Search engines do not visually look at a page through a browser like a human. Search engines trawl the raw code of the pages and does not visualise the design.

Unless we tell them, search engines know little about a page. We need to give them direction.

What is a meta-tag?

To inform search engines we use tags throughout the pages. There are many different tags web designers and business owners should use.

Arguably the most important tags are located at the top of the page, called meta tags.

What is a meta tag?

A meta tag is a line of code that contains important information about a web page.

A meta tag is in the coding of the page and cannot be seen by the user.

There are four important meta tags.

  • Title tag – The title of your page. You can see this on browser tab, or when you print the page.
  • Meta description – Description of the page.
  • Meta keywords – A string of keywords or phrases.
  • Meta robots – Tells search engine crawlers if they should list the page.

These meta tags help the search engines to understand what the page is about.

Meta tags have been abused in the past and the way search engines use meta tags has changed over the years, and continues to change.

Title tag

This is now the most important tag used when optimising a page for Google. They are also visible to the user.

Title tags are displayed at the top of the browser when viewing the website, they print at the top of the page on a print out and search results pages they are listed above the meta description.

If there is a spelling mistake in your title tag rest assured it will appear on the search engine result pages (SERPs).

The title tag should be between 40 and 55 characters long. It should match the content of the page and it should contain the keyword or phrase you are using for the page.

Meta description attribute

<META name =”description” content=”To inform search engines we use tags on pages. Arguably the most important tags are located at the top of the page, called meta tags What are meta tags?.”>

Another well used meta tag. The meta desciption explains to search engines what your page is about. This also appears to the public, under the title tag.

The meta description should be between 130 and 155 characters long. It should match the content of the page, could include a call to action and it should contain the keyword or phrase you are using for the page. The meta description should be unique to that page.

Meta keywords attribute

<META name =”keywords” content=”what are meta tags, meta keyword attribute, meta description attribute, meta tags explained, metatags explained, search engine optimisation,seo”>

As of September 2009 Google no longer uses the keyword meta tag to rank pages.

However I would still advise to use the meta keyword tag for other search engines.

Keyword stuffing

A web page on ‘cheap clothing’ could use popular words in the meta tags like “gucci designer wear”, wrongly thinking they could manipulate Google search results and encourage traffic to their page. Google penalises websites that do this.

If your meta tags do not compliment your web copy, then your site can be blocked from the search pages.

My post on: how to write effective copy for search engines

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