7 Meta Tags to Boost Your Website SEO: Understanding the Basics

7 Meta Tags to Boost Your Website SEO: Understanding the Basics

What are meta tags?

Meta tags are snippets of code that appear in the page source code/HTML. Meta tags stand for ‘metadata’ and provide information about specific components of a web page. Meta tags are not visible to the end user on the page but readable by search bots and web crawlers.

In essence, meta tags provide ‘data about data’ and help search engines better understand web content.

To find a particular meta tag, you need to go into the source code of the web page (CTRL+U) and then search for that tag, as shown in the snapshot below.

meta tags examples source code

Do meta tags help SEO?

As I just mentioned, meta tags help search engine crawlers better understand your content.

When search engines do that, they are in a position to rank your content better for specific search queries.

While not all meta tags are helpful and you should be selective in your usage, there are a handful of tags that you must know and use.

Collectively, these meta tags can help you improve your website ranking when used in the right way.

7 meta tags to help improve website ranking

1. Title tag

While there’s no meta in its name, title tag is probably the most important meta tag of all.

It’s one piece of information that is read as the first thing by both the search crawler and the end user, and that’s a reason good enough to take it seriously.

Title tags appear in SERPs, on top of browser tab and on prominent social media networks. 

On search engines, title tag appears as below:-

Page Title Optimized

Title tag SEO best practices

Here’s a quick list of title tag best practices:-

  • Always write a title tag for your page
  • Never write more than one title tag
  • Keep it short and descriptive (ideal length is between 50-70 words)
  • Don’t do unnecessary capitalizations
  • Research the top ranking competitors to understand what’s working for them
  • Match your title to intent behind the query
  • Match it to the content that follows; set right expectations
  • Front load the title with keyword
  • Make it interesting and click worthy
  • Don’t write duplicate title tags across pages, you will confuse the crawlers

Read this detailed page title seo checklist to know more.

How to add title tag to your page?

If you are on WordPress, you can add page title through plugins like Yoast, as shown below.

title tag wordpress

Within the HTML code, title tag appears as follows:-

<title>This is a sample of the title tag.</title>

Doing competitor research for title tag

Before you write your title tag, do have a look at the top ranking pages. 

Observe how they are writing their titles, how they are loading it with the keyword and how they are making it interesting. 

For example, here’s how the top ranking pages on Google write title for “meta tags in SEO” [checked via OnPage Champ]. 

Highlighted text in orange represents an exact match keyword. If you are targetting this keyword, you now know how the competitors are loading their page title with the focus keyword.

title tag onpage champ tool


2. Meta Description

Meta description is that small snippet of text that appears right below the page title, as shown in the example below.

Meta Description Optimized

While meta description is not a ranking signal for Google (check the official statement here), it’s still very important because it impacts the click through rate (CTR) of the page.

Since CTR is a ranking factor for Google, meta description automatically becomes important from SEO perspective.

Meta description SEO best practices

Here’s a quick list of meta description best practices:-

  • Always write a meta description for your page, stay within 160 characters
  • Research the top ranking competitors to understand what’s working for them
  • Match your meta description to the user intent in the query
  • Match it to the content that follows; set right expectations
  • Include an exact match keyword 
  • Show a promise in the desc, and deliver on it

Read this detailed meta description seo checklist to know more.

How to add meta description to your page?

If you are on WordPress, you can add meta desc just like you add page title i.e.,  through plugins like Yoast, as shown below.

Within the HTML code, meta desc appears as follows:-

<meta name=”description” content=”This is a sample meta description.”>

Doing competitor research for meta description 

It’s important to check your competitors before you frame the meta desc of your page.

You will get a lot of interesting, eye catching and click worthy ideas from them that you can also include in your description.

Here’s how the top ranking pages on Google write meta desc. for “meta tags in SEO” keyword, [checked via OnPage Champ].

meta desc onpage champ tool


3. Heading Tags

Heading tags (H1 – H6) help give structure to your content.

In my opinion, heading tags along with the title tag, are the most important meta tags that have a huge impact on search ranking.

Heading tags highlight the relative placement of your content blocks and makes it easy for the crawler & the user to read and consume your content.

Best practices for header tags

  • Use header tags to replicate inverted pyramid style of writing
  • Keep the headings logically parallel 
  • Don’t skip headings, include them in your content
  • Include a keyword in H1 tag
  • Use only 1 H1 tag
  • Keep the headings short and crisp

Read this guide on heading tag SEO to know further details.

How to add heading tags to your page?

