As explained in Chapter 5 Elements of SEO. Meta tag is a snippet of text which gives a small description of  what this page content is about. This meta tag is not visible on the web page but is available in codes on  the page and are viewable to search engines.

If you want to look at Meta tag of your website you can simply right click on your web page and click “View page source” option. You will get a web page filled with codes. If your web page has any of Meta tag, it will be visible here and would look something like this:

meta tag

Meta Tag are added to the <head> section of your HTML page. If you code website, now you know where to put meta tag. For people using WordPress you don’t have to bother how to put meta tags in <head> of HTML page there are a lot of plugin which can solve this purpose. You can use plugins like Yoast WordPress SEO plugin or All in One SEO Pack WordPress Plugin. These are two wildly used SEO plugin, but there are many more if you want to try. Similarly for users of other CMS other than WordPress like Drupal, Joomla or Magento can search for an SEO plugin to solve this purpose I am sure there would be one as no website can do without SEO.

What  is the significance of Meta Tag in SEO?

In the old days of SEO Meta Tag played a key role in the optimization of a website. Search engines used to rely heavily on information available in the Meta Tag to rank and index a website. However, it is a saying that good things do not last long. Meta tag was abused to such an extent by webmaster for ranking that the search engine had to abandon them while indexing and ranking the webpage.

So here is a question. Why should we bother to know anything about Meta Tag if they are no more used by search engines for ranking a website?

The answer would be that yes,  Meta tag has no role in web page ranking and indexing of a website, but it is still playing a significant role in on-page optimization.  Also for people who have been in SEO or have read an old SEO book this article would help them to get out of a hangover of old Meta Tag optimization concepts.

Moreover, this article will also help you in determining what Meta tag you should spend time on and how much.

There are four important types of Meta Tag let us discuss them one by one to find out which is worth to spend time on and which ones can be skipped.

  1. Meta Title Tag : As the name suggests it is the title of a content. Google displays 50-60 characters from your title tag so make sure that if there is some thin important to write it should be within this limit. We will discuss the use and significance of Meta Title Tag along with Meta Description Tag as they have similar usage and effect.
  2. Meta Description Tag: It is a summary of your webpage it tells user about what your web page is about. Google displays 150-160 characters of the description which you put in.

Meta description along with the meta title tag in the past was used by search engines to index sites based on the keywords present in it. This was the reason it was exploited to such an extent. Web site owners used to stuff it with keywords irrelevant to their website just to rank for that keyword. This resulted in poor search experience and frustration for users as they were getting search results for their keyword only because these keyword were present in meta description, meta title or meta keyword and actual web page would not give ay relevant information.

This led search engine to completely exclude meta title and meta description from search ranking. Having said that, they still play an important role when it comes to on-page optimization. Meta title and meta description used as the snippet of a web page and shown in search result. It may not count in ranking, but it definitely makes a difference when it comes to click-through from a given search result.

To illustrate this let us see how this meta tag and meta title look in search result.

Meta tag 2

The part highlighted in red is meta title and part highlighted in red is the meta description. These are the two things visible from your website when your website comes in search result. More intuitive the title and description is more are the chances people will click it to visit your website.

So it may not help in ranking, but it certainly helps in grabbing attention of a user. While writing meta title and meta description the main focus should be on making title compelling and description informative so that it serves the purpose. Also, if you are using title tag and description tag for all your pages, make sure that they are not same. Use different title and description for each page else, chances are google will ignore it completely.

I would also suggest that you should not make the  title and description deceptive because if Google does not find anything relevant in description Google would choose a text snippet from your webpage to show in result. So if you are not sure what to write in the title tag or description tag simply leave it blank and let google choose the best text from your web page to show in search result.

For people who do not believe me listen to Matt Cuts from Google quality department what he has to say about meta description.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtSzi2MUegs

  1. Meta Keyword: Out of all the meta tags this tag was abused the most. People used to stuff it will almost hundred and thousand of keyword to rank their website for these keywords. It became such a menace that Google decided to complete abandon it for ranking. So my suggestion would be to skip it completely. If you still want to use it put one or two keyword do not stuff it else you would be inviting a penalty from google for keyword stuffing. Check what Matt cuts have to say about Meta keyword.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK7IPbnmvVU

  1. Meta Robot: This also one of the much talked about Meta Tag. It consists of instruction for Google bots or crawlers and tells them what page to crawl or not to crawl, what page to index and what page not to index and what links to follow and what links on a page not to follow.

By default Google bots or crawlers will follow, crawl and index all the page. Robot meta tags are mainly to stop them from crawling, following or indexing a page. Unless there is any explicit reason to block a bot a crawler I would suggest not to use this meta tag.

This tag has certain syntax and can be used in various combinations to accomplish certain task. Below are some example

META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”INDEX, NOFOLLOW”

META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”

META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”

META NAME=”GOOGLEBOT” CONTENT=”NOSNIPPET”

META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOARCHIVE”

Google will understand the following and interprets the following robots meta tag values:

NOINDEX – prevents the page from being included in the index.

NOFOLLOW – prevents Googlebot from following any links on the page. (Note that this is different from the link-level NOFOLLOW attribute, which prevents Googlebot from following an individual link.)

NOARCHIVE – prevents a cached copy of this page from being available in the search results.

NOSNIPPET – prevents a description from appearing below the page in the search results, as well as prevents caching of the page.

NOODP – blocks the Open Directory Project description of the page from being used in the description that appears below the page in the search results.

NONE – equivalent to “NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”.

Lets hear from Mat Cuts what he has to say about Robot Meta Tag and in what scenario you can use them.

I hope this has been informative to you and if you have any information where Meta Tag can be useful please share .

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