As we’ve pointed out multiple times, marketing is an ever-changing landscape of ins and outs, yeses and nos, and dos and don’ts. Years ago, keyword stacking was all the rage, with page developers adding as many meta keywords to pages as possible.
Since then, Google has cracked down on this behavior, and meta keywords became less of the thing to do. However, meta tags are still very important to the success of your ranking and click through rate.
At this point, some of you may be completely lost, especially if you’re new to owning or marketing your business online. Let’s take a look at what meta tags do today, and how they should and shouldn’t be used for the success of your online business.
What Are Meta Tags?
The term “meta tag” itself refers to the bits of text in a page’s HTML that describe what that page contains. You can see a page’s meta tags by right clicking on the page itself and selecting “View Page Source”.
Along with all the confusing code, you’ll see lines with the phrase “meta name”: these are the meta tags.
Typically, only crawlers care about meta tags, as this is how search engines gain information regarding what a particular page is about, and thus, how to rank it in searches.
The crawlers from the search engines gather this information to report back on the content of the page, for use in page ranking.
There are four main components to meta tags:
Meta Keywords Attribute
These are the keywords users program into the page. As we mentioned earlier, this was once used and abused by folks who wanted to rank their pages any way possible. Nowadays, Google places less emphasis on meta keywords in its ranking algorithm.
When you search for something on Google, you’ll see that results have a title that may vary a bit from what you searched for. For example, if you search for “argyle socks”, you may get results like “shop argyle socks”, or “shop mens argyle socks”. Those are the title tags, which match with the search.
Meta Description Attribute
Under the title tag, you’ll see a brief description of the page. In the “argyle socks” example, you might see a description like “shop the best mens argyle socks dress socks quality made from latest designers”. Something that includes related keywords, but gives you an idea of what the site is about and how it relates to your search.
Meta Robots Attribute
These are specifically for the crawlers, to tell them what they should do with the tags in relation to the web site and searches.
How Do Meta Tags Work?
Let’s go back to the argyle sock example. Whenever you search for something, Google’s algorithm matches the words you type into the search bar with similar words in the content, images, meta titles, and meta descriptions of everything that’s out there.
As a result, the more specific your search is, the more relevant the search results will be. A search for “argyle” socks brought up men’s socks, and the option to shop for socks.
Refining that a bit to “bright argyle socks” will get results like actual websites of brand names, pictures, and results under the Google Shopping tab. By adding more words to your search, you’re starting to drill down into more specific meta tags.
If you click on any of the search results, you’ll notice that the page name and its meta title are often different. For example, you might click on “shop bright mens argyle socks”, and come to a page that is titled “Designer Socks for Men”. It’s not completely off topic, but it’s clear that the meta title was designed for your specific search.
The meta description may do something very similar. The two sentences you read under the Google search result may describe what you’re looking for, but only a fraction of the content on the actual page. That’s because the meta tags are telling Google, “yes, we have that, have them click here!”.
The goal is to employ meta tags in such a way that those who search for things related to your goods or services on Google will find your site on the first page, AND be very interested in learning more about your particular site, based on that meta title and description.
What’s the Best Way to Optimize Meta Tags for SEO?
Dare we say it? Content is key. For meta titles and meta descriptions, the best way to gain a high search ranking and click through rate is to be thorough and brief, and to make as much sense as possible.
Writing meta titles and meta descriptions is a bit of an art form. A meta title should be a maximum of 68 characters, based on the pixel limit of the title space. A meta description has a maximum of 165 characters, but this is often a case where less is more.
The idea is that the person conducting the search shouldn’t have to work hard to decide if your site is meaningful for them. The Google algorithm has already brought the site to the table, and now the searcher has to decide if your site really is relevant, based on the meta title and description.
Relevant, but also interesting
Think of it as the blurb on the back of a book. You might have four books in your hand, all by authors you love, but you’re going to buy the one with the most compelling blurb, right?
The basic rule for constructing your Google blurb, so to speak, is that the meta title should include one keyword, while the meta description should include two keywords. Most importantly, it should read very naturally and simply, without being incomplete or abrupt.
You may have to minimize your keyword. For example, “artisan-made locally sourced organic sheeps wool bright argyle socks” may suddenly become “bright argyle socks” for the purpose of fitting into the meta tags.
Testing your Meta Tags
Determining if your meta tags are working for you is actually fairly simple. If your site ranks well on Google, but you have a lower clickthrough rate than you would anticipate, your blurb is not exciting enough and needs edited.
Perhaps it’s time to change up the keywords and meta description. If the clickthrough rate is exactly where you want it, though, but the page isn’t ranking, that can mean the crawlers aren’t finding it easily, so it’s time to beef up the meta tags within the content.
The key ingredient to a successful business is being found, and search engine optimization is a very fluid art. Constructing a site requires the addition of plenty of keywords and meta tags, which will have to be revisted often to ensure the relevancy of your site to your goods and services and the current market.