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How to optimize your website SEO meta data & tags

One of the most hotly contended spaces in the business world is the mythical nirvana of the #1 Spot in Search Engines. .

Google and Other search engines are continually making it increasingly difficult for the system to game.

The underhand and sly tactics that used to work in the past have ceased to work, and search engines becoming better at identifying culprits and effectively removing by imposing penalties in the form of de-rankings or just simply ignoring the sites.

The fact is, for the most part, SEO is just common sense, and by ensuring you stick and execute to the basics your site can perform well in the rankings.

The Basics of SEO

Many organisations will attempt to bamboozle you with various charts, graphs and spreadsheets to explain what SEO is, but this really just detracts from what is in-principle very simple concepts.

By far the most common mistakes when it comes to SEO is ignoring the basics. Many organisations believe the focus should be on getting links instead of what’s is really within their control.

On-page SEO should be the absolute core and foundation for your SEO campaign. Paying attention to the essentials and focusing on, you’ll be surprised by how well you can outrank your competitors, irrespective of size.

Take the time to read our Guide on the basics of On-Page SEO to get a high-level grasp of the concepts involved.

Building on the foundations learned from the guide, let’s take a deeper look at how to optimize website SEO metadata & tags. Which is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase search engine traffic by optimizing the page formeta data all pages on your website?

What is page metadata

Every webpage will have information “hidden” content that tells Google and other search engines about the content of your web page and how it should appear on the search engine results pages.

You would be surprised to learn just how often these tags are often overlooked or forgotten about, with many businesses only focusing on developing Great Content. Content to which they heavily rely on using Google Adwords or Facebook advertising to promote.

This strategy ultimately leads to them to miss out on free targeted organic search traffic from search engines.

why important is it to optimize the metadata

Optimizing your metadata on all your web pages helps to :

  • rank higher for keywords related to your page content
  • Increase the likelihood of someone clicking on your website listing

Overview of page metadata

metadata – A set of data that describes and gives information about other data.

A <meta> tag provides metadata about the HTML document.  Metadata will not be displayed on the page but rather parsed by web crawlers.

<meta> tags always go inside the <head> element.

Metadata elements are used to provide detail and information about a webpage i.e. Description, Keywords, Author and other metadata.

<head>
 <title> Cultivate, Develop and sustain innovation </title>
  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  <meta name="description" content="UK Based Digital Marketing agency specialising in Web & Mobile Design and Development with results driven online marketing solutions including SEO, PPC, CRO and content marketing. Digital marketing services to help increase your ROI and brand visibility on-line">
  <meta name="author" content="Gary Woodfine">
  <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
</head>

The example above is taking directly from our homepage code of threenine.co.uk in which we use the <meta> tags to provide relevant information about our website.

search engine optimisation services

How to optimize your webpage metadata

How you go about optimizing your webpage metadata is going to vary depending on the platform used to develop your website. In some instances, it may be a very simple job in others it evolves into a complex task involving many working parts.

We have completed many projects that have taken nothing more than a few minutes to complete, but some that have taken several months just based on platforms. An example of which, we were contracted by a large e-commerce organisation that had developed their own bespoke content management system and e-commerce solution but had omitted to incorporate<head> into their system. The work required several system modifications and a bespoke implementation.

At the end of the scale, a small business consulting organisation hired us to optimise their website, which consisted mostly of a WordPress CMS and the job only took several hours.

Updating a WordPress website to optimise meta tags my usually only consist of installing one of several SEO plugins i.e. Yoast SEO or All in One SEO . Then working through each of your web pages and optimising the content using the plugin features.

Irrespective of the platform the principles of optimising your metadata tags are the same. By focusing on a few core meta tags you can dramatically improve your website search engine rankings in just a few weeks.



Which Meta Tags are best for SEO ?

Opinions vary dramatically across the SEO industry as to which Tags really matter, and which ones can be dropped. However, one has to remember that a large percentage of the body of knowledge that makes up SEO, it is mostly just a matter of opinion based on individual research and individual interpretations of the advice that is provided by Search Engines.

There are a number of search engines out there, of which Google is but one. Although Google, is probably by far the most important search engine because it will generate the highest proportion of traffic to your website, it is a good idea to try and ensure your pages are at least indexable by more than one search engine.

Google will ultimately ignore the tags it doesn’t use without affecting your site’s performance.

Meta Data helps to describe pages in a more convenient machine-readable format, which is suited to search engines. However, they are also more likely to be used as an opportunity as spam by more nefarious SEO practitioners, therefore ultimately limited when it comes to ranking documents on the web.

