  • Ensure that the canonical URL is the most authoritative version of the page. Such as the original content or the one with the highest ranking.

8. Open Graph Meta Tags

Social media platforms like Facebook use Open Graph meta tags to display rich media content when a URL is shared. They provide metadata like the title, description, and image to enhance the visual appearance of the shared link.

Best practices for Open Graph meta tags

  • Use high-quality images and descriptive titles and descriptions to make the content more engaging and clickable.
  • Ensure that the tags are properly formatted with correct attributes such as og:title, og:type, and og:image.
  • Add Open Graph meta tags to all pages, including blog posts, articles, and products, to make the content more shareable on social media platforms.

9. Twitter Card Meta Tags

Like Open Graph tags, Twitter Cards Meta Tags provide metadata for tweets that include a link to a website. They allow website owners to specify how their content should be displayed on Twitter feeds, with options like summary, photo, and video cards.

Best practices for Twitter card meta tags

  • Use high-quality images and descriptive titles and descriptions to make the content more engaging and clickable on Twitter.
  • Ensure that the tags are properly formatted with correct attributes such as twitter:title, twitter:image, and twitter:description.
  • Add Twitter card meta tags to all pages, including blog posts, articles, and products, to make the content more shareable on Twitter

10. Authorship Meta Tag

Authorship Meta tags provide information about the author of a web page, including their name, bio, and profile picture. They can help establish the content’s credibility and authority, especially in niches where author expertise is important.

Best practices for the Authorship meta tag

  • Link to a Google+ profile to establish authorship and credibility.
  • Use a precise and professional headshot to make the author’s identity more recognizable.
  • Include the author’s name in the meta tag to help search engines understand the content’s authorship.

11. Hreflang Tag

The Hreflang tag is used to indicate the language and geographical targeting of a page. It targets specific regions and languages and ensures it is correctly implemented.

Best practices for the Hreflang tag

  • Use the tag to target specific regions and languages to ensure the content is relevant to the intended audience.
  • Ensure that the Hreflang tag is correctly implemented with the correct language and region codes.
  • Avoid using the Hreflang tag for pages with similar content in the same language, as it may confuse search engines and impact SEO negatively.

Final thoughts

Understanding and utilizing search meta tags effectively is essential to SEO. Website owners can use the right search meta tags to provide search engines with valuable information about their web pages. Including their content, structure, and targeting. This can help to improve website visibility, relevance, and ranking in search results, ultimately leading to increased traffic and conversions.

Each type of meta tag has its unique purpose and benefits, from robot meta tags to open graph tags and authorship tags. It’s important to use them appropriately to optimize your website for search engines and users. 

With a solid understanding of search meta tags, you can take your SEO efforts to the next level. And have an edge in the online world.

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

Why Missing Meta Description Is Bad

When optimizing your website for search engines, there are many factors to consider, including keywords, content, and backlinks. However, one…

Recommended Meta Description Character Length: Effective Guide

In today’s digital age, businesses need to have an online presence to reach their target audience. As such, search engine…

Meta Keywords for SEO: Definition & Best Practices

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is essential to any successful online marketing strategy. One aspect of SEO that has been around…

Metadata & Its Importance in SEO: an Effective Guide

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), many elements contribute to a website’s success in ranking high on search…

Why Meta Descriptions Matter Today: Better Strategy

Search engine optimization could be a handful. The constant changes in SEO don’t make it any easier. It’s not surprising…

Effective Creative Meta Tag Title Example 

We’ll take a wild guess. You are probably reading this article to discover an “effective creative meta tag title example.”…