Understanding Meta Tags

The Meta tags are perhaps some of the most important text on a web page, not just for search engines. Meta tags can have an enormous impact on the user experience, brand awareness and conversion. Mastering these meta tags and using best practice will dramatically improve your website.

Meta tags are HTML tags at the top of the document that are usually read by search engines that crawl the site trying to learn about each page. But there are two very important meta tags that speak to us humans as well, informing and guiding us in very clever ways.

As an example, the meta tags for this page are…

<title>Understanding Meta Tags - Jimmyweb</title>

<meta name="description" content="Meta tags are some of the most important text on a web page, mastering these tags and using best practice will dramatically improve conversions. Learn more."/>

Meta Title.

  • The meta title describes the subject of the page.
  • The meta title should ideally be about 65 characters.
  • Us humans see the meta title in the browser tab and as the leading title in search engine results.
  • The meta title is the most important piece of information that search engines read on a given page.

Search engines value meta titles quite highly, so including important keywords in them is really helpful, preferably at the start of the title. For us humans, a title tag should clearly describe the nature of the page. In addition, the tag can also contain your brand – typically at the end of the tag. If the title is too long, search engines will normally truncate the title, chopping off the last bit.

The meta title is typically also used when sharing the page on social media (Facebook, Twitter etc) – the meta title becomes the heading, so making this interesting and appealing to read is quite important. The same applies to the meta description.

Meta Description.

  • The meta description is a snippet of text that is displayed under the title link on a search engine results page.
  • The meta description ideally 155 characters or fewer.
  • The meta description has little if any SEO value but is important for conversions.

Some helpful tips when working with meta descriptions…

  • Don’t overuse or repeat keywords in your meta description, it will make your description look spammy and untrustworthy.
  • Avoid making extravagant claims in your descriptions, it’ll just undermine your credibility (eg. don’t do something like… “Jimmyweb will make all of your dreams come true”).
  • Try to Include a call to action or even an incentive to click through to your page (eg. “Jimmyweb build great websites – click here to find out more”).
  • Focus on the benefits of your product or service to the visitor – it should be about them (eg. “We custom design websites that help you stand out from your competitors and get sales”).
  • Mention your location if you are a local business (eg. “Jimmyweb is a Sydney based web design agency”). This helps searchers instantly connect your business to their need.
  • Establish your credibility (eg. “Jimmyweb has been in business for over 10 years”).

Meta Titles will always be used by search engines, but sometimes your meta description won’t be. Sometimes the search engines will choose text from within the page to use a description to match the search term. The best way to avoid this is to make sure the description reflects (as closely as possible) the content on the page.

Write Compelling Meta Tags.

Writing compelling meta descriptions is a great opportunity to “sell the page”. If your descriptions are bland and haven’t been thought through, you’re missing out on the opportunity to convert a searcher into a visitor.

Visitors, when doing a search, are basically skimming or speed reading the search results, trying to make a quick judgement about each page to decide whether to click through or move on. If your descriptions are well written, interesting and even exciting (and also relevant to the actual search term), you’ll have a higher chance of attracting the searcher to your website.

Meta tags don’t have to be perfect at launch, in fact its always a good idea to come back and fine tune the wording. It can be a time consuming job, but it is one part of building a website that (while often overlooked) can really make a big difference.