Are Meta Tags an SEO Ranking Factor?
The relevance of meta tags in ranking your website in search results has recently caused some controversy. Some see meta descriptions as a tool that is helpful but ultimately unnecessary for ranking, yet it’s considered to be of high priority on the top 200 ranking factors.
Meta tags are one of the foundations of SEO. Without them, your readers won’t be able to find your website or businesses organically (meaning without online advertisements). Why? Because before anyone can go to an unknown website, they first have to search for it.
When users search for keywords regarding your business, you want to show up on the first page. Unfortunately, over 70% of people don’t look past page one of Google. Meta tags can help your website and business show up on page one so that everyone looking for you can find you.
Plus, meta tags should also help your audience click on your website from a search results page.
What are Meta Tags?
These tags help Google and other search engines determine what websites are relevant to the user’s search. You want your website to be relevant to the search.
Meta tags may be visible or invisible to the viewer. Whether you can see them or not, each are equally important. How can you incorporate meta tags into your website?
- Title Tags: A Title Tag is a portion of a page’s meta data that is inserted on the development back end of your website. It does not show up on the actual page, but title tags do show up in search results. Title tags are one of the things that users see right away. When you search for a phrase in Google, the titles stand out on the search page. It’s there not only to catch a viewer’s eye, but it also helps Google see your website as something that is relevant to their search.
- Description Tags: Meta descriptions provide an overview of the webpage to viewers. If more viewers are clicking on your page and staying there because they can read what the page is about, search engines will like your business’s website far more than if nobody is clicking on it. As with title tags, description tags are also inserted on the backend of your website and do not show on the webpage. They only show up on a search results page.
- Image Tags: Images can’t be read by Google the same way words are. That’s why image tags (or alt tags) are so important. Alt tags are phrases that are put on each image. You can and should include keywords and your company name on each alt tag. Also, should include something about the topic of the page the image lives on. Alt tags are an important part of making your website accessible to the visually impaired. Whether it’s because the image isn’t rendered, a person with a visual impairment is having the text read to them, or simply being seen by search engines, the alt text is an important part of meta.
- Keyword Tags: These help search engines figure out what certain pages on your website are about so that the correct page shows up when searched. This is a setting on the back end of your website.
Here is an example of how a meta title and meta description show up on a search results page:
How do meta descriptions help you on Google?
When people search for certain phrases, they are highlighted in the meta descriptions that show up on the search results page. Here’s an example:
Meta descriptions (the gray words beneath each title) and meta titles (the blue links) are one of the first things that search engines review (known as crawling) before giving a user their results. The keywords that search engines crawl first are often presented in the <head> section of a web page and include the meta title and description. The search engine also crawls over the content to make sure the web page is relevant for a particular query. Using <htags> around keywords is a vital trigger letting Google know your most prominent keywords without much effort.
What Happens When You Don’t Write Unique Meta Titles & Descriptions
It’s important to write your own unique meta tags for every single page on your website. When we do SEO audits, this is number one mistake we see. If you don’t take the time to write unique meta, it sends confusing signals to Google, and Google may change your meta descriptions if the meta is not relevant. Instead, it will use other portions of content from the same page or post. By writing relevant and interesting meta tags, you control what Google shows your online audience.
Make Your Meta Tags Work For You
- Don’t duplicate the meta tags. If you can’t think of something unique to write for your meta descriptions or meta titles, it’s better to just leave them blank instead of copying meta information from another page. When the tags are duplicated, each page with those tags will be competing against one another. This can harm your search results.
- Include relevant keywords. Think about the words or phrases your customers and viewers will be searching regarding your website and be sure to include them in your website content and meta tags. However, you don’t want to use your keywords too many times. This is called keyword stuffing and can have a negative impact on your rankings. Instead, use each keyword 1-2 times.
- Be interesting. When your content, meta title, and meta description are boring, people aren’t going to click on your website. If they do click, they may end up clicking off right away and that can hurt your online presence as well. For example, instead of saying “Contact us!” in your copy, try something more original such as “Set up a time to chat!”
- Keep the visually impaired in mind. Meta tags are incredibly important for those who are visually impaired. Often, these people have screen readers that may not be effective if a website is not designed correctly. This ineffective design has led to several businesses getting sued because their online presence does not include blind-friendly designs and meta tags.
- Use a plugin. Website builders such as WordPress, allow you to install third-party plugins to give you ultimate control over your meta tags.