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Meta Tags for SEO: Definition, Examples, & Best Practices

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meta tags for seo definition examples best practices

Let’s talk about meta tags: what they are, why they matter, and how to do them better.

If you found this article via a search engine, there’s a good chance you found and clicked this article because of meta tags.

Meta tags are the foundation of SEO, and they are the first thing you’ll find yourself setting up when building a web page.

What Are Meta Tags?

Meta tags are a type of HTML tag that provides search engines with information about a website page.

Let’s take a look at the basic elements.

Meta Tags For Neil Patel In SERPs

The title and description tags make up almost the entire entry.

If not for these meta tags, all you’d see in Google SERPs would be my URL.

Meta Tags For Neil Patel In SERPs

Title and description tags are the two most-used tags for SEO purposes, but SEO isn’t the only part of digital marketing.

Advanced digital marketing requires the use of even more tags that improve page rank and overall user experience.

Just like this search result, you’ll soon find out that these tags control how your entire digital presence is viewed and navigated.

Machines can read URLs just fine. If I wrote for machines, my website would look like this:

meta tags HTML

Google prioritizes certain tags because they provide context for people.

I built my website for people as well, so it looks like this:

Meta Tags And Design Neil Patel Website

This polish is what marketing is all about.

In this blog post, we will explore meta tags and see how they affect your overall digital marketing efforts.

While simple, the devil is in the details, and every detail counts.

How Meta Tags Affect Brand Image and Click-through Rates

You absolutely can judge a book by its cover. It’s what covers are designed for.

Your title and meta description tag create the cover for your web page. They’re your first impression on most visitors.

It’s not just about search engines, but how we view the Internet.

Reddit is a basic link-aggregation site that takes away all the bells and whistles.

Reddit depends on the title and image to entice conversations and clicks.

Meta Tags On Reddit

Using meta tags correctly is like using the correct format for a business email.

Sure, you can put whatever you like out there, but there’s a level of professionalism that’s expected at some point.

Even Amazon will only give you a picture, title, and short description to make your point.

Meta Tags For Amazon

Think of these tags as your elevator pitch.

You’re given about as much space as a Tweet to sell your entire brand and product.

This means you need to nail it.

You can’t just call in this detail and polish everything else. If you do, nobody will ever see the rest of what you polished.

We already know how meta tags affect SEO, but that’s not the only element.

Meta tags will make your email marketing and marketing automation efforts easier by providing information for emailed links.

Tags are a crucial element that determines what my automated social media posts look like.

Meta Tags For Neil Patel's Twitter Account

When other bloggers, YouTubers, and social media influencers (and micro-influencers) share your content, tags make it easier.

Think of meta tags as the packaging for your product.

If your packaging isn’t spot-on, nobody will ever buy your product, no matter how great it is!

What are some best practices to implement for tags?

Meta Tag Best Practices

There are a TON of different HTML tags that can be used on a web page. We’re only going to focus on a handful of significant tags.

We’ll start with the one that might have brought you here today.

1. Title Tags

It’s not technically a meta tag, but it shows up in the header and is used as one.

As of July 2017, the character limits for title tags in Google search results are 78 on mobile devices and 70 on a desktop.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should use all those characters, and 60 is the generally recommended limit.

Long-tail keywords make a difference.

Here are the top meta titles in the SERPs for “How to make content marketing effective.”

Meta Tags For Content Marketing In SERPs

By adding the year, we get an entirely new set of results for “how to make content marketing effective 2021.”

Some users will want basic information, while others will want the most current.

meta tags - showing results for google search

By adjusting our title tag, we can affect which of these searches we rank for.

Ultimately, the goal is to hit both, but that’s not always feasible.

Make sure your keyword is in your title, or you’ll find your articles buried in search results.

For example, when I search for the “best tacos in Tucson,” some restaurants are on page 9below, even Del Taco.

That’s a wasted opportunity for that taco capital of the country!

Meta Tags For Best Tacos In Tucson In SERPs

These small businesses could greatly improve their search results, sales, and ROI by simply adding “best tacos in Tucson” to their title tags.

Here’s a sample of the HTML required for a title tag located in your header.

<head>

<title>The Best Title Example I Could Come Up With</title>

</head>

In WordPress, it’s as easy as giving your page a title.

You really can’t miss it.

Add Meta Tag Title In WordPress

That’s all there is to it!

