What are meta tags and how are they used for SEO?

SEO in scrabble letters

You may know that search engines advise you to have populated, keyword-rich meta tags on your website. However, do you know what meta tags are and how they are used to benefit SEO?

As luck would have it, we are SEO experts based in Birmingham and have extensive experience in the industry. We know our 404s from our 301s, our schema from our canonicals and our meta titles from our meta descriptions. So read on to find out all the information you need to know about SEO meta tags. 

What is a meta tag?

The meta tag, which can be found within the HTML of a website as – <meta> defines metadata about a specific HTML document. This tag is always found within the <head> element of a website’s HTML.

A meta tag can specify different types of data. For SEO, meta tags are used to declare the page title and description which make up the search engine results page (SERP) listing that will be found on search engines.

R&Co meta tag
R&Co organic search listing that appears on the search engines results page.

The importance of meta tags in SEO

There is often chatter in the SEO community about whether meta tags are still important. Our stance is they are. While we understand that Google wants SEO professionals to focus on creating high-quality helpful content and to satisfy the user’s needs, the correct implementation of valid meta tags are a fundamental building block in achieving growth and success via organic search. 

Meta tags play a crucial role in determining your site’s appearance in search engine results pages (SERPs) and influencing click-through rates to your website. By affecting your traffic and engagement levels, meta tags directly impact your SEO performance and rankings. As a result, they are an essential component of an effective SEO strategy.

Types of meta tags and their uses

Various types of meta tags are often used in the HTML of a website. The main two we want to focus on for SEO are the meta title and meta description.

  • Meta title tag – A meta title, or title tag, is the text shown on search engine result pages and browser tabs to represent the topic of a webpage.
  • Meta description tag – A meta description tag provides a brief, relevant summary of a webpage’s content, designed to inform and engage users
This free tool from higher visibility ensures you stay within the guidelines and provides a SERP preview

Both title tags and meta descriptions have a pixel limit on Google. After a certain point, they will truncate. So they should both be optimised to fall within this limit. For title tags, it’s roughly 65 characters / 568 pixels, and for meta descriptions, it’s roughly 155 characters / 930 pixels.

Metadata optimisation

Meta title tag optimisation

Title tags should be optimised towards the primary keywords/audience you want the page to rank for. Title tags are one of the key signals Google uses to understand the content on a page. The words used within the title tag are very important in shaping your relevance towards specific keywords and topics.

Meta description optimisation

Like meta titles, meta descriptions will display next to your listings on the Google search results page. The content within a meta description has no direct effect on rankings at all. The meta description is however important in drawing attention to your SERP listings and attracting more clicks to your pages. 

How to add meta tags in WordPress

Adding metadata to a website can differ depending on the platform. At R&Co and for many of our loyal clients we know that WordPress is the desired platform of choice. 

WordPress makes it easy to be able to add, edit and amend metadata when needed. It has a free-to-use plugin called Yoast SEO which adds the meta tag section to each page. This can then be populated adhering to the guidelines set out by Google.

Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO Metadata Section

At R&Co, our team of SEO experts have years of experience in providing results-driven SEO strategies. To find out more about how our SEO team could help your business then take a look at our SEO services or get in touch.