Meta tags and On-Page SEO

Meta tags are HTML elements which provide meta data about a web page. Two of the major meta tags are descriptions and keywords. Each meta tag has a specific function and can be used to provide search engine spiders or web browsers information about the content or structure of the page. Some meta tags can be a minor but useful part of successful on-page search engine optimization.

Meta Description

A meta description is an HTML element designed to help provide an explanation of the webpage’s content. Search engine result pages, or SERPs, display meta descriptions as a preview or snippet of the information contained on a webpage.

Meta tags
Example of Meta Description within Google search results

Social networks like Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook pull information from meta descriptions when users show or share content.

Clear and concise meta descriptions allow users to accurately determine what information is on a given webpage. When a user enters a search term that pulls up a related webpage, a helpful meta description will often lead to an increase in relevant click-throughs. In terms of search engine optimization it is better to think of meta descriptions as a conversion factor, something that will entice users to visit a page, rather than a method to raise rankings.

By extension, every meta description should be unique to the page that it describes. Copying meta descriptions from other pages and reusing them is not helpful to users and is certainly not going to have a positive impact on organic rankings.

Meta descriptions may be any length, but search engines, social networks, and social bookmarking sites generally shorten the length of the description to between 150 and 160 characters long (including spaces, quotes and punctuation). To ensure that a meta description will not get shortened by search engines, try to keep the page summary concise and avoid excessive punctuation that might push the description over the arbitrary character limit.

Meta Keywords

A meta keyword is an HTML element which was originally designed to help search engine spiders evaluate the content and relevancy of a page to a search query. However, nowadays, the search engines no longer use the meta keywords for this purpose as it was widely abused to the point where it became unusable as a ranking signal the search engines eventually stopped assigning any value to the keyword meta tag.

So you can safely forego developing keyword meta tags during the optimization process; but if you decide to include them anyway, follow the below rules:

  • No Keyword Stuffing: don’t just write a large list of keywords or keep repeating the same keywords over and over.
  • No Massive Keyword Lists: don’t include every keyword you can think of on every page only include a handful of relevant keywords for each page.
  • No Repetition: don’t use the same keyword meta tag on every page of your site