Building a fantastic website with the Boxmode website builder is just the first step to starting your online business. To make sure your target audience can easily find your site when searching the web, you need to optimize it for search engines.
Following Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices will promote your visibility. One aspect of SEO is meta tag optimization. In this guide, you’ll learn what meta tags are, how they work, and how to realize their full potential.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are small pieces of code found in a webpage’s HTML. They provide search engines and browsers with a web page description, title, and other key pieces of information. Every page on the internet has meta tags. To see them, you need to view the page’s source code. With any page open, press Ctrl + U if you are using Google Chrome or Firefox, or Command + Option + U in Apple Safari. (If you are using a different browser, see this guide.)
The tags are placed in the <head> section of a webpage. This is the markup between the <head> and </head> tags. You don’t need to have an in-depth understanding of HTML to use meta tags. However, it’s useful to have a basic understanding of where they go.
What Purpose Do Meta Tags Serve?
Their primary purpose is to give search engines important information about a web page’s contents, such as its title and whether it is mobile-friendly. This data helps search engines decide where and how to show the webpage’s link and its description on search engine results pages (SERPs). Meta tags also instruct a web browser on how to display the content.
8 Types Of Meta Tags You Should Know About
1. Title Tags
The title tag is the first point of contact for search engines and human users. Title tags state the page’s name. They usually appear on SERPs as clickable headlines.
The page title is placed between tags like this:
<head><title>6 Fun T-Shirts For The Holiday Season</title></head>
Technically speaking, title tags are actually elements, but in the world of SEO they are considered a type of meta tag.
Here’s how to write good title tags:
- Try to use 60 or fewer characters. This is because Google usually displays only the first 50-60 characters. However, sometimes a longer title is necessary to convey your message. Google will not penalize you for using a lengthy tag.
- Title tags also appear at the top of web browser windows. To help users distinguish between multiple open tabs, put your brand name and keywords near the tag’s beginning.
- Every page should have a unique, descriptive title tag. Generic titles like “Product Page” or “Home” can be off-putting to visitors. They can also harm your SEO ranking because search engine bots may assume that you have many duplicate pages on your site.
- Do not use all caps. Stick to title case or sentence case.
- If it makes sense to include keywords, incorporate them in a way that sounds natural.
2. Meta Description Tags
These tags contain a brief overview of what a web page is about. Google has stated that they don’t have a direct impact on your ranking. However, good meta descriptions make a big difference to your click-through rate (CTR), which is a ranking factor. A clear, engaging description will attract more visitors. It should explain why the page will help visitors find a solution to their query.
Google generates the descriptions you see on SERPs automatically. On mobile devices, users see around 130 characters per snippet, and up to around 160 on a desktop.
The tag looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="This text will be displayed in search results. It should be brief and compelling.">
Best practices to follow:
- If possible, avoid using double quotation marks in your meta descriptions. This is because Google will cut off everything after the first mark when displaying it on the SERP. If you must use these marks, consult this guide to find out how to use HTML entities instead.
- Try to write a different meta description for each of your webpages.
- Use a sentence or title case.
If you don’t write a meta description, Google’s algorithms will pick out a preview sentence from your content that it believes summarizes the main message. Depending on your writing style, this approach can work well. However, as a general rule, most experts recommend using meta descriptions as an opportunity to emphasize a call to action (CTA) that makes people want to visit your webpage.
3. Robots Meta Tags
Robot meta tags tell bots how to index your webpages and whether to follow your links. They are most often used to stop web pages appearing on SERPs. This is useful if you want to stop a search engine indexing pages like:
- Pages with “thin” content that don’t offer much value
- Duplicate content
- Admin-only pages
- Pages that are only relevant for a short amount of time, such as pages about sales or promotions
- Landing pages for PPC campaigns
- Error pages
- Redirect pages
Unless you tell them otherwise, bots will also review all the links on a webpage and note where they lead. Bots assume that if a link on your page leads elsewhere, you are endorsing that link and its destination. If these links go to poor-quality sites, they can negatively affect your rankings. You can use robots meta tag to display useful links without affecting your search engines’ position or promoting other sites. A nofollow tag is useful if your webpage contains content and links that you haven’t created or vetted yourself, such as blog comments left by readers.
The four most common values are self-explanatory:
- nofollow: Instructs any bot crawling a page not to follow any links it finds.
- follow: Instructs any bot crawling a page to follow all the links on that page.
- index: Instructs any bot crawling a page to index it.
- noindex: Instructs any bot crawling a page not to index it.
