Meta tags are considered one of the foundations of search engine optimization (or SEO). And if you want your website to have a shot at ranking organically in search, you’re going to need to use meta tags. As techy as the term “meta tag” may sound, it’s surprisingly simple. In short, meta tags are short descriptions of your web pages. Search engines use these meta tags, or descriptions, to determine if a website is a good search result for any given search query.
Still, you might be wondering if you really need to use meta tags, and the answer is yes. That is, assuming you want your website to get found in search.
The good news is that meta tags are very easy to use. Whether you’re using WordPress or a site builder, such as Squarespace or Wix, you’ll be able to input your meta descriptions for all of your web pages. Let’s take a deeper look at what are meta tags, types of meta tags, and how to add meta tags to your website.
What Are Meta Tags
Meta tags are snippets of text added to your website’s code to help search engines more easily identify the types and purpose of your site content. Meta tags are only visible in the page’s source code, and therefore meta tags are not displayed on the frontend of your web pages. In other words, meta tags serve as a way to describe what your web pages are about to search engines. And by enabling search engines to easily understand your web pages, your site is better positioned to rank in search.
Types of Meta Tags
There is a long-list of potential meta tags you can add to your website, including title tags, meta descriptions, viewport tags, meta content types, and robots tags, among others. Some offer great benefits like helping your content rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), but others are no longer useful for business at all. Below is a list of common meta tags and what they can do to help your business if anything.
Here are the most commonly used types of meta tags and what they’re used for:
- Title tag: A title tag is the title of a website page and appears across the header of a page, as well as in that page’s browser tab. It tells both Google and Google searchers what your webpage is about. It also appears on search engine results pages (SERPs) as linked text that searchers can click on to view your site.
- Meta description: A meta description is a summary of a webpage. It appears under a page’s listing in SERPs and serves to entice search users to visit a site based on its relevance to their search term and the value it provides.
- Viewport tag: A viewport tag controls the width of a webpage based on the device being used to view it. When a viewport tag is not set, images and copy will not be rearranged or re-sized to fit each device; instead, the page elements will simply shrink, making them difficult to read.
- Meta content-type: The meta content-type tag tells Google what character set (set of punctuation marks, letters, numbers, and so on) are used on your site. For the most part, this is for sites that are designed from scratch by web designers.
- Robots tag: Robots meta tags tell Google what content to note or ignore when assessing content for listing in SERPs. They tell Google to note links in articles (follow tags), to ignore links (nofollow tags), to ignore website images (noimageindex), and to ignore webpages (noindex).
- Canonical tag: When you have more than one URL on your website that includes the same or extremely similar content, designating one with a canonical tag tells Google which one you want the most traffic sent to.
How Meta Tags Help SEO
Meta tags play a large role in SEO, and meta tags do this in two ways. First, meta tags tell search engines what your web pages are about. This helps your website rank in search engines, such as Google. Second, meta tags help users decide whether or not to click on your website when it lands in search results. This is because your title tag and meta description are what search engines display in search results.
Think of it this way, meta tags work similarly to how email subject lines and preview text work. With meta tags, the title tag is like the subject line, It tells readers what your web page (or email) is about. This is what catches the reader’s attention. The preview text, or in this case, meta description, expands upon the title text to give readers more insight. This is what can tip them over the edge and decide to click on your web page in search results (or on your email in their inbox).
With meta tags in place for each piece of content, you will enjoy features and benefits that drive more potential customers to your small business website. This includes greater visibility in search engine results pages, fast content load times, and greater access to your website from all devices.
How to Add Meta Tags to WordPress in 3 Steps
The primary meta tags you should add to every webpage before publishing are title tags and meta descriptions; these drive more traffic to your site from Google SERPs. Since WordPress is the most popular type of website, the easiest way to add these is via a WordPress SEO plugin like Yoast. To add meta tags using this plugin, you can fill out a simple form located below each piece of content before publishing to add meta tags.
Here’s how to add meta descriptions and title tags to your website in three steps:
1. Go to WordPress and Install the Yoast Plugin
Begin by logging in to your WordPress admin dashboard and then go to “Plugins” on the left-hand vertical menu. Click “Add New.” Search for “Yoast SEO” in the search bar. After locating the Yoast SEO plugin, click the corresponding “Install” button, and then click the “Activate” button.
2. Add Meta Descriptions to Blog Posts or Pages
Now that you have installed Yoast, you can begin using the simple form located below each blog post or page to add/edit meta tags. Navigate to the page or post you want to add a meta description to. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and locate the “Snippet preview” section. Click the “Edit snippet” option and input your meta description. When done, click “Update” to save your new meta description.
3. Add Title Tags
On the same page, scroll down below the meta description box to the “SEO Title” section. Here, you can enter your title tag in the text box. Check the “Snippet Preview” to see how your page or post will appear in search results. When done, click “Update” to save your title tag.
As a final check, use the title of your post to search for your content in Google. Check to ensure you’re satisfied with the meta tags you’ve added. If you are not, simply go back into your post and repeat the meta tag editing process, starting with step two.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is a meta tag example?
A common meta tag used in webpages is a title tag. A title tag appears along with the header of a webpage and in the browser tab of the webpage. It is also the anchor text of the link that people click to access the content as it appears on Google SERPs. For example, the title tag of this article is “What Are Meta Tags? Ultimate Guide.”
How do I write a meta tag description?
A meta description is a summary of a webpage’s content that entices a search engine user to click to read more. To write a meta description, craft a non-salesy description of the page’s content in 160 characters or less. Aim for an explanation that defines the webpage value people will experience when they click. Use a focus keyword people likely use to search for the page content, the active voice, and a call to action like “Learn more.”
Bottom Line: What Are SEO Meta Tags
Meta tags are snippets of HTML that are added to website code and tell search engines what your content includes and how it’s relevant to searchers. They provide huge SEO and website experience benefits, including greater visibility in SERPs, proven relevance to website searches, faster website load times, and optimal website experiences on all devices. Each should be crafted uniquely for each website page you publish.
While some meta tags are easy to optimize and place, others take technical expertise. To find that expertise, give HostGator a call. A marketing project coordinator will review your site for free, then offer a strategy to move your website toward greater visibility in SERPs. These services include meta tag crafting and placement as well as original content development centered around deep keyword research. Click here to set up a free consult.