Everything You Need To Know About Metadata For SEO

Megan Watts - Digital Marketing Executive

Megan Watts

10th March 2021

Meta tags are an important factor when it comes to SEO because they make it easier for search engines to determine what your content is about. But what are the different types of metadata? And how is each type useful when it comes to SEO? In this article, we cover everything you need to know about metadata for SEO.

What is Metadata?

The three main types of metadata are descriptive, structural and administrative.

Meta tags provide information about the webpage within the HTML, and this information is called metadata. Meta tags are not displayed on any pages, but the data can be read by search engines and web crawlers, which is why it is important for SEO.

Search engines use metadata from meta tags to properly understand the content of a webpage. This information is then used for ranking purpose and can help your content to show in featured snippets.


Which Meta Tags Are Important For SEO?

Meta tags assist search engines by contributing to improved page authority that leads to higher ranking, as well as being useful to searchers by improving the user experience through how site content is displayed.

There are many different types of meta tags across the pages of a website, with each serving different purposes.

Below are the meta tags that you should look to include on every page of your site, and that are pretty straightforward to implement and optimise:


1. Title tag

Whenever you are creating a page on a website, you should always create a title tag that is unique and clearly describes the page. As it is the title of the page, the information you provide, although short, is important for SEO.

This is mainly because titles are critical to giving users and search engine crawlers a quick and clear insight into the contents of your page. The page title will be the main clickable part of your listing on the search engine results pages (SERPs). If someone has made a search on Google and sees your page in the search results, it needs to be clear that you will provide information that is relevant to their query based on how the page is titled – otherwise the user may not click through to your website.

Google tends to show the first 50–60 characters of a title tag on the SERPs, so try not to exceed this length. You should also make sure any keywords you include are towards the beginning of your page title where possible so that these important elements are not cut off.

Ultimately, the title tag is often the main piece of information used to help users decide which result to click on, so it’s important to ensure that you are using high-quality titles on your web pages.

2. Header tag

Sometimes the title tag and the header tags get a little mixed up.

Both serve as titles to describe what your webpage is about, but in HTML terms, a title tag is a “title” and a H1 (header 1) is expressed as “h1”, meaning they are different things. The clearest difference is that the title tags do not appear on the actual webpage - they are shown in the browser window and search results snippets, whereas the header tags do appear on the page itself. 

Header tags separate headings and subheadings on a webpage and provide structure and context for your page. They rank in order of importance, from H1 to H6, with H1s usually being the most important title, used only once at the top of the page. H2 tags are often used for subtitles and it is a little less common for H3 to H6 to be used. Overall, header tags improve the readability and SEO of a webpage.


3. Meta description

Alongside the title tag, the meta description provides a greater chance of attracting users to click onto your page from the SERPs. 

Think of your meta description as an elevator pitch for each page of your site. You need to inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of the contents of a particular page to convince them that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.

Having a succinct and well-written meta description that uses your keywords well (while remaining easy to read) within 160 characters is important for SEO. The meta description does not directly influence ranking, however, it is important regardless. This copy will determine if users chose to click on your result as opposed to others in the search results.


4. Canonical tag

A canonical tag is used to indicate if there are other versions of a certain webpage. It tells search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page and that you want that version to appear in the search results.

If you implement the canonical tag in your code, then your website shouldn’t index other pages, and it can help to prevent problems caused by duplicate content appearing on lots of URLs.


5. Alternative text tag (alt tag)

Put simply, alternative text, or alt tags, describe an image on a page of your site. This may sound unnecessary, but search engines can’t read images when crawling your web pages unless alt tags have been set. 

Alt tags are important for SEO as they help search engines better understand a page and provide people with the best possible results when they are searching online. They also provide some clarity for the user if an image fails to load or for visually impaired people using screen readers.


6. Meta robots tag

The meta robots tag is used to tell search engines if and how to crawl your web pages.

It’s a piece of code in the <head> section of your webpage, and these are the values you can use in this tag:

  • index: tells bots to index the page
  • noindex: tells bots not to index the page
  • follow: tells bots to crawl links on the page
  • nofollow: tells bots not to crawl links on the page, and that no credit or “SEO juice” should be passed on to external websites you link to

Using the wrong attributes in the meta robots tag can have a significant impact on your site’s presence in the search results, so using this tag effectively can impact your SEO. 

 

7. Meta viewport tag (responsive design meta tag)

Lastly, we have the viewport tag. This impacts how your content appears on different screen sizes.

Web pages used to have a static design and a fixed size before tablets and mobiles, but the viewport tag is used to instruct the browser how to render to suit the screen type. If this is not specified, you run the risk of a poor mobile experience which would mean Google sees your page as undesirable. If you are unsure about how your webpage is performing on mobile, have a look at the PageSpeed Insights.

 

How Do You Optimise Your Meta Tags?

Here are some best practices to ensure that the content you create is optimised effectively using meta tags:

  • Check that each page on your site has well-written title tags and meta descriptions that summarise your page effectively and use any relevant keywords.
  • Make sure all of your images have alt tags and include your important keywords within these.
  • Use robot meta tags to help guide search engines on which content they can index and follow.
  • Ensure that whenever you add content to a page, be it a blog post, a new service page or whatever else, that you pay attention to your headings and that you logically structure the text.
  • Search for duplicate pages on your site and utilise canonical tags where needed.
  • It’s worth creating an upload plan that accounts for meta tags whenever you are adding new pages to your site.

There is a lot of information about SEO and the different parts of metadata available, so if you are looking to find out more, here are some additional resources that may be of interest:

Finally, if you would like help with improving your website’s SEO, we're here to help - contact SilverDisc online today.

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