You can combine these values to suit your needs. For example, if you want to index a page so that it shows up in SERPs, but you don’t want to endorse any links it contains, you would use this markup:
<meta name="robots" content="index, nofollow">
4. Image Tags (aka Alt Tag)
Search engine bots cannot parse images, so you will need to use tags to describe them. They look like this:
<img src="adescriptivefilename.jpg" alt="description of the image" />
Your title will come up when your visitors hover over the image. Search engines cannot “see” images, so adding tags will give them some context they can use when indexing your content.
Using this tag not only helps browsers, search engines, and other sites identify your pages: they also make your webpage more accessible. Users with visual impairments use screen readers who speak the alt text aloud to know what the images on your webpage are about.
- Every image should have a descriptive filename up to 55 characters in length.
- Keep your text concise.
- Use keywords sensibly. On each of your pages, try to include a target keyword in at least one of your alt tags. However, avoid keyword stuffing.
- Include tags for form buttons, e.g., “Get the latest news” or “Order now.”
- Avoid using “photo of” or other similar terms. Bots and users already know that the text is in reference to an image.
5. Canonical Tags
Google may penalize you if its bots find and index a lot of duplicate content on your site. Canonical tags are useful if you have a series of identical or near-identical pages on the same site and you want to tell Google which one is the master copy.
The code looks like this:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://exampleofadomainname.com/example-of-a-page/">
The URL in this tag refers to the master copy. So if the above example were placed on the page https://exampleofadomainname.com/example-of-a-duplicate-page, it would tell Google that “example-of-a-duplicate-page” is a copy, and it should be regarded as a duplicate of “example-of-a-page.”
- Canonical tags are not a substitute for redirects. Redirects guide a visitor to the canonical URL. Canonical tags do not.
- You can use canonical tags on multiple domains. This is useful if you publish content to more than one site.
6. Responsive Design Meta Tags
This tag tells Google that a webpage is designed to display well on screens of various shapes and sizes. Meta viewport tags tell a browser how to control a page’s scaling and dimensions.
By using the viewport tag, you can ensure your visitors have a positive experience, whatever device they are using. This will reduce the number of people who hit the “back” button, thus lowering your bounce rate. This is important because your bounce rate is a search engine ranking factor.
The following tag is suitable for most webpages, according to Google:
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">
If you are using the Boxmode ready-made templates, you can be sure that they are all optimized for mobile devices. In case you are using any other website building platform, it’s a good idea to check that your webpages are mobile-friendly by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
7. Social Media Meta Tags (aka Open Graph and Twitter Cards)
When someone shares a link to your webpage on social media, the platform automatically generates a title and description of your content. Social media meta tags give you more control over how this information is presented. This is useful because you can optimize the image, headline, and description that appears so that people are more likely to click through to your page.
The markup you need to use depends on the social media platform you want to target. You can generate social media meta tags using the Mega Tags Tool. Just enter in some information about your site, pick the platform you want to support, and hit “Generate.”
8. Meta Charset Tags
This tag tells the browser how it should display the text on a webpage. The most popular character sets are:
If you use the wrong tag, some of the symbols and characters on your pages may look strange.
Google recommends using UTF-8. The code looks like this:
A Note On Meta Keywords Tags
You may have heard about meta keyword tags. These used to be a popular way of adding keywords to a page’s HTML. This would tell search engines what the page was about and could improve the page’s ranking.
Here’s an example of an online store selling red coats for women:
<meta name="keywords" content="red coats, warm coats, buy red coats, women’s coats">
In one of their official videos, Google makes it clear that they ignore keyword tags when deciding how to display results in their results pages. They stopped using them as a ranking factor more than ten years ago because webmasters began filling them with as many keywords as possible. These days, you should ignore them.
How To Add Meta Tags To Your Website’s Code
If you are using a site builder, you will probably be able to add and edit meta tags directly in the editor without touching your site’s HTML markup. For example, Boxmode’s Dashboard contains SEO tools that let you configure tags and settings for individual pages.
You can use SmallSEOTools.com’s Meta Tags Analyzer to check that your tags are correctly formatted and accurately describe your page. You can also enter your competitors’ URLs to check up on their tags. If they are consistently ranking higher in SERPs, their tags might be clearer than yours. Writing effective tags, especially titles and descriptions, requires trial and error. Tweaking a few words can make a significant impact on your conversion rate.
In summary, meta tags can attract more traffic to your site by refining the way its listing shows up in search results. They are a key tool in any digital marketing strategy. However, they are only one aspect of SEO. To attract your target audience and keep them coming back, you need to create relevant, valuable content that answers their search queries.