Meta Tags: Which are the most important for SEO?

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Here I come with another post trying to show you my particular approach to understanding SEO. 

In this article that you are reading, I want you to learn one of the basic principles of search engine optimization, in other words, I will talk about meta tags.

What are meta tags?

Meta tags are HTML tags used by Google and other search engines to try to better understand your pages.

According to Google: «Page-level meta tags are a perfect way for webmasters to provide search engines with information about their websites. In addition, they can be used to offer information to all types of customers, and each system processes only those that the rest understands and ignores. Meta tags are added to the HTML page section. ”

How can I check the meta tags of my website?

For this purpose, you can use tools such as SEMRush (specifically the SEMRush Audit function), SiteBulb, DeepCrawl, Screaming Frog or SEO Powersuite to check the meta tags on any website, Screaming being my favorite.

Reviewing the meta tags of your domain is a very important task, and that I recommend to any webmaster, as part of any SEO audit.

Do meta tags help to improve the SEO of a website?

Positioning high on Google today in 2020 has much more to do with

  • the relevance,
  • reputation and quality of content,
  • user satisfaction
  • and popularity 

than with the simple optimization of meta tags.

In my experience, most meta tags do not significantly influence the position of a website on Google, in a positive way.

Meta tags, when used correctly, can be useful in several areas acting indirectly in rankings, for example, to improve the CTR in SERPs (in the case of meta description or seo title).

 But as I always say, always without abuse and with caution.

What kind of meta tags exist and which are the most relevant?

As I said before, my goal with this “guide” is that you understand meta tags better, so I will focus on the three meta tags that ask me the most:

  • meta description (optional, potentially important and sometimes used by Google)
  • meta keywords (optional, ignored by Google)
  • meta robots (optional, used by Google)

Next, I will share my experiences over the years.

Does Google use meta tags as a positioning factor?

One could say that some search engines once used HTML tags as meta tags to help sort pages in SERPs, but most search engines (in 2020) have evolved beyond this, and Google certainly did. Has done.

Google says it does not use some metadata to rank a page and the tests carried out over the years have confirmed this claim.

In summary, Google does not use information such as meta keywords or meta descriptions to really classify pages but sometimes uses meta tags to show “rich snippets”.

This was already stated by John Mueller, saying that changing meta descriptions, including more characters or even keywords would not produce any improvement in the rankings.

What do Meta Tags contribute to your SEO?

Metadata can help “crawlers” or “web spiders” describe and better understand any page, that is, facilitate their understanding to search engines.

But it is very easy to “abuse” of these meta tags and, cause a bad ranking of our URLs in the SERPs against our interests.

It is more likely, in my opinion, that Google looks for abuse in such tags and ends up penalizing you in some way (not understanding as an algorithmic penalty), rather than rewarding you.

Google can use metadata, among many other signals, to classify pages or view information about a page in the SERPs, although, in organic results, I see its own impact to make our results more “attractive” through rich snippets.

Searching, I often find duplicate texts in meta descriptions, since they are often a sign of lower quality pages.

For you to understand me, you must avoid these practices since they go against Google’s “guidelines” , and they will surely harm you.

Maybe Google looks at the only thing that is your meta description in relation to other pages on your site.

In short and to make it clear, if you want to add value through meta descriptions, I recommend you write your own meta descriptions before using %% excerpt %% of Yoast SEO.

Mentioning another statement by John Mueller, he said that meta tags are not part of the “ranking” factors but that they can affect how users see your results in SERPs.

Why doesn’t my meta description/meta title appear in the SERPs?

This is a question that I have been asked many times. And my answer is that Google simply does what comes out of the “noses” and shows what he wants.

At least in the case of the meta description, it is usually more likely to show the one you want, but not always, and this depends on many factors.

Google will choose its own preferred search fragment for SERPs for display purposes, based on elements that can still be influenced by “whoever” made the page (and the site), and what Google knows about the page.

To understand it better, the snippets shown in the SERPs will always depend on the “query” that the user has searched.

Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that Google will use the meta description of the page as the search snippet.

 It will always depend on the query that is made to the search engine. Moreover, Mueller already confirmed it previously.

In this video, Mueller confirms that they only show descriptions that are useful to the users.

Best practices in meta tags for SEO

That Google has varied as the SERPs are shown over the years is a fact. Sometimes longer titles, other meta descriptions. 

And even recently they have been playing with the “favicons” or the “breadcrumbs” or bread crumbs.