You should also bear in mind that, Google and other search engines are also quite sensitive when it comes to abuse of Meta tags, in that if the search engines detect any abnormal behaviour in Meta tags they are more than likely going to penalise your site rather than reward it. It is therefore suggested to proceed with caution when optimising your Meta tags.

Do not attempt to Keyword stuff your meta tags, as this can lead to your website being penalized.

“Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results.

The best meta tags to focus on from a ‘beginners guide to meta tags’:

  • Title
  • Description

This is not a definitive list and it is definitely not the only Meta Tags to focus on, but they are the most important to understand.

Google do provide a list and detailed discussion of the Meta tags that Google understands

It is also important to understand, that by focusing on these tags also do not guarantee results and you also face the possibility that Search Engines will completely ignore these Meta tags.

Title Tag

The <title> tag defines the title of the document. The title element is required in all documents –HTML/XHTML – and is one of the key on-page SEO elements.

The title tag appears on the results pages just above the URL and also appears at the top of a browser.

Description

A <meta name="description" content="" > is an HTML element that describes and summarizes the contents of your page for the benefit of users and search engines.

You should try to think of your description as a short advertisement for your web page in the SERPS. Try to write a short readable and compelling description using important keywords describing the content of your page. Try to think of it as what would entice someone to click on a link.

Google and other search engines bold keywords in the description if they match search queries. This bold text can draw the eyes of searchers, so you should match your descriptions to search terms as closely as possible.

You should also bear in mind that Search Engines also try to create their own description of the content on the page based on how they are able to read the page, so they may not always choose to use the description you provide and may actually take a snippet of text elsewhere on your page.

Despite this, the description tag is used to have as it will a assist a myriad of different services to quickly gain an understanding of your page and use it. For instance, some social media sites, business directories etc.

Steps to optimize your webpage meta data

Step 1 : Optimize your title tag

The <title> tag should used to provide a concise description of a page’s content.

Search Engines typically display the first 50–60 characters of a title tag.

Aim to keep your title tag to under 60 characters.

There are 3 places title tags are used :

  • Search Engine Result Pages
  • Web Browsers
  • Social Networks

Search Engine Result Pages

The <title> tag is used to display title in SERPs. Having a good title can be the make-or-break factor in determining whether someone clicks on your link.

Title Tag in SERP

Web Browsers

The <title> tag is used by web browsers and displayed at the top of your web browser and acts as a placeholder. Unique and easily recognizable titles with important keywords near the front help ensure that people don’t lose track of your content.

Title Tag in Web browser

Social Media Channels

Some social networks may use your title tag to determine what to display when a page is shared share on their channel. Here’s a screenshot from Twitter, for example:

Things have moved on in the social media sharing arena and you should be aware that most of the Social Media have their own <meta> tags you can use to optimise what is displayed on their channel. Depending on which channels you’re targetting it is advisable to read their documentation and optimise your site to incorporate whichever tags they suggest.

Step 1 : Optimize your Description tag

Meta descriptions don’t contribute much as a ranking signal anymore, but they’re still an incredibly important aspect of on-page optimization.

In Search Engines, they are probably going to be the first introduction potential customers have with your brand. So you definitely need to make a good impression!

Meta descriptions should be well written and be as concise and descriptive as possible. You should try aim for approximately 156 characters and essentially an elevator sales pitch for what the landing page is about.

The same rule applies as with title tags, don’t spam or over optimize and always think about what works for target customers before the search engines.

In 2018, there has been a lot of two and froing with Google over the length of Meta Descriptions, with Google changing its mind and running several experiments as to what the ideal length should be. They briefly upped the limit to 300 Characters, but as recently as May 2018, they seem to have dropped it back down to 170-ish characters.

The best advice going forward is to be as descriptive as possible in a concise manner. We usually aim for about 150 characters.

Warning: Search engines won’t always use your meta description

We stated earlier, but it’s worth stating again that search engines may overrule the meta description you have specified in the HTML of a page. There are a number of reasons why they would do this, and it it unpredictable when and why they would do it.

It may occur if Google doesn’t think the existing meta description adequately answers a user’s query and identifies a snippet from the target page that better matches a searcher’s query.

Conclusion

You can still make some dramatic improvements to your sites search performance by just focusing on these very simple tips. The downside is if you don’t execute on them correctly or even try to over-optimize you can also have a detrimental effect on your site. The key here is striking a balance.

If you would like to have further professional SEO advice or prefer real expertise to take care of your SEO, why not check out our SEO packages, we can help you to navigate the trickier aspects of SEO and help improve your businesses web performance.

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Gary Woodfine

Helps businesses by improving their technical proficiencies and eliminating waste from the software development pipelines.

A unique background as business owner, marketing, software development and business development ensures that he can offer the optimum business consultancy services across a wide spectrum of business challenges.
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