2. Image Tags

Like title tags, Image tags aren’t labeled “meta.”

They’re clearly used by search engines, link aggregators, and other sites to identify your site.

There are two image descriptions actually crammed into one tag.

Here’s what the HTML code looks like.

<img src=“image.jpg” alt=“image description” title=“image tooltip”>

Both the alt and title tags should be defined for the best experience.

The title displays on your screen when you hover your cursor over it.

The alt text displays when the image can’t be rendered (or is spoken to the blind and visually impaired).

When uploading an image to WordPress, you’ll be prompted to enter the title, caption, alt text, and description.

Image Meta Tags In WordPress

The more fields you fill out (even if you use the same information), the more searchable your images become.

It’s also a matter of ADA website compliance.

There are approximately 7.5 million people with some level of visual impairment in the U.S. alone.

That’s a huge segment of the population that wouldn’t have a great user experience without alt image tags.

Optimize your images for search engines and users.

3. Description Meta Tags

A meta description tag gives you a chance to provide an overview of the page’s content.

They’re limited to around 160 characters and aren’t directly tied to Google’s search algorithms at all.

Once again, the reason you need description tags is to improve the user experience.

Description tags encourage click-throughs.

Here’s what the HTML looks like:

<head>

<meta name= ”description” content=”This is an example of the text that will show up in search results. Read on to learn more about description tags.”>

</head>

Without a meta description, Google will default to whatever preview sentence it feels best encompasses the content.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This post doesn’t have a meta description (I rarely use them), and it ranks well.

Meta Tags For Neil Patel Social Media Marketing Made Simple In SERPs

Of course, my blogs are filled with relevant content in short, sweet sentences. Most of them would work as descriptions on their own.

Still, there’s no harm in adding additional information to make your content more searchable.

4. Robots Noindex and Nofollow Meta Tags

Robot meta tags aren’t always necessary.

By default, all of the pages and links you create on your website are indexed as ‘follow’ by search bots and web crawlers.

Whenever you want to redirect them, you’ll need a robot meta tag.

Here’s the noindex HTML code:

<html><head>

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />

(…)

</head>

This would be within the header and indicate this page doesn’t need to be indexed.

It’s useful for syndicated and duplicate content that your customers/readers could use, but you don’t want credit in search indexes.

Here’s the HTML for a robot nofollow.

<meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow”>

This is used for links you don’t necessarily want to endorse.

For example, readers leaving links in my comments aren’t exactly endorsed by me, so a nofollow tag above the comments section keeps my site clean for bots.

Here’s a great infographic on when and how to use nofollow tags.

Nofollow Meta Tag Infographic

Now we get to one of the most controversial meta tags.

5. Keyword Meta Tags

Keyword tags aren’t used by search algorithms to determine search ranking.

Here’s what the HTML looks like:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”HTML, CSS, XML, JavaScript”>

I coach my SEO clients to ignore keyword tags because they don’t affect SEO.

That doesn’t necessarily make them useless, however. They’re especially useful in WordPress.

Keyword tags and categories can help Google determine which page on your site should rank for a search.

They also create a page in WordPress that provides one more indexed page.

Wordpress Category Page With Meta Tags

This means that, while your blog posts are focused on long-tail keywords, your tag and category pages have feeds covering the shorter keywords.

Categories can be used for the URL format, providing one more keyword to the page address.

This is accomplished under Settings > Permalinks in WordPress.

Category URLs And Permalinks For Meta Tags In WordPress

Adding this format provides context to your content.

Google loves context for search results!

Keywords also provide a big-picture overview of how many pages you have for each keyword.

You can use them to help plan your editorial calendar.

6. Viewport Tags

You don’t spend much time thinking about viewports, but they’re especially important in today’s mobile-first world of search.

On mobile devices, pages are shown in a popup window called a viewport that extends past the device’s border.

Here’s an illustration of what I’m talking about.

Viewport Meta Tags For Mobile Usability

Developers can set the viewport size to increase mobile usability.

WordPress users can check this tag to learn this information for their templates.

You probably didn’t know that unless you’re already a web developer.

Since Google increasingly focuses on mobile-friendly websites, this meta tag could mean the difference between success and mobile failure.

Now that you have a basic understanding of meta tags and why they’re important, I’ll show you some of my favorite tools for manipulating them.

Free Tools to Add and Check Your Meta Tags

Don’t worry if this all sounds overwhelming—there are tons of tools to make it easy to get meta tags right. Here are two of my favorites.

Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress

Yoast is a powerful SEO plugin for WordPress and one of the most-downloaded SEO and meta tags tools.

With Yoast, all of the pages and posts you publish have back-end options to increase social sharing, optimize SEO, update tags, and other metadata.

Yoast SEO Plugin For WordPress For Meta Tags

With Yoast installed on your WordPress site, a few clicks and a few seconds of your time are all it takes to add meta-tagging to your process.

Yoast also allows you to enter a focus keyword that doesn’t get added to the meta tags, allowing the back-end program to analyze your post.

BuzzStream Meta Tag Extractor

If you need a quick chart of the metadata that’s being used by your competition, BuzzStream’s Meta Tag Extractor is a sleek and simple solution.

Copy and paste a list of URLs, and you’ll be presented with the meta tag information.

Tag Extractor Meta Tag Tool

There’s even an option to download as a CSV file so that you can scrape large lists quickly.

It’s a quick and easy way to organize this data when you need it.

This free online tool does its job without all the bells and whistles.

Less Popular (but Still Useful!) Meta Tags

To be fully transparent, here’s a chart of HTML meta tags.

List Of Meta Tags

An author meta tag can be used to tell search engines who wrote a piece of content.

Authors have been used in the past for search results, but it’s not a factor anymore. However, you might use author tags if you run a multi-author blog.

WordPress does add this information to blogs when multiple users are contributing content.

It’s more a badge of honor for bloggers than anything else.

Most of the rest define parameters that should already be controlled on a server level.

While I ignored these meta tags, it doesn’t mean you have to. Feel free to add whatever information you’d like.

It doesn’t help search rankings, but it doesn’t hurt them, either.

Meta Tags FAQs

What are meta tags?

Meta tags are a type of HTML tag with information to share about your page. This helps search engines understand what it’s about so you can show up in the relevant search results.

Why are meta tags important?

Meta tags are important for SEO because they make sure search engines know what your content is about. Based on these tags, search engines will be able to show the website in the appropriate results. This way, people can find you easily.

How do meta tags improve website accessibility?

Meta tags can provide hidden information that can be read by assistive technology. For those who with visual impairment, the image alt text can provide image descriptions for them.

How do I add meta tags to my website?

Meta tags can be added directly into the HTML. You can also add them in tools like WordPress. There, you can add image alt tags, title tags and meta descriptions.

Meta Tags Conclusion

Meta tags are a basic part of HTML—and they can impact SEO.

Back in the early days of the internet, they were a signaling factor for search engines to understand what content is on a page.

The internet (and our relationship with it) has evolved exponentially since then.

Contextual search, AI digital assistants, and mobile devices are changing the way we view content.

Search engines are incentivized to provide the best search results possible, so meta tags are less important.

However, some, such as the titles and meta descriptions, are more important than ever before.

While less metadata is used, it’s still the first impression you’ll make on both robots and people.

What do your website’s meta tags say about you?

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Daily Search Forum Recap: July 23, 2024

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Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.


Google will not deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome, after delaying this process numerous times. Google Ads Editor version 2.7 is now out. Google Ads has a new Sitelinks interface. Google is testing larger sitenames and favicons. Google Search is showing video descriptions generated using A Overviews.


Search Engine Roundtable Stories:


  • Google Won’t Deprecate Third-Party Cookies In Chrome


    Google has decided not to deprecate, do away with, third-party cookies in Chrome. This is something Google has been planning and testing for a while, delaying the efforts numerous times, and now ultimately deciding to scrap those efforts.

  • Google Ads Editor Version 2.7 Is Now Out


    Google has released version 2.7 of the Google Ads Editor. This new update brings a number of new features and also deprecates a number of features. New features include AI-generated assets, account level content label exclusions, account-level negative keywords and more.

  • Google Search AI Overviews Video Descriptions


    Google Search is testing using AI Overviews to provide video descriptions in the Google Search results. When you click to expand some videos, Google may overlay the video and its description directly in the search results. And that description may read, “AI overviews are experimental,” which means the description was adapted by Google Gemini.

  • Google Tests Larger Sitename & Favicons


    Google is testing larger sitenames and favicons again. You can see a considerably larger font used for the sitename (the link in the Google search result snippets) and a larger favicon being tested in the search results.

