Meta Tags: What They Are and How They Work

A Meta tag is invisible text that's part of your website's programming code. They work behind the scenes to tell search engines what your website's about.

Using Meta tags effectively can:

Increase Your Search Engine Rank. Search engines look through your content and Meta tags. By placing your keywords in all your Meta tags, you'll increase your website's relevance for those keywords and be ranked higher on search engine results. High search engine results make it easier for people to find your website. Learn more about Search Engines.

Increase Your Conversion Rate. Well-written Meta tags help deliver the visitors that are truly interested in your products and services, which can result in more sales.

Although there are several types of Meta tags, the 3 most important ones are the Title, Description, and Keywords tags.


What Meta Tags Look Like In Your Website's Code

Go to any website and right click your mouse. Then click on 'View Source'.

A window will open up that contains the programming code for the page you're looking at. You'll find the Meta tags at the top of the window, between the <head> </head> tags.

 

The 3 Most Important Meta Tags and How They're Used

The Title, Description, and Keywords Meta tags work with search engines in several ways:

  • All 3 are searched for keywords
  • The Title and Description tags are used to describe your website in search engine results


Title Tag

The Title tag allows you to title your website. The content of a Title tag appears in two places:

Browser Window. When your website opens in a browser window, it will appear in the top blue border of the window.

Search Engine Results. If your website is ranked in search engine results, it will usually be the clickable link on the first line of your listing.

Google's Search Results

 

Since the Title tag is what people see on a search engine results page, make sure that your Title tag is descriptive. If your title tells people exactly what your website is about, they'll know if it's what they're looking for, and will be more likely to visit your site if it is.

NOTE: The Title tag isn't actually a Meta tag, but it works like one and is considered one for all intents and purposes.


Description Tag

Like the Title tag, the Description tag is also used in search engine results. In most search engines it provides the bulk of the result listing.


MSN Search Results

 

A well-written Description tag, like the Title tag, can convince people that you offer what they're looking for and persuade them to visit your website. You should try to keep your Description tag to under 200 characters, as most search engines will not display more than that.

NOTE: Not all search engines use the Description tag in their listings. Some search engines take information from the page content to or they may combine page content with the Description tag.


Keywords Tag

The Keywords tag is different than the other two, as it has no visible results on either the browser window or the search engine results.  Like the other tags, search engines look through it for keywords. However, the Keywords tag has two advantages. It allows you to:

Use extra keywords. You can probably think of more than just a few keywords that apply to your website, but it's hard to include them all in your content. The Keywords tag lets you tell the search engines about all the other keywords that you couldn't easily use in your content.

For example, if your company sells chocolate bars, you'd want to optimize your content for “chocolate bars” and similar words. However, if you also sell them to schools for fundraisers, you might want to include “fundraisers” in your Keywords tag as well.

Include common misspellings or spelling variations of your keywords.  If your keywords include commonly misspelled words or words that can be spelled in different ways, you can include them in the Keywords tag. This will let search engines know that when people search for those spellings, your website is still relevant to the search.

For example, Krispy Kreme includes both 'doughnuts' and 'donuts' in their Keywords. They come up on the search engine results for both words.


Google Results for 'Doughnut'


Google Results for 'Donut'

Learn more about Keywords.


NOTE: To maximize the power of your Meta tags, modify them on each page of your website. Each of your pages will have different content and the Meta tags should reflect that.


TIP! Some website builders make it easy for you to change your Meta tags. Make sure that the one you choose will let you change the tags for each page.

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Rodney Scott
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