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A game of tag: why meta tags are vital for SEO

code on phone

Your website’s success in appearing in relevant search results is basically down to two things:

• The visible content on your website - i.e. the text real people read

• The ‘under the bonnet’ hidden technical stuff - i.e. the stuff nobody reads

Meta tags sit somewhere in the middle - sometimes seen, sometimes not - which is why it’s so important to get them right.

What are meta tags?

Meta tags are short bits of text that help search engines understand what a webpage is about. They lurk in the first part of your website code in a specific point so search engines find them first. They also can appear in two very visible places:

1. search engine results pages (SERPs)
2. your browser

Why do we use meta tags?

Search engines are not smart. They may use complex algorithms to sort results, but fundamentally they want a quick route to the information they require. That’s what meta tags do. The give search engines the skinny on the content on each individual page on your website. That’s why every single page on your website should have its own, unique set of meta tags. Yes, every single one.

Meta tags and SERPs

When you make a search in Google (or another search engine like Bing), you’ll end up with a page of results, like this:

Google serps 1

The meta title
The first line in blue is the meta title of the page. You’ll see in the example above how the meta title for the team page is a lot longer than the other. It also contains keywords around the kind of people who work in our team.

The second line in green is the URL (address) of the website. 

The meta description
The third and fourth lines are the meta description. This describes the content of that page in more detail.

Meta tags and humans

So, which section do you read, as a human? Most people scan the first line, but read the third and fourth. This is where the website needs to sell its benefits, big time. Let’s look at the Team meta description, for example:

“The Akira Studio team: experienced web developers, graphic designers, SEO research and copywriting in London ON Ontario and worldwide.”

It tells your potential customer that the team are experienced, have the skills they require and are based locally in London ON. (More on the importance of location a bit later on!)

Google says…

Now here’s the slightly odd part. The meta description needs to be accurate because if Google reckons its not, it’ll make up something to put here instead. It’ll usually drawn in the first or second para of your text, or just rummage around in your page’s text until it finds something suitable. The best way to avoid this happening is to write a good meta description in the first place!

Meta titles and browsers

The meta title also appears in the tab in your desktop browser, like this:

Google serps 2

You’ll see immediately that it gets cut off after just a few words in the tab. You’ll need to hover over it to see the whole title. So, you need to construct a meta title so that the important words i.e. the keywords that describe the content of the page, appear at the front. That’s why this meta title shows as “Website design London ON…”

The same shortening effect will happen when you search using a mobile device. Some people will advise, therefore, that meta titles should be no more than 65 characters in length. We say, make the first half of a meta title that length, and if you use a few extra words, they will appear on desktops only anyway!

Writing meta tags

If your website text is written by our copywriting team, we’ll create your meta tags for you, as part of the service. Our meta tags will help your website be found and properly indexed from day 1, and continue working search after search. (Not every copywriting service writes meta tags , and few have the in-depth knowledge of how to write them for SEO success.)

  • If you wrote your own copy and don’t have meta tags, we can write them retrospectively for you, no problem. It’s never too late and indeed an excellent way to add fresh interest at your website for those ever-hungry search engines.
  • If you’ve got an Akira Studio WordPress (WP) website and fancy writing meta tags yourself, you can! All our WP websites have a meta tags plug-in called Yoast. You can write your own meta tags offline for each page, log into the back end of your website, and cut and paste them into Yoast, who will check their length and suitability.

Meta tags and locations

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that in the example above, we used a search term containing “London ON”. Our main office isn’t actually in London anymore, but we do a lot of work for clients there. So, we’ve kept the words “London ON” in our meta tags to show we’re active in the city, and as you can see, it works nicely.

Meta tags and micro markup

Meta data can be taken to a whole different level by the use of micro markup. In a nutshell, these are extra sets of tags you can add to provide even more detail to the search engines. However, they are pretty much overkill for most businesses, and your time (and budget) would be better spent adding  quality content to your site, such as in-depth articles, etc.

Want your meta tags sorted?

Contact us! If you have an Akira website, or your website is hosted by us, we can create meta tags for you. If your website is hosted elsewhere, we can almost certainly help but will need to check the backend of your website first, just in case.

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