  • New Google Ads Sitelinks Interface


    Google Ads has a new sitelinks interface, and functionality, for Performance Max campaigns. The new recommended sitelinks features are rolling out, plus there is a new numbered layout for the sitelinks.


  • Google Soda


    Here is a photo of two cans of drinks, maybe soda or some other energy drink, that is branded with the Google Innovator logo and name. I found this on Instagram and thought it was unusual enough to share here.

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

SEO

PPC

Search Features

Other Search

Feedback:


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, on Threads, Mastodon and Bluesky and you can follow us on Facebook and on Google News and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.



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Daily Search Forum Recap: July 22, 2024

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Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.


Google is testing new link citations in the AI Overviews. Google is also testing saving AI Overviews for later. Google is showing some AI-generated images in some knowledge panels. Microsoft Advertising is rolling out new brand lists in Performance Max. Bing is testing related searches at the top.


Search Engine Roundtable Stories:


  • Google Tests Link Icon Citations For AI Overviews


    Google is also testing link icons in the AI Overviews to show citations for statements generated in the AI Answer. These links, when clicked, will take you to an overlay window that shows those links in a search result format page. No, clicking the link icon will not take you directly to the source but you will see the search result snippet.


  • Google Testing Save Button For AI Overviews


    Google is testing the ability to save your AI Overviews to your Google Interests section. If you are opted-in to labs in Google, and you see AI Overviews, at the bottom of the AI Overview, you may see a new “Save” button.

  • New Microsoft Advertising Brand Lists For Performance Max Campaigns


    Microsoft Advertising is rolling out brand lists for Performance Max campaigns. “Brand lists allow greater control over brand image and ad visibility, including the brands you don’t want your ads to be associated with,” Microsoft wrote in its help documentation.

  • Google Knowledge Panels Using AI-Generated Images


    Google is showing AI-generated images in some of the knowledge panels they show in Google Search. Google is not creating these images; they come from images on third-party sites. And honestly, I kind of like it, at least in some cases.

  • Bing Tests Related Searches At Top – Below Search Bar


    Bing is testing placing the related searches at the top of the search results page, directly under the search bar. The searches are exactly what you would see in the bottom but in a different format at the top.

  • Google Wooden Hive Tree


    I don’t know what this is, but I spotted this photo at the Google office in Kirkland, Seattle. It looks like some sort of wooden art, maybe of a tree, maybe of some hive, I am not sure.

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

SEO

PPC

Other Search

Feedback:


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, on Threads, Mastodon and Bluesky and you can follow us on Facebook and on Google News and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.



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Billions Of Google goo.gl URLs To 404 In The Future

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Google Lazer Bounce

Google announced that it will stop serving the Google URL Shortener, so any URL that was set up to redirect using goo.gl, which Google stopped supporting adding new ones back in 2019, will also stop serving.

Starting August 23, 2024, goo.gl links will start displaying an interstitial page for a percentage of existing links to notify users that the link will no longer be supported after August 25, 2025 prior to navigating to the original target page. Then after August 25, 2025, the link will then 404 and not redirect to the right destination URL.

So any redirects you have pointing to your site using goo.gl Google’s service, will die and not be counted.

As Glenn Gabe noted on X, that means billions of URLs on the web will simply vanish and begin to 404. Glenn shared how Majestic knows of 3.6 billion goo.gl links 36 billion historical links in its database.

This is the Interstitial page shown for some goo.gl links starting on August 23, 2024:

Goog Gl Links No Longer Work

Here is the Majestic report from Glenn Gabe:

Majestic Goog Gl

Google wrote:

Over time the percentage of links that will show the interstitial page will increase until the shutdown date. This interstitial page should help you track and adjust any affected links that you will need to transition as part of this change. We will continue to display this interstitial page until the shutdown date after which all links served will return a 404 response.

Note that the interstitial page may cause disruptions in the current flow of your goo.gl links. For example, if you are using other 302 redirects, the interstitial page may prevent the redirect flow from completing correctly. If you’ve embedded social metadata in your destination page, the interstitial page will likely cause these to no longer show up where the initial link is displayed. For this reason, we advise transitioning these links as soon as possible.

Note: In the event the interstitial page is disrupting your use cases, you can suppress it by adding the query param “si=1” to existing goo.gl links.

Is this a pain for any of you? I personally won’t be asking anyone with goo.gl links to update them for me.

Forum discussion at X and WebmasterWorld.



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