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How to SEO your meta tags

Meta tags are part of your website code and although their content is rarely seen by users many of them are vitally important to search engines. Will cover the key ones here.

The meta description tag

What is the meta description?

As crucial as title tags are description meta tags. You might have heard different but I'll explain all as we go!

They are invisible to visitors on the actual site but can be found in the code looking like this:

<meta name="description" content="[your description]" />

Every page should have a unique meta description which contains one or two of the keywords you want the page to rank for and is an accurate and attractive summary of the page's contents in one or two sentences. The one for this page is:

<meta name="description" content="Meta tags are part of your website code and although their content is rarely seen by users many of them are vitally important to search engines." />

Checking your meta description exists

To check if your pages are using this tag:

  1. Find a blank space on the page and right hand click.
  2. From the small popup menu that appears left hand click on 'View Page Source'.
  3. Eeeeek!? Don't be phased. Hold down Ctrl and F at the same time and look for a small search box that will appear in the bottom left or top right
  4. Type in meta name="description (it might be double quotes or single quotes so check both.

Strangely even some of the most popular platforms like Wordpress don't come with meta description abilities. For Wordpress you'll need a plugin like Yoast so you can add yours.

How search engines use meta descriptions

Most search engines ignore the description meta tag's content in SEO terms as it has been abused by spammers from the moment the internet went public! However they are often shown in the search results below the blue text and it can make the difference on whether a visitor clicks through to you ... or not.

So in our flower shop example if the meta description was "Live in Happy Town and need fresh flowers? Call us or visit our shop to see our great selection of daily deliveries." then in the search results their entry might look like this:

Fresh Flowers for all of Happy Town, daily deliveries
Live in Happy Town and need fresh flowers?
Call us or visit our shop to see our great selection of daily deliveries.

My general rule of thumb is that your meta description should be the first one or two sentences of your text content because:

  • The first one or two sentences of your text should make visitors want to read more which matches the goal of the meta description being used in the SERPs.
  • The first one or two sentences of your text should also include the keywords you are trying to rank for as having them high up in the main visible body emphasizes the importance you place on them.
  • Search engines don't always use your meta description in their SERPs but if the text is also visible to users on the page they are more likely to giving you more control over how you get represented in the search results.

The Keywords meta tag

The keywords meta tag is no longer used by search engines in any form so ignore it. In fact you should go out of your way to remove it from your code if it is there because it simply tells competitors what you are trying to rank for.

To check if there is a keyword tag on any given page of your website:

  1. Find a blank space on the page and right hand click.
  2. From the small popup menu that appears left hand click on 'View Page Source'.
  3. Eeeeek!? Don't be phased. Hold down Ctrl and F at the same time and look for a small search box that will appear in the bottom left or top right
  4. Type in meta name="keywords (it might be double quotes or single quotes so check both.

If you find a line of code that looks like this:

<meta name="keywords" content="keyword one, keyword two" />

find out how to get rid of it!

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

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