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Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential process when you want your website to have higher rankings in search engine result pages (SERPs). Without SEO, it is difficult for your website to rank, and it will most likely be buried deep in the SERPs. The SEO process is primarily carried out in a website’s background and is embedded in the HTML of the site, out of sight but extremely important.

The information used in SEO is referred to as meta tags or SEO meta tags and is read by search engines when scouring the web to satisfy a specific search. When SEO meta tags are correctly incorporated into your website, it will have more exposure to search engine users. This will lead to more traffic for your website. Let’s take a closer look at the process, commonly used terms, and inherent benefits of using SEO meta tags

What Are SEO Meta Tags?

SEO meta tags are critical snippets of text describing the content on your website. These snippets aren’t visible on the front end of your webpage because they are located in the source code. The word meta is short for metadata, the type of data that provides information regarding what content is present on your website. When someone uses a search engine, the text entered into the text box is instantaneously processed, and millions of websites are scanned in search of matching meta tags.

When your website uses SEO meta tags correctly, in relation to a search, the search engine will grab your site and categorize it based on the use of the tags and rank it accordingly in the SERPs. The success of SEO meta tags is measured by where your website lands in the search results.

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Ultimately the goal of the SEO process is to have your website land on the first page of the SERPs. When you consider how many websites may have data similar to yours, the second or third page can be viewed as a win. There’s always room for improvement when using SEO meta tags to increase your website’s rankings.

Types of Meta Tags

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There are many different types of SEO, so let’s take a look at some of the more common ones:

Meta Keywords

What are meta keywords? They’re a list of keywords you decide are relevant to your website’s content. These aren’t as useful as they once were due to keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is when a website owner decides to place unrelated trending meta keywords in the source code of their site as a means of pirating traffic from popular sites. Search engines, recognizing this, removed meta keywords from their ranking algorithms.

Title Tag

Search engines view the title tag as your website’s title. You will see the title tag in your browser’s address bar. Title tags are among the most important meta tags due to their visibility to the average user and search engines. Title tags simplify your website’s information for SEO purposes, positively impacting your site’s search engine rankings. They are also beneficial to average users who may have multiple tabs open on their browser.

Search engines have limits on how many characters can be displayed in SERPs. These limits change depending on the screen size. This means that your title tag will need to be 60 characters or less to fit most screens. Your title should include keywords to convey your site’s content, but the number of keywords will need to be limited.

Titles with too many keywords are considered spammy and can cause search engines to rank your site lower or even rewrite your title. The best practice is to use only one keyword or a short keyword phrase in your website’s title. If you have a famous brand that is easily recognized, it’s a good idea to include it in your title tag as well.

Meta Description

The meta description is a short and concise explanation of your website. This description is primarily used to explain to search engines the exact nature of your site. The meta description gives the same explanation directly to searchers, but not as often. Though search engines state that keywords found in meta descriptions won’t affect your site’s rankings, they can still have an indirect positive effect. If a searcher sees the keywords they are searching for in your meta description, they are more likely to click the link to your website.

Even though there is no set limit for the length of meta descriptions, search engines will typically only show the first 160 characters. This makes it critical for your keywords and vital information to be located closer to the beginning of the description. It is prudent to use keywords in your meta description, and you can use more than one in this instance. The best practice is to include different variations of the keyword used in your title tag for your description. Though you can use more than one keyword, it’s still recommended that you use three or fewer.

Headings

Not only do headings organize your website into chapters, but they also allow search engines to use passage indexing to specific chapters as separate search results. Users can use headings to navigate your site quickly. When search engines use headings to pull forward the most relevant information in their results, it automatically narrows down your search even further. This saves you time and eliminates the effort of having to scan through to find exactly what you are looking for.

There are several different headings to choose from, including:

  • H1- There is usually only one H1 heading per page, and it is the title of the page. Often confused with the title tag, an H1 heading is only shown on your website and not in search results. There are no character limits for an H1 heading, so you can make it as long as you want or match it with your title tag if you wish.
  • H2 – H2 headings are used to break up the content on your website into chapters, making it easier to navigate.
  • H3 – To further break down your site’s content, you can use H3 headings to create subchapters.
  • H4 – As with H3 headings, H4 headings are used to create even more sub-headings. There are more than four headings, but content can become a cluttered mess once you get past H4 headings.

