You are here

Want top search engine rankings? Just add meta tags and your website will magically rise to the top, right? Wrong. Meta tags are one piece in a large algorithmic puzzle that major search engines look at when deciding which results are relevant to show users who have typed in a search query.

While there is still some debate about which meta tags remain useful and important to search engines, meta tags definitely aren’t a magic solution to gaining rankings in Google, Bing, Yahoo, or elsewhere – so let’s kill that myth right at the outset. However, meta tags help tell search engines and users what your site is about, and when meta tags are implemented incorrectly, the negative impact can be substantial and heartbreaking.

Let’s look at what meta tags are, what meta tags matter, and how to avoid mistakes when implementing meta tags on your website.

What Are Meta Tags?

HTML meta tags are officially page data tags that lie between the open and closing head tags in the HTML code of a document.

The text in these tags is not displayed, but parsable and tells the browsers (or other web services) specific information about the page. Simply, it “explains” the page so a browser can understand it.

Here’s a code example of meta tags:

<head>
<title>Not a Meta Tag, but required anyway </title>
<meta name="description" content="Awesome Description Here">
<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html;charset=UTF-8">
</head>

For more on the history of meta tags, see our post “Death of a Meta Tag”.

The Title Tag

Although the title tag appears in the head block of the page, it isn’t actually a meta tag. What’s the difference? The title tag is a required page “element” according to the W3C. Meta tags are optional page descriptors.

To learn more about best practices for title tag element, our post “How to Write Title Tags For Search Engine Optimization” tells you everything you need to know.

The Description Meta Tag

This is what the description tag looks like:

<meta name="description" content="Awesome Description Here">

Ideally, your description should be no longer than 155 characters (including spaces). However, check the search engine results page (SERP) of choice to confirm this. Some are longer and some are shorter. This is only a rule of thumb, not a definite “best practice” anymore.

The “description” meta tag helps websites in three important ways:

  • “Description” tells the search engine what your page or site is about: For the search engine to understand what your page is about, you need to write a good description. When Google’s algorithm decides a description is badly written or inaccurate, it will replace that description with its own version of what is on the page. Wouldn’t you prefer to describe your site to potential customers or visitors using your own words rather than leaving it in Google’s artificial hands? Look at this example and judge for yourself:

serp-good-bad-meta-description

  • “Description” helps with click through rates to your site: Writing a good description not only helps keep Google from rewriting it, but also helps you get good more people clicking through to your site. A well-written description not only tells users what is on your page, but also entices them to visit your site. A description is what shows up here in the search engine results. It is like good window dressing. Sites with poor descriptions will get less click throughs and the search engines will demote your site in favor of other sites.
  • “Description” helps with site rankings: The common belief (based on what Google said in 2009) is that nothing in the description will help you get rankings. However, I have seen evidence to the contrary. Is it heavily weighted? No, but if you want some value on a secondary keyword (say an –ing –ed or –s), use it here.

Two other quick notes on meta description tags:

  • Empty Descriptions: Can a description be empty? Yes. When it is empty Google and Bing will fill it in for you. In fact, sometimes (e.g., for blogs) you may prefer Google’s or Bing’s version. (Personally though, I always fill it in whenever possible, preferring my version to theirs, but if you have a small staff, this isn’t always practical.)
  • Quotes: Don’t use full quotation marks (“”) in your description. It will likely cut off your description. Use single quotes to avoid this issue.

The Keywords Meta Tag

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the “keywords” meta tag was a critical element for early search engines. Much like the dinosaurs, this tag is a fossil from ancient search engine times.

The only search engine that looks at the keywords anymore is Microsoft’s Bing – and they use it to help detect spam. To avoid hurting your site, your best option is to never add this tag.

Or, if that’s too radical for you to stomach, at least make sure you haven’t stuffed 300 keywords in the hopes of higher search rankings. It won’t work. Sorry.

If you already have keyword meta tags on your website, but they aren’t spammy, there’s no reason to spend the next week hurriedly taking them out. It’s OK to leave them for now – just take them out as you’re able, to reduce page weight and load times.

Other Meta Tags

There are many other meta tags, but none are really considered useful nowadays. Many of the tags that we used did things like:

  • Told the spider when to come back
    <meta name="revisit-after" content="30 days">
  • Told the browser the distribution
    < meta name="distribution" content="web">
  • Told the page to refresh
    <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="30">
  • Told the page to redirect/refresh
    <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="x_seconds; url=http://www.yourhost.com/pagetosendto.html">

We don’t use these anymore, either because there are better ways (such as schema tagging or server side methods) or because the engines they used to work on are no longer in existence or Google has explicitly told us they are not great ideas (such as redirects at the page level).

