Meta Tags: An Overview [VIDEO] 2018
Ashley Bryan |
May 22nd 2018
“Hi everyone, Ashley here from Website Strategies. Today I’d just like to talk about meta tags. You’ve probably heard of these. They are quite a basic, sort of a basic element of your SEO, or at least your onsite optimization of your website which is where you get the keywords onto the page. So they are very important. Google puts a lot of stock in the way you write those and they can certainly help your SEO if you get them right.
Types of title tags
Now, meta tags, there are two types of meta tags, actually. The meta title tag and the meta description. And Google does use both of these in order to understand what the site’s about, however the title tag is more important from a purely SEO perspective in terms of getting those keywords into the search results. So, Meta tags aren’t actually visible on your site, as such. They’re in the code behind the page, and most website content management systems nowadays have an area where you can manage these meta tags on your website, and you manage them on a per page basis.
So you have different meta tags for each page on your website, and usually these tags will reflect the keywords that you’re targeting on that page. And all of this, of course, is within the context of making sure your website is written appropriately for your target market. So we don’t do things just for SEO, we want to make sure the human visitors understand what your website’s all about as well. And we get those meta tags tuned so that we get optimal traffic in and beneficial SEO and rankings, as well from those.
The title tag
So the title tag. The title tag, as we say, doesn’t appear on your website as such, but it does appear in your browser, which is probably why Google puts so much importance on the keywords that are in your title tag. So, for instance on my page, my SEO Sunshine Coast page here, or any page, you can see up in the Chrome tabs up at the top here some keywords and some text. Now, this is pulled directly from your title tag, which you manage behind the page. And you can see exactly what that says. Keywords in there are important, obviously because a human can see it straightaway up in the tag here, so Google puts a lot of emphasis on that. Now, that title tag very often appears, as well in the search results. So the title tag for this page is SEO Sunshine Coast, advice, help and training. You can see that because it pops up the little descriptor over the top there. So SEO Sunshine Coast, advice, help and training, and that is exactly what appears in the search results if I do a related search and my result appears.
So I go search on SEO Advice Sunshine Cost and there’s my result. That title tag, which you see in blue, comes from my website, comes from the title tag that I’ve set behind the scenes which appears up here, and Google puts a lot of emphasis on it. Because it’s important, it is important to get the keywords right. Now the order of the keywords is important as well because Google will put more emphasis on the words you put at the front of the title tag. So it’s often a good idea to put your brand at the end and the more important phrases at the front and have them read sensibly and logically and in a way that helps us or helps the people searching for your type of services or products to click on the results, so that they come through.
The Meta Description tag
Now, the meta description tag is also behind the scenes. It doesn’t even appear in text or anything else. It’s purely behind the scenes of the page. It’s in the code. And if you look at the code by right clicking any page and going view page source, it finds the meta tag or the meta description tag in there. We do it in find, type description, there it is. Meta name description I offer SEO Advice et cetera, et cetera. So I wrote that deliberately. This code, this is the code behind the page and it’s the only place where that phrase, where that text appears, or that tag appears, except on the search results. Now often, but not always, Google will use that meta description tag that you wrote and use it directly in the search results, and it appears as the little snippet, the little bit of text under the title tag in there.
Now, if you’ve written one deliberately and it reads really well and it’s relevant to the page very often that’s what will appear in the search results. If not, Google will make one up, and often you’ll see that it’ll pull in some gibberish from your website or from a website. Sometimes you’ll see some pages or some text that obviously not really useful to the end user who’s doing a search. So we want both, the title tag and the meta description tag to read really well.
And from an SEO perspective we want our keywords in there, as well. You can see that Google … If I have a search on SEO Advice Sunshine Coast Google is identifying those words that I used in that search and is highlighting them in both, well in the meta description here, or their description snippet. And it’s also well putting emphasis on them in the title page, as well. So I did a search that used the word SEO Advice or the phrase. Here it is. It’s highlighted. Now, this meta description tag doesn’t directly affect your ranking, so having these words in here is not a direct ranking signal to Google, but obviously it’s a good signal to someone who’s doing a search because as I scan down the page these bolded phrases are going to jump out. So we want to pay some attention to the keywords that we have in those meta, meta descriptions here, as well as the title tag.
