What is it that makes you click on a link when you do an online search through a search engine? Is it the title? Maybe it’s the blurb or site description that came along with the link. Or maybe the company owning the site is an entity you consider trustworthy, so you always turn to them for information when making an online search.
Whatever your reason for clicking on a link on a search engine results page (SERP), there’s a good chance that meta tags played a vital role in getting that site on the front page of the SERPs. In fact, many marketing gurus agree that without meta tags, websites will have an incredibly difficult time reaching their readers organically.
If you’ve ever created a meta tag, then you know that it doesn’t take hardly any time at all. In fact, this is why many people overlook adding them. How could something so simple play such a large role in content marketing? Well, it does. And you need to be making sure all of the content you distribute on the web is accompanied with appropriate meta tags, especially if you plan on reaching your targeted audience through a search engine.
A Deeper Understanding of the Importance of Meta Tags
You need your content to be featured on the first page of SERPs. Why? Because 75% of online users don’t ever click on page two of search results. They also don’t click on the sponsored links that are featured at the top of the first SERP. Instead, they skip the ads and look directly below them; this is where you want your link to be displayed. Whether a user clicks on your link will be heavily influenced by the meta tags that are shown.
The first thing that online searchers notice is the title and description tags. Without these tags, the only thing that would be displayed in SERPs would be URLs. These tags play a vital role in your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. This is why your titles and description tags always need to be enhanced with the long-tail keyword you are targeting.
In addition to the title and description tags, you’ll also need to incorporate other tags that impact your overall page rank as well as the entire user experience. Google takes a special liking to certain tags, so it’s imperative that you use them, especially being that the majority of online searchers use Google as their primary search engine.
Judging a Book by Its Cover
Have you ever judged a book by its cover? There’s a good chance you have and this is exactly what online searchers do when they view your information on SERPs. They judge whether they will click on your link based on the title and description tags you create. Essentially, these tags are the cover to your web page. You can have a URL that is listed at the top of SERPs for a variety of targeted keywords, but if your meta tags don’t resonate with online searchers, they will likely keep scrolling and click on your competitor’s link.
Just the same as you properly format a business email, you must do the same with your meta tags. You can put whatever information you want in these tags, but you need to make sure you maintain a level of professionalism. These tags, in a very similar sense, are like an elevator pitch. And you must do all you can to give this pitch in 320 characters. If used properly, 320 characters are actually quite a bit of space to make a good pitch.
Tags also play a vital role in how well your content looks when it gets shared by bloggers and social influencers. You should view your tags as a sort of packaging that your content gets wrapped up in. Your product is the content, and the tags are the packaging.
Best Practices for Meta Tags
Now that you understand just how vital meta tags are to your overall content marketing strategy, it’s time to soak in the best practices for these tags. Please be mindful that the ones outlined below are only but a few of the tags that you need to focus on.
Your title isn’t exactly considered a meta tag, but on SERPs, it shows up in the header, which qualifies it as being used as a tag. In order for your title tag to not be cut off in SERPs, don’t exceed 70 characters. If you’re targeted audience is mobile users, then you can up the title tag to a character length of 78 characters.
Just because you have 70-78 characters to create a title doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use all of them. The general recommendation for creating titles is 60 characters. The important rule that you follow is the use of long-tail keywords in your title. In fact, long-tail keywords make all the difference.
Anytime you incorporate a keyword into the title tag, you need to make sure you include some type of date or use the word latest; this helps enhance the relevancy of your title. If you’re using a content management system like WordPress, it’s really simple to create a title tag. All you have to do is input the title into the box that says Enter title here.
No matter the type of content that you are distributing, you need to include at least one image. Studies show content with at least one image always garners higher engagement levels. In fact, content with an image will likely attract 94% more views. And 60% of consumers say they are much more likely to contact a business about a product or service if the company’s content on SERPs includes an image. (source)
Image tags are used by search engines to pinpoint your site and to determine how well it ranks. When you go to create image tags, you will notice that there are actually several components to these tags. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll need to enter a title for the image (make sure to include a keyword), a caption (make sure to include a keyword), an alt text (make sure to include a keyword), and a description (once again, make sure to include a keyword).
The title tag for the image is what appears when you hover your mouse over the picture. If the image can’t be rendered, then the alt text is displayed. It is also spoken aloud to the blind and visually impaired who are viewing your content. Just remember, the more fields you fill out, the easier it becomes for search engines to crawl your images and list them within SERPs for the keyword(s) you are targeting.
It’s through the description tags that you are able to provide users with a preview of your content. Just like a good preview of a movie will have people lining up at the ticket booth to watch it, you need to make sure your description tags entice the reader to click on your link.
As we mentioned before, description tags are limited to 320 characters. If you don’t add a description tag to your content, then search engines get to pick any sentence they want on your web page to list as a description. Within the description tag, you need to give a clear indication of what users can expect to learn by clicking on your link. Supposedly, description tags don’t necessarily play a part in how well your web page ranks on SERPs, but it’s hard to believe that a keyword or two in the description can’t help improve your rankings.
Robot Meta Tags
Robot meta tags aren’t necessary but they can play a vital role in how you look to the public and search engines. For example, if you have a comments section on your postings that constantly get bombarded with comments that include links to sites that you don’t endorse, then you will want this content to be free and clear of search engines when they crawl your web pages. To achieve this goal, you’ll want to add the following to the top of your comments section:
<meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow”>
If there is an entire page that you don’t want indexed, such as duplicate content, then you’ll need to include the following tag in the header of the page you don’t want indexed:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />
Keyword tags are essential for creating categories. So while your blog postings may focus on certain long-tail keywords, you can still categorize the postings according to certain specific keywords. Also, keyword tags add an extra keyword to your page links. In doing this, you can easily add context to your content, which is highly favored by Google.
Also, when you create keyword tags and categorize your postings according to these specific tags, you can easily see how much content you have for each one; this can prove very beneficial when you are planning your editorial calendar.
Last but not least we have viewport tags, which is something you haven’t given much thought to. Due to Google’s new mobile-first algorithm, however, viewport tags are becoming more important than ever.
When pages are shown on mobile pages, they are displayed in a popup window; this window is a viewport and it actually expands beyond the border of the device. By setting the viewport size, web design developers are able to increase mobile usability. And being that Google is really starting to focus on the mobile-friendliness of web pages, it is imperative that you check viewport tags to ensure they are appropriate for the templates you are using.
There are several nifty tools you can use to enhance your meta tag efforts. A few of the best ones are listed below:
- BuzzStream Meta Tag Extractor
- SEOCentro Meta Tag Analyzer
- Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress
Even though search engines are focusing more on relevant content than the tags that go along with each piece, it is still vital that you focus a large portion of your SEO efforts on the title and description tags as well as image meta tags.