Meta tags are the key representation of the very subject “Search Engine Optimization”. There are few ways this topic could be introduced, with highlighting the bad side of meta tags which otherwise called keywords meta tags. Misuse of meta tags is majorly seen in most of the site reviews. This is mainly because they are in the header of every page, that implies, they are in the sight all the time. But it’s not all that bad; with right usage, meta tags can prove to be one of the best tools in search engine marketing.
Meta tags are not all about title, description or keywords; there is more to it. To add clarity, we have broken down few used cases into the good, the bad, and the mediocre. As you will see, the list of bad ones is longer compared to the rest two.
Many experts on SEO advice to keep it minimal; adding unnecessary or irrelevant keywords take away the limited coding space you have. The HTML coding is a step by step process that directs you to some point. Here is an example of annoying meta tag “Go straight for 300 feet”. The line is about driving directions, which is precisely telling you to keep driving on the same road you are on.
The Good Meta Tags
Every page should have good meta tags and here are few good examples. It may be a short list, but these are considered to be sufficient and you may as well come to the same conclusion.
- Meta content type – This tag is necessary to declare your character set for the page and should be present on every page. Leaving this out could impact how your page renders in the browser. A few options are listed below, but your web designer should know what’s best for your site.
<meta name=”title” content=”text/numeric/special character 60 (maximum)’
<meta name=”description” content=”text/numeric/special character-160 (maximum)’
- Title – One can use the meta tag or the title tag in the header, depending on the website. What becomes important here is, “usage of unique title tags or keywords that define particular pages of your website”.
- Meta description – While the title is essential for tagging, meta description tag is equally important too. It is used to briefly and accurately describe what’s on your web page. This is the part that results or is visible on the search engine result pages, to the browsers. Though this tagging doesn’t play a role in page ranking, it still is an important element of SEO. It is more like a door that welcomes the front-end users. In other words, it determines a page click. There are few elements to it; precise, accurate and right keywords. Character limit is must to consider and Google allows a maximum of 160 characters per meta description. You may have followed the rules, the character limit is accurate and there is right keyword usage, yet it is not enough. The write up has to be attention grabbing. It’s not only what you say, but it’s also how you say it! If you get that right, you will be able to sell the information to your consumers, or in this case, make them click on the page.
- Viewport – Since the visible area of a web page varies from device to device, it’s important to specify Viewport. If the Viewport is missing, it will lead to poor user experience. You can go through the Google Page Speed Insights Tool to know more about it. Here is the standard tag:
<meta name=viewport content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>
The Mediocre Meta Tags
Take a call based on the need as these meta tags are specific, and used depending on the need.
- Robots – Several argue that a robots meta tag is mandatory. But that’s not the case always. If you don’t mention meta robots tag, the bots will read it as follow and index anyway. Only if you want it to happen otherwise, as in, if you don’t want the search engine to index specific page, but follow, the robots meta tag is necessary. Hence, if you want to follow the links on the page, but don’t want indexing, you would add the following tag with only the noindex, as the follow is implied. Here is how it should look like
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />
- Specific bots (Googlebot) – You can give specific instructions to bots on how to handle the usage of data. Noodp and noydir are the two specific instructions which command the bots in this case. In general, the search engines do this job on their own. If you find the need, you can go ahead and use the codes.
- Language – There is only one reason why one would want to use this tag. When the pages are international and if you find the need to alter the main language, it comes into the picture.
- Geo – Geo tagging may not be supported by all the search engines out there. Via Google, you can aim a specific country or location, however, Bing supports Geo tagging. Geo tagging happens in 3 different ways: region, place name, and position which states latitude and longitude.
<META NAME=”geo.region” CONTENT=”Country Subdivision Code”>
<META NAME=”geo.placename” CONTENT=”Place Name”>
<META NAME=”geo.position” CONTENT=”latitude; longitude”>
- Keywords – Sure it shocks a few to find this term under mediocre list. There is a minute possibility it could help you somewhere, while no good SEO recommends spending any time on this tag. You can leave it out if your site is under construction, but there’s no reason to remove it if it’s automated.
- Site verification – Surely, your website is verified with search engines like Google and Bing. Meaning, your website has the verification meta tags on the homepages, right? Sometimes, it becomes necessary to have this type of verification as it can’t be done in other ways. An external file, or by linking your Analytics account, you can verify your site on Google. While, meta tag or XML file are the couple of ways to verify on Bing.
The Bad Meta Tags
To be specific, the following tags will not harm your SEO in any way. However, these are the tags that occupy space and you have limited space when it comes to tagging, remember? This could become a bad sign if space is not used in an accurate way.
- Author/web author – Author is a tag which is simply used to state the name of the author, as the name suggests. But how important is it on the page?
- Revisit after – A meta tag which commands the robots to return to a particular page after a specific time. Question yourself, what is the purpose of this command and how it is valuable to your site, if in case you are using it. Besides, many major search engines don’t follow this tag anyway.
- Rating – The maturity rating of the content is indicated using this tag. Keeping a separate directory for the images will help segregate the bad images from others.
- Date and Expiration – “Date tag represents the date on which the page is constructed. It is always helpful to create and maintain XML sitemap for the date. Expiration tells when the existing page expires. If you notice your pages are going to expire, then it’s recommended to remove them.
- Copyright – Have you noticed the footer of your website. It just doesn’t make sense for the copyright to be mentioned twice. However, Google has a different point of view.
- Abstract – It is mainly used by educational websites to place an abstract on their site content. If it’s not needed for you, why use it?
- Distribution – To determine who can and can’t access the document, the distribution tag is placed, which simply is to control data access. In case, the page or document is on an intranet or is not password protected, then this tag has no meaning.
- Generator – This one plainly determines which program is used in creating a particular page. It’s up to you of you find a point in having it.
- Cache control – While it’s considered best to be used in HTTP header, this tag is used in order to control how often or when a page is cached in the browser.
- Resource type – DTD declaration already helps determine the type of resource the page is. Why would you want a special tag to redo it?