Meta tags provide the search engine spiders with information about a website. The search engines are focused on providing users with the best possible search experience and want to provide them with the most relevant results. The only way for a search engine spider to know that a particular website is relevant to a search query is if that website has been well optimized for specific keywords. These keywords need to be used throughout the web page content and incorporated into the meta tags on each page. While it’s true that the search engines used to weigh meta tag information more heavily when generating search results than they do now, it’s still considered to be SEO best practice to include them and optimize them. The following are tips for each of the major meta tags that should be included:
1. Title Tag
The title tag is not technically a meta tag but it still provides the search engines and search engine users with valuable information. It is the clickable link on a search engine results page listing and is indexed by the search engines. Not including this tag (or using the same one on multiple pages) means that Google will use any other text on that page as the title. Obviously, you don’t want that to happen since it probably won’t be the most accurate representation of the content on that page and won’t look as clean as a nicely written title tag. It’s important to use your primary keyword or keyword phrase in the title tag, and preferably at the beginning. Don’t use only the company name for the homepage title tag, especially if the company name doesn’t include any keywords. The title tag needs to be concise at less than 70 characters (including spaces).
2. Meta Tag Description
The meta tag description appears below the title on a search engine results page. Think of it as your sales pitch. What differentiates your web page from the others that are listed amongst it on the page? What information can a search engine user expect to find on this page? Each page should have a unique description, since the content is obviously different on each page. Use the meta tag description to persuade a potential visitor to click on your page in 150 characters or less.
3. H1 Tag
H1 tags are the headlines that appear on the actual page of content. It is the first text that a search engine spider “sees” on the page and therefore should include targeted keywords. The H1 tag should not be the same as the title tag, which serves a different purpose. Depending on the amount of content on the page, it may be advisable to also use sub-headers (H2, H3, etc.). These tags help your SEO and also break up the content which improves the page from a usability perspective.
4. Image Tag
Remember, the search engine spiders are robots and they can’t see your page. This means that an image that doesn’t include a tag is passed over and has no significance. By including an optimized image tag you are telling the spider what the image is about and it provides an opportunity to include one or more relevant keywords.