Length of meta tags
Now these were fixed length as well. The title tag there, you want to keep those around 50 characters, otherwise it’ll cut off at the end, which you’ve often seen maybe. There’s one there that’s doing it, so it gets a little three dots, or the ellipses or whatever it’s called there at the end. You really want them to fit and read properly, and not have the end of those tags cut off. Same with the meta description. Although in this case, a lot of them are cut off. Now the reason for that is, Google’s just changed the length. It’s changed it around quite a bit, actually.
If we aim for 150 characters, it will fit into these two lines, here. They recently increased it to 320 odd characters, so a lot of people, including me, increased the length of the description on that basis, and then they changed it and shortened it. And now we’re not really sure exactly how long it’s got to be, but if you make it about 150 characters, make it read really well, then that is the best plan. And also, we want that to read in such a way that your human visitor sees that description and clicks on your results.
So this is why we do anything. This is why we do SEO, and this is why we look at keywords. Just to recap, human visitor, or one of your potential target market needs your type of product or services. They do a search on Google, Google pulls, has pulled out your page title tag, and if you’ve planned it, it’s probably pulled out your meta description tag and displays it here. If they read well and sell the click, as it were, then that targets audience member, your potential customer, could click on your result.
SERP Click Through Rates (CTR)
That brings me up to my next point, of course, and that is the click through rates for these. Now, click through rate means you know, the rates at which people are clicking on these results here and obviously most people then click at the top and that percentage of people who click drops as you go down. Now, if someone did click on my result here, go to my website, which I’ll do now. I’ll open it in a new tab. If they go over to my website, or to that page, and they go, “Oh no, no, that’s not good.” and they go back, Google will see that. They will have a very low attention time, or dwell time on my webpage. Google will see people coming back and that would not be a good signal. So, if enough people did that, Google would be thinking, “This is not a valuable result to have here at number one.” And so potentially it’s going to affect my rankings and drop them down.
So it’s important that your description and your title here does speak to your target market, to your potential customer, and they go through and you retain them on your webpage and feed them through into the rest of your site. And Google will see that as valuable and keep and that’ll help keep you, you with your good ranking. So it’s important to get that right, to get those keywords right. Now, in order to manage the title tag and the meta description tag on your websites, usually there is a place in your content management system where you can get at these.
Managing your Meta tags
Now, this is the source of that page that I was looking at. This is how we manage it. This is a WordPress website, so if you’ve got a WordPress website, you’ll be familiar with all of these links down here and what they all do. Now, a very good plug-in for WordPress, particularly is the Yoast SEO plug-in. And what that does is, inserts little section in your edit screen where you can manage the snippet, which is your title and your meta description. Yeah, so we simply click edit snippet and [inaudible 00:09:32] you can adjust the title here and the meta description here. It gives a very handy little green sort of indicator. If it’s green, it means you’ve got the right length. Now this one’s red and orange, indicating it’s potentially not the right length, but my website automatically inserts my brand name at the end, so when it actually appears up there, it’s the right length. So that’s a good idea to keep an eye on that.
But basically, so you managed the title tag here, and made a description tag here, and if you don’t have WordPress you’ll have a similar functionality in your website, where you can adjust the title and the meta description for each page. Think about your target market, your potential customer whose doing that search. They’re going to see these in that search result. You want them to understand what you’re offering, that you can provide the solution to whatever they’ve just been searching for and you want them to then to click on your result.
So think about selling the, you know writing these so that if you envision all your potential customer will click through, as well as that you need to get your keywords in them, as well. Especially the title tag, get your important keywords at the front. Make sure it’s relevant, get your meta description the right length, make it read well, you know I think it a good idea to have a little call to action in the meta description there’s nothing wrong with that. And get those written well. I tend to think don’t put your phone number by the way, in the meta description or in the title tag. People do, my thought is if someone is doing a search and the phone number is right there, they’re not going to click on your link or on your result and go to your website.
They’ll call, they potentially could call it straight from seeing it on here, call your number. If they don’t, if enough people then don’t click on this, Google may see that potentially as a negative signal. So no one’s clicking on it, so they may drop you down. Not 100% sure that Google does that, no one is, but I wouldn’t be risking it. So I would keep your phone number out of there. You want people coming to your website anyway. So they’ll have a look around and even if they don’t stay, you know you don’t want them to think that’s all they can see. They come through look at the rest of your pages and they stay on your website, read the content for relevance and then make an inquiry and that’s our organic traffic converting. So there it is. Let me know if you got any questions. Happy to help, happy to pick up the phone, talk to you at any point or email your questions and I’ll answer them the best that I can.
Thanks very much.