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Meta tags: everything you need to know about SEO meta tags

Meta tags | 

Optimizing a website so that it appears in the top positions of Google’s results pages involves performing certain actions and settings in its HTML code, such as properly implementing meta tags.

Meta tags such as the title or description are extremely important so that Google bots and other search engines can obtain relevant information from the site, which allows them to rank it in a better place in their ranking.

It is important not to neglect the use of meta tags in a web project as they are a powerful tool to improve the results of a web positioning strategy.

Table of content

¿Qué es un meta tag o una meta etiqueta?

A meta tag, or in Spanish a meta tag, is an element of the HTML markup language that is used to transmit structured data on a website, and give a more precise description of it.

The meta tags must be implemented in the header of the HTML document, within the tag.

What are meta tags for?

Meta tags offer very valuable information about a web page, blog or online store, and are not visible to users, but to web browsers and search engines.

Google uses the information offered by a page through its meta tags to offer users better information about a site and to propose relevant results in their searches. For these reasons, the use and optimization of meta tags are very important for SEO.

For example, the meta description is a meta tag that Google uses to provide users with information about the content of the page, on its results pages. The meta description is presented by Google in its SERPs, preceded by the meta title and the link to the web.

Types of meta tags

There are different types of meta tags, and each of them has its own function.

Next, we will see the meta tags that are relevant to the web positioning:

Meta Tag Title

This meta tag tells Google what the key topic of the content is and is very important in SEO since it is the first thing bots analyze when they reach a page.

The mega title tag has a maximum length of 70 characters, which is what Google shows the user on the results pages. Due to this character limitation, it is important to be concise with the title of a page, reflecting in the best possible way what the content is about, and adding the keyword.

The format of the title meta tag would be:

 				 					<title>The title you want to put</title> 				 			

If we take the meta title of this article as an example, the corresponding HTML code would be:

 				 					<title>Meta tags: SEO meta tags - TrueRanke</title> 				 			

The title is well optimized since it perfectly describes the content, is within the character limit (66) and has the corresponding keyword (“meta tags” and “SEO meta tags”).

The meta description is a tag in which you can expand the information about the content of the page. It is a space reserved for making a brief summary on the subject and content, having an extension of 140 to 160 characters (which is what Google shows in the description of the pages in the SERPs).

This meta tag should be especially focused on users, because, in addition to serving as information, in SEO it is used to get their attention and to make them click on the link that takes them to the page.

For SEO the meta description is a very interesting element to increase the CTR, that is, the number of clicks that the page receives naturally through the Google results in pages.

An example of the meta tag description would be:

 				 					<meta name="description" content="We tell you everything we know about meta tags and their importance (which is a lot) to improve the organic traffic of your website."> 				 			

Header tags

They are the HTML tags that are used to structure the content of a page in different hierarchical levels (H1, H2, H3…). These headings are very useful for the user since they allow them to better understand and understand the content, being also especially useful to facilitate understanding by search engines and achieve better positions in the Google ranking.

The H1 header also called the title (not to be confused with the title meta tag) is the main tag that marks the title of the content. There can only be one H1 tag on each page and they are the first element that bots and users read when they access the content.

Within the H1 there can be different H2 to structure the content, and within each H2 different H3, and so on.

In short texts of less than 1500 words approximately, the usual thing is to only use headings H1, H2, and H3, since they are enough to make a good structure of the content.

 				 					<h1>Article title</h1>      <h2>Subtitle 1</h2>      <h2>Subtitle 2</h2>          <h3>Section 1 of subtitle 2</h3>          <h3>Section 2 of subtitle 2</h3>      <h2>Subtitle 3</h2>             				 			

This HTML meta tag is included as an image attribute to indicate what it is displaying. At the beginning of the internet, when connections were slow and with high latency, images took a long time to load, while the alt attribute was displayed to inform that a specific image was in that space. Nowadays, the alt attribute is used mainly to tell Google bots the content of an image, making it easier for them to index correctly and thus show them to users in image searches.

The HTML format of an image with the alt text attribute is as follows:

Un ejemplo de ALT text en una imagen es el siguiente:

 				 					<img decoding="async" src="" alt="image description" />             				 			
 				 					<img decoding="async" src="" alt="main image from SEO penalties post" />             				 			

We can see in this example how a descriptive and optimized text is used to help facilitate that Google can index correctly, including the keyword “big dog”.

Robots Meta Tag

This tag performs the same function as the robots.txt file of telling Google which URLs not to crawl, but including the tag in the HTML of the page itself.

An example of a robots meta tag would be the following, where it indicates that this page should be indexed. To indicate that the URL should not be indexed, modify the index parameter and replace it with noindex.

 				 					<meta name="robots" content="index, follow">             				 			

One of the most interesting HTML tags for SEO is the canonical tag. By including this tag, Google is told what the original content is, preventing it from taking different content as duplicates and penalizing web positioning.

One of the benefits of canonical tags is that they can refer to the URL itself as original canonical content, or refer to another URL. In this way, you will have more precise and complete control of similar content that may be considered by Google as duplicates.

An example of the canonical meta tag would be:

 				 					<link rel="canonical" href="">            				 			

How to write good meta tags?

Let’s see a series of recommendations or tips, to be able to write optimized meta tags for search engines and get a better web positioning.

  • It is always important to respect the size of the meta tags that are shown in the results pages since all the content that exceeds this limit will not be visible to the user.
  • keywords should be included in the meta description and meta title naturally.
  • If the meta robots is used, it is important to verify that this page does not want to be indexed in Google, since the bots will ignore it when reading said tag.
  • On websites that have similar or similar content, it is important to correctly implement canonical tags to avoid penalties for content duplication (for example, in eCommerce where there may be many similar products).
  • The meta description is a key element to increase the CTR, so it is necessary to highlight your text to attract the user’s attention (include icons, capitalized words, calls to action, numbers …). 

Tools to optimize meta tags in WordPress

Existen algunos plugins que facilitan la gestión y verificación de las meta tags en un sitio WordPress o una tienda WooCommerce. Uno de los más populares y completos es Yoast SEO. Se trata de un plugin para WordPress que permite ajustar las metas de cada página o entrada de forma sencilla. Una de las principales ventajas de este complemento es que analiza la meta description y el meta title para indicar si se ha incluido la palabra clave. Si el sitio web no se ha desarrollado con este CMS, hay disponibles otras herramientas online muy útiles para optimizar las meta tags, como son SEMrush, Google Search Console o Screaming Frog, entre otras.

Optimizing the meta tags of a website is an on-page SEO technique or technical SEO that should be a priority since these tags allow controlling many important aspects for web positioning.