/ Web Development

Which Meta Tags Matter for SEO in 2018

Meta tags play a somewhat less important role than they did a few years ago, but they are still an important part of your HTML. As search engines have become smarter at reading and understanding the content on web pages, they are able to rely less on the human manipulated data such as meta tags.

Don't get me wrong, meta tags are still an important part of your HTML, but you can no longer stuff keywords into the description and keywords tags and expect to pop up on page one of Google.

In this article I'll explain which meta tags are important and which meta tags you can forget about. I've already written about how to write SEO friendly page titles, so we won't be covering those in this article.

Side note before we start: if you're a RapidWeaver user, you should watch this free SEO basics video to understand how to add meta tags to your site.

What is a meta tag?

A <meta> tag provides meta data about your page. There are many different meta tags that can be used to describe your page, such as a description, author, and keywords.

Meta tags are typically added to the <head> section of your HTML and are not visible on the page. They are used by browsers, search engines, and social media sites to help them understand your content and enhance the appearance of your page when shared on their sites.

Do meta tags matter for SEO?

Generally, I would say no. The quality of your content and its relevance to the search term is far more key.

Search engines are so good at reading and understanding HTML these days that they have enabled themselves to remove the reliance on human manipulated data such as meta tags. They are much better at reading, understanding, and matching the content on your pages to the search term entered by the user than they were a couple of years ago.

Having said that, meta tags still have some impact on how your site is ranked, but more importantly, they help enhance the display of your site in web browsers, search engines, social media sites, and anywhere else it might be shared or listed.

Common Meta Tags

Let's start with a couple of the most commonly asked about meta tags, description and keywords.

Keywords
The keywords meta tag has no positive impact on your page rank. However, if you were to spam the keywords meta tag with terms you wanted to be found for, you'll see a decrease (and possible black listing) in the performance of your page.

Google have openly stated that they do not consider the keywords meta tag when ranking pages. My advice is do not add the keywords meta tag.

Descriptions
The description tag was also previously relied upon to provide information about the page that would be used to match it to the search term entered. Again, search engines no longer need to rely on you being honest and describing your page accurately — they can read and understand the actual content on your page.

There is some research that suggests if the description text is visible in the page content, and it matches what the user searched for, it could have a small positive impact on your ranking.

The advice from Google about the description meta tag is to not have duplicate descriptions. It’s a sign of a poorly crafted website that is perhaps churning out automated pages of content in an attempt to rank higher.

Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description. Identical or similar descriptions on every page of a site aren't helpful.

On the flip side, well written, unique page descriptions is a sign of a well made, professional website. This makes sense as each of your pages should be an authoritative source for the information provided on it, so it goes without saying that you should be able to add a unique description for that content.

I’d take Google’s advice and ensure each of your pages have high quality, unique descriptions.

Finally, make sure your descriptions are truly descriptive. High-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google’s search results and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.

In RapidWeaver you add the description meta tag to your pages via the Page Inspector->Meta Tags->Description text box.

rapidweaver-meta-tags

Social Media Meta Tags

You can add social media meta tags to your page to help enhance the display of your page when shared on social media.

The two main players here are Open Graph and Twitter Cards. Let's start with Open Graph.

What is Open Graph?
Open Graph was introduced by Facebook in 2010. Its goal was to promote integration between Facebook and your website. Adding Open Graph meta tags allows you to identify content on your page that you want to be displayed when someone shares or likes your page on Facebook.

For example, if you have a blog post with a featured banner image, you can use Open Graph to tell Facebook that the banner image should be featured when the page is shared.

Originally only Facebook supported Open Graph tags, but as popularity grew Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ recognized and added support for them. This means they are an important part of your SEO strategy for two reasons:

  1. The more inbound links and clicks you get to your site, the more authoritative search engines will consider your page.
  2. To increase those inbound links and clicks, your site needs to look professional across the web, and ensuring it does so on social media is a must.

Which types of data can I describe with Open Graph?
There’s a whole bunch of Open Graph tags you can use, but I would imagine the most relevant will be the title, description, URL, and image tags.

<meta property="og:title" content="Page Title" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Page content description" />
<meta property="og:url" content="http://domain.com/page-title/" />
<meta property="og:image" content="/path/to/image.jpg" />

You can add these to your RapidWeaver pages by going to the Page Inspector->Meta Tags and add a new tag. You’ll then need to customize the meta tag template to match the non-standard Open Graph tag. Our free SEO basics video teaches you how to add Open Graph meta tags to your site. The Open Graph information starts at 7:15.

Twitter Cards
Twitter cards work in a similar way to Open Graph, essentially you add a special meta tag that provides Twitter with additional data about your page. Twitter will use this to enhance the display of your page when shared on their platform.

If you’ve browsed the Twitter website you’ll likely have seen a “card” — it’s a styled tweet which often features an image, title, and description. Here's an example card from the RapidWeaver Community site.

twitter-card-example

Here’s the code you would add to achieve a card like this:

<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image">
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@rapidweaver">
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@twitter-username">
<meta name="twitter:title" content="Page Titles">
<meta name="twitter:description" content="Description of the page content">
<meta name="twitter:image" content="/path/to/image.png">

Once you’ve added that code to your page, whenever it is shared on Twitter it'll be displayed as a styled card.

I think you’ll agree that both Open Graph and Twitter Cards enhance the appearance of your site on social media, this should (and the data suggests does) increase the likelihood that the link is clicked on. It also makes you look more professional.

Adding Twitter card meta tags to your RapidWeaver is also covered in the SEO basics video embedded above, which is available on YouTube

You really should be doing this on your site, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Responsive Design Meta Tag

The final thing I wanted to mention in this article is the responsive design meta tag. RapidWeaver, or your theme, will likely take care of this for you, but it's worth inspecting your source code to ensure this tag is present in your HTML.

My recommended responsive meta tag is:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">

But you have quite a few options available to you. If you want to learn more about responsive design meta tags, I’d suggest you read the Responsive Meta Tag article on CSS Tricks. They cover everything you need to know to understand what’s going on and what's possible with this tag.

RapidWeaver SEO Resources

If you’re looking to learn more about RapidWeaver SEO, then I’d recommend the following articles and videos.

Videos

Articles