Just what are meta tags?

Many people looking into improving their search engine rankings will come across the term meta tags. Here’s a brief explanation of what they are and how they can help.

All webpages contain the following tags:

<html><head></head><body></body></html>

Within these tags sit various parts of your site. Meta tags which can be used for SEO purposes sit within the opening and closing ‘head’ tags. For example:

<head>

<title>Bespoke Web Designs Exeter, Web Design Exeter, Exeter Website Designer, Web Design Devon, South West, UK</title>
<meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”text/html; charset=iso-8859-1″/>
<meta name=”description” content=”Bespoke Web Designs for starts up and small business in Exeter, Devon & the South West – website design, e-commerce, blogs, e-newsletters, freelance services”/>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”website designer exeter, web site, web design exeter, small business, web design devon, seo Exeter, internet, web, online, bespoke web designs, exeter, devon, south west, uk”/>

</head>

Shown in the example is a TITLE tag, then a META DESCRIPTION tag, then a META KEYWORDS tag.

The Title Tag

The HTML title tag isn’t really a meta tag, but it’s important for both SEO and also for people viewing your web page. Whatever text you place in the title tag (between the <TITLE> and </TITLE> portions) will appear in the top of a web page when viewed in a browser.

So for Bespoke’s home page you’ll see the text: Bespoke Web Designs Exeter, Web Design Exeter, Exeter Website Designer, Web Design Devon, South West, UK as that is the text that’s in between the title tags.

Some browsers also supplement whatever you put in the title tag by adding their own name, as you can see Mozilla Firefox doing in the picture above.

The title tag is also used as the words to describe your page when someone adds it to their “Favourites” or “Bookmarks” lists.

SEO wise, the title tag is crucial for search engines. The text you use in the title tag is one of the most important factors in how a search engine may decide to rank your web page. In addition, all major crawlers will use the text of your title tag as the text they use for the title of your page in your listings.

So think about the key terms you’d like your page to be found for in crawler-based search engines, then incorporate those terms into your title tag in a short, descriptive fashion; of no more than 12-15 words. That text will then be used as your title in crawler-based search engines, as well as the title in bookmarks and in browser bars.

The Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag allows you to influence the description of your page in the crawlers that support the tag.

In the example at the top of this document for your home page, the meta description tag is:

<meta name=”description” content=”Bespoke Web Designs for starts up and small business in Exeter, Devon & the South West – website design, e-commerce, blogs, e-newsletters, freelance services “/>

The text in the quotes “Bespoke Web Designs for starts up and small business in Exeter, Devon & the South West – website design, e-commerce, blogs, e-newsletters, freelance services” is used in search results and shown as text underneath the content of a title tag.

An easy way to create the description tag is to take the first sentence or two of body copy from your web page and use that for the meta description content. However make sure this text is search term rich and something that people might do a search on to get the best results.

The Meta Keywords Tag

The meta keywords tag allows you to provide additional text for crawler-based search engines to index along with your body copy. For most major crawlers, it isn’t always used as most now ignore the tag.

The meta keywords tag is sometimes useful as a way to reinforce the terms you think a page is important for on the crawlers that support it; but make sure those same terms are mentioned in the content of your page to reinforce it. You can also mention commonly mis-spelt words here that someone might search on and also unusual words that you haven’t got in your content (less likely to be noticed but could be; ideally include it in your content though). Don’t use any more than say 20 keywords.

In conclusion

For your website each page should have different title, description and keyword tags. All of these tags should be relevant to the page but also include as many important relevant search terms as possible.