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Your Search Engine Name Tag—What Are Meta Tags and How To Write Good Ones

Let’s travel back in time.

Remember in-person business events?

You know, the anticipated conferences that leave you energized and exhausted with a litany of new ideas that would take decades to implement.

What’s something every attendee has in common?

They wear a nametag. 

The nametag serves as their identification and often has their name, position, and company they work for. So when you’re meeting someone for the first time, you already have a better sense of who they are (at least professionally).

Meta tags serve a similar purpose for your website. 

Meta tags are like nametags and icebreakers all rolled into one: they tell your audience who you are and provide context for what your brand is all about. 

Creating robust, descriptive, and colorful content for your meta-tags is a critical component of your digital marketing strategy, both for audience engagement and SEO clout. 

Let’s look at: 

  • What meta tags are, 
  • Why they’re essential, 
  • The most common types, and 
  • How to write them well. 

Let’s Get Meta: What Are Meta Tags?

No, not like metaphysical. This article isn’t a discussion on consciousness and existence (or is it?). Meta tags, in a way, bring your website to life or at least make it readable for search engines.

Meta tags are pieces of HTML code that describe a given web page’s content, like title tags, keyword tags, and meta descriptions. The text isn’t on the page itself; instead, it’s in the source code, making it an avenue for your website to communicate with search engines.

Meta tags are your website’s nametag and introduce your web pages to search engines. Properly implementing meta tags can be instrumental in your website appearing on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), which is the page that appears on Google, Yahoo, etc., after someone types in a search query.   

As your brand’s translator, getting these meta tags right is essential to help search engines crawl and index your site more swiftly.

Meta Tags Aren’t Just SEO Hubs; They’re Also Brand Ambassadors.

Meta tags shape the narrative of your website.

Without meta tags, your landing pages would be endless lines of code. While a computer or software engineer may navigate these symbols just fine, odds are your audience wants to see something a bit more familiar and engaging.

Creating engaging meta tags like title tags and descriptions sets the tone for the reader’s experience on your site. When done right, you’ll build a clear and polished experience for your audience. But when done wrong or not factored into the equation, it can negatively affect SEO and disrupt visitor engagement. 

In most cases, the title tags and meta descriptions define your experience with a brand. And good meta descriptions keep you coming back for more. 

Take a look at major retailers like Target or Amazon. When you search, you’ll see a product label (title tag), picture (photo tag), and a short description (meta description). In this case, they only have a limited number of characters to grab your attention and encourage a click.

You only have a few seconds (and words) to make your case, and you want it to be good. 

The Evolving Relationship Between Meta Tags And SEO

Meta tags tell Google (and other search engines) who you are, so naturally, they have some influence over your SEO performance. But like anything SEO-related, their relationship is a bit complicated. Let’s start with the good stuff. 

Meta tags enhance SEO in two fundamental ways:

  • They serve as a translator for your brand to search engines
  • They augment your website’s user experience

You know that meta tags are a reliable go-between for your website and search engines, but the second piece of the puzzle is equally (if not more) important. As search engines become more sophisticated and attuned to visitors’ needs, optimizing your meta tags for context and readability can score you major SEO points. 

Strong meta tags guide visitors through the entire search experience. They provide deeper context and help you rank higher on SERPs while also giving users a more seamless experience as they navigate your website.

Here’s where it starts to get more complex.

Google prioritizes meta tags that help the people visiting your site, so not every single meta tag will be as relevant to your strategy. And meta tags are like weeds, boundless, relentless, and continually finding new ways to grow.

5 Common Tags You’ll Come Across (And Tips To Write Them Well)

As we obliquely alluded, there are numerous types of meta tags, some more important than others. We’ll look a little closer at five of them that tend to be the most prevalent and helpful in terms of SEO and user experience.

1. Title Tag

If you ask us, titles are pretty important. 

But don’t just take our word for it. 

Search engines also agree that properly titling a webpage is an easy way to increase your SEO health and promote reader participation. Here’s where title tags come into play. 

A title tag is as simple as it sounds: they give your webpage a name. And what’s in a name? In this case, context and purpose. Title tags distinguish between the different web pages on your site and give readers a sense of what the page is about.

But if that description doesn’t convince you, title tags are also the big, blue, and bold text that appear on SERPs. It’s these few words where a reader will either decide to swipe right or left on your content.

Striking the right balance between length and description is perhaps the most challenging part of title tags. Search engines don’t set title best-practice benchmarks, but they do have a hand in how those titles are displayed to the querying public. 

Technically, there’s no limit on the number of characters you can have in a title tag. But odds are, search engines won’t display all of them. Many SEO experts recommend keeping title tags within the 50-70 character range to help with presentation. Moz research cited that 90% of titles under 60 characters will display correctly in the SERPs.

