How to Properly Optimize Your Web Pages' Meta Tags
The HTML meta tags are among the first crawled by search engine spiders. This data conveys the page topic through structured and semantic data. Not having optimized meta tags disrupts all other search engine optimization tactics.
Think about it like this:
A business without a sign or a meeting without trading cards gains no attention.
This article shares the type of tags needed for optimal online performance. It then details a step-by-step process to increase your site's search engine presence.
Part 1: The Most Important HTML Meta Tags
HTML meta tags exist to create content structure and context. These tags help search engines understand the page content and intended topic. Google, like other search engines, relies on keyword usage as one factor in search placement.
Here are the most important meta tags broken down by section:
The title tag, located in the head, displays in search engine results. The optimal length of the title tag is between 50-60 characters. However, Google may automatically assign title tags at their discretion.
The title tags also appear in:
- Browser tabs
- Social shares
Every page needs a unique title and keyword.
The meta description is the page's blurb describing its content. The optimal length of the description is 155 characters. This description should incorporate keywords and enticing wording to encourage clickthrough.
Every page should have a unique description. Google may display an alternative description if yours fails to describe the page.
The URL satisfies two meta tag needs:
- Keyword inclusion
Include the page's primary keyword in the URL, but keep the URL under 2-3 words for simplicity when referencing (spoken or linking) the page.
Within the body are several big and small on-page factors, including:
- Headline tags: These tags structure data and help visitors understand content sections. The H1 tag mirrors the title tag though may have unique features for engagement.
- Body content: Primary and secondary keywords should appear naturally throughout the content. This includes their use in headlines, links, and captions.
- IMG/ALT attributes: Keywords in the image's title and alt tags improve Web usability and act as a minor SEO factor.
- Interlinks: These are your links to other pages on the website. Internal links should appear natural and use keywords/phrases.
Usability plays a minor but important role, too.
A site benefits from:
- Fast load times
- Easy-to-use navigation
- Visual hierarchy
These factors increase a visitor's dwell time - time spent on the site - showing Google the page holds value. Likewise, usability elements help the millions browsing the Web with disabilities.
Search engines use schema markup for structured data including:
...and other variants attributing to 'rich snippets' users find in Google search results. Schema tells search the meaning of data versus having it crawled without context.
The schema markup is readily found in content like recipes and reviews, but also has its place with product information, events, and anything using ratings.
Part 2: How to Satisfy Google's Meta Needs
Search engine optimization is sculpting how search engines see a page/site.
Adding keywords/phrases to on-page SEO elements help a page rank for its relevant terms. Over optimization (keyword stuffing) manipulates search engines and is typically met with penalties.
How do you find this perfect balance of optimization for each meta element?
Step 1: Audit the Website
A semantic structure is your first action:
- No HTML errors
- Fast loading page
and proper use of page meta tags and HTML code.
Fix any (and all) errors before applying keywords to improve optimization. Use auditing tools or manually review code for errors.
Step 2: Identify Your Keywords
Assumptions are the death-knell for a page's performance. Use keyword tool data to find and extract the exact phrases used by search engine users.
Try one of these tools:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Screaming Frog
Open the keyword tool, and:
- Type in the page's primary keyword
- Review results including keyword volume and competition
- Select secondary/related keywords
Compile the keyword research in a spreadsheet marking each page with its keywords.
Also, use the keyword tools to:
- Review competitor pages and their keyword usage
- Examine online ads to understand competitor's wording
- Find relevant backlinks to your page and competitors
Step 3: Apply the Keywords
Take the keywords and apply them to:
- Body content
- Internal links
Try to avoid cannibalization, which is reusing the same keyword on different pages. Cannibalization creates difficulty ranking a page for its relevant keyword.
Also, consider the following when applying keywords:
- Creating and embedding media tagged with relevant terms
- Building backlinks with naked URLs and primary/secondary keywords
- Updating old content including new search phrases found from analytics
The goal is applying your keywords in a natural manner on the most important on-page SEO elements. This process should repeat for every page of your website. Otherwise, do 301 redirects pointing underperforming pages to those showing promise and engagement.
Step 4: Track and Optimize Page Performance
Conversions are the goal of most web pages:
- Email sign-up
There's no better way to improve conversion than by using analytical data to refine the page. This data provides the page's performance and offers suggestions for its improvements.
Improvements could include the following:
- Restructuring page content for better usability
- Including relevant keywords not originally used in the content
- A/B testing call-to-action to entice clickthrough and action
Tracking will also display how the page ranks for its relevant terms. This helps you understand which off-page SEO efforts have the strongest impact. You can then double-down on these off-page efforts to increase search rankings.
Disrupting the SEO Disrupt: Let's Work Together
Earlier we stated that unoptimized HTML meta tags disrupt search engine optimization efforts. This misuse is akin to a band-aid on a large wound. You're doubling efforts to "make up" for underperforming pages.
An optimized site, able to rank on its own, builds upon its SEO foundation. This means tactics like local SEO and link building prove mutually beneficial.
Think of it like adding neon to your business sign or color graphics and subtle signals to your business card.
One question: Is your business primed for optimal growth?
Use our free SEO audit tool to discover where you stand. Then, let's work together to dominate your search and industry.