The critical but, unseen, world of website words
Meta, meta, meta. Meh. What you can’t see, can’t hurt you, right? Wrong. Metadata is invisible to the naked eye, but the information is out there if you can simply uncover it.
Metadata impacts how people view your site, yet the words don’t appear on the page. They appear in the code and signal passersby about the content of your site. If you know where to look, you can powerfully interact with search engines and lure more traffic.
Check the meta-language on most websites and you’ll find that it is missing altogether, incomplete, irrelevant, or breaks the rules of formatting.
Can I get a “meta” definition, please?
According to Woorank, meta tags are “Information available to search engine robots to crawl, index, and classify a given website.” This is like the billboard advertisement of your SEO strategy.
There are four types of meta tags:
- Meta Keywords
- Meta Description
- Meta Robots
- Title Tags
First, what is a tag?
Tags identify items. Tags are snippets of information that are standardized. Price tags at the store tell you how much you’re going to pay; dog tags tell you the name of the dog; so what do meta tags identify? A meta tag describes the content of your web page to the search engine robots.
How do I see my meta information?
Title tags are displayed at the top, in your browser’s title bar, but where are the rest of meta tags displayed?
Well, not unless you go hunting for them.
Meta tags are part of the page’s code, meaning that they will not be displayed on the screen when you view your web pages, unless you search for them in the source code. If you wish to see them, just right-click anywhere on the page and select “View Page Source.” Yes, it looks like a mess, but a simple CTRL F command allows you to search for the title and meta description.
Some of these meta pieces hidden in the code are extracted by the search engines and show up on the Search Engine Results Page displayed like this:
How your search engine result “snippet” appears is correlated to traffic. People have the option to visit a web page after searching a key phrase. Making your entry stand out can’t be an afterthought. Only the metadata can help you here.
What are all the metadata categories?
Meta Keywords – [obsolete]
Meta keywords are the keywords that you have identified as relevant to your site. Historically, just adding them to the source code of the page helped a site get a higher ranking from the search engines. Due to the practice of “keyword stuffing” (the act of using keywords in your content over and over in an attempt to lure traffic to the page), Google has made meta keywords obsolete by removing them from its ranking algorithm, thus making this an unnecessary part of SEO. It could have a resurgence in the future, but in the meantime, you want to include keywords naturally into your content. If the content on your site is relevant to your industry, you will have plenty of keywords without overdoing it.
Meta Description Tags
Probably the most important meta tag, the meta description explains in summary to search engines (and the searchers who search the search engines), what your page talks about. A true cross between SEO and real, old-fashioned marketing writing, meta descriptions are both complex algorithms and psychological fodder.
In a short space, meta descriptions include branding, search-term keywords, offers, calls-to-action, product data, and compelling information. They must work on bots and human alike.
Meta descriptions need to be very accurate. They act as the movie trailer or commercial for your web page. Make sure they’re 156 characters including spaces for computers and 120 for mobile devices
If you get this wrong, your self-proclaimed meta description will not appear in the search results. Google decides if your meta description fits the bill based on size, relevance, and other factors. If you fail the test, Google displays random snippets from the page itself, at Google’s own discretion. Do you want to make your own commercials or have Google patch together your commercial from Lord knows what might be on the page:
Writing great meta descriptions is complicated and worth the effort. Don’t copy your title tag info (it will be displayed on its own).
Note: Adding keywords to your description won’t influence your rankings as stated before, but it does not mean you shouldn’t use them in the description. The searcher will still have the option to read them (as long as the description tag and not the snippet is used), so you want to make sure you’re featuring the keywords that the searcher is looking for.
Meta robots–sounds like an awesome tv show, right? Instead, it is one of, if not the most, integral parts of SEO. Meta robots instruct the search engines on how to interpret the web page. This is your opportunity to tell the search engine what you want to show, how you want to show it, when you want to show it, etc. You achieve this by inserting values into the robot tags, such as:
Nosnippet – Prevents snippets from your page from showing in search results. (Don’t let Google choose what to display—these are your advertisements!)
Noimageindex – Prevents pages from being the reference for images on Google image search
Noarchive – Prevents Google from showing cached links for a page.
Index/noindex – Tells the search engine whether to show the page in the search result or not.
See more values for your robot tags here: https://yoast.com/robots-meta-tags/
Title tags are the 60-ish character descriptor of a web page. Every web page has a url name (computer address) and an English tag too. If you haven’t done so yet, read our outstanding treatise on title tags.
How the metas work together
Meta tags work together, beginning with the search engine looking for specific keywords to easily identify content. Here your meta description tags, meta keyword tags, and title tags begin to do their work. As the search engine finds the content to match the search on your site, your meta robots now tell the search engine how you want your search result to be displayed. Finally, the search is displayed, and if you’ve optimized all four areas, your result should not only be highly ranked but also incredibly irresistible for the click.
SEO providers like Titan Publishing have tools to automatically optimize the metas, but don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and test the process manually. It’s so easy—you’ll be amazed.
Be a marketing Titan
- Identify your highest-traffic page
- Isolate the 4 metas of the page
- Find your 3 biggest competitors’ corresponding pages
- Isolate their metas
- Rewrite the best and leave the rest
- Watch your page rank soar
- Contact Titan Publishing for a free consult on how to improve your SEO
Esteban Rodriguez is a lover of Rock music, Latin food, and fantasy football. Having earned a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication and Journalism degree from the University of Southern Florida, he is a talented writer, photographer, or videographer. In his free time, Esteban enjoys playing video games, cooking, spending time with his son, and playing a sick air guitar.