Title tags will also appear in your web browser and on social media. So, you can’t get away from them!

But remember, SEO is only one component of this work. Your title also needs to be engaging, relevant, and offer a clear benefit to prospective readers. 

2. Description Meta Tag

Meta tags are descriptors—like adjectives modify nouns, meta description tags give you a chance to expand what your web page is all about.

Below, you can look at an example of the meta description for Perfectly Planned Content. This one-sentence description introduces potential visitors to who we are and what we do. 

As another example, consider meta tags from the perspective of your blog. You have the opportunity to write a meta description in every single piece of content you publish (and you should). The meta description is what populates in Google, social media, your blog snippet, or wherever you share the article and gives the reader insight into what the post is about.

The meta description is an opportunity to include a focused long-tail keyword and write persuasively about the valuable piece of content you lovingly crafted. 

If you don’t create a meta description, the search engine will automatically pull one from the text (often part of an introduction). This may turn out just fine, but think about it like this: when you need answers, receiving an automated message isn’t nearly as effective as talking to a real person.

Writing your own meta description gives you more control over how you present your webpage, in this case, your blog, to the world. It also opens up opportunities to intentionally use keywords that can boost audience clicks and engagement.

Your website template often dictates your meta description word limit, which tends to hover around 150-160 characters. 

An important note: meta descriptions enhance the user experience; they aren’t directly tied to Google algorithms. 

That means no matter how many keywords you stuff in your meta description, Google won’t rank your content any higher (your readers may not be too fond of it, though). Your meta description is all about enticing your readers to click through to your article, webpage, etc., which in turn boosts your SEO rankings. 

3. Image Meta Tag

Get ready for your close-up because it’s time to optimize your images.

Whenever you add an image to your webpage or blog, you’ll have the option to add a title and alt text, which is a snippet of text detailing what the image is portraying. 

Pro Tip: You can use the same words to describe the title and alt image tag. 

Initially, alt text was designed for image accessibility to those who were visually impaired. Additionally, alt text serves as a medium for search engines to crawl and index your images accurately.

Alt text can also be helpful if an image on a webpage has an issue loading. If an image doesn’t load, the alt text will pop up, providing more context to visitors as to what the image should be.  

4. Robots Meta Tag 

Here’s where your website gets into the driver’s seat. These tags specifically tell search engines if they should or shouldn’t follow or index your page via an index/noindex and follow/nofollow attribute. 

The default setting for most platforms is to index and follow, so you don’t have to input these descriptions for every page. Wouldn’t you always want search engines to “follow” your stuff and index on SERPs? Not necessarily. Here are a few cases when you may wish to input a noindex or nofollow manually.

  • Links in comments
  • Embeds from content, graphics, or infographics from 3rd-party websites
  • Other links you don’t want to endorse

5. What About Keyword Meta Tag?

In SEO days past, keyword meta tags were the “it” factor that put you (and your content) over the top. But this led to wasteful processes like keyword stuffing, which didn’t help readers at all. Google and other search engines quickly remedied that by devaluing meta keywords. 

So in today’s world, are keyword meta tags merely an anachronism?

If you only look at SEO, the answer may be “yes.” But these tags have a few extra tricks up their sleeves. 

You’ll often find keyword meta tags most beneficial when organizing your content. You can give your posts specific keyword tags and categories to help bring more structure to your blog. It may even keep readers on your site longer if they browse by category. It can also help you brainstorm blog topics under particular “umbrellas.”

Write Away

Meta tags exist right on the brink of structure and creativity. Sure, you have to follow some rules, but that doesn’t mean it lacks strategy or finesse. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind.

  • Stay within the word count. Now’s not the time to draw outside the lines. While you may have some flex with title tags, often meta descriptions cut you off once you’ve reached the limit. Here’s your opportunity to be clear and concise.  
  • Include long-tail keywords (but avoid keyword stuffing). Keyword stuffing isn’t the same as a keyword strategy. A comprehensive keyword strategy aims to help you rank for the things your audience is already looking for. Where will those keywords go? You can include your long-tail keywords on your website copy, page titles, blog content, podcast notes, webinars, meta tags, and more! 
  • Keep your brand tone and style consistent. Even though they’re short, meta tags should still sound like your brand wrote them. Use words, tone, and phrasing aligned with your brand, not like an automated message. 
  • Write like a human. It’s really easy for meta tags to sound automated and robotic. Try to remember that while you’re looking for SEO credibility, meta tags are just as much about helping the right people find your website. 

Meta Tags = Micro Stories

We love telling stories here at Perfectly Planned Content, no matter how many words we get to play with. 

Meta tags are a great way to introduce your website to search engines and refine the story and message you want to communicate to your readers.

Want to get meta?

We’d love to be part of helping your brand tell its story and cultivate a qualified, loyal audience. Get on our calendar to learn more.