On the other hand, the meta description tag remains important both from the human point of view and from the search engine, provided it is used intelligently and appropriately.

If we stick to the close relationship that has the meta description and the SEO title on the CTR or the clicks that your result receives, the meta tags is an element that we must “take care of”. It is true that it does not directly affect our positioning, but indirectly it does.

I will show you an example.

Meta description: What is it? + Example

metadespription 1

If your page is a post of an informative nature, you can make it relevant to a valuable keyword in which you are interested in “ranking”, but write it for humans, not just for search engines.

If the keyword phrase for which you are optimizing the page is in the meta description, it can usually depend on the meta description to appear or not in the Google SERPs.

If the keyword in the search query is NOT present on the page, your meta description is likely NOT to appear.

Although meta descriptions must be unique, it is sensible to manually write a unique meta description text that does not appear on the page.

Google examines the description, but there is a debate about whether you really use the meta description tag to rank the pages (see for yourself).

In my experience, it is a very weak signal (if any) in the informational SERPs, and this depends a lot on the query. Google certainly indexes the meta description for displaying fragments, not so much for ranking pages.

It is also very important, in my opinion, to have the unique SEO title tag and unique meta descriptions on each page of your site.

No autogeneration descriptions with Yoast or any other SEO plugin, I usually write a meta description making it natural in the eyes of anyone (both robots and humans).

What is the currently accepted length for meta descriptions or meta title?

Over the years, Google has been increasingly reducing the characters allowed for meta descriptions and SEO titles. In my opinion, to “leave” more space for payment results (PPC). 

So, today the length allowed by Google for meta descriptions varies from 120 to 158 characters, and for the meta title from 50 to 60 characters.

The length of the meta description in Google was shortened after the December 2017 update, when the length reached the limits of 290 or 300 characters. Now, Google has returned to the previous limits.

Here I leave a Backlinko study in which “faces” the use of meta descriptions versus leaving it empty.

meta-descriptions-and-meta-titles-seo

Can I control the meta description shown in the SERPs?

Let us start from the base that if your “meta titles” are SPAM (Keyword stuffing or click-baiting) and your meta description is more of the same, Google could “put you in the spotlight”.

Google has stated that, for example, it tends to ignore SPAM tags or low-quality meta descriptions:

Google 2017“Because meta descriptions are usually visible only to search engines and other softwares, webmasters sometimes forget about them, leaving them completely empty. It is also common, for the same reason, that the same goal is used description on several (and sometimes many) pages.On the other hand, it is also relatively common for the description to be completely off-topic, of low quality, or directly SPAM.These problems worsen our users’ search experience, so we prefer to ignore those meta descriptions. “

While search engines have much better ways to detect SPAM in 2020, it is worth remembering that search engines are always looking for more Black Hat techniques.

Bing has publicly stated that they look for signs of manipulation in the metadata, so you should realize that there is probably a certain degree of risk in over-optimizing your metadata.

In most of the organic results that I have seen, simply putting a keyword in the meta description will not take you to the top positions, and more if you face a competitive niche.

So, why optimize for search engines when you can optimize for the user?

A practice that must always be done is to focus on the user, who after all are the ones who really consume the content and make a search engine useful.

Continuing, the meta description is important for both Google, Yahoo, and Bing, and it can be used in multiple ways, but focusing on the user will really make you climb positions.

However, depending on the page in question and the time available, the meta description will only be a priority for me, if I focus on a very important keyword for the domain and if it is in the top 20 positions.

On the other hand, for large sites with a significant number of URLs, such as a news portal or an online store, handwritten descriptions may be impossible.

In the latter case, however, the automatic generation of meta descriptions may be a good option when you are immersed in the SEO for e-commerce. Even so, these descriptions must be legible and of acceptable quality.

If Google has any reason to do so, it will “truncate” the meta description to not show it.

More words from Google

“Include clearly marked tags/data in the description. The meta description is also a good place to include structured data about the page. For example, news or blog posts may indicate the author or the date of. This can give potential visitors very relevant information that would not otherwise be shown in the fragment. Similarly, product pages can have key data – price, age, manufacturer – throughout the page. A good meta description can gather all this data. ”

For example, below, I show the source code of one of my posts. How can you see there is a series of structured data markings that provide excellent quality information to crawlers to help you better understand this page.

codestructured 1

Can I force my meta description to appear in the Google SERPs?

It’s hard to “force” Google to do something with some reliability in 2020.

It is possible, but to get Google to show, for example, the goal for a “query” or keyword, the keyword is usually needed in the meta description.

