What Are Meta Tags?

Meta tags are a great way for Webmasters to provide search engines with information about their sites. (They) can be used to provide information to all sorts of clients, and each system processes only the Meta tags they understand and ignores the rest. (They) are added to the <head> section of your HTML page.

Do Meta Tags Help SEO?

Ranking high in Google in 2016 has far more to do with relevance and reputation of high-quality content, user satisfaction and popularity than Meta tag optimization.

In my experience, Meta tags do not noticeably influence where a page ranks in Google, in a positive way.

Does Google Use What Is In Meta Tags For Ranking Pages?

Some search engines once looked to hidden HTML tags like these to help order pages in search engine results pages, but most search engines (in 2016) have evolved past this, and Google certainly has.

Google is on record as saying it does not use some data in Meta when ranking a page (in a positive way) and tests throughout the years have certainly seemed to confirm this.

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What Do Meta Tags Do in SEO?

Meta Data can help describe any page in a more convenient machine readable format, more suited to search engines, but they are very likely to get spammed, and so ultimately limited on their own, when it comes to ranking documents on the web.

Google may use metadata, amongst many other signals, to CLASSIFY pages, or DISPLAY information about a page in SERPs, although, in natural results in the UK, I see its impact, where it can be detected, when used at all, being used mainly for DISPLAY purposes.

Do Meta Tags control my search snippet listing in Google?

Sometimes, yes, at least in the case of the Meta Description, but not always, and this is dependent on many factors. Google will pick its own preferred search snippet for SERPs for display purposes, based on elements that can still be influenced by whoever made the page (and site) – and what Google knows about the page.

Can I force My Meta Description to Be Used by Google?

It is possible, but to get, for instance, the Meta description to display for a keyword, you generally need the keyword phrase in the Meta description. If the reason the keyword is in the Meta description is because it is a duplicate of the title, then, according to Google’s recommendations – that’s not ideal – perhaps even unnecessary duplication.

How to Write Meta Tags

You can still be creative when thinking about some tags like the Meta Description, but Meta tags are best used when EXACTLY describing the page in question, and helping Google to short cut to information about your page. If you are helping Google serve, especially informational queries, and helping short-cut to data, Google is your friend, and most can still benefit from that relationship.

What Are the Important Meta tags?

For the purposes of this ‘beginners guide to meta tags’, I focus on the three meta I am asked about the most:

  • Description
  • Keywords
  • Robots

Meta Description SEO Best Practices

The Meta description tag is still important from both from a human and search engine perspective, if used intelligently and properly.

Can Pages Still Rank High Without a Meta Description?

Yes. Google is usually able to extract a relevant snippet from the page which you can then go back and optimize for click-through rates if you think of a better message you want to display in SERPs for that page.

What Does Google Say about Meta Descriptions?

Google’s says you can programmatically auto-generate unique Meta descriptions based on the content of the page.

Can You Control What Message Appears in The Google Search Snippet?

While search engines have much better ways of classifying spam in 2016, it’s still worth remembering search engines are always on the lookout for manipulation that goes too far. Bing has publicly stated they look to Meta data for signs of manipulation, so you should realize there is probably a degree of risk attached to optimizing Meta data.

Does Every Page Need a Meta Description?

A good Meta description may be another sign of a quality page, and that can only be a good thing in 2016.

Does Google Use The Meta Description When Ranking A Page?

This is a typical question I was often asked, and as I always liked to back up my recommendations with at least some individual observations to back it up, I often tested to see if I could get a definitive answer to this.

A lot of people use gibberish words in tests so I didn’t. I always used unique numbers which only appear in hidden elements – and I have a lot of pages all over the place. I am only interested in what I can see and what actually helps a page rank in SERPs.

Problems with Unique Meta Descriptions

Google has said for years “create unique meta descriptions”. If you follow that advice to the letter – you also conveniently give somebody else free text for their spam site. A good unique Meta description only increases click through rate if the page actually appears at all for the query.

HOWEVER. You never get the benefit from a unique Meta description that ONLY appears in your Meta description and is not duplicated somewhere else on your page.

On is making sure your competition is not aware of your SEO plan. The downside to Meta keyword tags is that, in theory, your competition can easily see exactly which terms you are targeting and in turn can pursue the same terms to rank for. If you choose other methods to attempt to rank for your terms you can do so without giving away the secret sauce to your keyword term list.