NOTE: Schema tagging and rich data snippets are single-handedly the most important (and somewhat quietly announced) change to how your site interacts with the search engines and the search spiders. Learn it. Know it. Implement it.

Robots Meta Tag

The robots tag is still one of the most important tags. Not so much for the proper implementation, but the improper.

The robots meta tag lets you specify that a particular page should not be indexed by a search engine or if you do or do not want links on the page followed.

Believe it or not, it is still common for a site to be deindexed because someone accidentally added a noindex tag to the entire site. Understanding this tag is vitally important.

Here are the four implementations of the Robots Meta Tag and what they mean.

  • <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">

    This means: “Do not Index this page. Do not follow the links on the page.” Your page will drop OUT of the search index AND your links to other pages will not be followed. This will break the link path on your site from this page to other pages.

    This tag is most often used when a site is in development. A developer will noindex/nofollow the pages of the site to keep them from being picked up by the search engines, then forget to remove the tag. When launching your new website, do not trust it has been removed. DOUBLE CHECK!

  • <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="INDEX, NOFOLLOW">

    This means: “Do Index this page. Do not follow the links on the page.” Your page WILL be in the index AND your links to other pages will not be followed. This will break the link path on your site from this page to other pages.

  • <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, FOLLOW">

    This means: “Do not Index this page. Do follow the links on the page.” Your page will drop OUT of the index BUT your links to other pages will be followed. This will NOT break the link path on your site from this page to other pages.

  • <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="INDEX, FOLLOW">

    This means: “Do Index this page. Do follow the links on the page.” This means your page WILL be in the index AND your links to other pages will be followed. This will NOT break the link path on your site from this page to other pages.

NOTE: The robots tag may be ignored by less scrupulous spiders.

The Charset Tag

Finally, all sites must validate charset. In the U.S., that is the UTF-8 tag. Just make sure this is on your page if you’re delivering HTML using English characters.

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8">

Conclusion

While meta tags aren’t the magical solution that you may have heard, they still play an important role in helping your site get found in search engines. Enjoy your metas!

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
CesRulley (not verified) - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 20:49

Commander Viagra Pharmacie Prednisone Online Seroquel Propecia Nice Online Zoloft Zithromax One Time Dose Progesterone Website Mastercard Accepted Overseas Prozac Anxiety Buy Zithromax Now Cialis 10 Efficace Nolvadex Drug Online Clomid Generic Cipro Overnight Delivery accutane Zithromax Tripak Cialis Noche Cialis Usa Cialis 10 Mg Prezzo Farmacia Viagra Per Comprare Purchase Cytotec Cialis 5 Mg Dosis Viagra Plus Yohimbine Online Cialis Como Cortar El Propecia Cheap Xenical Tablets Need To Order Cialis Cialis 28 Compresse Da 5 Mg Propecia Muskeln Cheap Viagra Fast Finasteride 1 Mg Online Pharmacy Achat Viagra Generique En Ligne En Limoges Misoprostol Tablets Keflex 500 Mg Daily No Rx Macrobid Where To Order Visa Accepted Arkansas Vibramycin Free Trial Side Affects To Amoxicillin Cialis Black 800mg Pills Generic Lasix Buy Celebrex Cvs Herbal Propecia Prescription cialis Ordering Viagra From Cananda

Emile (not verified) - Sun, 04/09/2017 - 09:18

My brother suggested I may like this blog. He used to be totally right.
This put up truly made my day. You cann't consider simply how much time I had spent
for this information! Thanks!

My weblog - manicure

Shana (not verified) - Wed, 05/10/2017 - 16:47

Greetings from Carolina! I'm bored to death at work so I decided to browse your blog on my iphone
during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you present here and
can't wait to take a look when I get home. I'm surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile ..
I'm not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, superb site!

Stop by my page; fuck it, http://tallradius9569.jigsy.com/,

Christin (not verified) - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 19:59

Hi my family member! I want to say that this post is
amazing, nice written and include approximately all important infos.
I'd like to see more posts like this.

Here is my web-site; height enhancing

Silas (not verified) - Mon, 07/03/2017 - 06:10

Howdy very cool web site!! Man .. Excellent .. Superb ..
I'll bookmark your website and take the feeds additionally?
I am satisfied how to stop a foot pain find so many helpful info
right here within the put up, we want work out more strategies on this regard, thanks
for sharing. . . . . .

