Meta tags 2019, do they even matter for SEO?

Short answer? Yes. Although the impact of meta tags on search engine results placement (SERP) has changed over the past few years, they definitely still have an impact on SEO and search results placement.

Longer-ish answer? A while back Google devalued the importance of some meta information, specifically “keyword” meta tags which were used to describe which keywords google should use to show web pages in search results. Before the tag was devalued it was abused by websites which used the keywords meta tag to get their pages to show for searches when their content was in reality unrelated to the search. For some time now Google instead crawls the website and uses visible content to judge relevance for search engine results. See this google blog article for google’s meta tag explanation.

In this article we’ll explain what meta tags are, why you should still be using them, and some common tags you should make sure to have on all your website pages.

What are meta tags?

Meta tags are chunks of HTML code that describe your website to search engines and others like social media while being invisible to people viewing your site. They are typically located in the portion of your website code.

Unless you build or code your own websites you will likely never actually look at your site’s meta tags. Content managements systems like Wordpress or Drupal have plugins and modules to help you add meta tags to your site through simple interfaces. Site builders like Squarespace, Webflow, Wix, and others usually provide automated meta tag addition and interfaces to make specific changes.

Here’s an example from this very page of what meta tags in the portion look like

Here’s an example of meta tags being used for social media sharing of this article.

Meta tags you should be using in 2019

Here are the tags we suggest you consider, what they represent, and why you should use them.

1. Title The title meta tag is what google uses as the title link when your web page shows up in search results. While google doesn’t explain exactly how they weight the importance of the title tag it does play into rankings, and since it’s shown in the results affects click through.

2. Description Similar to the title tag, the description meta tag is used for the “description” shown under the title in search results. Google doesn’t use the description for rankings, but it still greatly affects click through by people who see it in the search results, which then feeds back into rankings.

3. Canonical The canonical meta tag lets search engines know which url is the main url and to avoid indexing duplicate pages. This is useful when your own site has duplicate urls such as http:// vs https:// or when publishing content in multiple places. One example is posting content on your blog, but then reposting on syndications such as Medium. A canonical tag can tell search engines to use your own website as the canonical source of the information funneling traffic to your website.

5. Responsive Design Google places heavy importance on the mobile responsiveness of a website when deciding search rankings. Without the responsive meta tag your website won’t adjust appropriately for all mobile viewers, and as far as google is concerned your site isn’t mobile friendly. First make sure your site is responsively designed and capable, then make sure you include the responsive meta tag.

6. Social Media The major social media sites have their own important “meta” tags you should include to control the format of your content when it’s being shared. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google use Open Graph, while twitter uses its own meta tags which allow you to indicate titles, descriptions, images, links, site name, and more when people share your content to social media. Most website builders and systems have nice plugins or systems to help automate these tags. See the example in the section above to check out what they look like.

Summary

Not all meta tags have an effect on SEO and search rankings, but there are plenty that do. Make sure to define and setup meta tags for all your pages to improve your organic click through rates and SERPs. At the very least a properly setup title and description meta tag are essential.

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