Meta tags were once the primary means that search engines used to show search results to users, but that is no longer the case. Meta tags are found in the code of your website, and are not visible to the normal user but exist in the background. Meta is short for metadata, and these tags provide information to search engines and crawlers about what content they should expect to find on your website.
There are two types of meta tags that we will consider here: meta description tags and meta keyword tags. The meta description tag is designed to give a brief explanation of the contents of a web page. The meta keyword tag is designed to give search engines the topic of a given web page. Do search engines still use meta tags to determine results and page rank? The answer is mostly no.
In general, SEO experts agree that metatags are dead when it comes to SEO but they are still being used. Google does not use meta tags to influence its search algorithm, so you won’t see any boost to your site on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Google may, however, use your meta description for your web page’s listing on the SERP page. This means that while the description tag may not directly affect your search performance, well written and engaging descriptions that accurately describe the content to be found can have a positive effect on your click-through rates, boosting traffic.
Yahoo! stated in 2009 at the SMX East Conference that keyword meta tags do not influence search results, but that doesn’t seem to be entirely the case. Research by analysts shows that it does, and Yahoo! responded in turn by admitting it has an effect, though very little. In a situation where there are no other means of ranking, Yahoo! may still use the keyword meta tags.
This means that you shouldn’t ignore meta tags altogether. At the least, they can give you a bit of a boost on the lesser-used search engines that still find a use for them. Certain niche businesses also need meta keyword tags to properly categorize themselves in directories. There is a caveat though: While Google may not use meta tags to influence the position of your website in the SERP, you can hurt yourself by overusing them. Keyword stuffing was an early SEO strategy, but Google quickly got wise and devalued and eventually ignored keywords. Overdoing it can actually result in giving a negative ranking signal to Google and other search engines with modern algorithms.
Keep in mind that using meta keyword tags can also give your competitors an idea of which words and phrases you are targeting, giving them potentially valuable strategic data. In the end, it’s up to you whether or not the small potential reward of using meta keyword and description tags are worth the potential risks, and of course worth the time investment in properly setting up.
When using meta description tags, it’s critical that you keep the description to less than 160 characters (and some claim even 150), as search engines will not show any more than that. Use multiple syntaxes of your keywords, but don’t be repetitive. Also, make sure that each of your pages have a different description to ensure maximum visibility.
If you plan to use meta keyword tags, there are also a few things to keep in mind. Use unique keywords and synonyms of your target terms and phrases. You can repeat words, just so long as those words are part of different phrases.
Finally, there is one meta tag that you must absolutely pay attention to: the meta title tag. Search engines pay attention to this, and it’s also the title of the page that will be shown in the SERP. Meta title tags must be 60 characters or less, and should be not only descriptive of what the site contains, but also enticing enough to encourage potential clients to click.
As search engine algorithms become more advanced, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to rank your pages, the importance of quality content becomes underscored while legacy tactics like strategies around using meta tags become deprecated. Husaria Marketing offers comprehensive and bespoke digital marketing services, including SEO, search engine marketing and web development. Get in touch with us today for a a free website audit and health check.