Since headings can be used as separate search results by search engines, it is essential to use keywords in your headings. Every heading should be written as a page title to allow search engines to separate them into individual results.

Alt Attribute

This is part of an image tag, providing a description for the image. Alt text gives search engines, and people access to your images. With this access, alt text tells search engines what the image means and displays alternative text to people if an image cannot be loaded. In regards to SEO, alt text will improve your image ranking in image searches. Using alt text is an opportunity to take advantage of the traffic generated when your images are optimized.

If you have thousands of images, you won’t have to optimize them all. Choose images that represent valuable information, including images of screenshots of processes, products, your logo, diagrams, infographics, etc. Alt text gives you another opportunity to use target keywords, but remember not to overuse them.

Open Graph Tags

When you use open graph tags or OG tags, you can control how your website’s information is represented when it is shared through social channels. These tags can help drive more traffic to your site and increase conversations. There are more than a few open graph tags you can use, but these may be the most important:

  • OG title – You may ask, another title? Yes, another one. Now you have the opportunity to have three titles, a title tag for search, an H1 for your website, and an OG title for social networks. You can either copy another of your titles and use it or create an entirely new text for your OG title. You will want to keep your OG title between 60 and 90 characters to keep it from being shortened.
  • OG type – No matter what kind of object you intend to share, you will want to use an OG type to describe the object. A few examples of an object are posts, websites, companies, videos, etc. An OG type is considered more important when you have a “like” button present on your site. It helps determine if your content will appear in a social media user’s interest section when your content is “liked”. Website links are typically shared more often than other types, making website the most common OG type.
  • OG descriptions are similar to meta descriptions, but they are displayed as a summary when your website has been shared. The best practice is to keep your OG description under 200 words, and you won’t have to develop a keyword-heavy message. You can use this description to pull in your potential audience and get more clicks.
  • OG image – Adding an OG image to your sharable link makes it more appealing. You can use text over the image, but it will need to be placed in the center of the image. This position will reduce the risk of the text being cut off due to social platforms trimming the edges of your content. Images should have a resolution of 1200 x 627 pixels and a size up to 5MB.

Meta robots tag

A meta robots tag is an element of the HTML of your site that gives search engine crawlers (robots or bots) instructions on how to index the pages on your website. Though meta robots tags may not increase your site’s rankings, they can help save your rankings when you have some of your pages blocked from indexing. You can use these tags to address all bots or to address bots by name, letting you single out malicious bots so they can’t crawl your website.

Search engines will understand and respect set parameters when you use the following meta robots tags:

  • Noindex – Keeps search engines from indexing a page.
  • Nofollow – Prevents search engines from following all the links on a page.
  • Follow – Informs search engines that links on a page should be followed regardless of the page being noindex.
  • Noimageindex – Keeps images on a page from being indexed.
  • Noarchive – Cached copy of a page is prevented from appearing in the search results.
  • None – This is the same as nofollow, noindex.

Canonical Tag

A canonical tag allows you to tell search engines which page needs to be prioritized when there are multiple pages with identical content. Canonical tags help SEO by keeping you from having duplicate content. Duplicate content may not be bad, but search engines may consider your website suspicious if you are showing what appears to be copies of other pages. When you have similar pages, these tags can also keep search engines from indexing all of them. This eliminates your pages from competing with one another.

Schema Markup

A schema is an entire system of HTML tags. Schema markups can be added to your site’s source code as a means of telling search engines many kinds of things. For example, these things can be product prices, contact details, recipe ingredients, part numbers, etc. Schema markup is used to bring attention to bits of information on a page for search engines to use when creating rich snippets.

Today, there are quite a few available snippets you can choose from, including product, article, movie, book, event, and more. Schema tends to be complicated and is not suggested as something you can type out by hand. Using a structured data markup helper allows you to choose a specific schema, enter your URL, and choose the text from your page that you want to mark up. Schema markup helps produce more traffic, clicks, and exposure.

SEO Meta Tags Are Essential to Successful SEO Efforts

SEO meta tags may be more in-depth than you initially thought, but they are well worth the effort it takes to use them. When used correctly, SEO meta tags will raise your website’s search engine rankings. In turn, higher rankings will increase your exposure to potential consumers, traffic to your site, click-throughs, and conversations relevant to your brand. SEO meta tags are available tools you can take advantage of as a means of continually growing your brand.

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