On the other hand, I consider it unnecessary to duplicate the keyword several times in both title and meta description since it could be considered as a “sign” of poor quality.

Today, I pay close attention to Google’s recommendations and “ads,” especially after all the updates it’s carrying out in recent times

“Update” after “update” is reflected that Google increasingly focuses on user experience and intention and offer more and more relevance.

The fact that it is possible to influence whether the meta description appears does not mean that you should do so by duplicating the “query” in the title or meta description element. 

It’s direct advice from Google.

“The generation of titles and descriptions of pages (or” fragments “) of Google is fully automated and takes into account both the content of a page and the references to it that appear on the web. The objective of the fragment and the title is to represent and better describe each result and explain how it relates to the user’s query ”

In recent years, the page title tag (which is not a meta tag and is actually called “title” if you go to the source code) could be used to provide the “title” of a Google search result, and the meta description (if the keyword phrase was present) often provides the description of the page result, which makes building a message in Google SERP.

Google has radically changed the way it shows the results of the pages, both to improve the user experience and to hide its operation as a search engine.

There are still many things you can do to “direct attention” to your result. We can make use of emojis, stars (reviews) and many more, but as I always say it should not be abused.

I believe that Google in the long term would want any “manipulation” of a search result in the SERPs not to “hinder” your Adwords profits and profits. 

So, perhaps the “limit” to get a striking result is put by the “rich snnipets” through a marked json-schema.org.

In 2020, Google no longer needs information on several tags to sort or display the pages and increasingly relies on the new ranking and display signals of the pages in the SERPs.

Goal Description: Tests and Observations

Although I usually focus mainly on the user when creating meta descriptions, I have spent a lot of time making observations, taking notes and testing every so often if there was any opportunity when it comes to everything that has to do with SEO, including page elements; metadata, and of course, meta descriptions.

Should each page have a meta description?

Well, if we stick to what Google says:

hqdefault

A good meta description can be another sign of a quality page, and that can only be a good thing in 2020.

Can the pages still have a high rank without a meta description?

Yes. Google is usually able to extract a relevant fragment of the page which you can optimize in the future to increase its CTR if you can think of a better message that you would like to show in the SERPs of that page.

Note Google currently says in 2020 that you use a meta description on the pages instead of leaving it empty, so I would listen to them and listen to them.×Discard alert

Does Google use the meta description to position a page?

This is a typical question that I have been asked often, and as I have always liked to endorse my recommendations with at least some demonstrable experiences.

Many people use incoherent words in the tests, so I did not. I have always used unique numbers that only appear in hidden elements. I’m only interested in what I can see and what really helps a page position itself in the SERPs.

The use of numbers has made this observation easy to replicate.

The test page I used for “experimental” purposes is still active. My test page was, and still is, positioned in Top 1 to search for the keyword of the experiment.

I placed a unique number in the meta description that is not on the page.

A few years ago, if I searched for “THE NUMBER” + “THE QUESTION” I didn’t get results. Google said there was not a single page in its index with those two terms on the page, even though there were.

These tests were running (in the sense that the page was active) for years and at least in this qualitative test, it certainly seemed as if it were:

Google ignored the meta description when it ranked the page for the query, if the keywords are only in the meta description and not on the page .

Google knew that, if they were, you can check it using the footprint “: info” with the same search «THE NUMBER» + «THE QUESTION».

But at the time of the experiment, the words in the meta description were not used to help classify a page in a remarkable way.

Does Bing use the meta description when ranking a page?

It did not return any page results. Bing seemed to work the same way as Google , effectively ignoring the meta description tag according to this test.

Lessons learned from the tests

Google ignores the meta description when the keyword is not also present on the page , which suggests that Google ignores the meta description when displaying the results of a basic search to the user.

Yahoo seems to still use the meta description when such searches are carried out.

Bing is similar to Google , apparently does not use keywords in the meta description that is not on the page (when scoring the relevance of the content).

Meta Keywords – What are they? Best practices for SEO

We all know by now what meta keywords are, but if you still don’t know, they are basically a specific type of meta tags that appear in the HTML code of a URL and help search engines determine which This is the theme of the page … The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting or optimizing your meta keywords is to make sure that each keyword accurately reflects the content of your pages.

However, Google is very clear about meta keywords (or meta keyword tags), it doesn’t directly use them .

Example of meta keywords in code:

If I am honest, I no longer use meta keywords (if you check the code of one of my URLs you can check it), but if you look at the example above you will see that Amazon still uses it in its URLs.

