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When it comes to reviewing websites, one of the first things dissected and studied are the meta tags being used on the page. Meta tags are little snippets of text that describe what that page’s content is all about. If you’ve ever followed or subscribed to a blog, you will notice they are actually quite similar to tags used in those kinds of websites. However, meta tags do not appear anywhere on the page, and instead is written in the page’s code. Although it’s not nearly as cut and dry, you can think of page tags as for the readers and meta tags for search engines, both describing to their intended audience what the content of the page is.
Now, the main difference between them is that one can be seen on page, and one cannot. Despite meta tags not being seen on the actual page, they can actually be used to your advantage when it comes to SEO, or search engine optimization. But that is only if you know how to use them to your advantage. Experts also agree they are arguably one of the best tools in an online marketer’s repertoire, and it would be a shame if they were misused. Here, we will explore how you are able to view tags, what kinds there are, and then how to leverage them in boosting your SEO campaign.
Stocksnap.io photo by Christina Morilla
How to view meta tags
In the event you would want to view what kind of meta tags any given page is using, you need to right click on any part of the page, and then select “View Page Source.” A new tab or window will then show itself, and at the top portion you should see the head of the page, which is where the meta tags are placed. It starts with “<meta” and then follows with other parts of the code. Although there are many kinds of meta tags webmasters use in coding their pages, there are four main types worth knowing.
The main kinds of meta tags
You should definitely note that not all meta tags are created equal. Some are able to help our campaign, while others are simply a waste of space. Others were useful before but not today, while others might even be detrimental to your website if implemented the wrong way. Here, we explore the four main types of meta tags. The first is the meta keywords attribute, which is a string of keywords that you think are relevant to the page the meta tag is embedded in. Next one is the title tag; it’s the text that you see at the top of the browser. The meta description attribute is a short text describing the page, and the last one is the meta robots attribute, which tells the search engine bots crawling through the page what to do.
1. Meta keywords attribute – A few years ago, the meta keywords attribute might have been useful in some instances. However, if you were to use them in this day and age, it wouldn’t make much sense. It’s not that using them would be detrimental, but it’s just a waste of effort to do so. The reason for their fall from grace is excessive use and misleading content. In order to get as much visits and views as possible, some webmasters added keywords that weren’t related to the content of the page.
This was done in order to get some traffic from as many sources as possible, even if the page had absolutely nothing to do with a certain topic. This was labeled as “keyword stuffing,” and it led to Google devaluing the tool, and has since then stopped using them as a metric in their ranking algorithm.
2. Meta robots attribute – Basically there are three commands that you can input into these kinds of meta tags. The first one is index or noindex, which will tell search engines if you want your page to pop up in their results or not. There is also what is called a deindex, which will remove a previously indexed page from the search results. Lastly, there is the follow or nofollow, which commands search engines to either trust and follow the links that are in your page, or not to.
It’s imperative that you need to take into account which tags will be more beneficial.
Stocksnap.io photo by Rawpixel.com
3. Title tag – Out of all the meta tags discussed, this is arguably the most important when it comes to SEO campaigns, and how well your website does on search engine results. Title tags have a real impact when it comes to ranking, and even more importantly, they are the only meta tags that are visible to all visitors of the page, even without viewing the source code. They are the ones located at the very top of the browser and search engines will consider what you input in your title tag the “real” title of the post. You can also make it so that people who are shuffling multiple tabs can easily read them, or if you just want to simplify the title for SEO purposes.
4. Meta description attribute – Despite the title tag being the most important, meta description meta tags don’t fall that far behind. What they do is explain to the search engines—and sometimes even the searchers themselves—what the page is actually about. However, it is important to remember that description tags will not show up in the results for a search all the time. Some browsers or search engines just pick snippets of it, and some not at all. But despite this, they are still very useful in other ways.
Being able to create a compelling meta description tag may entice the people who search to click through to your page, especially if the keywords in the tag include what they were searching for. Don’t make the same mistake as some of the old webmasters who tried gaming Google’s system using keyword descriptions.
Which are useful, and which are not
As mentioned before, there are meta tags that are useful for SEO purposes and some that are not. For the most part, there are four meta tags that should never be left out on the page, namely the title, meta description, meta content type, and viewport. The meta content type tag is needed so that websites can declare the character set for the page, as leaving this out can create problems in browser rendering. The viewport tag is included so mobile users will have a faster time loading the page, because not specifying it could lead to a bad user experience.
These four should always be included in your page. Although the other types might prove to be useful, more often than not, they are just a waste of effort and space. But if you really want to ensure you are giving the best possible effort in your SEO campaign, consider making use of a business product outsourcing company that focuses on SEO. Don’t leave it to your administrative assistant—hand it to the experts. You don’t really even need to deal in offshoring; just good old outsourcing to companies that share similar views with yours will be good. Check us out at SquareFish, and you might find we are exactly what you need.