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How to Affect Real Change in Your Website Search Standings: SEO Meta-Tags

As a business owner you’ve probably been in a position where your content is published yet you aren’t seeing any significant traffic to your site. Don’t panic!

Before you give up, there are several key things you should be doing that can make a world of difference in where you appear in Google Search. In this month’s post we’re going to discuss meta-tags and where/how they should be used.

Meta-tags are snippets of text that describe a page’s content; the meta-tags don’t appear on the page itself, but only in the page’s source code. Meta-tags are essentially little content descriptors that help tell search engines and their spiders, the programs that analyze your site for content, what a webpage is about. These bits of information are most easily added by using one of the many available plug-ins designed specifically for SEO like YOAST, SEO Ultimate or Rank Math. Each of these products offers both a free and a paid version that allows you to add, edit and investigate your sites SEO health.

The only difference between tags you can see (on a blogpost, say) and tags you can’t see is location: meta-tags only exist in HTML, usually at the “head” of the page, and are only visible to search engines (and people who know where to look). The “meta” stands for “metadata,” which is the kind of data these tags provide – data about the content on your page.

There are four specific types of meta-tags, Meta Keywords Attributes, Title Tags, Meta Description Attributes and Meta Robots Attributes. Each has a particular use, and each can influence the “power” of your sites search strength.

  • Meta Keywords are an example of a meta-tag that doesn’t make much sense to use these days. Years ago, the meta keyword tags may have been beneficial, but not anymore. Previously, marketers eager for page views would insert keywords totally unrelated to their pages into their code in an attempt to pirate traffic from the more popular pages, those that actually were about Lindsay Lohan, or whoever was then trending. This was known as “keyword stuffing.” Google eventually got wise to this and decided in the end to devalue the tool. These days Google doesn’t use meta keywords in its ranking algorithm at all, because they’re too easy to abuse.
  • Title Tags, on the other hand, are the most important of all the meta-tags discussed here. These tags have a real impact on search rankings and, perhaps just as importantly, are the only tags we’ll discuss here that are visible to the average user. You’ll find them at the top of your browser. This is particularly useful if you want to give the page one primary title for the user but want to clarify or simplify that information for SEO purposes and for the user who’s shuffling multiple tabs on their desktop.
  • Meta Descriptions are very useful meta-tags as, very simply, they explain to search engines and (sometimes) searchers themselves what your page is about. Let’s say you were googling the phrase “meta keywords” for example. It’s important to note that the meta description tag won’t always show up in the results for a Google search (Google frequently picks a snippet of text from the page itself) but it’s useful in other ways. Google has also stated that keywords in meta descriptions won’t affect your rankings. However, a compelling meta description tag could entice searchers to click through from the Search Engine Response Page (SERP), to your site. This is especially true if the description includes the keywords they were searching for. Also, it’s important to note that a strong click-through rate from the SERP can indirectly improve your rankings. Google’s reasons are somewhat mysterious, but their actions speak loudly: meta keywords don’t much matter anymore, but meta descriptions most certainly do.
  • Meta Robots refer to the attribute that allows your site to tell the search engines what to do with your pages once they are found and inventoried.

Index/noindex – This tells the engines whether to show your page in search results or not.

Follow/nofollow – This tells the engines what to do with links on your pages: whether they should trust and “follow” your links to the next page or not.

This feature is self-explanatory, but it can mean the difference between being listed and found versus not seeing any traffic to your site. Always make sure that you have chosen to Index AND Follow to allow the best possible results for your site.

Once you’ve begun to make changes to your meta-tags, behind the scenes of your website, you should see your site begin to appear higher in the search standings. Be ready, you never know when that one specific meta-tag addition or edit may result in your business going from a hard-to-find to a hard to ignore search result!

Good luck and SEO on!

This post is courtesy of MMC Project Manager Ken Brown

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