If you are on WordPress, you can add heading tags directly through the content editor, as highlighted below:-

Heading tags wordpress

Within the HTML code, heading tags appears as follows:-

<h2>10 URL SEO Best Practices You Must Follow</h2>

Doing competitor research for header tags

A quick look at your competitors’ heading tags and you can understand their entire content piece.

While you can do this research manually, it will take you hours to fetch this data from the HTML.

With OnPage Champ, you can scrape this information in less than 30 seconds (as shown below) and analyze your competitors’ content coverage/depth, content structure and usage of exact match keywords/LSI Keywords across the heading tags.

This analysis helps you quickly generate/optimize your content structure as well as important on-page SEO elements.

onpage champ tool heading tags


4. Alt text

While Google’s image recognition is awesome, the accuracy is still not 100%.

To help Google understand the context and meaning of your images, you should use alt-text for every image that you use on a web page.

On slow loading networks, alt-text is what gets displayed in place of the image. It’s also the text that gets read by screen readers.

Best practices for image alt tag

  • Be specific to the image while writing alt tags
  • Stay relevant to the content
  • Use exact match keywords & LSI keywords (if applicable)
  • Don’t overstuff keywords; important is to stay natural
  • Use hyphen/space as a word separator

Here’s a detailed guide on Image SEO and how to optimize image alt tags 

How to add alt text to your page?

Within WordPress, you can add alt text after you have uploaded an image (as shown below):-

Alt-text-image-title-wordpress

Within the HTML code, image alt text appears as follows:-

<img src=”exampleimage.jpg” alt=”this is an example alt text”>

Doing competitor research for alt text

OnPage Champ also brings in image alt text data of the top 10 Google ranks and shows you their hidden secrets.

Image Alt Text onpage champ tool


5. Meta robots

Meta robot tag tells the search engine bot how to crawl a particular webpage.

Skipping meta robots tag on a page won’t do any harm. Worse, Google will crawl and index your web page.

But adding a wrong meta robot tag may do much more harm: Google may end up skipping the web page entirely. 

So be extra cautious when defining robots tag on a page.

Best practices for meta robots 

  • If you are unsure whether to use or skip meta robots, better skip it. You will do less harm to yourself.
  • If you are using meta robots tag, there is no need to specify the same page within robots txt file

How to add meta tag to your page

Within WordPress, Yoast is your savior yet again. Under the advanced settings of Yoast, you get an option to specify the meta tag setting.

How to add Meta Tags using Yoast

Within the HTML, meta tags appear as:-

<meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow”>

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”>

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>

<meta name=”robots” content=”index, nofollow”>

<meta name=”robots” content=”none”>

The last directive is equivalent to “index,follow”.

Index/noindex field defines whether search bot should index the page or not in its database.

Follow/nofollow field defines whether search bot should crawl the links mentioned on the page.

If you don’t set up any robots meta tag, it’s equivalent to “index,follow”.


6. Canonical tags

If you have pages (with different URLs) that are duplicates or have near-same content of another page, canonical tag helps you save your website from duplicate content penalties.

Using a canonical tag (rel=’canonical’), you acknowledge the duplicate content on the existing page and attribute it to the original source. That way, Google knows which page to index and rank, and where to consolidate the link equity, even though there are multiple pages with the same content.

Best practices for canonical tags

  • Use only one canonical tag per page
  • If you are using a canonical tag, don’t block that page via robots.txt file. 
  • Many people add canonicals to paginations. That’s an incorrect thing to do.

How to add canonical tags in WordPress

Yet once again, you can rely on the Yoast Plugin. 

Under the Advanced Settings, there is an option to add canonical URL to a page. 

Canonical Tag WordPress

 

If you want to do it manually, here’s how the code looks like:-

<link rel=“canonical” href=“https://example.com/this-is-the-main-page” />

Make sure that you add this code to the <head> section of the HTML and not within the <body>, else it gets ignored by Google.


7. Meta ViewPort

Meta viewport tag specifies how the content on a particular web page gets displayed across screen sizes.

As per Google, the presence of this tag indicates that the page may be mobile friendly. Remember, having this tag is necessary but not sufficient, you still need to make your pages responsive to pass Google’s mobile friendliness tests.

How to add meta viewport tags

If you are using WordPress default or a responsive theme, this tag is automatically  part of the code. 

If you are creating custom pages within WordPress, you need to specify viewport tag within the <head> section:-

meta tag viewport


The next step

Meta tags are not as complex as they sound. 

Even though they are technical parameters, a marketing person should make the decision of how to use them.

Moreover, there are so many more meta tags, but the ones I discussed above are more than enough for a beginner.

Use them with care and you will see positive improvements to your SEO very soon.

Leave a Comment