Meta tags are essential to SEO—but can be tricky at first to understand. If you want to learn what meta tags are and how to use them with SEO, read on! Learn all you need to know about meta tags, how to use them, and the different types you need to know about.
What are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are snippets of information that tell more about the content on a website or webpage. Google uses meta tags to identify content and learn more about your website. Social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, also use meta tags. They’re an essential part of your website. Meta tags are partly the way your content appears in search results and social media. You’ve probably heard of two meta tags before: the description and title meta tags. Google and other search engines use meta tags to create search engine result listings. Keep in mind, though, meta tags are only a suggestion to search engines.
Meta tags aren’t visible to humans reading your content and hide in the code behind your website.
Basically, if you’re adding extra information humans won’t see, it’s a meta tag!
What are the Different Types of Meta Tags?
There are lots of different meta tags beyond the basics! Meta tags are a great way to control how your website’s information appears on the internet. Here’s some other types of meta tags you should know about and use on your website.
Social Media Meta Tags
Facebook and Twitter use a type of meta tags called Open Graph. Open Graph is a system of meta tags that tells information about the page content for social media purposes. Open Graph meta tags create Twitter cards and summary snippets you see in Facebook. To learn more about Open Graph, I recommend reading this great resource from Kissmetrics about Open Graph meta tags and how to use them.
Pinterest has their own specific meta tags for creating pins. However, Pinterest defaults to the image’s alt text, or alt meta tag, if you don’t use Pinterest’s meta tags. I recommend using Pinterest specific meta tags over letting your pins default to the alt text on an image. Here’s why I suggest instead for Pinterest descriptions!
A partner in crime to meta tags is microdata. While technically it’s not the same thing, I think of them as akin enough to each other to think of them as the same genre of thing. Microdata gives even more information than meta tags do about your information on your website. In fact, microdata can even embed extra information about your business into your website too. The biggest source of microdata tags is Schema.org. Structured data is a type of microdata and refers to the organization of information. For instance, it can tell Google what part of your webpage is the article body or author name.
Structured Data is an important part of Google’s information about your website. You can control how you communicate with Google for structured data through Search Console. To see what structured data Google sees on your website, go to Search Appearance -> Structured Data in Google Search Console.
Robots Meta Tags
Some of the most important meta tags on your website tell search engines what they can look at on your website and what links they can follow when crawling through your site and inspecting your content. These are a bit more complex to understand and there are quite a few for different uses. Yoast has a great guide worth reading if you’d like to learn more about robots meta tags.
The most important one to know is this one:
meta name="robots" content="nofollow"
If you see this meta tag on your content, you’re not allowing search engine bots to crawl your website—and that means Google likely won’t include your website in search results! Not all search engines follow these robots meta tags, however, so if you want to block a page from search results entirely, there are a few other steps you’ll want to take as well.
WordPress users, be sure you don’t have this box check in Settings -> Reading page because this adds this meta tag across your entire website on every page.
Other Types of Meta Tags
There are a lot of other meta tags you can add to your content to share more information with machines that look at your content! In fact, lots of apps and plugins have their own meta data they use to interact with and understand your content on your website.
Do Meta Tags Help SEO? Can Meta Tags Grow My Traffic?
Yes and no.
Some meta tags are purely informational and don’t impact search engine rankings directly. For instance, the description tag that tells people more about your content in search engines doesn’t play a roll in search engine rankings directly. However, if your description is attention-grabbing and gets more people to click through than other results on the same page, it can have an indirect impact of helping you get an SEO boost.
Other meta tags do have a direct link to helping or hurting SEO, like robot tags. Robot tags communicate to search engines what they can look at on your website. If you accidentally block robots, or the machines that look at your website, from accessing your content, your SEO will suffer!
Social media meta tags are some of the most important, however, because they’re the biggest driver of getting people to click on your links to go to your content. Think of it this way, if you see a link without any description, title or photo to tell you what it’s about, you’re way less likely to click on it. So Open Graph tags can directly impact your website’s ability to grow!
How to Edit Meta Tags in WordPress
For WordPress users, the easiest way to control meta tags is through the Yoast SEO plugin. The process of setting up meta tags with Yoast is super simple and takes just about 15 minutes to complete. To get the complete walk through on how to set up site-wide meta tags, be sure to grab my free Yoast SEO tutorial!
For individual blog posts, you need to set meta data for each post manually. Here’s how to do it:
- Your title is set by site-wide settings but you can edit individual titles too. Make sure it fits in the space allowed and is attention grabbing!
- Write a catchy description that calls people to click on your article from search results.
- You can set social media specific images, titles and descriptions. Use it to your advantage and put in images that are the right size for social to be even more attention grabbing. There are separate tabs for both Facebook and Twitter on the share panel.
- In the advanced tab, you can edit more advanced SEO meta data. Generally speaking, if you don’t know what you’re doing there, I’d leave it alone.
I hope this helps you communicate better with Google and social media platforms to help you grow your website! If this post was helpful, I’d love if you’d share it.