If you still rely on the optimization of meta-keywords to classify by terms, you are sincerely wasting your time. 

Before Google confirmed that I didn’t look at the keywords in the meta tags, I decided to try and make observations to find out. In general, Google only clarifies common knowledge in professional circles.

From what I’ve tried, Google and Bing ignored the meta keywords for years, or at least it doesn’t give them relevance to rank pages. 

Yahoo can read them, but in reality, an SEO has more important things to worry about than this banality.

I have seen webmasters in the forums reflect on what is the best way to write these tags – with commas, with spaces, limiting how many characters, how many words to use…. But sensible advice would be to spend your time on other things.

If you over manipulate your meta keywords, you end up telling Google in the first lines of code on your page why penalize the URL if manipulation is detected (understood by black hat actions), that’s what I always thought, and BING confirmed that They do it.

While meta name = »keywords» was formerly for words that were not actually on the page and that would help classify the page, I would be cautious including the keywords in any other element of a page.

On the other hand, today (2020) search engines are much more efficient and more advanced than in the past. 

Crawlers ignore certain meta tags such as meta keywords, so it is best to focus on writing quality and relevant content rather than optimizing these types of tags.

Meta Robots – What are they? Best practices for SEO

Meta robots are also part of one of the most important tags on a page. In the previous post I talked about the robots.txt file .

Example of meta robots in code:

<name = »robots» content = »index, nofollow» />

I could use the meta tag above to tell Google to index the page but not follow the links on the page if, for some reason, I don’t want the page to appear in Google’s search results, but I want Google to follow the links of this page.

Meta robots are also part of one of the most important tags on a page. In the previous post I talked about the robots.txt file .

Example of meta robots in code:

<name = »robots» content = »index, nofollow» />

I could use the meta tag above to tell Google to index the page but not follow the links on the page if, for some reason, I don’t want the page to appear in Google’s search results, but I want Google to follow the links of this page.

In the words of Google:

“By default, Googlebot will index a page and follow the links to it. So there is no need to tag pages with tags like INDEX or FOLLOW. ”

There are several instructions that you can use in your meta robots tag, but remember that by default Google will index and follow the links, so you should only tag NOINDEX those pages that you really do not want to be displayed in the SERPs and do not add value to the search engine .

Valid values ​​for the «CONTENT» attribute of the robot meta tag are: «INDEX», «NOINDEX», «FOLLOW», «NOFOLLOW».

Examples:

  • GOAL NAME = »ROBOTS» CONTENT = »NOINDEX, FOLLOW»
  • GOAL NAME = »ROBOTS» CONTENT = »INDEX, NOFOLLOW»
  • GOAL NAME = »ROBOTS» CONTENT = »NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW»
  • GOAL NAME = »ROBOTS» CONTENT = »NOARCHIVE»
  • GOAL NAME = »GOOGLEBOT» CONTENT = »NOSNIPPET»

Google will understand the following and interpret the following values ​​of the robots meta tag:

  1. NOINDEX – prevents the page from being included in the index.
  2. NOFOLLOW – prevents Googlebot from following the links on the page. (Note that this is different from the NOFOLLOW attribute for backlinks, which prevents Googlebot from following an individual link.)
  3. NOARCHIVE – prevents the cache of this page from being stored in the Google index, you can find out with the footprint “cache: url”.
  4. NOSNIPPET – prevents a description from appearing below the page in search results, as well as caching the page.

I have included the meta tag of robots in this tutorial since it is one of the few main elements of HTML that I usually focus on when it comes to optimizing the SEO of a web.

When I’m optimizing a page for Google, I usually focus on the content of the page and the user experience, and I’m usually interested in the following elements of the page:

  1. SEO Title: Being important and unique.
  2. Meta Description (optional but advisable in most cases): Make it unique and incite the click (use emojis 😉)
  3. Robots (optional) – Generally if we talk about a blog post or annoy me (index, follow) but if you are in charge of the SEO of an online store, then I would monitor it a lot.

These tags go in the HEAD section of the HTML of a page and represent the only tags that I really pay attention to. 

Almost everything else you can put in the HEADER of your HTML is quite unnecessary and may not even make sense (for SEO optimization).

Google explicitly says in its guidelines:“Google will ignore the meta tags you don’t know” Google Webmaster Guidelines, 2018

How Google treats the “noindex, follow” in the meta tag robots of the pages

It is a misconception in the SEO community, the way Google treats this “guideline” as some may think.