Royal (not verified) - Tue, 07/04/2017 - 02:16

Hi i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anywhere, when i read this paragraph i thought i could
also make comment due to this good piece of writing.

Review my webpage: foot pain epsom salt

Erma (not verified) - Thu, 05/11/2017 - 17:31

Asking questions are genuinely pleasant thing if you are not understanding anything entirely, except this piece of writing presents fastidious understanding yet.

Also visit my site :: fuck it (https://louisestmary.wordpress.com/)

Charli (not verified) - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 01:13

Hi there i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace,
when i read this article i thought i could also make comment due
to this good piece of writing.

Take a look at my weblog :: rpoorman.sosblogs.com

Nadia (not verified) - Wed, 06/21/2017 - 18:23

These are genuinely enormous ideas in concerning blogging.
You have touched some pleasant points here.
Any way keep up wrinting.

my web-site: foot pain relief

Thurman (not verified) - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:42

Hello this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if

Do you get taller when you stretch? have to manually code with HTML.

I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I

wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Noe (not verified) - Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:52

Hey there! I'm at work browsing your blog from my new iphone!

Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look

forward to all your posts! Keep up the fantastic work!

Have a look at my web blog ... Can better posture make you taller?

Gisele (not verified) - Sun, 05/07/2017 - 00:57

You can certainly see your enthusiasm within the paintings you write.
The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not
afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

Feel free to visit my blog post: walking shoes - Mayra -

tampankOramfish58 (not verified) - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 18:02

pandora rings philippines for sale
pandora movies
pandora rings autumn 2014
pandora hearts fanfiction break x reader
pandora bangle price philippines
pandora bracelets clasps
pandora.com application
pandora spring collection 2016 rings
pandora joyas catalogo 2013
pandora charms aunt
pandora charms purple butterfly
oz pandora hearts quotes
pandora gift card balance canada
pandora promo code 2015
pandora new york ny estados unidos
pandora wrestler
tom clancy's splinter cell pandora tomorrow pc kickass
pandora android car stereo
pandora jewelry holiday gift set
silver bangle pandora bracelet
how to turn off pandora on ipad air
pandora charms 2015 winter
medical related pandora charm
pandora san francisco cable car charm
pandora starts playing by itself android
#1 aunt pandora charm
disney animal kingdom pandora restaurant
pandora watch charm uk
pandora star bangle limited edition
pandora recovery tool for pc
best r&b and hip hop pandora stations
disney world pandora flight of passage
psp 3000 pandora battery hack
pandora charms cheap south africa
pandora joias lojas rio de janeiro
pandora newsletter abbestellen
splinter cell pandora tomorrow mission 5 kundang camp indonesia
how do i put pandora on my phone
pandora dealers augusta ga
pandora popurri letra cancion
pandora's box bracelet price
pandora birthstone march earrings
uber pandora not showing up
pandora la usurpadora mp3xd
pandora complaints
pandora moonstone flower ring
pandora bracelet for child
pandora on apple tv 2015
which archetype suits pandora best
pandora sterling silver charms ebay
pandora 35 off
watch pandora hearts eng sub
pulseras pandora costa rica precios
pandora galaxy charm gold
pandora customer support contact
pandora may birthstone bracelet
pandora size chart conversion
how much do pandora charm bracelets cost
pandora wings charm
pandora bracelet size guide uk
pandora jewelry website
stop pandora iphone 5
pandora world
pandora mexican charms
pandora charms christmas puppy
god of war 3 pandora hope quote
pandora charm clasp opener
pandora bracelets blogs
pandora intern
pandora error code 0
pandora oakland ca
pandora shortcut keys
pandora pulsera cuero azul
pandora miniatures
minecraft pandora avatar map
disneyland paris pandora charms 2015
pandora store melbourne cbd
free pandora no ads
pandora hr linkedin
pandora entwined hearts necklace
pandora charms heart
can i use pandora in australia
open pandora handheld console
video de los peces en el rio con pandora
pandora hearts special edition manga
unblock pandora website
devil may cry 4 pandora codes ps3
pandora free bracelet promotion september 2012 online
pandora dangle heart charm
how many charms pandora bracelet
pandora app on vizio smart tv
pandora store menlo park mall
pandora on wii 2014
authorized pandora retailers online
pandora ip address
pandora jewelry for kids
pandora breast cancer charm 2014 nz
pandora survival minecraft server
texas state university pandora charm
korg pandora bass pedal