Sticking to what Google has said:

“So it’s a bit difficult with the noindex. What I think is something like a general misunderstanding with the SEO community that with a” noindex, follow “is still the case that we see the noindex and in the first step we say that it is good that you do not want this page to be displayed in the search results. We will keep it in our index, only we will not show it and then we can follow those links. ” But if we see the noindex there for longer than we think this page does not really want to be used in the search so we will eliminate it completely. And then we won’t follow the links anyway. So in “noindex, follow” is essentially the same as a noindex, nofollow. There is no big difference in the long term. “John Mueller,

Google“noindex, follow” “is essentially the same as a” “noindex, nofollow”.

John Mueller, Google 2018“If someone linked that page and you had it set as noindex as well they are doing nowhere.”

In short and for you to understand it better, setting a page in “noindex, follow” is the same in the long term as if you had marked it with “noindex, nofollow” , since Google will stop tracking that page and finally not follow those links.

Does Google use meta tags for Googlebot when it comes to “ranking” a page?

I understand that there will be people who confuse the meta robot tag with that of Googlebot. 

But even if they have certain similarities, they serve different things. But going back to the question above, the answer is yes, if you consider it to “rank”. 

The meta tag would be as follows:

<meta name = »googlebot» content = »…. , … »>

meta-name-googlebot

These meta tags control how search engines crawl and index the page

The meta tag “robots” specifies the rules that apply to all search engines, the “googlebot” meta tag specifies the rules that only apply to Google. 

Google understands the following values ​​(when specifying multiple values, separate them with a comma):

  • noindex : prevents indexing of the page.
  • nofollow : does not follow the links on this page when searching for new pages to crawl.
  • nosnippet : does not show a fragment of this page when it appears in search results (SERPs)
  • no archive : does not show a “cached” version for this page in the search results.
  • unvailable_after: [date] : Remove this page from search results after the specified date and time.

The default rule is «index, follow», this is used if you omit this tag completely or if you specify content = »all.»

As a side note, you can now also specify this information in the header of your pages using the HTTP header directive «X-Robots-Tag». 

This is particularly useful if you need to adjust the tracking and indexing of non-HTML files such as PDFs, images or other types of documents.

What about meta titles or page titles?

Although the element referring to the title of a page is not a meta tag as such, it is often considered as one.

Page titles are not considered as meta tags. They are understood as elements of the page title.

Best practices suggest using a maximum of between 50 and 60 characters in the SEO titles of the pages (with the Keyword you focus on included in it).

Google takes into account the keywords and long tails within the meta title of the page when evaluating it, and often, but not always, shows it as the page title in the SERPs.

Particularly, I like to write the titles within this range and make sure that my important keywords are within the first words, and of course, include emojis that make my result stand out.

How to write effective meta tags: meta description and meta titles

In my humble opinion, the best way to write effective meta descriptions and meta titles is by giving the user exactly what they will find within the page and making the result as striking as possible. 

Without falling into bad “praxis” as the click-baiting that will ultimately take your toll (pogo-sticking, dwell time)

When used correctly, meta descriptions traditionally help to act as a ‘hook’ on users who visualize your result in SERPs.

Your tags should be precise, relevant and descriptive, and be careful to focus them all unnecessarily on a single keyword, but don’t think about meta tags until you’ve solved what the theme and concept of a page is, its purpose and experience of the user.

Satisfying everyone is key to building a reputation on Google and social channels. If you are optimizing for Google, do not think about a page or article, think about what you are going to contribute to the user.

All major search engines recommend the sensible use of metadata and if you are writing useful and descriptive tags, it is unlikely that a large search engine will penalize its proper use, at least when no dubious quality shortcuts are taken.

Most search engines use or have used meta tags in some way to help classify a URL, but the fact that a search engine takes into account tags such as meta description, for example, does not mean they are using it. As a positioning factor.

Conclusion: meta description and SEO title are useful

And here the post about meta tags or meta tags, in which I have taught you to use the most important of them so that you can better control the SEO of your website.

On the other hand, this post has been based on sources as “reliable” and close to Google (as those of John Mueller), as well as my own experiences.

Also, tell you that I am considering opening a guest post section to bring another point of view or approach to this blog, and so we can win all, mainly you, my readers.

So, if you would like to contribute to this blog, or have something interesting to teach us, IT’S YOUR MOMENT! You just have to send me an email, or write a comment below.

Until next time!

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